Resolving a dispute in border talks between Moscow and Sokhumi will be “an important test” for Abkhaz-Russian “friendly relations”, Vice Speaker of the breakaway Abkhazia’s Parliament, Irina Agrba said, according to the Abkhaz news agency Apsnipress.
A joint Abkhaz-Russian commission “on border delimitation and demarcation between the Russian Federation and Republic of Abkhazia” held its second meeting in Moscow this week.
Abkhaz TV station, Abaza, reported on March 31, that in a joint communiqué after the meeting the commission said talks were held “in a constructive spirit” and the sides have to define exactly the border line in an area at the village of Aibga during the next rounds of talks.
The issue was brought into the limelight after the Abkhaz newspaper, Novy Den (New Day), which is critical to the government, ran an article on March 14 according to which Moscow wanted to grab 160 square kilometer land deep inside the Abkhaz territory.
But as a source from the Russian Foreign Ministry told the Russian daily Kommersant, the area in question “is much smaller than 160 sq. km.”
“The issue [of border] exists, but it can’t be described as a ‘problem’,” the source said.
The disputed village of Aibga is located in the north-western part of the Abkhaz border and is not too far from Krasnaya Polyana, Russia’s a ski resort which is expected to host outdoor events during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.
“The village of Aibga is located on our territory; it is both geographically and historically the territory of Abkhazia; but in a draft proposed by Moscow [the village] is part of Russia,” Vice Speaker of the Abkhaz Parliament, Irina Agrba, said.
She said that throughout the history Abkhazia’s territory was “decreasing, so the land issue is perceived by the Abkhaz society as very sensitive, because it is related to Abkhazia’s sovereignty.”
“This issue is to some extent a test for our trustful and friendly relations with Russia and [these relations] should withstand this important test,” Agrba said.
She also said that there was unwillingness on the part of the Russian side “to immediately accept the Abkhaz position.”
“The Abkhaz side will have to work hard, including with historic materials, archives and maps; additional, new arguments will be presented in order to put an end to this issue,” she said.
She, however, also warned against going too deep into the history, “as it may lead to a deadlock from where it will be very difficult for the both sides to move out.”
Sergey Shamba, the PM of breakaway region, told the Kommersant newspaper, that the Russian-Abkhaz border should be defined along the river Psou in accordance to the borders of former Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia.
“We consider such approach to be fair and we will stick [to this position],” Shamba said in remarks published by the Kommersant on March 31.
He said that Moscow has different position, but added differences would be resolved in the process of negotiations.
“This process has just started… We think that the issue should be resolved without any negative consequences – that’s the most important,” Shamba added.
Tbilisi condemned ongoing talks between Moscow and Sokhumi and said that those negotiations and their outcome would not have any legitimacy.
"So called negotiations between the occupier country [Russia] and an occupational regime imposed by this country on delimitation and demarcation of the Abkhaz section of Georgia’s border are illegal and agreements reached between them will not have legitimacy," the Georgian Foreign Ministry said on March 18.