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Russia’s Lavrov Hosts Abkhaz, Tskhinvali ‘Foreign Ministers’ in Sochi

Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov on December 20 hosted Inal Ardzinba and Dmitry Medoev, ‘foreign ministers’ of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, respectively, in Russia’s black sea coastal town of Sochi.

The Russian FM and the Kremlin-backed authorities of the occupied regions held both bilateral meetings as well as joint trilateral talks, primarily focused on Moscow’s assistance to Sokhumi and Tskhinvali and the Geneva International Discussions.

According to Russia’s Foreign Ministry (MID), during the meetings FM Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s “readiness to provide all possible assistance to Abkhazia and South Ossetia in their state-building, strengthening of security, development of socio-economic, humanitarian and cultural spheres.”

The sides also expressed their common desire to deepen “foreign policy coordination,” placing an emphasis on expanding ties between the occupied regions and foreign countries, according to the same report.

FM Lavrov, according to the MID, briefed Ardzinba and Medoev on “Russian efforts to improve the situation in the region,” including about the launch of the 3+3 regional cooperation platform, pushed by Moscow and Ankara in the aftermath of the second Nagorno-Karabakh war, that Georgia refuses to join.

With regards to GID, the diplomats claimed “there was no alternative to this unique dialogue format,” the MID stated.

A brief statement by the Abkhaz “foreign ministry” said Ardzinba and Lavrov exchanged views on key issues of cooperation, with the Russian side expressing readiness to “provide all-round assistance” in strengthening security and developing socio-economic, humanitarian and cultural areas.

As for the S. Ossetian ‘foreign ministry,’ it stated that Medoev and FM Lavrov, in their respective meeting, focused on the security issues in the South Caucasus, considering “the developing difficult situation in the region, in particular, the increase of U.S. and NATO military presence in Georgia.”

Tskhinvali authorities highlighted “Russia’s decisive role in maintaining peace in South Ossetia,” and claimed strengthening ties between Tskhinvali and Moscow would guarantee to prevent the “outbreak of a new war against South Ossetia.”

According to the report, both sides emphasized the “high level of bilateral cooperation,” solidified by legal frameworks, including agreements signed during the year – among them a dual citizenship agreement. The parties also confirmed willingness to strengthen political dialogue and expand socio-economic, scientific and humanitarian ties.

FM Lavrov’s meeting with the diplomats from the Russian-occupied regions of Georgia comes amid Russian military build-up near Ukraine, as well as Moscow’s frequent calls for NATO and the U.S. to deny accession of former Soviet republics – including Georgia and Ukraine – to the Alliance.

Also, Ardzinba met Medoev and Lavrov for the first time in his capacity as the Abkhaz “foreign minister.” Abkhaz leader Aslan Bzhania appointed Ardzinba to the post on November 17.

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