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Official Says Tbilisi May Demand Peacekeepers’ Withdrawal ‘Soon’
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 10 Jun.'08 / 19:40

Georgia will “raise the issue” of the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia “in the nearest days,” if Russia refuses to rescind some recent measures, Giga Bokeria, the Georgian deputy foreign minister, told journalists on June 10.

He said after a meeting with Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze that he had discussed “the major issue on the agenda today – the future status of the so-called [Russian] peacekeeping forces.”

“To be more precise – the future status, which they will soon not have any more,” Bokeria added.

He reiterated that Tbilisi wanted Russia to immediately withdraw its additional troops deployed in Abkhazia in late May, as well as to revoke the April 16 decision of the Russian president on establishing official ties with breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

President Saakashvili said in an interview with Rustavi 2 TV on June 9 that Georgia had prepared the ground to officially demand the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping troops from the Abkhaz conflict zone.

He, however, did not specify whether the demand would be made immediately.

“About a month ago we sent a letter to the secretariat of the Commonwealth of Independent States – we have not publicized that – in which we demanded to put into operation a mechanism for bilateral [Russo-Georgian] consultations - there has been no response - but one month has already passed and now we can raise this issue [the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping troops] at any time,” Saakashvili said.

Russian peacekeeping troops are stationed in Abkhazia under the aegis of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Saakashvili also said that Georgia had the right to demand Russian troop withdrawal at any time. Tbilisi’s western partners, he said, were aware of the situation.

“We have informed the European Union; our American partners know about it and the Russians also know about it,” Saakashvili said. “We hope to find a way out of this situation together with Russia and with other partners.”

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on Tbilisi on June 10 to agree to Abkhaz terms for resuming negotiations. The Abkhaz are demanding the withdrawal of Georgian troops from the upper Kodori Gorge and the signing of a binding document on the non-use of force.

Givi Targamadze, a senior lawmaker from the ruling party, said on June 10 that Tbilisi would only sign such a document if it were accompanied by “the unconditional return of internally displaced persons” to Abkhazia.

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