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Tbilisi Sides with Bagapsh, Calls on Moscow for Restraint
/ 3 Dec.'04 / 15:09
Giorgi Sepashvili, Civil Georgia

Tbilisi, which had previously tried to distance itself from the Abkhaz election crisis, made it clear on December 3 that, unlike Moscow, it will support opposition leader Sergey Bagapsh, who intends to be inaugurated as the new President of the unrecognized republic on December 6.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili commented over the developments in Abkhazia on December 3 and recognized Sergey Bagapsh as the President-elect of the breakaway region; however he condemned the October 3 presidential polls in Abkhazia as “illegitimate.”

Saakashvili said that Tbilisi is ready to hold peace talks over the Abkhaz conflict resolution only with Bagapsh, who represents the majority of the population that currently lives in Abkhazia.

Saakashvili, who was speaking in Tbilisi at a meeting with the representatives of the Georgian-Abkhaz Relations Institute, said that the elections in Abkhazia were illegitimate, as most of the population of the region, which was forced to flee Abkhazia as a result of 1992-93 armed conflict, could not participate in it.

But the President added that the majority of those who currently live in Abkhazia voted for opposition leader Sergey Bagapsh.

“The elections in Abkhazia were illegitimate, because not only ethnic Georgians, but also many Russians, Jews, Armenians [who lived in Abkhazia before armed conflict] could not return to Abkhazia and participate in the elections. At the same time, it is quite clear that those people who participated in the elections, expressed the opinion of the majority of the remaining population and they supported Sergey Bagapsh in these elections” Saakashvili said.

“The Georgian authorities are ready to launch a dialogue with the new authorities of Abkhazia, namely with Sergey Bagapsh, who enjoys the support of most Abkhazians,” he added.

However, Saakashvili also warned that “nobody should have the illusion that Tbilisi will reject its objective regarding the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity.”

“This is our supreme goal. However, this will not occur at the expense of the Abkhaz people. We need dialogue,” Saakashvili stated.

The Georgian authorities are also trying to focus more international attention on Abkhazia, as Bagapsh's inauguration day encroaches. Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili met with foreign Ambassadors accredited in Georgia on December 2 to inform them regarding the recent developments in Abkhazia.

“Today all the attention of the international community has turned to the developments in Ukraine, which may result in less interest towards the Abkhazian issue. But we think that most alarming events may develop in Abkhazia now, because we have already witnessed those measures carried out by Moscow [in Abkhazia],” Salome Zourabichvili said, referring to Russia’s active involvement in recent crisis.

Salome Zourabichvili said that arrival of Russia’s Interior Ministry and General Prosecutor’s Office top-official to Abkhazia “is not a good sign, it may be a very bad sign.”

Moscow, which supports pro-governmental presidential contender Raul Khajimba, has already imposed sanctions on Abkhazia by halting its rail link with Abkhazia and banning the import of agricultural products from Abkhazia, in an attempt to mount pressure on Sergey Bagapsh.

“We do not think that the natural situation inside Abkhazia will lead to this kind of destabilization. Destabilization may occur only in the event of interference of external forces. That is why we want our friendly countries to be informed about the situation in Abkhazia, so they can pay more attention and, if they can, influence Russia and call on Russia for restraint,” the Georgian Foreign Minister said.

Meanwhile, outgoing President of Abkhazia Vladislav Ardzinba, who supports Raul Khajimba, reiterated that he will not step down, despite the planned inauguration of Sergey Bagapsh. The press office of Ardzinba issued a press statement on December 3 describing the inauguration of opposition leader Sergey Bagapsh, scheduled for December 6, as “illegal.”

“Under the current conditions, the Cabinet of the Republic of Abkhazia has no legal ground to organize a solemn ceremony for inaugurating Sergey Bagapsh as the newly elected President. Nor can the presidential credentials be delivered to him,” RIA Novosti news agency quotes the statement.  
 
The statement stresses that the ministries and state departments of breakaway Abkhazia are still under the subordination to the current President until the holding of repeat presidential elections occur.

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