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Government holds out hope for Abkhaz FEZ

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Wednesday, April 2
President Mikheil Saakashvili unveiled Tbilisi’s new conflict resolution proposals last week, offering the breakaway region of Abkhazia “unlimited autonomy” and a Free Economic Zone (FEZ).

Although separatist authorities immediately dismissed the president’s speech as a “PR stunt,” government officials remain hopeful that creating a FEZ on breakaway territory is still a possibility—State Minister for Reintegration Issues Temur Iakobashvili noted that de facto Abkhaz authorities are yet to reject the idea outright.

“The separatists’ position was not unexpected for me but it’s a good sign that they said nothing against the FEZ. So I think we can start negotiations from this,” the newspaper Rezonansi quoted Iakobashvili as saying.

However, political analyst Gia Khukhashvili says creating a FEZ would be hampered by expected Abkhaz involvement in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“Unfortunately we have lost a lot of time already and this is a problem. In any case it will be relatively difficult to create FEZ in the conflict zones as in 2014 Olympic Games will take place in Sochi and the Abkhaz de facto administration is planning to be involved in preparation works for this,” the newspaper Rezonansi quoted Khukhashvili as saying.