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Abkhaz pull out of Berlin talks over South Ossetia

By Messenger Staff
Monday, August 4
Abkhazia’s separatist leadership say they will not join peace talks in Berlin scheduled for later this month because of the violence in South Ossetia.

The breakaway region’s de facto president, Sergey Bagapsh, told his national security council yesterday that there can be no dialogue while Georgia clashes with South Ossetia, its other secessionist territory.

"If the South Ossetia situation continues to escalate, we will not take part in this meeting,” he said.

“Georgia is amassing heavy artillery…and Grad rocket systems at the border [with South Ossetia]. We must consider this situation and prepare measures in line with our agreements with South Ossetia and [Moldova’s breakaway region] Dniester.”

Georgia’s top official for conflict issues, Temur Iakobashvili, told reporters that the Abkhaz were using the fighting in South Ossetia as a “pretext” to walk away from the Berlin talks.

Direct talks between Tbilisi and Sokhumi have officially been on hold since 2006 when Georgian forces stormed the remote Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia, though the two sides have quietly met on occasion.

“We will talk with Georgia only if Georgia complies with all the obligations and documents they signed, when they pull out their military troops from Kodori, which were brought there in breach of all prior agreements,” the de facto Abkhaz foreign minister, Sergey Shamba, told the Messenger last week. Tbilisi says it only has police officers allowed by ceasefire agreements in Kodori Gorge.

The UN secretary-general’s Group of Friends of Georgia is hosting a meeting on conflict issues in Berlin this month; diplomats have pushed both Tbilisi and Sokhumi to attend.

Shamba had said that Sokhumi was planning to go.

Tensions have climbed in Abkhazia after Moscow pulled out of sanctions and bolstered ties with the separatist administration there in spring, prompting Georgia to decry Russia’s “creeping annexation” of the breakaway region.