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Gali meeting ends with no results

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, November 4
The 8th round of Georgian-Abkhazian talks as part of the incident prevention mechanism, held in Gali on November 3, ended with no concrete results, the Georgian Interior Ministry has reported. At the four hour meeting, facilitated by the EU, the sides discussed the situation in Georgia’s breakaway region, including problems on the administrative border.

The Georgian side raised the issue of the security of the ethnic Georgian population of Gali, who according to the Ministry are often victims of kidnapping and robbery. The Georgian side, represented by Interior Ministry Analytical Department Head Shota Utiashvili, also demanded that the separatist authorities stop pressuring Georgian teachers in Gali schools and stop preventing emergency vehicles crossing the administrative border.

The validity of Soviet passports in Abkhazia has been extended until summer 2010, Abkhazian news agency Apsnypress reported on Tuesday. ‘Citizens’ of the de facto Republic will thus be able to cross the border with Russia for several more months, de facto Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba told the agency. “Abkhazian citizens could have faced serious problems, as the Russian Government had declared all the old passports would be invalid from November 2. Based on this we decided to raise the question of extending their term,” Shamba said. He noted that the Russian side reacted “operatively” to this request. “When the new Abkhazian passports are ready, this problem will be eliminated,” Apsnypress quoted Shamba as saying.

Meanwhile the de facto Abkhazian Central Election Commission has finished registering candidates for the ‘Presidential elections’ scheduled for December 12, 2009. Five have been registered - incumbent Sergey Bagapsh, Raul Khajimba and opposition member Beslan Butba, as well as Vitaly Bganba and Zaur Ardzinba. The candidates will have to pass an Abkhazian language test before conducting their election campaign, the de facto officials said.

Tbilisi has declared that the upcoming elections in the de facto republic are an “imitation of democracy.” The head of the Tbilisi-backed Abkhazian Government in-exile, Giorgi Baramia, has said that “the so-called elections are nothing more than a show staged by Kremlin.” “Any elections in Abkhazia are illegitimate,” Baramia said. “With this election Russia is trying to increase Abkhazia’s level of independence in the eyes of the international community. This attempt is predestined for failure, as it contradicts international norms,” Baramia’s statement, posted on the legitimate Abkhazian Government’s website, says.