Baghapsh says Abkhazia is not occupied
By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, July 9Russia has not occupied Abkhazia, de facto Abkhazian leader Sergey Baghapsh said during his annual address to the so-called Abkhazian Parliament on Wednesday. Commenting on the statements of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who denounced the “occupation” of Georgia’s territories by Russia, Baghapsh said that “Russian forces have not occupied Abkhazia and they are deployed on this territory based on the intergovernmental agreement.” He called on the Parliament and “civil organisations” to “react to the statement of Hillary Clinton.”
Baghapsh also touched upon the Geneva discussions during his speech, calling them a “comfortable diplomatic forum for direct contact and exchange of information with the EU, UN, OSCE and the US." However, he said that Abkhazia is “taking a pause” in the talks. Tbilisi is “avoiding” discussing a document on non-use of force and keeps insisting on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Baghapsh said.
“The Georgian side wants to deploy international forces there, which of course is unacceptable for us. Moreover, we strongly believe that the international mediators of the Geneva talks are taking the side of Tbilisi. So until the situation changes, we will not be able to participate in the negotiations,” the de facto leader noted, adding that signing a non-use of force document would “eliminate the threats of a new conflict with Georgia.” Baghapsh noted however that Abkhazia has no “other channels” rather than the Geneva talks [with which to directly connect with international organisations]. “So we have taken a pause in order to give the mediators some time to prepare specific, well-thought out proposals,” he said.
The creation of United Russian Military bases on Abkhazian territory increases the defence capacity of the “state”, Baghapsh said. “At the same time Abkhazia strives to develop friendly relations with other states of the world. It will help the economic development of Abkhazia and its integration into the regional and world infrastructure,” he noted, adding that this would “create an attractive international image of the ‘republic’ as a reliable, responsible and profitable partner.”
A Russian Foreign Ministry statement released later reiterated the position of the de facto Abkhazian leader that Russian troops and military bases in Georgia’s two breakaway regions “are stationed on the basis of bilateral interstate agreements in full accordance with the norms of international law.” However the Georgian media then released the comment of US Ambassador to Georgia John Bass on the Russian MFA statement. The message of the USA is “clear”, Bass said - the US and Russia still have differences over Georgia, but this should not hinder the continuing negotiations between the two states.