While the Abkhaz secessionist authorities were celebrating the 13th anniversary of the ousting of Georgian troops from Sokhumi on September 27, the Georgian leadership was inaugurating the headquarters of the Abkhaz government-in-exile in the Tbilisi-controlled upper Kodori Gorge.
The President’s Administration reported that in the village of Chkhalta, President Saakashvili opened a newly-constructed building which will serve as the headquarters of the Tbilisi-backed exiled Abkhaz government, which until now was in Tbilisi. The first-ever session of the Abkhaz government-in-exile in upper Kodori Gorge was held shortly after the inaugural ceremony of the building.
Saakashvili also said while visiting Kodori that upper Kodori Gorge will serve as “a temporary administration for the legitimate Abkhaz government. It should then move to Sokhumi.”
“We have told every foreign ambassador in Georgia that Abkhazia and Tbilisi are not separate entities… From now on the protocol of each foreign diplomat [visiting Abkhazia], apart from trips to Sokhumi, will also include the route to Abkhazia’s administrative center in the village of Chkhalta where the chairman of the Abkhaz government is Malkhaz Akishbaia,” Saakashvili said at a news conference on September 26.
He said that chairman of the Abkhaz government-in-exile Malkhaz Akishbaia is western-educated and a highly-qualified person who will be able to negotiate with foreign diplomats.
In addition, President Saakashvili announced that Kodori Gorge should be referred to as Zemo (Upper) Abkhazia from now on.
“He [Saakashvili] is a dreamer. I always try not to comment on foolish things,” Apsnipress news agency reported quoting Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh in a response to the Georgian side’s decision to rename Kodori as Upper Abkhazia.
He also warned that any attempt to involve the exiled Abkhaz government in the process of negotiations will have “serious consequences.”
“If, as Saakashvili announced, foreign ambassadors want to visit Kodori Gorge and have contact with them [exiled Abkhaz authorities], it is up to them [foreign diplomats], but in this case there is no need to have contact with us,” Bagapsh said.
But he also tried to downplay importance of this statement by Saakashvili as part of “a stage-show.”
“Saakashvili is staging yet another show. He just likes doing these kinds of things,” Bagapsh added.
On July 28, when the decision to relocate the exiled Abkhaz government’s headquarters from Tbilisi to Kodori was announced, Sergey Bagapsh threatened to pull out from talks with Tbilisi in if the plan was implemented.
Foreign Minister of breakaway Abkhazia Sergey Shamba warned that any attempt to change the current negotiating format will lead to a suspension of the peace process.
“The format of talks has been set up from the very beginning of the negotiating process, carried out under the aegis of the UN: the Abkhaz side on the one hand, represented by the Abkhaz leadership, and the Georgian side, represented by the official Tbilisi,” Shamba said.
For the past 13 years September 27 has been marked as a tragic day in Georgia, but PM Zurab Nogaideli said that from now on is should be seen as “a day of hope” and “the launch of the return to Abkhazia.”
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