Russia has agreed to joint Russo-Georgian border crossing points in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but the details still need to be worked out, President Saakashvili said on February 26.
“You know that we had negotiations with the Russian government and the Russian government agreed to joint control of Psou [at the Abkhaz-Russian border] and Roki Tunnel [at the South Ossetian-Russian border] – border crossing points and customs checkpoints there,” Saakashvili said. “We still don't have the technical details; how this measure will be implemented. But this is already a huge step forward and a breakthrough. Russian government officials have expressed their willingness to delimitate the border – hence a complete legalization of the Russo-Georgian border on the Psou [the river dividing Abkhazia from the Russian Federation] and Roki sections.”
Tbilisi has been insisting on several preconditions for supporting Russia’s WTO accession, including the legalization of trade at these two border crossing points.
The president said that the agreement with Russia had “totally disappointed” the separatist leaders. “[Interior Minister of breakaway South Ossetia Mikhail] Mindzaev, who is a bandit sent from Russia – he cannot be called anything else – turned to the Russians and told them that if Russia allows Georgians to control the Roki tunnel, he would fight against both Russia and Georgia. Those who sent him deserve nothing less,” Saakashvili said.
Mindzaev said on February 25 in a phone interview with Rustavi 2 TV: “Nobody will be able to control the Roki tunnel except for the South Ossetian side. If the Russian and Georgian sides want to jointly control the Roki tunnel, they can do it on the Georgian-South Ossetian border. Otherwise, Russia, Georgia or any other country willing to do that, will receive a categorical refusal.”
Speaking with Georgian veterans of the armed conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Saakashvili said now that an agreement on joint border controls was almost in place, it was time to fully enforce the 1996 declaration of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on imposing sanctions on Abkhazia.
“We have raised this issue [during this month’s talks] in Moscow – [the Russians] should meet their commitments regarding CIS sanctions. You know, that these sanctions have been formally in force against Abkhazia since 1996. Many of them are ineffective and we categorically demand that the Russian leadership fully implement these sanctions against the people responsible for ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia,” Saakashvili said.