Georgian government working groups will elaborate a comprehensive peace plan for Abkhazia based on proposals unveiled by President Saakashvili last month.
President Saakashvili met Davit Bakradze, the foreign minister; Ekaterine Sharashidze, the economy minister; Nika Gvaramia, the justice minister; Temur Iakobashvili, the state minister for reintegration; and Alexandre Lomaia, the secretary of the National Security Council, to discuss the issue on April 12.
Saakashvili on March 28 unveiled a series of proposals, including a joint free economic zone, Abkhaz representation in central government and an Abkhaz vice-president with the right to veto Abkhaz-related decisions.
He told the justice minister to develop the legal basis for the proposals in “the next few weeks.”
“We have offered the Abkhaz side a constitutionally guaranteed post of vice-president in the central government, as well as guaranteed representation in the central legislative body,” Saakashvili said in televised remarks to the ministers. “We have also offered [the Abkhaz side] the right of veto on issues related to their legal status and on issues of vital importance.”
He told Economy Minister Sharashidze to develop “concrete proposals” on setting up a joint Georgian-Abkhaz free economic zone in Gali and Ochamchire.
Saakashvili told the foreign minister: “We need to engage in talks with our international partners about creating international guarantees for the Abkhaz Autonomy.”
In this context he also said: “I welcome that the UN has launched talks on revising status of peacekeeping operation. After recent meetings [in UN] we expect that the UN will work with us on the revision of this status.” The peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia is carried out by Russian forces under the aegis of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Saakashvili also reiterated that he wanted to see Russia’s constructive engagement in the peace process.
“We are seriously prepared to move the peace process forward and I also hope that Russia will also be involved in this and the Russian Federation will – instead of artificially exacerbating the situation through statements by some top level officials and through importing arms into South Ossetia and Abkhazia – become a constructive part of this process,” Saakashvili said.
After the meeting, Foreign Minister Bakradze told reporters that the Georgian authorities were determined to push for the proposal. “This is not a a one-time proposal,” he said in an apparent reference to the Abkhaz side’s response on the proposal. Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh had said on March 29 that it was a Tbilisi PR stunt made ahead of the NATO Bucharest summit.
Bakradze also said that the proposal was “a new chance to launch talks” and to give a boost to the conflict resolution process.
During the meeting with the ministers, Saakashvili also spoke about breakaway South Ossetia and told the economy minister to develop a plan, as well as to allocate funds for the purchase of the harvest “including from those territories not fully under our control” in the region.
Saakashvili also proposed “to select ten students from Tskhinvali” and finance them with scholarships in frames of the Georgian presidential program for study abroad.