Although stopping short of calling for the immediate withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, President Saakashvili said Tbilisi would launch “intensive consultations with its partners and friends over the expediency of the further presence of the Russian peacekeeping contingent.”
President Saakashvili said in televised remarks on April 24: “Our friends from the UN, as well as our partners and the United States, have questioned Russia’s role as a neutral mediator in the [peace] process” after Moscow’s decision to establish official links with breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
He said that the position adopted by Georgia’s allies would allow for talks, not only over scrapping the Russian-led peacekeeping operation, but also, as he put it, “increasing the role and the status of friendly states” as mediators in the peace process.
The Georgian parliament passed a resolution in July 2006 instructing the government to undertake relevant procedures for the immediate suspension of Russian peacekeeping operations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. President Saakashvili, however, reiterated on April 24 that Tbilisi would not take any “sudden, hasty or unjustified steps that will create problems for peace and security.”
“We will inform the Russian Federation about our decision, which is a sovereign decision of the Georgian state,” he said. “I stress - Georgia will not take any step, which will pose a threat to peace and security in this region. But today the presence of the Russian [peacekeeping] contingent there [in Abkhazia and South Ossetia], as well as [Russia’s] recent actions, is a risk factor in the conflict zone.”
Saakashvili also said that the April 23 joint statement by four western powers in support of Georgia was a significant and historic move for Tbilisi. The United States, Britain, France and Germany called on Russia “to revoke or not to implement its decision” on establishing official ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The four countries, along with Russia, are part of the UN Secretary General’s Group of Friends of Georgia, dealing with the Abkhaz conflict.
President Saakashvili said that the joint statement by the four countries was significant because “for the first time” the Group of Friends “was divided” with Russia standing alone.
“I think this is something on which our friends and partners in Moscow should seriously think over,” the Georgian president said. “By making such a decision [to establish ties with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali], they [Russia] have crossed the line beyond which normal relations and normal international diplomatic processes are seriously jeopardized.”
He also said that the Georgian authorities had sent a letter to Moscow on April 23 saying that Tbilisi was ready to launch talks over normalization of ties between the two countries if Russia repealed its decision over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.