Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has denied that talks were underway with Tbilisi over dividing breakaway Abkhazia into Russian and Georgian zones of influence, as reported by the Russian daily Kommersant on June 27.
“This is a lie. It is absolutely removed from reality,” RIA Novosti quoted Lavrov as saying.
He said that the current priority was to de-escalate tension in the region, especially in relation to upper Kodori Gorge, and to sign a treaty on the non-use of force.
“We are following all those agreements, which have been reached, particularly agreements reached at presidential level [on June 6 in St. Petersburg],” Interfax and RIA Novosti quoted Lavrov. “But it is clear that the Georgian side is trying to burden this absolutely simple approach with non-fulfillable demands and conditions.”
Meanwhile, Batu Kutelia, the Georgian deputy defense minister, described the Kommersant report as “absurd,” saying that the newspaper “is fully controlled by the [Russian] state.”
“Any division or ceding of our territory to another country as a sphere of influence is absurd and no state would ever agree to it,” Kutelia told Civil.Ge on June 27. “There are and will be no talks involving the infringement of Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Citing unnamed sources from the Georgian authorities and Russian Foreign Ministry, Kommersant reported that the plan involved partitioning Abkhazia, with Gali and Ochamchire districts under Tbilisi control and areas to the north of Ochamchire, including the capital Sokhumi, under de facto Russian control.
The newspaper also suggested that Tbilisi was ready to give up its NATO ambitions in exchange for the deal.
“Georgia’s membership of NATO is the will of the Georgian people and not simply the decision of the Georgian government – 77% of the Georgian population support it,” Kutelia said. “Integration into NATO is an irreversible process and it is the will of the Georgian people, which will be fulfilled.”