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‘Group of Friends’ to Meet in Berlin over Abkhazia
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 Jun.'08 / 17:07

The UN Secretary General’s Group of Friends of Georgia will meet in Berlin on June 30 to discuss Abkhazia, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Diplomats from France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia and the U.S. – members of the group - will discuss proposals aimed at defusing tensions and fostering the resumption of talks between Tbilisi and Sokhumi.

Georgian national television stations reported on June 24 – when President Saakashvili was on a visit to Berlin – that the German side, as a member of the Group of Friends, proposed “a three-stage plan,” involving revoking the April 16 decision by Russia; economic rehabilitation including setting up of free economic zone in Gali and Ochamchire and eventually political settlement. Georgian officials welcomed this “plan,” saying that it was now up to Tbilisi’s western partners to convince Russia to accept it.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, however, said that no plan had been elaborated. It said there was only some initial proposals by individual states from the Group of Friends. It also said that the Group of Friends would try to find common ground on the matter at the planned meeting in Berlin next week.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also suggested that information on the initial proposals had been deliberately leaked to the media in an attempt “to prepare public opinion ahead of certain decisions by the Group of Friends and to aim at mounting pressure on the participants of the planned meeting, in particular, on Russia.”

On April 23 four members of the Group of Friends – the United States, Britain, France and Germany - issued a joint statement after a UN Security Council meeting, saying they were “highly concerned” over Russia’s April 16 decision to establish legal links with Georgia’s breakaway regions. Tbilisi welcomed the statement, saying it was a sign that Russia was isolated within the Group of Friends.

Meanwhile, German Ambassador to Georgia Patricia Flor met with Sergey Shamba, the Abkhaz foreign minister, in Sokhumi on June 27, Apsnipress news agency reported.

The breakaway region’s Foreign Ministry said that some of the proposals discussed by the Group of Friends were “interesting.” It, however, also reiterated Sokhumi’s condition for the resumption of talks with Tbilisi: the withdrawal of Georgian troops from upper Kodori Gorge; it also said that a treaty on the non-use of force needed to be signed. 

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