Abkhaz officials said after meeting with Mathew Bryza, the U.S. deputy assistance secretary of state, in Sokhumi on July 25 that they remained firm on their terms for the resumption of talks with Tbilisi.
Bryza arrived in Sokhumi in an attempt to convince the Abkhaz side to participate in talks in Berlin next week without any preconditions. Sokhumi, however, remains committed to its terms, involving the withdrawal of Georgian troops from upper Kodori Gorge and the signing of a treaty on the non-use of force.
“The Abkhaz side is not going to turn the issue of withdrawal of Georgian forces from upper Kodori into a matter of negotiations,” Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, reported, quoting, Stanislav Lakoba as saying after meeting with the U.S. diplomat. “The withdrawal of the forces should be a precondition for the resumption of talks and not a topic for talks.”
Commenting on the proposed meeting in Berlin, Lakoba said: “I would not even discuss this issue at all. We can discuss it only after our terms are met.”
“We told the same thing recently to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier,” he added.
The same position was echoed in remarks by Sergey Shamba, the Abkhaz foreign minister, who said after meeting with the U.S. diplomat that the Abkhaz terms should be first met before resuming talks.
“The resumption of talks before the withdrawal of Georgian forces from the upper Kodori Gorge would mean that the Abkhaz side is accepting the new existing reality [in upper Kodori], which has emerged as a result of illegal actions by the Georgian side,” Apsnipress quoted Shamba as saying.
Abkhaz officials said that the German plan was also discussed during the meeting with the U.S. official. Shamba reiterated that the Abkhaz side was not ready to accept the plan, such as it was presented. He, however, also noted that there were positive elements in the plan as well, in particular, Shamba said, the need for the signing of a treaty on the non-use of force. Both Shamba and Lakoba said that the treaty, as well as the withdrawal of Georgian forces from upper Kodori, should be prioritized in the proposed plan.