Remarks by Mathew Bryza, the U.S. deputy assistance secretary of state, made after talks with Abkhaz officials in Sokhumi on July 25, about the withdrawal of Georgian forces from upper Kodori Gorge have been the cause of controversy.
On July 25 Russian news agencies quoted Bryza as saying: “We talked about the possibility of stimulating the peace process; about how to convince our friends in Georgia to withdraw their troops from upper Kodori Gorge, on which the Abkhaz side is insisting. Otherwise, we can talk endlessly without achieving any progress. We should change the direction.”
Officials in Tbilisi said that Bryza’s remarks were misinterpreted by the Russian news agencies, saying that he had never said that Tbilisi should pull out forces from upper Kodori Gorge.
The Georgian daily Rezonansi quoted Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, as saying: “Bryza said that a number of issues had been discussed, including the Abkhaz proposal for the withdrawal of Georgian forces [from upper Kodori]. He never said Georgia should withdraw its forces.”
On July 26, the Georgian Public Broadcaster re-aired Abkhaz television footage, showing Bryza speaking in Russian with local journalists in Sokhumi. Bryza says: “We have exchanged opinions on how to stimulate the peace process and how to convince our friends there in Tbilisi to withdraw its forces, as you have called for.”
When asked if he was misquoted or misinterpreted, Bryza said at a news conference in Tbilisi on July 26: “The U.S. does not have position according to which we are asking Georgia to pull out its Ministry of Internal Affairs personnel from upper Kodori Valley; so let’s be clear about that.”