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Efforts Continue for Abkhaz Talks – German Official
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 31 Jul.'08 / 11:45

Jens Ploetner, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on July 30 that Germany was closely involved in attempts to arrange high-level talks between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported.

Berlin remains a tentative venue for a possible meeting, but no date had yet been set, he added.

An initial proposal envisaged holding a meeting in Berlin on July 30-31 failed to materialise as the Abkhaz side refused to attend.

Both sides have different interpretations of the intended format for the failed meeting.

According to Sergey Shamba, the foreign minister of breakaway Abkhazia, it had been proposed that Sokhumi take part in a meeting of the UN Secretary General’s Group of Friends dealing with the Abkhaz conflict (involving France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia and the U.S.). Although the Abkhaz side was not “in principle” against such a meeting, Shamba said the timing was unacceptable. He suggested a late August date. The German embassy in Tbilisi released a statement on July 29 saying that the Abkhaz side’s readiness was “an important signal.”

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin did indeed suggest that Moscow was against immediately convening a meeting of the Group of Friends.

“We always appreciate having good meetings, but we believe that this one has to be well-prepared and the parties must also be invited to that meeting if they are willing to come,” Churkin told journalists in New York after the UN Security Council discussed the secretary-general’s latest report on the situation in Abkhazia on July 29.

Abkhaz officials, however, have also underlined that their hypothetical participation in such a meeting would in no way constitute direct talks with the Georgian side. Sokhumi sets two preconditions for resuming direct talks: signing of a non-use of force treaty and the withdrawal of Georgian forces from the upper Kodori Gorge.

Officials in Tbilisi, however, have contradicted Shamba's take on the proposed meeting. They say the proposal was not for a meeting of the Group of Friends, but a meeting between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides in Berlin with the mediation of the German side to discuss the so-called German three-stage plan. Following these talks, a follow-up meeting of the Group of Friends at the level of political directors was planned, according to Georgian officials. They have also alleged that it was on Moscow's insistence that the Abkhaz side rejected the proposal.

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