The chief Abkhaz negotiator on border issues has strongly denied that Sokhumi accepted Moscow’s proposal on a disputed village being part of Russia.
In a statement released on April 15, a member of the breakaway region’s Parliament, Valery Kvarchia, confirmed reports, leaked to the Abkhaz press last month, that Moscow initially had a territorial claim on 160 square kilometers of Abkhaz lands. MP Kvarchia is a chairman of the Abkhaz commission on delimitation and demarcation of “state border between the Republic of Abkhazia and the Russian Federation.”
On April 14, the Russian daily Kommersant reported quoting an unnamed official from the Russian Foreign Ministry who said that, during the talks in Moscow in late March, the Abkhaz side accepted Russian negotiators’ arguments and agreed that the entire village of Aibga, divided by Psou river, was part of Russia.
The small mountain village of Aibga is located along the northwestern part of the Abkhaz border and is close to Krasnaya Polyana, the Russian ski resort which is expected to host outdoor events during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.
“The Abkhaz side has acknowledged that Aibga is a Russian village. The village is separated from Abkhazia by impassable mountain ranges, so it’s only possible to reach the village from [Russia’s] Krasnodar district,” the Kommersant reported, quoting an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry official.
The same source also said that only five or six kilometers of agricultural lands adjacent to the village, remained under dispute; the Russian diplomat said that a group of experts would be sent to the village to see on the ground how to resolve the issue. “The village itself will be Russian – that’s the fact,” the unnamed diplomat was quoted.
Abkhaz MP Kvarchia, however, said “the statement that the Abkhaz side has recognized Aibga as a Russian village is not true.” He said that the issue remained open and the joint commission on border issues had yet to agree on that portion of the border.
MP Kvarchia’s statement is worded in a way to avoid a direct criticism of the Russian side, instead slamming the Kommersant’s article, describing it as “provocative” and “disinformation”.
MP Kvarchia also discussed the portion of the article that gave background information on the recent border dispute by recalling leaked reports in the Abkhaz press that Russia initially claimed not only one village, but 160 sq. km. area in the Gagra district of Abkhazia; according to the Kommersant, those reports, however, were rejected by Moscow as “speculation” and “a far-fetched story.”
“It seems that time has come to say that media reports about claims on 160 sq. km. of the Abkhaz territory is not ‘speculation’ and ‘a far-fetched story’,” MP Kvarchia said, adding that those claims were included in an initial proposal tabled by the Russian side.
It is the first time that an Abkhaz official has publicly confirmed the reports about those territorial claims.
MP Kvarchia said that after some discussions during the second round of talks in Moscow in March, the proposed draft was dropped and it was no longer on the negotiations’ agenda.