Georgia seeks to invigorate Geneva negotiating process – FM

Georgia seeks to invigorate Geneva negotiating process – FM
by By Tengiz Pachkoria

ITAR-TASS News Agency
February 16, 2005 Wednesday

TBILISI, February 16 — Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili said
Georgia seeks to invigorate negotiations on the Georgian-Abkhazian

Zurabishvili said on Wednesday Georgia “is interested in invigorating
and developing the Geneva negotiating process to settle the
Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.” “Now the main thing is to invigorate
and then to develop the Geneva negotiating process.”

In her view, “it is important to start talks, within the Geneva format,
on the unconditional return of all refugees to Abkhazia.”

As a result of the 1992-1993 armed conflict about 300,000 indigenous
residents of Abkhazia were forced to leave their homeland (240,000
people of them are Georgians, the rest are Russians, Armenians,
Greeks, Abkhazs and citizens of other nationalities). Then about
40,000 Georgian refugees returned to the Gali district of Abkhazia
(about 100,000 Georgians lived in the district). Tbilisi raised the
question of returning all refugees to the Gali district and other
regions of Abkhazia.

Georgian and Abkhazian officials are expected to meet in Geneva at
the end of March. The meeting will be also attended by representatives
of member-countries of the U.N. Secretary-General’s Group of Friends
to Georgia.

Earlier in the day, U.N. Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping
Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno said the U.N. is ready to help Abkhazia
improve life of refugees, who returned to the Gali district.

Speaking at a press conference after his meeting with Abkhazian
President Sergei Bagapsh, Guehenno said the problem of the return of
refugees should be considered, primarily, a humanitarian problem.

It is necessary to clarify how many people returned to the Gali
district and specify how many people want to return, he said. The
Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is dealing with
monitoring and gives a report by the end of April, Guehenno stressed.

It is necessary to do everything possible to improve living
standards of people who returned to the Gali district, the U.N.
undersecretary-general stressed. The U.N. is ready to provide aid to
Abkhazia in this field, he said.

Guehenno and Bagapsh discussed several economic projects. The U.N.
official cited as an example the restoration of the Inguri hydropower
plant. The meeting also focused on the resumption of railway traffic
through Abkhazia and the creation of necessary infrastructure.

The meeting touched on a possibility of carrying out several economic
projects, which are financed by the European Union, Guehenno said.

He arrived in Abkhazia on a two-day official visit on February
15 and left for Tbilisi earlier in the day. Guehenno said during
his stay in Tbilisi, he intends to meet Georgian President Mikhail
Saakashvili in order to convey to him “the desire of the Abkhazian
side to renounce the warlike rhetorics and to settle all the problems
by peaceful means.”

Bagapsh said both sides to continue the negotiations between Sukhumi
and Tbilisi. “The Wednesday meeting has shown that we are able to
go ahead with the negotiations process on condition that realistic
projects, not forcible actions are put to the forefront.”

Bagapsh said the Abkhazian leadership is ready to continue talks. “We
must begin our work with pragmatic things, i.e. with economy. If we
achieve understanding on this subject, it will be possible to resume
the negotiations, including within the framework of the Coordination
Council, as well as the permanent meetings and contacts.”