The renewed misunderstanding which has further soured relations between Batumi and Tbilisi are 'the result of PR,' according to Aslan Abashidze, the leader of the autonomous republic of Adjaria. In an evening interview with the television station Adjaria, Abashidze said that he had no differences of opinion with the Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, regarding the presence of the president's empowered representatives in the port of Batumi and the customs service in Sarpi, on the Georgian-Turkish border.
Abashidze said that within a week, with the assistance of a representative of the Georgian Constitutional Court, Johny Hetsuriani, a protocol would be formulated concerning the activities of such representatives in Adjaria, and that they would then be allowed to take up their duties monitoring the flow of goods onto the territory of the autonomous republic.
The Adjarian leader also said that it had been decided during a telephone conversation Monday with the Georgian president that Adjarian officials would begin monitoring the port of Poti and the customs service in Vale, on Georgia's southern border with Turkey. Abashidze has insisted that a large volume of uncontrolled goods pass through those two points, and that duties imposed on goods which are controlled are considerably lower than those levied at other entry points in Georgia, leading to a loss to the Georgian budget of tens of millions of dollars.
On Monday, the Georgian president's representatives were prevented from assuming their functions in the port of Poti and at the customs point in Sarpi as the result of resistance by Adjarian officials. That refusal provoked Saakashvili to issue an ultimatum, giving the Adjarian leader two days to permit the monitoring to begin. In case of a further refusal, the Georgian president threatened to renew the blockade of Adjaria. In response, the Adjarian leader threatened to prolong the state of emergency in the autonomous republic.
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