Georgian ambassador to Moscow Zurab Abashidze has spoken for launching a new stage of peacekeeping activities in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone after the mandate of the collective peacekeeping forces expires on June 30th.
According to him, "we should switch over to the next stage." The peacekeeping operation, the ambassador said, should "extend and involve other CIS countries, expect Russia." The diplomat specified that the Georgian side intended to raise the question about the extension of the military operation to the entire Galsky district in its former administrative borders, while the current mission covers just a part of it. Tbilisi also comes out for the creation of a joint Georgian-Abkhazian administration there under the aegis of international organisations-the CIS, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe /OSCE/ and the United Nations.
"Thus, we will contribute to the return of refugees to the Galsky district which was mostly inhabited by Georgians before the military conflict was started," Abashidze believes. Measures aimed at "the economic rehabilitation of Abkhazia" should follow, he thinks.
The ambassador also stated it was necessary to launch negotiations on Abkhazia's political status, which Tbilisi regards as the most complicated issue.
Abashidze reported that the UN Secretary General's special envoy to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone, Dieter Boden, had prepared a document. The ambassador said that according to the document, "with the help of friendly countries, we should sit down to the negotiating table and start a detailed talk about how to find a political solution to this conflict." Abashidze explained that the document formulated the UN principled positions on what status Abkhazia should have within Georgia. He added that experts would convene a special meeting in Minsk on June 17th-18th to have a detailed discussion on the subject.
On Friday the upper house of the Russian parliament prolonged the mandate of 3,000 Russian collective peacekeepers in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone which expired on December 31st, 2001, till June 30th, 2002.