The withdrawal of Russian troops from the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone does not pose any problems for Moscow. As a Rosbalt correspondent reports, this was announced by Russian Presidential Plenipotentiary to Georgia Vladimir Chikvishvili today.
He said Russia has already drawn up a plan for withdrawing peacekeepers in case either Georgia or Abkhazia make this demand. He pointed out that although various CIS countries contributed to the peacekeeping force all the living expenses are paid for by Russia. Moreover, about 100 peacekeepers have been killed in the conflict zone. Mr Chikvishvili denied allegations from Georgian politicians that the peacekeepers only function as border guards. He explained that their main obligation is to separate the parties involved in the conflict and 'this function has been carried out to the full.'
Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili has said that a month would suffice to withdraw the peacekeeping force from the conflict zone. He added that Russia and Georgia are currently negotiating whether or not to extend the peacekeeping mandate in the conflict zone and how much notice the peacekeepers should be given if Tbilisi or Sukhumi decide they must leave. Unlike many Mr Menagarishvili is quite open to the idea of extending the mandate for the unforeseeable future. He believes the Russian peacekeepers have no better alternatives at the present time. This opinion is shared by those international organisations involved in finding a solution to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. Mr Menagarishvili conceded that the peacekeeping force is not as effective as it could be. Therefore it is not so much a question of whether the mandate should be extended but of how the format of the peacekeeping mission can be improved.
The peacekeeping mandate officially ends on June 30.