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Russian peacekeepers in Kodori Gorge unacceptable - Georgia

RIA Novosti

11/08/2006 13:23 TBILISI, August 11 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia has every legitimate reason to refuse a Russian peacekeeping role in international monitoring of a gorge forming de facto border between the breakaway region of Abkhazia and Tbilisi-controlled territory, Georgia's Foreign Ministry said Friday.

Georgia previously agreed to UN monitoring of the Kodori Gorge in the self-proclaimed republic but with a minimal Russian presence.

"Apart from the purely legal aspect, participation of collective peacekeeping forces in monitoring the gorge amid the general distrust in the so-called peacekeepers in Georgia as a whole, especially among the Georgians living in Abkhazia, is absolutely unacceptable from a moral and practical standpoint," the ministry said.

Georgia started what it termed an "anticrime" operation in the Kodori Gorge two weeks ago to find and disarm a rebellious militia unit led by Emzar Kvitsiani, a former Georgian presidential envoy to Abkhazia.

In late July, Georgia's parliament called for Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone to be declared illegal. They have been stationed there since the early 1990s.

The operation began after Kvitsiani said on July 23 he did not recognize Tbilisi's rule. He said Georgian troops were moving into the area to disarm former members of his Hunter border guard battalion, which was formally disbanded in 2005, although most members refused to lay down their arms.

The breakaway republic of Abkhazia declared independence in 1992, which led to a conflict with Georgia that ended with a ceasefire two years later. Thousands died during the fighting.


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