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Russia says agreement needed on peacekeepers' status in Abkhazia

RIA Novosti

10/04/2008 20:23 MOSCOW, April 10 (RIA Novosti) - The status of peacekeepers in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone should not be changed without the agreement of all parties involved, Russia's Foreign Minister said on Thursday.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has repeatedly called for changes to be made to the peacekeeping arrangement in the country's conflict zone with breakaway Abkhazia, and asked other countries to contribute. The Georgian leader said Russia is not a mediator in the conflict, but is a party to the conflict.

"As for the new proposals, [...] the most important thing is that they lead to an agreement between the sides," Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference after talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Lavrov added that the initiatives should be aimed at forging an agreement, not "to justify a reluctance to comply with previously agreed accords."

In his turn, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told journalists that the international organization would continue its efforts to ease tensions between Georgia and its breakaway republic of Abkhazia.

He added that the situation in Georgia would be discussed by the UN Security Council on April 14.

Russia maintains peacekeepers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both republics broke away from Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Tbilisi accuses Moscow of backing separatism in the region and demands the replacement of the peacekeepers by an international force. Moscow dismisses the accusations and says the withdrawal of its troops could trigger new bloodshed.



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