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Russia Foreign Ministry denies offering assurances on Abkhazia, South Ossetia

By Messenger Staff
Friday, February 29
The Russian and Georgian Foreign Ministries have released conflicting statements on the results of the last weeks’ high-level negotiations between Tbilisi and Moscow.

Foreign Minister Davit Bakradze expressed hope yesterday there would be “no retreat from the already reached agreements with Russia,” in response to a February 27 Russian Foreign Ministry statement that questioned Georgian officials “rather free interpretation” of words exchanged at a meeting between President Mikheil Saakashvili and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week.

Bakradze, who was present when the two presidents met, suggested there is “intra-agency inconsistency” amid Moscow leadership, and reiterated that firm agreements had been reached, including an assurance from Russia that it would not formally recognize Georgia’s breakaway regions as independent following international recognition of Kosovo’s independence.

He also expressed concern that the Russian Foreign Ministry statement—which categorically denied that Moscow promised to “never recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia”—characterized such a possible assurance as being “behind the back” of de facto authorities in the breakaway regions.

Given that Russia is a long-time supporter of de jure Georgian territorial integrity, Bakradze said, “[the] non-recognition of separatist regions can in no way be assessed as behind-the-scene game of any kind.”

“The very fact of providing such interpretations is of particular concern to us,” he said.

Another issue of discrepancy between the two foreign ministries was ongoing discussions on joint control of the Psou and Roki Tunnel border checkpoints, in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia respectively.

The Russian Foreign Ministry says the issue was “not touched upon in concrete terms” during the meeting between the two presidents, and is dependent on progress in settling the two conflicts as well as agreement from de facto authorities.

However, Bakradze claimed to have official documents from Russia outlining its vision of how joint control should be facilitated. “These documents make no mention of the authorities of either Abkhazia or South Ossetia,” he said.

Saakashvili recently touted progress on the border control issue as “a huge step forward and a breakthrough,” while acknowledging that technical details still need to be hammered out.