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Tensions on Black Sea not reduced after meeting in Gali

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, September 9
The fourth meeting within the framework of the incident prevention mechanism was conducted in the Abkhazian town of Gali on September 8. The Georgian delegation, led by the head of the Interior Ministry’s Analytical Department Shota Utiashvili, stated that despite the fact that little result was achieved at the meeting, Georgia still considers it necessary to continue participating in these negotiations.

“Nobody said that it would be an easy process. We’ve seen little progress, but still some steps forward have been taken,” Utiashvili told The Messenger on Tuesday. He added that the sides discussed the criminal situation in Gali district, particularly the instances of Abkhazian border guards not allowing Georgian pupils from the village of Saberio, in Abkhazian puppet regime-controlled territory, to attend school in the Zugdidi district. The Abkhazian side denied this was happening and promised to investigate.

The main cause of recent tensions, the detention of Black Sea vessels en route to Abkhazia by Georgia, was also discussed. “We have just exchanged our points of view,” stated Utiashvili. He added that the next meeting is scheduled for Gali on September 22.

The Abkhazian side also confirmed that no major problems were resolved during the incident prevention meeting. “We informed Georgian side of our position on the incidents in the Black Sea,” stated Abkhazian de facto Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba immediately after the meeting. Shamba noted that the Gali negotiations had been conducted in a “constructive way.” “We told the representatives of Georgia that if Georgian border guards continue to take illegal actions on the Black Sea we reserve the right to give a corresponding response to that,” Shamba told The Messenger. He also noted that the Georgian side had made “some accusations against the Abkhazian side concerning the situation in the Gali region, although those accusations didn’t come with any proof.”

Georgia has detained four cargo vessels en route to Abkhazia this year, accusing them of violating the Georgian law on the occupied territories which bans any kind of economic activity being undertaken in breakaway Abkhazia without the permission of Georgia. The de facto Government has accused Georgia of conducting “piracy” in the Black Sea region and trying to create a humanitarian blockade of the separatist region. Abkhazian de facto leader Sergey Bagapsh has given his servicemen an order to “destroy any vessel illegally entering Abkhazian waters.” His Foreign Minister Shamba has said that this issue will be among the main ones discussed at the international talks on the situation in the Georgian conflicts regions in Geneva on September 17. “If we have no result from the negotiations in Geneva we may pose the question of Abkhazia’s withdrawal from them, as well as from the Gali meetings, which are part of the Geneva process,” concluded Shamba.

The meetings in Gali were instituted following agreement at the international discussions in Geneva and are directed towards preventing incidents and increasing the stability and security in the conflict zone. Representatives of Russia, the UN and the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia also participate in them. A similar mechanism is also in place in the other Georgian breakaway region, South Ossetia.