Russia rejects western mediation on Abkhazia

June 07, 2008

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SAINT PETERSBURG, June 6: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday brushed off foreign mediation over Georgia’s separatist Abkhazia region, as EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana visited the disputed territory.

Medvedev, who took office on May 7, made the comments during talks on Abkhazia with the pro-western Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, at a regional summit near Saint Petersburg.

Despite western pressure on Russia over its support for the Abkhaz separatists, Medvedev said: “I think we can sort out our relations by ourselves.”

That message was underlined by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said Russia saw no need for foreign mediation.

“I don’t believe any mediation is needed in Russian-Georgian relations....

The key to the solution is direct negotiations between the parties,” Lavrov told journalists. “The ball is on the Georgian side.” Lavrov also said Georgian membership of Nato would not help resolve the conflict.

On the contrary, Georgian Nato membership would lead to “a very, very negative spiral of confrontation in Abkhazia,” Lavrov said.

Tensions have escalated in Abkhazia in recent weeks, as Saakashvili last month said his country had come close to war over the breakaway region.

Coinciding with Friday’s meeting in Saint Petersburg, the European Union’s top foreign policy official, Solana, made a visit to the heart of the conflict, meeting Abkhaz leaders in their main city of Sukhumi.

Solana said he wanted the EU to get more involved in mediating the conflict in Georgia, which lies in the Caucasus mountains on Europe’s eastern edge.—AFP