Friday, February 13, 2009

Georgia wants Abkhazia to be 'weapons-free' zone - minister

10/02/2009 15:11 TBILISI, February 10 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia is to demand that Abkhazia be declared an armaments-free zone, a Georgian minister said on Tuesday.

Russia and Abkhazia have agreed to open one military base in Gudauta, in the west of Abkhazia, and to establish a Russian Black Sea Fleet base in the coastal town of Ochamchira. No official documents have been signed, however.

"As for the deployment of Russian military bases in Abkhazia, Georgia will demand that Abkhazia be proclaimed a weapons-free zone, and that international police forces be deployed there," Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister on issues of reintegration, said.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states last year on August 26, two weeks after the end of a five-day military operation to "force Georgia to peace" which began when Georgian forces launched an attack on South Ossetia to try and regain control of the region.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia split from Georgia in the early 1990s, and most residents of both republics have had Russian citizenship for a number of years.

The chief of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, said in November that the Russian military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia would be fully staffed with 3,700 personnel each by the end of 2009.

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