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Resolution Needed In Abkhazia

The United States supports a peaceful resolution of the separatist conflicts in Georgia. That's why the U.S is concerned over recent Russian actions relating to Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Moscow has announced it intends to send more military forces into the region without the Georgian government’s consent and outside the existing peacekeeping mandate. Such a move has the potential to undermine efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution of the Abkhazia conflict.

Tensions have been rising in the region for some time. In April, a Russian plane shot down a Georgian unmanned aerial vehicle. "Such incidents," said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, "escalate tensions ... and risk destabilizing the entire Caucasus."

Concern is also great over the Russian government's decision to upgrade relations with the Abkhaz authorities. Such a move, said Mr. McCormack, challenges Georgian sovereignty and calls into question whether Russia can continue to function as a facilitator of peace in the region.

The U.S. agrees with Russia on the need to ease the isolation and poverty of the population in Abkhazia, but this can only be achieved with the cooperation of the government of Georgia. The U.S. calls on the Russian government to work with Georgia to return refugees and displaced persons to Abkhazia.

In an effort to achieve a peaceful settlement, Georgia has agreed to suspend unmanned aerial vehicle flights over Abkhazia. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili also has put forth new initiatives that would grant autonomy to Abkhazia, the post of vice-president, free trade zones, and seats in parliament.

In a recent interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed support for this plan, but noted the need for the de facto Abkhaz authorities to react to the plan and engage in direct negotiations with the Georgians.

The U.S. calls on all parties to engage in serious discussions aimed at reaching a lasting political solution. That includes the recent peace proposals made by the Georgian government.