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Abkhazia has rejected a German-proposed peace plan on the resolution
Abkhazia has rejected a German-proposed peace plan on the resolution of the breakaway Georgian republic's conflict with Tbilisi, the Abkhaz leader said on Friday.

"We have rejected the plan. It's unacceptable for us," Sergei Bagapsh said after meeting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Abkhazia.

The German official is on the second day of a two-day trip to Georgia, Abkhazia, and Russia aimed at reducing rising tensions in the region and stopping "spiraling violence".

Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the subsequent hostilities. The two sides signed a ceasefire in 1994 in Moscow.

The German plan, backed by the EU, stipulates a non-violence agreement, confidence-building measures over the next year to lead to a determination of Abkhazia's status, and the return of Georgian refugees.

"We are not going to discuss Abkhazia's status," Bagapsh said. "Abkhazia is an independent state."

Bagapsh also said that the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia could only start only after the withdrawal of Georgian troops from the Kodori Gorge and the signing of a non-aggression pact.

"The return of Georgian refugees to the Abkhaz region of Gali will be possible only after the settlement of the conflict," Sergei Bagapsh said during his meeting with Steinmeier.

"Insistence on their return could lead to a new war," he warned.

Some 300,000 Georgians fled Abkhazia in 1991-93 amid accusations of ethnic cleansing. On May 15, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution acknowledging ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia and called for the return of Georgian refugees.

Georgia had given its overall backing for the plan, but Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said on Thursday that Abkhazia would not start a dialogue with Tbilisi until it withdraws troops from the upper Kodori Gorge. Georgian troops occupied the area in 2006 in violation of the 1994 ceasefire.

Georgia has accused Russia of fueling tensions in the region with the aim of annexing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another breakaway province. Tbilisi wants to replace Russia-led peacekeepers in the conflict zones with international contingents.

Moscow has rejected the accusations, claiming that Tbilisi is planning to invade the republics. Both countries have accused each other of troop build-ups in the area.

The German and Russian foreign ministers will meet on Friday in Moscow to continue talks on the settlement of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that the refugees' return to Abkhazia was unrealistic at this point, and that the sides should first sign an agreement not to use force.


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