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The situation in Georgia's Kodori Gorge affects Russia's security
The situation in Georgia's Kodori Gorge affects Russia's security, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. Georgian media reported earlier in the day that a military column was traveling to the gorge, the de facto border between the self-proclaimed republic of Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. "We share the concern of the Abkhaz side over the growing tensions in the Kodori Gorge, the deployment of a large Georgian military contingent there, and the possibility of hostilities breaking out in the area," the ministry said. "This is a serious violation of the 1994 Moscow ceasefire and disengagement agreement. This area borders directly on Russia's territory, and what is going on there affects the security of the Russian Federation," it said. On Sunday, Emzar Kvitsiani, former President Eduard Shevardnadze's envoy to the Kodori Gorge, said Defense Ministry troops were going to enter the area on July 27. He said they would seek to disarm former members of the Hunter border guard battalion, which was formally disbanded in 2005, though most members refused to lay down their arms. Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli categorically ruled out earlier Tuesday any negotiations with Kvitsiani, whom he labeled "a traitor." The ministry said Moscow was keeping a close eye on the situation in the Kodori Gorge, urging the Georgian side to refrain from the use of force that could provoke a new conflict in the region. Georgia's authorities said Tuesday they hoped to resolve the conflict peacefully but were not ruling out the use of force. If no agreement is reached, Georgia will use Interior Ministry troops to restore order in the gorge, a high-ranking government source said. The source also denied reports on the deployment of Georgian troops near the border with Abkhazia. Kvitsiani, who was fired as envoy when Saakashvili and his West-leaning government came to power in 2003 and was dismissed from the armed forces on orders from Defense Minister Irakly Okruashvili two years later, had invited Nogaideli, State Minister on Economic Reform Kakhaber Bendukidze and parliamentarian Giorgi Bokeria for talks. All of them rejected the proposal. Russian daily Kommersant reported Tuesday that Kvitsiani had made political demands. He said he was ready to talk peace with Tbilisi if the defense minister and interior minister, known as "hawks" in the Georgian government, were dismissed. He threatened to stage mass protests and seek early parliamentary elections if his demands were not met. On Tuesday, Kvitsiani is scheduled to meet with elders from the South Caucasus state who are expected to try to persuade him to give up the idea of an armed confrontation. The former envoy has promised to refrain from any action until after the meeting.
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