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Georgia is ready to start international monitoring of the Kodori Gorge in breakaway Abkhazia on August 20
Georgia is ready to start international monitoring of the Kodori Gorge in breakaway Abkhazia on August 20, but Russian peacekeepers will not be allowed to join the process, a minister said Friday. Russian troops remain in Abkhazia as part of a peacekeeping mission from the former Soviet republics, but Georgia has accused them of supporting Abkhazia's separatists. "At this point collective peacekeeping forces [from ex-Soviet republics] will not participate in monitoring," said Merab Antadze, the state minister on conflict resolution. Georgia previously agreed to UN monitoring of the Kodori Gorge, the only part of the self-proclaimed republic still under Tbilisi's nominal control, but with a minimal Russian presence. The Georgian Foreign Ministry said on August 11, "Apart from the purely legal aspect, participation of collective peacekeeping forces in monitoring the gorge amid general distrust in the so-called peacekeepers in Georgia as a whole, especially among the Georgians living in Abkhazia, is absolutely unacceptable from a moral and practical standpoint." In late July, Georgia's parliament called for Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone to be declared illegal. They have been stationed there since the early 1990s. Georgia started an operation in the remote Kodori Gorge in late July to find and disarm a rebellious militia unit led by Emzar Kvitsiani, a former Georgian presidential envoy to Abkhazia. The operation began after Kvitsiani said on July 23 he did not recognize Tbilisi's rule. He said Georgian troops were moving into the area to disarm former members of his "Hunter" border guard battalion, which was formally disbanded in 2005, although most members refused to lay down their arms. The breakaway republic of Abkhazia declared independence in 1992, which led to a conflict with Georgia that ended with a ceasefire two years later. Thousands died during the fighting.
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