Russian Duma Concerned Over Ajaria Burdzhnadze Hopeful of Situation

TBILISI (Itar-Tass/Civil Georgia)–Russia’s State Duma expressed its "deep concern" about the deterioration of ties between Georgia and its Autonomous Republic of Ajaria.

In an appeal to their Georgian counterparts–members of Russia’s lower house of parliament said that "there are all reasons to believe that Georgia is planning to resort to force" to settle its dispute with Ajaria.

The Russian lawmakers also urged the Georgian parliament to do its utmost to avert military confrontation with Ajaria.

Ajaria has mobilized its reservists amid fears that the Georgian government might use a planned military exercise later this week to forcibly topple the regional leadership. Tbilisi denies the accusations–saying it is committed to finding a peaceful solution to its dispute with Ajaria.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili–who has vowed to restore economic and political control over Ajaria–yesterday threatened Abashidze with arrest if he refuses to comply with his orders.

Meanwhile–Georgian parliamentary speaker Nino Burdzhanadze believes that the head of Georgia’s Ajarian autonomy Aslan Abashidze–"will take steps to fulfill the Georgian central authorities’ legitimate deman’s."

"I believe Abashidze will exert efforts to disarm illegal paramilitary groups operating in Ajaria and to meet all provisions of the Georgian Constitution," Burdzhanadze told journalists in Tbilisi on Thursday–confident that it will contribute to the settlement of the conflict. "Tbilisi has no intention of artificially aggravating the situation."

"I believe Abashidze’s visit to Tbilisi will be the best way out," Burdzhanadze said.

The Ajarian leader has paid not a single visit to Tbilisi for the past twelve years.

"That the leader of an autonomy has refused to come to the country’s capital for so long is certainly abnormal," Burdzhanadze said. "I believe this problem will be resolved in the near future."

Abashidze has avoided visiting Tbilisi since November 1991 for security reasons.

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