Abkhazia Leader Sergei Bagapsh: Abkhazia Building Independent State

SUKHUMI (Itar-Tass)–Abkhazia leader Sergei Bagapsh stated on Monday that the position of his republic is unshakable: "We are building an independent state–and will be going along this path to the end." He underlined it at a news conference for Russian journalists.

Bagapsh noted that Sukhumi–as of today–does not think that Abkhazia’s joining Russia is possible–because the referendum of 1999 showed that our people came out as an independent state and we’ll be building it regardless of whether someone likes it or not.

"We are ready to launch good neighborly relations with Georgia and live next to each other as two equal states," the head of Abkhazia said–expressing readiness to discuss any issues with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

"However–it is counterproductive to hold a meeting for the sake of meeting. A serious document on settling the conflict should be the basis of a meeting between the presidents," he said.

"One can discuss many issues with Mikhail Saakashvili–including non-resumption of hostilities–the lifting of the blockade of Abkhazia–and the opening of air–sea and railway communication. We are not rejecting a meeting–but we are for its being productive," the Abkhazian leader added.

"If Georgia raises the issue of pulling out the peacekeeping forces from Abkhazia–we reserve the right to take the place of the peacekeepers–but in that case the attitude toward the border will be different. It will be a real border–with all the ensuing consequences," he warned.

"But it’s a last resort. We insist on Russian peacekeepers staying in the zone of the conflict until its full settlement," Bagapsh said.

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