"We should like the population of those territories [separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia] to make independent decisions. We are ready to come up as mediators and guarantors of the available understandings if the Parties display goodwill."
The drama of the 1990s was re-enacted as the Georgian situation came to an edge, remarked Mr. Putin. "The conflict started as Georgia proclaimed independence soon to abolish South Osset and Abkhaz autonomy. That was a foolish, headlong move, which triggered off interethnic clashes. The developments of the early 1990s are going on now," the President said to a media audience in Sochi, Black Sea coastal spa.
The Georgian conflict has no chance to send Russia and Georgia into dispute, he emphasised.
"Apprehensions of the conflict developing into a Russo-Georgian clash are put into words every now and then. Nothing of the kind has ever happened-and will ever take place."
President Putin does not intend to pay a visit to Georgia, he added.
"I debated the prospects for a visit with my Georgian colleagues. A visit would be out of place now, considering the suspense-laden situation."
Developments round South Ossetia are explosive, and round Abkhazia alarming. Russia and Ukraine are, naturally, on their guard. "The Parties are to come to a settlement by peaceful means. That is of greater importance now than ever. Threats would lead the conflicting sides into a deadlock. It is essential to go on with negotiations that would produce an atmosphere of peace and stability," said Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine is also willing to mediate South Ossetian and Abkhazian settlement. "If they don't think Russia and the OSCE are enough, we are ready to get to the negotiation table," Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma said to the gathering.
Ukraine will never put up with the Georgian conflict settled by force of arms. "That road leads nowhere. It does not have in store anything but human suffering," stressed Mr. Kuchma.