'GROUP OF FRIENDS' WORRIED BY NO PROGRESS IN GEORGIA-ABKHAZIA SETTLEMENT

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GENEVA, April 9 (RIA Novosti's Yekaterina Andrianova) - The United Nations Secretary General's "group of friends of Georgia" has invited the parties in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict for the earliest resumption of peaceful settlement.

The two-day meeting, over in Geneva on Friday, passed in a "rather positive" atmosphere, Deputy of Secretary General of the United Nations Jean-Marie Guinnault has said.

"Both the sides are ready to consider the top-most practical questions. The key priority for the Georgian side is to promote the question of internally displaced persons. We've had a very constructive discussion with the Office of the UN Supreme Commissioner for Refugees and will hope for a progress to be made in this field", he told RIA Novosti.

"The Abkhazian side is concerned over mostly economic questions and, for its part, Germany has made an important proposal on holding a joint conference towards the rehabilitation of economic cooperation and trust", he added.

Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valeri Loschinin, who leads the Russian delegation, has also given a positive assessment of the results of the Geneva meeting.

"It is for the first time that a Geneva meeting with the participation of the sides has made concrete and far-reaching proposals", he said.

To Loschinin, the final document of the meeting emphasizes the non-use of force, work on confidence-building measures, has agreed upon the realization of the process of return of refugees and economic cooperation.

Conferees are going to hold another sitting of the Group of Friends in autumn 2005, most probably the end of September-early October.

According to Loschinin, by this time the Group of Friends hopes for a progress to be made in, for instance, opening a small human-rights section in the Gala district of Abkhazia (adjacent to Georgia).

The sitting of the Group of Friends, uniting Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, was chaired by the deputy Secretary General of the United Nations.

Special representative of the UN Secretary General for the Abkhazian crisis Haidi Tagliavini and the representatives of the two conflicting sides were present at the meeting.

Representatives of the sides have also commented to RIA Novosti on the possibility of a meeting between Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and the head of the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh. In the opinion of Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba, there are no actual conditions in place for such a meeting.

The Georgian State Minister for Conflict Settlement Georgi Khaindrava also believes that such a meeting requires elaborate preparations to be performed.

To Khaindrava, Georgia is waiting for the development of situation in the Gala district.

"The Gala district is for us the touchstone, proving ground for seeing the reality of the utterances and advances being made by the leadership of Abkhazia to rectify the situation", he noted.

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