Russia's approach to Abkhazian impasse unconstructive - Georgia

TBLISI, March 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is not being constructive in its approach to the conflict between Georgia and the breakaway region of Abkhazia, Georgia's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

"Russia adheres to an old approach, which makes us again think that the Russian leadership does not have sufficient political will to resolve this conflict through constructive cooperation with Georgia," the ministry said following a meeting with Mikhail Bocharnikov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's ambassador-at-large.

"Georgia again confirms its readiness for dialogue, and calls on the Russian side to take mutual constructive steps to resolve the situation," the statement said.

Bocharnikov met Georgian and UN officials involved in conflict management Tuesday in Tblisi. He said the aim of the talks was to "establish at what stage in the regulation process we are now at, and how to move forward."

"We discussed developing confidence-building measures through signing an agreement against the use of force," he said

A senior U.S. State Department official said earlier in March that Russia is not doing enough to help resolve regional conflicts in Georgia.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried said at a Congress hearing on March 9 that Russia could do more to help settle the long-running conflicts between Georgia and its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

He said UN-sponsored peace talks with Abkhazia involving the United States as well as Russia and other mediators had made little progress in recent months, and called on the warring sides to take concrete steps in order to advance the negotiating process.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia proclaimed independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Moscow cultivates close ties with both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and has granted Russian citizenship to many of their residents.

During the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict of 1992-93, more than 300,000 people, including 240,000 ethnic Georgians, fled Abkhazia. Tbilisi says about 40,000 people have since returned, but Abkhazian officials put the number at 60,000.

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