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Russia-Abkhazia cooperation agreement to be signed soon - Bagapsh - 2

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An agreement on friendship and cooperation between Russia and Abkhazia is ready and will be signed in the next few days in Moscow, the Abkhaz president said Saturday.
MOSCOW, September 6 (RIA Novosti) - An agreement on friendship and cooperation between Russia and Abkhazia is ready and will be signed in the next few days in Moscow, the Abkhaz president said Saturday.

"A big agreement on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance is almost ready, it consists of 32 articles, we have already drafted it. I think it will be signed in the days to come in Moscow," Sergei Bagapsh told a RIA Novosti press conference. "I think it will happen next week."

Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia on August 26, two weeks after it had concluded its operation "to force Georgia to peace." The operation came in response to an attack by Georgian forces on breakaway South Ossetia on August 8.

Moscow said hundreds of civilians were killed in the Georgian attack on South Ossetia, and thousands fled the devastated region.

Bagapsh said Russia has prevented a large-scale war in the Caucasus. "What Russia did was done in time to prevent a big war from erupting," he said.

The Abkhaz leader ruled out dialogue with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

"He is unambiguously a political corpse. A person with so much blood on his hands cannot head a state or hold any talks... This is a small tyrant brought up by Americans in the South Caucasus," he said.

"It is impossible to be a democrat for the outside world and a tyrant for one's own country," Bagapsh said.

Bagapsh also said Abkhazia would like to join the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The CIS comprises Russia, Georgia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Tajikstan and Uzbekistan.

Russia has now withdrawn its regular troops from Georgia, but insists it can maintain checkpoints in security zones near the regions under the ceasefire deal brokered by France. Moscow has also accused Tbilisi of building up troops near South Ossetia.

Western nations have strongly criticized Russia for its "disproportionate" response to Georgia's attack and the recognition of Georgia's breakaway provinces. NATO-Russia cooperation has also been frozen.

Nicaragua has become the first country after Russia to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Bagapsh added Abkhazia would like to become an offshore zone. "We do not remove the offshore issue from the agenda... We will be getting ready for that," he said.

He said that Abkhazia has everything necessary to become a free economic zone. He said that in line with the world practice, near any great power, there is a small country "with an offshore, where the banking system is developed and through which finances and serious business go."

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