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    RUSSIA EXPECTS SAAKASHVILI TO CONFIRM GEORGIA'S COMMITMENT TO PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT OF ABKHAZ PROBLEM

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    MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow expects that the new Georgian leadership will confirm its commitment to the peaceful settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz problem (Abkhazia is a self-proclaimed republic within Georgia).

    This opinion was expressed by Russian first deputy foreign minister Valery Loshchinin. This is what Moscow hopes to hear from President Mikhail Saakashvili during his forthcoming visit to Russia, he said.

    "Secondly, it is important that Georgia should aim to comply with the accords reached at the Russian-Georgian summit with the participation of the Abkhaz side in March 2003 in Sochi, the deputy foreign minister stressed in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta published on Thursday.

    Loshchinin further said that the participants in that meeting agreed to work in three directions: the return of refugees to the Gali district, the restoration of transit railway communication across Abkhazia and modernization of the cascade of the Inguri hydroelectric power stations (on the Georgian-Abkhaz border).

    Moscow has been encouraged by Saakashvili's statements about his readiness to take bold steps towards the peaceful settlement of the conflict and about the undesirability of the isolation of Abkhazia, the first deputy foreign minister of Russia said.

    According to him, the participants in the Georgian-Abkhaz negotiations "should have a clear conception of what Georgia plans to do in terms of practical measures to settle the conflict." "This would be much more constructive than the attempts by the Georgian side to blame entirely Russia for difficulties in peaceful settlement similar to the attempts made at a recent UN Security Council session in New York," the Russian diplomat said.

    "We proceed from the fact that in the first place it is necessary to restore trustworthy relations between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides. Without that, all subsequent efforts will fail. The rationale is simple: if there is no trust, there will be no serous grounds for negotiations," he said.

    "The negotiations will finally result in substantive talks about the status of Abkhazia. Naturally, as a member of the international community, Russia is participating most actively in this process," he said.

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