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    MOSCOW HAILS AGREEMENTS ACHIEVED BY SAAKASHVILI AND ABASHIDZE

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    MOSCOW, March 19 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow hails the agreements which were achieved by Georgian President Saakashvili and leader of the Adzharian Autonomous Republic Aslan Abashidze at their meeting on Thursday, March 18, in Batumi. Official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Yakovenko told reporters about it.

    "From the very beginning Russia called for settling the existing problems between Tbilisi and Batumi through a political dialogue and a search for compromise solutions," Alexander Yakovenko said.

    "In the past few days, when the tension around Adzharia reached a dangerous level, the Russian side maintained constant contacts with the Georgian and Adzharian leaders, thinking of the main task - to prevent an armed development of the events," underscored the official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry.

    "In this context, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov made useful efforts," he noted.

    Alexander Yakovenko said that in the future, too, the work for normalizing relations between Tbilisi and Batumi must be carried out by political methods. This will correspond to a stronger stability and territorial integrity of Georgia for the benefit of all the peoples living there.

    On March 15, the Georgian government, by the decision of the country's President, introduced economic sanctions against the Adzharian leadership which included blocking the autonomous government's banking deposits, temporarily stopping banking activity in Adzharia, and the closing of the Batumi sea port, of Batumi airport and of the customs in Sarpi at the Georgian-Turkish border. The aim of the sanctions was to check the sources of financing the authorities of the autonomous republic who refused to submit to the central leadership of Georgia and to exclude the possibility of bringing weapons and armored vehicles to Adzharia.

    The crisis was triggered of by the incident at a checkpoint at the Choloki River (the administrative border of Adjaria) where a group of armed persons did not allow Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to drive into the autonomous republic and blocked the way for the presidential motorcade.

    Last Thursday, the President gave instructions to lift the sanctions against Adzharia after his negotiations with Abashidze which lasted for three and a half hours. Commenting on the results of the negotiations, the Georgian President said that the sides showed goodwill. "The main thing is that we were able to preserve a democratic system and civil peace. The meeting passed in an atmosphere of a complete mutual understanding," the Georgian President said. "We discussed at this meeting questions of free movement of people along Adzharia, the holding of free and democratic elections, the release of political prisoners and disarmament of local militia," the President of Georgia pointed out. According to him, "all the questions that lead to misunderstanding in the past few days between the Adzharian leadership and the central government of Georgia will be removed." Mikhail Saakashvili said that an agreement had also been achieved that the post of a representative of the Georgian President will be instituted in the Batumi sea port and at the customs in Sarpi at the Georgian-Turkish border with the aim of controlling the movement of cargoes.

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