Abkhazia to discuss military cooperation agreement with Russia – Bagapsh

Abkhazia plans to discuss an agreement on military cooperation with Russia, which will ensure the permanent deployment of Russian peacekeepers on the Abkhaz territory, Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh told Russia’s news channel Vesti on Sunday.

He said that the Russian recognition of independent Abkhazia would promote investments and economic development.

"The first thing we will discuss with the Russian administration is a military agreement, so that no one dares to spill blood in South Ossetia and Abkhazia," he said.

If the agreement is signed, the makeup of the Russian peacekeeping mission "may be slightly altered," Bagapsh said. "They will still be peacekeepers, but a brigade of 2,500-3,000 servicemen deployed permanently so that no one dares to invade [the republic] and kill innocent people."

He also thinks it possible to deploy Russian warships in Abkhaz seaports.

There is no threat of a new war in Abkhazia and South Ossetia after their recognition by Russia, Bagapsh said. "We understand that Georgia and NATO member countries have chosen power play instead of analyzing the recent events. We have certain concerns, but no fear. I think that some NATO countries do not think and act the way [Georgian President Mikhail] Saakashvili does. I do not think that a major war is possible," he remarked.

Meanwhile, Abkhazia will mount its defense potential, the president said. "We won’t have a large army, but it will be centered around commando units of about 3,500-4,000 servicemen," he said.

Abkhazia should reduce customs formalities on the Russian border and do the opposite on the Georgian border, Bagapsh said. Abkhazia will also seek relations with the international community and ask the Russian Foreign Ministry for support, he said.

The recognition of independent Abkhazia will bring investments, he said. Investors, including Russian businessmen, had shown interest in Abkhazia, but investments were deterred with high risks of war with Georgia, he said.

"The situation will change drastically. An investor can freely come to Abkhazia and choose a sphere of action – resorts, processing industries, ports or other sectors. We will be glad to welcome them," Bagapsh said.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 31Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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