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Europe

Abkhaz Separatists Reject German Peace Plan

Rebels in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia have rejected German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's peace deal. It is also not known whether Russia will support the plan.

A Georgian military convoy

The situation in Abkhazia remains tense

Georgia's rebel separatist region of Abkhazia on Friday rejected as "unacceptable" an international peace plan for calming escalating tensions in the region.

"These offers are unacceptable to us," Abkhaz president Sergei Bagapsh said on Friday, July 18. "We are not prepared to discuss the status of Abkhazia, which is already for many our republic. Abkhazia is an independent state, and this not open to discussion."

Bagapsh made the remarks after talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the town of Gali on the separatist region's border with Georgia. Steinmeier began a two-day tour of the region yesterday, hoping to restart peace talks between Georgia and the Russian-backed rebel region.

Tensions remain high

On the heels of the meeting, Steinmeier said all parties in the conflict had an obligation to prevent the crisis from escalating.

Georgia said the situation was on the brink of war last month over mutual accusations of troop buildups and spying with Russia.

Russia and a Georgian-American coalition were holding mass military exercises on their respective sides of the Caucasus region this week, maneuvers frowned upon by European allies.

Over 2,500 Russian peacekeepers have patrolled the autonomous region since a 1994 UN ceasefire agreement that ended civil war, and most Abkhaz residents have been issued Russian passports in recent years.

Russia could be softening stance

Steinmeier was due in Moscow later Friday to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Russia on Friday called Steinmeier's efforts to rekindle peace talks "constructive."

"Steinmeier's activity has constructive character," a foreign ministry source told Interfax news agency. "He knows our standpoint well and is at this moment in (the Abkhaz capital of) Sukhumi to familiarize himself with the Abkhaz position."

The foreign ministry's praise for Steinmeier's initiative was a marked contrast to Moscow's previous intransigence over growing Western concerns. Yet Larov seems to remain pessimistic about the peace plan. Ahead of Steinmeier's visit he called it "unrealistic for now."