Georgia to move officials inside breakaway region

TBILISI- Georgia said on Thursday it would move its officials into part of the breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia in a step likely to escalate tensions with the separatists and their supporters in Moscow.

President Mikhail Saakashvili said Abkhazia’s p

ro-Tbilisi government in exile, which fled in the early 1990s, would now be based in the Kodori gorge, a part of the region where Tbilisi is loosely in control but has no official presence.

Saakashvili has said he is determined to restore Tbilisi’s control in Abkhazia, though only by peaceful means. The separatists say they suspect Georgia is encroaching ever closer to their region with the aim of launching a military attack.

“Today we decided … to establish the legitimate government of Abkhazia in Kordori from where it will implement full order and Georgia’s jurisdiction in this region,” Saakashvili said in a televised statement.

“This is a very fundamental political event,” he added.

Georgia was forced out of Abkhazia in fighting in the early 1990s. Since then, the separatists have run it as an independent state, though it is not recognised internationally. They are backed by Moscow.

Sergei Shamba, foreign minister in the separatist administration, said he and his colleagues would discuss Saakashvili’s statement “in detail” on Friday and issue a statement.

“Since this is a serious issue we cannot give an immediate reaction,” he told Reuters by telephone.

Saakashvili announced the move after his security forces said they had regained control of the remote gorge. They were sent in when a local militia leader, who had cooperated with Tbilisi, said he would stop taking its orders.

The Kodori gorge is the only part of Abkhazia not under separatist control. But until now Tbilisi did not have full control either, with no police or officials there. It used local militias as proxies instead. — Reuter