TBILISI, 16 October 2001 (OSCE) - An 18-nation Delegation of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe met today with the President of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze, as a concluding note of a four-day visit to the country.
The current tension in Abkhazia dominated much of the two-hour meeting with the Georgian President. Mr. Shevardnadze stressed that "without a stable south-eastern Europe, the rest of the continent would hardly be in a position to enjoy peaceful development".
Commenting on a recent decision by the Georgian Parliament to withdraw the Russian peacekeeping forces from Abkhazia, Mr. Shevardnadze noted that, according to the Constitution, the final decision would lie in his hands, and stressed the key role of the Russian Federation in helping to solve the crisis.
In a letter addressed to President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, Mr. Shevardnadze suggested a multilateral force with the participation of Russian officers as a replacement of the current presence. "We call for all potentials, including intellectual potentials of the international community, to contribute to the peaceful development of the country", Mr. Shevardnadze said.
At the same time, Mr. Shevardnadze strongly promoted the dialogue to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. "This dialogue has a strong prospect", he said. "International effort plus a bilateral dialogue between the two parties are the recipe to solve the current conflict in Abkhazia."
Dialogue was also promoted to solve the tension in South Ossetia, to which Tbilisi was ready "to offer as wide an autonomy as provided in the international law and practice". The President of Georgia extended his "most heartfelt gratitude to the OSCE" in its assistance to rebuilding confidence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The OSCE has a presence of 130 personnel in Georgia.
The economic dimension of the country was also a prominent topic addressed by Mr. Shevardnadze. "Foreign investors quite understandably need security and reassurance", said the Georgian President. The peaceful resolution of both conflicts is therefore key to further develop the economical development of the country.
Mr. Shevardnadze noted that the economic reform process in Georgia was almost completed. "It has been and remains a painful process, but it is functioning in Georgia", he said. "We have gone a long way in a short time".
This also applied to the Georgian effort to reconstruct democratic institutions in the country. President Shevardnadze insisted that "the difficult road to democracy was the only road to choose. Despite all their hardship, the Georgian people are happy to live in a free society. We lack a lot, but what we have in abundance is freedom", said Mr. Shevardnadze.
The Georgian President outlined the final goals of his country to be free and independent. "This is the road we have chosen, and we will not depart from it", said Mr. Shevardnadze, who, addressing the OSCE delegation, concluded: "We will rely on your support. Georgia will do its utmost to be part of the effort for a strong and secure Europe".