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Saakashvili and Abashidze strike a Deal
March 18, 2004
Civil Georgia News

Posted by HW on January 18, 2020

Tensions defused as President Saakashvili and Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze said after talks that deal has been reached and economic sanctions will be lifted. Saakashvili told reporters after the talks "agreement over all main issues has been reached." Aslan Abashidze described talks as "very useful."
"All the disputable issues have been settled," Abashidze said after the talks.

Free election
"We have discussed all the key issues, including holding of free election, free movement of people, free election campaigning by the parties," Mikheil Saakashvili said.
The president also said that the General Prosecutor will dispatch group of investigators to Batumi to jointly reconsider cases of those persons arrested for political reasons.

"One more issue discussed during talks was disarmament of armed groups in Adjara. This means restoration of supremacy of law in Georgia, including on the Adjarian territory," Mikheil Saakashvili added.

Saakashvili also said that the Georgia's President will have a permanent representative to the Autonomous Republic.
"The President's representative, who along with the local authorities will control the situation in the customs and in the port of Batumi in order to provide the central authorities with information about customs operations and ensure transparency of mobilization of taxes," Mikheil Saakashvili said.

Abashidze agreed to:
• disarm paramilitary forces
• secure free and fair elections
• secure free campaigning of the opposition
• release political prisoners
In return Saakashvili pledged to lift
economic sanctions by 24:00 March 18.
"Now the main thing is to fulfill the achieved agreements. I promise that I will lift the economic sanctions from 24:00 tonight," President said.

No personal confrontation
President Saakashvili also made a conciliatory gesture and said he has "no personal confrontation with the Adjarian leader." "I believe we have achieved full mutual understanding," he added.
However, earlier, when Saakashvili was barred from entering Adjarian Autonomy on March 14, described Abashidze as "a middle-aged feudal." The incident triggered crisis, which led to sea, land and air blockade of the defiant region.

Despite an agreement, many political analysts in Tbilisi believe that it is a short-term deal.
"The regime in Batumi is absolutely incompatible to that one in Tbilisi [central government] and it makes a major problem in this standoff and this makes a cornerstone of confrontation between Georgia's new leadership and Adjarian leader [Abashidze, who unilaterally rule the region for past decade]," Ghia Nodia of think-tank Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development, says.

No guarantees
Speaking in a live broadcast of the Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 television Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania admitted that the central authorities "have no guarantees that the Adjarian leader will follow agreement and modernize its authority and accept a new rule of the game."
However, he added "I don't think that publicly announced agreement will not be implemented."

Economic sanctions
"When we threatened with economic sanctions, Adjarian leader thought that we could have implemented these sanctions, but after enforcement of the blockade he had to make concessions. Economic sanction did work," Zurab Zhvania said.

On March 16 Georgian General Prosecutor Irakli Okruashvili announced that six Adjarian officials, including security minister and deputy interior minister are wanted by the law enforcers for alleged harassment of journalists and opposition supporters.
But those on the list of wanted represent foothold of Abashidze's power in the Autonomy and it is unlikely that Abashidze will agree on their arrest.
Saakashvili, Misha (M) Politician Georgia
Zhvania, Zurab (M) Politician Georgia
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