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Abkhazia withdraws from Geneva talks on Caucasus


MOSCOW, May 16 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia's former republic of Abkhazia has withdrawn from the fifth round of talks in Geneva planned for May 18-19, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said on Saturday.

The Geneva talks, which are supported by the UN, EU and OSCE, and involve Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are aimed at trying to reduce tension in the conflict zone, following a short war between Russia and Georgia, which launched an offensive on its former republic of South Ossetia last August.

Shamba cited delays in receiving the UN annual report on the region as a reason for pulling out of the talks.

"We agreed that on May 15 when the report was published we would receive a copy, but we have not received one yet. Now they say May 18, the day of the talks. However, considering the time difference, it will be after the talks have been held by the time we get the report," Shamba said.

"We consider this as clearly underhand. Therefore the Abkhaz delegation will not travel to Geneva for the next round of talks," he said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said that at the upcoming talks Moscow would be seeking a "non-use of force guarantee" from Tbilisi "in relation to their neighbors in the region."

"First of all a legal binding ceasefire agreement needs to be signed between Georgia and South Ossetia, and also Georgia and Abkhazia," a Foreign Ministry statement read.

Following the conflict, Russia recognized both of Georgia's former republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.

Russia and the two republics signed border protection agreements at the end of April. Russian border guards have been deployed along the Abkhazia and South Ossetian borders since May 2.

The border deal came at a time of increased tensions between Moscow and NATO, after the alliance went ahead with military exercises in the region and two Russian NATO envoys were expelled over spying claims.

Russian border guards discovered a large arms cache, containing over 50 antitank mines and over 100 kg of TNT, which overall were equivalent to 500 kg of TNT, in the Kodori Gorge area near the Georgian-Abkhaz border, the first head of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) border department in Abkhazia told journalists on Saturday.

Col. Dmitry Korolyov described the find as a "significant result" and said the hideout was discovered on May 13, but gave no information on any possible owners of the cache.

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