Abkhazia will one day return to Georgia: Saakashvili
Abkhazia will one day rejoin the former Soviet republic, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has told the UN.
Abkhazia, a separatist zone which seceded from Georgia last year, will one day rejoin the former Soviet republic, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has told the United Nations.
"It will take time, but Abkhazia will once again be what it was -- the most wonderful part of Georgia," Saakashvili told the U.N. General Assembly late on Thursday.
Russia crushed a Georgian assault on another separatist enclave, South Ossetia, in August 2008, sending tanks deep into Georgian territory and shaking Western confidence in oil and gas routes running through the South Caucasus.
After the war, both Abkhazia and South Ossetia announced their secession from Georgia. Only Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have recognized their independence.
Saakashvili has said that he has no pretensions to take back the two regions by force. But he painted a bleak portrait of Abkhazia, on the eastern coast of the Black Sea.
"Abkhazia today has been emptied of more than three-fourths of its population," he said. "Gardens and hotels, theaters and restaurants have been replaced by military bases and graveyards."
The West condemned Russia's response last year as "disproportionate," but also faulted Saakashvili's assault on South Ossetia, which, like Abkhazia, threw off Georgian rule in wars in the early 1990s.
Russia says it acted to save civilians and its peacekeepers. It says Saakashvili is dangerous, but analysts doubt Moscow intends to oust him forcibly.
Despite a ceasefire under which both sides agreed to withdraw forces to pre-war positions, Russia retains thousands of troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Tens of thousands of people were displaced on both sides.
Abkhazian leader Sergei Bagapsh said in a statement the United Nations should not have allowed Saakashvili to speak without inviting representatives from Abkhazia and South Ossetia to respond.
"For the U.N. to debate the future of the Abkhazian and Ossetian people without even hearing their voices is unconscionable and smacks of an era when colonial powers unilaterally determined the fate of smaller nations," he said.
Saakashvili did not explicitly say that South Ossetia would also return to Georgian control, though he did say he was "committed to our vision of a sovereign and unified Georgia."
South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity said in a statement his territory "will never again be a part of Georgia."
Reuters Last Mod: 26 Eylül 2009, 17:14