(RIA Novosti) - Georgia's prime minister said Tuesday talks with a former presidential envoy who leads an outlawed battalion in the only Tbilisi-controlled area in the northwestern breakaway region of Abkhazia were impossible.
On Sunday, Emzar Kvitsiani, former President Eduard Shevardnadze's envoy to the Kodori Gorge, said Defense Ministry troops were going to enter the area, which is the de facto border between Georgia and Abkhazia, on July 27. He said they would seek to disarm former members of the Hunter border guard battalion, which was formally disbanded in 2005, though most members refused to lay down their arms, reports Trend.
Zurab Nogaideli categorically ruled out any negotiations with Kvitsiani, whom he labeled "a traitor."
"The president [Mikheil Saakashvili] has clearly said that dialogue with him and his gang can only take place if he laid down arms as soon as possible, which will alleviate his punishment," the prime minister said.
Kvitsiani, who was fired as envoy when Saakashvili and his West-leaning government came to power in 2003 and was dismissed from the armed forces on orders from Defense Minister Irakly Okruashvili two years later, had invited Nogaideli, State Minister on Economic Reform Kakhaber Bendukidze and parliamentarian Giorgi Bokeria for talks. All of them rejected the proposal.
Russian daily Kommersant reported Tuesday that Kvitsiani had made political demands. He said he was ready to talk peace with Tbilisi if the defense minister and interior minister, known as "hawks" in the Georgian government, were dismissed. He threatened to stage mass protests and seek early parliamentary elections if his demands were not met.
On Tuesday, Kvitsiani is scheduled to meet with elders from the South Caucasus state who are expected to try to persuade him to give up the idea of an armed confrontation. The former envoy has promised to refrain from any action until after the meeting.
Russian peacekeepers said Monday that two checkpoints in the Kodori Gorge, which is about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Abkhazia's capital, Sukhumi, had been put on high alert over fears of escalating tensions.
Russian peacekeepers have been stationed in the zone of the conflict since the early 1990s. Many politicians in the South Caucasus state have called for them to be pulled out and parliament adopted a resolution last week to replace them with an international contingent.
Georgia's parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze called Kvitsiani's Sunday statement "a betrayal, a knife stuck in Motherland's back," and said Monday there was no crisis in the gorge, which meant Russian peacekeepers could be pulled out.