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Saturday, October 2, 1999 Published at 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK


Shevardnadze recalls the "unhealing wound" of Abkhazia

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said in an interview with Georgian radio on 27th September that the loss of Abkhazia after a bloody war of independence remained one of the darkest days in Georgia's history.

Speaking on the seventh anniversary of the Georgian withdrawal from the region, he said that Georgia was ready to grant Abkhazia broad autonomy but functions of the state such as defence would remain in Tbilisi.

The following are excerpts from the interview: Good morning.

The 27th of is one of the most miserable and darkest days in the history of my motherland and in my personal life.

As a Georgian saying goes, I have already died once.

This saying suits that day.

The Almighty knows that I, as well as the country, did everything possible to prevent the disaster... Every single night since that miserable 27th September, I, as well as my comrades-in-arms, see the faces of people, including children, women and the elderly, killed and tormented in Sukhumi and other regions of Abkhazia.

I said from the rostrum of the UN General Assembly that no mercy should be shown towards any nation, regardless of its size, which committed a crime against mankind and humanity.

How can we forget the bombed towns and the misery of refugees? We all know very well who bombed the towns and who committed the atrocities.

However, the sufferings of the refugees cannot be endless.

History will call to justice everyone, including those who enkindled a civil war while the patriotic war was still raging.

I remember everything in detail.

I remember each step, each word and statement.

The material of an official investigation also tells us a lot.

The only thing that assuages me is that I went through this ordeal together with my people.. . Abkhazia is still a physical pain and an unhealing spiritual wound to all of us.

Our wounded soul will not heal until the conflict is settled peacefully, though, even in this case, a scar will remain forever.

Despite everything, we are still in favour of a reconciliation with the Abkhaz people and peaceful and fraternal coexistence.

I said this from the UN rostrum, as well .

The nation, the people as a whole cannot be guilty.

The dark age will come to an end and we will live together .

Therefore, despite the tragic circumstances, the 27th of September is not devoid of optimism and I want this day to be called the day of remembrance and hope... From the UN rostrum, I confirmed once again that Georgia is ready to recognize the highest possible status of Abkhazia, the highest status of a member of a federation ever known in practice and in theory.

However, the main principles of the state should be maintained.

I mean that defence, border protection, customs, the monetary policy should remain the indisputable prerogative of the central authorities... Source: Georgian Radio, Tbilisi, in Georgian 27 Sep 99

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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