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Georgia to release Abkhazian soldiers detained last month

Seven Abkhaz border guards detained on September 20 will be released at the weekend and taken to the Abkhazian capital, Sukhumi, says Georgia's Conflict Resolution Minister David Bakradze.

The announcement follows talks between Bakradze and Abkhazia's de facto Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba. 

The negotiations, held in the breakaway region's capital Sukhumi, were the first between senior Georgian and Abkhazian officials for more than a year.

“This will be a gesture of good will on the Georgian side,” Mr Bakradze said.

He said the the prisoners would be inspected by UN officials before being handed over.

“When all formalities are agreed Abkhazian servicemen will be returned home with the help of the UN,” Bakradze said.

Abkhazia's Mr Shamba said that while the talks were a step forward, which showed a willingness on both sides to co-operate, much still needed to be done.

Today we can see stagnation in negotiations. But I believe it is necessary to develop our relations in order to improve them," he said.

Another obvious benefit of the talks is the resumption of weekly working meetings over the state of the Georgian-Abkhaz ceasefire.

September clash

The seven Abkhaz servicemen were detained after an armed clash on September 20th in which two Russian officers were killed.

Georgia says the detainees were a saboteur group attempting to disrupt the construction of a road linking a Tbilisi-controlled portion of Abkhazia to the rest of Georgia.

Abkhazia claims that the seven were border guards who were ambushed by Georgian terrorists.

Ongoing conflict

This was just the latest in a series of violent incidents dating back to the early 90s, when Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia following a bloody war.

Though Thursday’s meeting does not mean that the peace process has officially resumed, the very fact that the two sides are talking to each other again can only be welcomed.