French Diplomacy Cooled Abkhazia Tensions

TBILISI, Georgia -- A Georgian minister said Wednesday that French diplomacy fended off potentially provocative actions by Russia in separatist Abkhazia.

Tensions in Abkhazia have been high in recent weeks, with Moscow alleging that Georgia is preparing to try to retake control of the pro-Russia region. Russia has bolstered its peacekeeping force in Abkhazia, a move that Georgia regards as aggression.

Georgian Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili said the French Foreign Ministry's intervention avoided "serious provocations" and "the fact that we are living peacefully today is due to its service."

Russia's Foreign Ministry said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner telephoned Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on May 7, but declined to comment further.

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani would not elaborate on the conversation between Kouchner and Lavrov, except to say that they talk "frequently."

Their conversations "notably allowed us to express our concern about the situation in Georgia and the need to calm tensions," she said in an online briefing Wednesday.

She reiterated France's "support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia."