Germany Presents Abkhazia Proposal

ReutersFrank-Walter Steinmeier talking at a news conference in Tbilisi on Thursday.
TBILISI, Georgia — Germany on Thursday presented a three-stage plan aimed at ending the deadlock in Georgia's conflict with its breakaway province of Abkhazia.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier flew to Georgia on Thursday amid Western worries that the conflict could spiral into war and destabilize a region that is developing into a key energy link from the Caspian Sea to Europe, bypassing Russia.

"The main component of the plan is starting a direct dialogue," Steinmeier told reporters after talks with Georgian Foreign Minister Yekaterina Tkeshelashvili.

Steinmeier said the standoff was "in a hopeless state now," but "we will do our best to persuade them to solve the conflict peacefully."

The three stages of his plan include returning Georgian refugees to Abkhazia, arranging economic recovery programs in the province and finally deciding its future status. "Based on this plan, we should find a way out. You will have strong support from the European Union," Steinmeier said, adding that he had discussed the plan with EU leaders.

Steinmeier was to meet Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and fly Friday to Abkhazia for talks with separatists. He was to go on to Moscow to meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Tkeshelashvili cautiously backed the plan but made clear that Tbilisi was unhappy about some of its elements. "There are good elements in the plan," she said. "But there are also certain issues viewed as important by Georgia, which we discussed frankly."