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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Georgian and Abkhazian Officials Meet At Yalta

YALTA, Ukraine - Officials from Georgia and its rebel region Abkhazia Thursday opened two days of talks in Ukraine aimed at making progress toward a settlement of the Caucasus Mountains country's 1992-93 civil war.

Separatists in the Black Sea province drove out Georgian government troops, and despite a 1994 ceasefire a lasting solution remains elusive. The conflict remains a chief reason for Georgia's poverty and political tension.

UN special envoy Dieter Boden said the talks in the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Yalta were aimed at setting up continuing "confidence-building" contacts between non-government organizations - such as veterans, journalists, regional elders, and women - from both sides to dispel mistrust so a peace process can begin.

The goal was to get the sides "to refrain from spreading hostile propaganda about each other and to take measures on creating an atmosphere of mutual trust," Boden said.

He conceded that "we are still far from reaching our goal."

The conference was the third sponsored by the United Nations, following meetings in 1998 in Athens and 1999 in Istanbul. Despite years of contacts, Georgian and Abkhazian officials have not agreed on measures to prevent armed clashes along the border or to ease the return of refugees.

Georgia's Minister of State Gia Asenishvili repeated Georgia's committment "not to use force in the settlement of any question... Georgia appeals to international organizations to act as guarantors of the non-resumption of armed conflict and the return of refugees."

Vladislav Tsugba, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Abkhaz government, led his side's delegation.

Peacekeepers from the Commonwealth of Independent States patrol the area, but clashes occur between armed groups, each side blaming the other for the violence.

Refugees from the area have held street demonstrations and put political pressure on the government of President Eduard Shevardnadze to find a way for them to regain their homes.