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UN concerned about situation in Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone

SUKHUMI, November 17 (RIA Novosti, Ruslan Tarba) - The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is concerned about the escalating conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia, a self-declared republic in the North Caucasus, UNHCR representatives said Thursday.

Udo Janz said at a meeting with Sergei Bagapsh, the president of Abkhazia, that the Refugee Agency was concerned about security of its officials, while its funding sources were anxious about the safety of investments on various projects.

Bagapsh said Abkhazia, which broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s, was interested in a peaceful conflict resolution, adding that the Abkhaz armed forces were ready to counter potential Georgian acts of aggression.

"Georgia is annually increasing its military budget and everyone knows what goals the Georgian leadership is pursuing in this connection," Bagapsh said. "Unfortunately, international organizations do not pay due attention to these processes."

The recent demand of the Georgian parliament that Russian peacekeepers withdraw from the conflict zone was "a direct way toward an armed conflict," he said, adding that Abkhaz troops would replace peacekeepers if they were pulled out.

Bagapsh also said the signing of a Georgian-Abkhaz peace treaty could help solve all the existing problems that emerged after Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili came to power on the back of the Velvet Revolution in January 2004, and pledged to bring the region back into the fold.

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