In a talk that lasted an hour and a half, the Presidents discussed the situation surrounding the Pankisi Gorge and US military officers’ presence in Georgia.
Russia supports the international anti-terrorist efforts, and could only be glad to witness counter-terrorism in the Pankisi Gorge, Mr Putin said to journalists after the Russian-Georgian talks. Russia would support such action no matter by whom—American or European partners, or Georgians themselves.
The Pankisi Gorge, close to the Russian border, sheltered insurgents and terrorists guilty of bloodshed in Russia. They were known to be plotting other crimes. This information was what Russia proceeded from, Mr Putin said. He expressed concern with the threat of more terrorist attacks in Russia. He said nobody could not be sure of what terrorists would do and how they would change their plans after the foreign military presence in Georgia, and in connection with Georgia’s determination for resolute action.
Mr Putin said that he agreed with the Georgian President that Georgia must step up the development of its armed forces for counter-terrorism in the Pankisi Gorge and elsewhere. He hoped, however, that Georgia would not resort to similar means in settling the political problems in Abkhazia.
Mr Putin pointed out Mr Shevardnadze’s repeated reassurances that Abkhaz problems were political and therefore to be settled only by diplomatic measures.
He confirmed that Russia was, as before, supporting the territorial integrity of Georgia and siding with relevant United Nations resolutions, and would cooperate with Georgia in the same vein.