Vladimir Putin: President Eduard Shevardnadze and I had a wide ranging talk on practically all aspects of our interaction. It covered economic issues, the problems of Georgia-Abkhazia settlement and peace-keeping activities, cooperation between the secret services and defence establishments. It was a serious, profound and substantive conversation. Some things require further coordination at the level of experts, the heads of ministries and agencies, but I think that today’s meeting was very useful. It enabled Russia and Georgia to clear up their positions on certain issues that we regard as fairly sensitive. I am sure that our discussion will help the members of various agencies to reach an acceptable solution on all the issues of concern.
I would like to thank Eduard Amvrosievich for the conversation which was very useful and timely for me.
Eduard Shevardnadze: I too believe that it was a very necessary conversation at the right time. In general it is not good when problems pile up in the relations between countries because then they are more difficult to solve. During our conversation today, I have become convinced that there are no insoluble problems, but some problems are there.
First of all, I would like to thank Vladimir Vladimirovich for promptly dealing with the aftermath of the accident on the pipeline that provides gas to Georgia and Armenia. You know how important energy is. On personal directions from Vladimir Vladimirovich we are now getting extra power from Russia which has greatly eased the tensions that existed in Tbilisi.
Tomorrow we will discuss some other problems, notably the possibility of extending the stay of peacekeepers in Abkhazia. Some things have to be cleared up regarding this. Today, Vladimir Vladimirovich promised to order his experts to study the legal aspects and possible ways out of the situation. I can tell you frankly: if the peacekeepers leave, I don’t know what will happen. I said it in Georgia, and I repeat it now. It is not an easy question. On the other hand, the decisions – on the commuter train and so on – are unlawful, that is my deep conviction. I don’t know if Vladimir Vladimirovich minds me quoting what he said about the railway as a whole: “I am in favour of a totally open railway from one end to the other, but only if the refugees return.” That is what he said. I think that is a unique statement. To time the reopening of the railway with the return of refugees: this is the main purpose. We can later have the relevant agencies flesh out this directive with more concrete content. If that is done there will be no problems with the reopening of the railway, the refugees will understand us. The refugees will be happy.
That’s the way things are. It was a very useful conversation. Look how long it lasted. We thought it would last 30 minutes and it lasted two hours. That’s a long time of course, especially since other presidents are waiting to meet with us. I am sorry that I had to raise so many issues today.