Transcript of the joint news conference:
Sergei Bagapsh: I want to express my thanks to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian Government for their visit to Abkhazia.
We have discussed a wide range of essential partnership issues at today's restricted and extended attendance meetings.
Mr Putin's visit attests to the dynamic development of mutually beneficial Russian-Abkhaz relations. As you already know, we have signed another pivotal bilateral agreement today. It envisages aid to Abkhazia to promote its social and economic progress.
We are assured that the agreement will open new opportunities for Abkhazia. Other agreements are being drafted. Mr Putin and I have discussed them in detail today. We have come to a mutual understanding on them.
I have said this to the Prime Minister and now I want to reiterate it here: Abkhazia remains Russia's reliable ally in strategic and other respects, especially considering its geography and, what matters even more, its entire population's reverence for the great power named Russia. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Bagapsh, ladies and gentlemen,
A year has past since the tragic events in the Caucasus. Much has changed within that time. The recognition of Abkhaz and South Ossetian independence became a natural event following the aggression by the present Georgian regime. I say "natural" because the Georgian authorities came to this result by themselves. They began with the well-known decision to deprive their republics of their rights to autonomy and in effect completed with their own hands the collapse of Georgia's territorial integrity. They did this themselves. This is the result of their own doing first and foremost.
We are fully aware of the Abkhaz nation's striving for sovereignty and independence. After last year's tragedy, Russia made the only decision it could make-to recognise Abkhazia's sovereignty and independence.
The situation has changed cardinally since then. Russia has made its strategic choice, and there is no return to the situation of previous years. Now we have other objectives standing before us- the goal to develop the social and economic sphere of Abkhazia, a country I am glad to be in today.
I want to once again thank the Abkhaz President for his invitation.
We have drafted a plan for joint work in developing infrastructure, tourism, transport, communications and the energy industry. And of course, Russia is ready to offer what might be figuratively called start-up capital. It will give Abkhazia the opportunity to make the first steps independently, and strengthen its economic and social basis.
No doubt, the Abkhaz people are a gifted, industrious and valiant nation. They withstood a blockade and permanent warfare, whose aftermath is felt even today, as reflected in the Gagra events. They can certainly revive their economy with Russia recognising their independence and determined to render them all-round economic and political support and, if need be, military assistance. The Abkhaz nation is of course in a position to realise this goal.
I want to thank once again the Abkhaz leadership for their invitation, as well as the public for their very warm and hospitable welcome.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Question: Mr Bagapsh, only a few countries have recognised Abkhaz independence within the past year. What do you think of your nation's political future in this context? Will it retain independence?
Also, if political recognition is in deadlock, it might be worthwhile to take another road and promote economic recognition through investors. What do you think?
My question to Mr Putin continues from the previous one. What else can Russia do to promote the international recognition of Abkhazia? Would you advise investors to buy in Abkhazia or take their time? Thank you.
Sergei Bagapsh: Mr Putin, the initial question is addressed to me, so I think I should start, if you don't mind. A great power, the Russian Federation, has recognised us, and it matters most. No country has ever been recognised quickly and smoothly. Neither will Abkhazia be. To be recognised soon does not matter so much as what your second question concerns-a question I am grateful for: how soon will Abkhazia achieve political and, even more important, economic rejuvenation?
We need to create conditions and give an impetus for everyone to see that Abkhazia is a genuine democratic, law-abiding state which deserves to be accepted by the international community. It is our duty to avoid errors during the emergence of Abkhaz statehood because, by recognising us, Russia and other countries assume obligations for our compliance with international conventions and pledges to the world.
We have chosen a difficult path. We want to attract investments to Abkhazia because no country can develop rapidly without them. Abkhazia is integrating with Russia in a process that is gaining pace. I approve such integration, and it will develop. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: As for reluctant recognition of Abkhazia, we never thought it would be otherwise when we determined to recognise the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We proceeded from that point. Remember who recognised Soviet Russia, and how long it took them to do so?
Real life will put everything in its place. If I may be frank, Abkhazia needs only Russian recognition. As for Russian investors, they of course should acquire all Abkhaz property. As for business representatives from other countries, who are marking time, they will come to the Abkhaz market later and buy at higher prices. That is all there is to it.
Question: Caucasian Television. I have a question addressed to both Mr Bagapsh and Mr Putin. Prospects for stationing international observers in Abkhazia have been discussed lately. How do you assess those prospects? Do you think it would be worthwhile in the current situation? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: You know, I have not followed the relevant negotiations very closely, but Mr Bagapsh and I have discussed the problem just now. Abkhazia has no objections to the presence of foreign observers representing the most diverse international organisations, be it the United Nations or OSCE. Abkhazia, a beautiful seaside country, is large enough to receive them.
However, everyone should proceed from the available situation, recognise Abkhazia as a sovereign state and international legal entity, and conclude relevant agreements with it.
Sergei Bagapsh: I agree, naturally. As you may know, we had no objections to the establishment of a United Nations mission in Abkhazia. The time has come now to recognise our independence and sovereignty instead of basing relations with Abkhazia on old dogmas.
As for the European Union and the military observers you imply, we can discuss the theme while only taking into consideration the fact that they find themselves in an independent state, Abkhazia. We are willing to enter negotiations on these terms. Thank you.