Alyaksandr Lukashenko met with Sergei Bagapsh, leader of Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia, in Russia`s Black Sea coastal resort of Sochi on March 23. The talks focused on ways of developing trade, economic and cultural cooperation, the Belarusian leader's press office said.
"The president of Russia and I have already discussed the problems that exist here, in this region, from an economic viewpoint and concern Belarus," Mr. Lukashenko was quoted as saying at the meeting. "There`re many issues to be discussed, above all, economic ones. There is always more work to be done after independence is acquired. We`ll be glad if more problems that exist in the region will be solved with the help of Belarus."
Mr. Bagapsh, in his part, thanked Mr. Lukashenko for the opportunity to meet with him. "We`re ready for close cooperation with Belarus in the economic sphere," he was quoted as saying. Last year Abkhazia imported tractors and loading equipment from Belarus, and this year Abkhazia is interested in purchasing a large number of vehicles manufactured by the Minsk Automobile Factory, he noted, BelaPAN said.
"We`re ready to buy a shipment worth one billion Russian rubles," he said. "We can afford this today. We`ll work with Belarus. This is convenient for us and the quality of the [Belarusian-made] equipment is high."
Messrs. Lukashenko and Bagapsh also exchanged opinions about cooperation in higher education and measures to strengthen the two countries` ties in the area of tourism, including children`s respite holidays, the press office said. While talking to reporters in Brussels on March 16, Javier Solana, the European Union`s high representative for the common foreign and security policy, said that the non-recognition of Georgia's breakaway regions is important for the Belarus-EU relationship.
"As you know, we do not recognize them, and we are not going to change our position," Dr. Solana said. "We would like everybody who has relationship with us to have the same position."
Belarus' House of Representatives was expected to consider recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and another breakaway province of Georgia, South Ossetia, at its forthcoming spring session, but this issue has not yet been placed on the agenda of the session. According to Syarhey Maskevich, chairman of the House's International Affairs Committee, the issue may be postponed to the fall session.