Georgia Calm as President’s Allies and Foes Hold Talks : Soviet Union: Forces opposing Gamsakhurdia moderate their demands, drop call for his resignation.
Georgia’s armed standoff took a significant step toward settlement Saturday when allies and enemies of President Zviad Gamsakhurdia opened high-level negotiations complete with an authorized envoy from Gamsakhurdia.
There were numerous signs that the steam was going out of the joint military-civilian campaign against Gamsakhurdia, the fervent nationalist who is accused by his foes of trying to build up a dictatorship in this Caucasus Mountain republic.
The ranks of rebel national guard soldiers protecting the opposition headquarters at the Tbilisi television center thinned visibly during the night, with many of the early, older veterans of the Afghan war inexplicably vanishing.
Anti-Gamsakhurdia forces, who seemed to be significantly moderating their list of demands, dropped their call for the president’s resignation.
The struggle for political power had divided the capital city of Tbilisi into two armed camps and claimed five lives during a clash between the two sides Wednesday morning.
At a preliminary session, negotiators decided to divide subsequent talks into two, one for political issues and one for military.
Central to both the government’s and the opposition’s concerns was the unresolved fate of the national guard, a 15,000-strong force that in the main has rebelled against presidential authority.
After days of mostly low-level talks between opposition and pro-government forces in an atmosphere of crisis, both sides agreed Saturday morning to meet at the Justice Ministry building.
Film director Eldar Shengelaya, an opposition figure respected by Georgians of most political stripes, said the talks would be the first to include a representative directly selected by Gamsakhurdia. The president was sending the deputy chairman of the Georgian legislature, Nemo Burchuladze, Shengelaya said.
The opposition’s delegation was to include Shengelaya’s brother, Georgy, and a representative of the national guard.
As both sides prepared for the talks, the government stressed that it had not yet made a deal with opposition forces, which the president has charged are led by agents of the Kremlin.
“We are still conducting negotiations,” said Gamsakhurdia’s spokesman, Georgy Burdzhanadze. “The government has directed that the opposition armed groups surrender their weapons and that their safety will be guaranteed.”
But, he said, the national guards had not yet concurred. “So no official agreement or truce has been reached yet,” he said.