Putin Holds Talks On Regional Security in Caucasus

MOSCOW (Agence France Presse )–Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday held talks with his counterparts from Azerbaijan–Armenia and Georgia on resolving ethnic conflicts in the volatile south Caucasus–Itar-Tass reported.

The four-way meeting–on the eve of a summit of the 12-member Commonwealth of Independent States (all the former Soviet states minus the three Baltic republics)–aimed to boost regional security–the news agency said.

Azerbaijan’s Haydar Aliyev and Armenia’s Robert Kocharian earlier held trilateral talks with Putin–after a one-on-one session between the Russian president and Georgia’s Eduard Shevardnadze.

Russia has stood accused of siding with Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and backing Abkhazian separatists in Georgia in a "divide and rule" policy.

The Black Sea Abkhazia region has sought independence from Georgia since 1992. The United Nations has 102 unarmed military observers monitoring a cease-fire in the area.

Russia has some 3,000 peacekeeping troops in Abkhazia–whose mandate was prolonged until January 1–2001 at a meeting of CIS foreign ministers on Tuesday.

Georgia has argued for their replacement by UN peacekeepers–saying that the Russian troops support the Abkhazian separatists.

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