Both Russia Georgia Say Eager to Settle South Ossetia Conflict

TBILISI (BBC/Eurasianet/Interfax/Itar-Tass)–The co-chairman of the mixed controlling commission–set up to maintain a handle on the Georgian-Ossetian conflict–met last Sunday and decided to hold a high-level meeting to find a settlement to the latest outbreaks in South Ossetia.

Georgia’s National Security Chief Guela Bejuashvili–and his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov–along with the Georgian–Russian–South Ossetian and North Ossetian co-chairmen of the Commission are scheduled to meet in Moscow on July 14.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili praised Russia–on Sunday–saying he is convinced Russia is not interested in using force to quell the situation in South Ossetia. "Russia’s special envoy Lev Mironov has been sent to settle the conflict. Mironov is demonstrating constructive approaches," Saakashvili told journalists at the government building in Tbilisi.

Saakashvili did charge that "certain forces in Russia" are preparing for "aggression against Georgia," the news site Civil Georgia reported. Calling on Putin to "restrain these forces," Saakashvili warned that any armed conflict in South Ossetia would not be a fight between Georgians and Ossetians–but would become "a serious problem between the two countries–Georgia and Russia."

Like Moscow–Tbilisi has been quick to take credit for avoiding a full-scale armed conflict in the territory. "Due to coordinated activities by the Georgian government–international support and because of frequent contact with Russia and the United States–Georgia has avoided the bloody conflict which [South Ossetian leader Eduard] Kokoev and his backers in Russia wanted to launch," Civil Georgia reported Saakashvili as saying upon a July 12 departure for London.

"Kokoev will not succeed. Tbilisi is prepared for talks on South Ossetia’s status as a part of Georgia. The most important thing for us is to preserve peace. South Ossetia will be reintegrated into Georgia in just one year," the president said.

In the latest fighting on Sunday–four Georgian soldiers were wounded.

Violence broke out when separatist forces opened fire at Georgian troops in an ethnically-Georgian village in South Ossetia.

A few days earlier–South Ossetia came close to renewed hostilities when separatists detained a group of Georgian peacekeepers for 24 hours–forcing them to their knees in a humiliating display that was broadcast on Georgian television.

It came after Georgian troops impounded two Russian lorries which were carrying military equipment to the region.

Russia–which jointly patrols the region with Georgian and South Ossetian troops–said the arms were needed for peacekeeping purposes.

There have been angry exchanges between Moscow and Tbilisi over the last few days.

South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s after a war that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. It claimed independence from Georgia and wants to join North Ossetia–which is ethnically similar and part of Russia.


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