MOSCOW (Interfax)–Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and the leader of the self-proclaimed republic of South Ossetia–Eduard Kokoity–are currently meeting in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
According to a source with the South Ossetian Information and Press Department–the meeting is also being attended by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Loshchinin and co-chairman of the Joint Control Commission representing North Ossetia–Taimuraz Kusov.
Kusov told journalists that–even though they may hold differing opinions concerning the circumstances of the settlement–those responsible for driving forth the negotiations have completely ruled out the use of force as a viable solution.
According to Kusov–they also agreed to contribute to an atmosphere of trust that will help the parties reach a comprehensive settlement.
"The sides agreed to open transportation routes and are willing to do this," Kusov said.
"Everything is going fine–the conversations concern joint cooperation–and I am very glad about the dialog that has been created," Loshchinin told journalists.
One agreement signed during the meeting called for the withdrawal of all illegal armed units from the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone by November 20.
"Serious work and constructive positions of the participants in the meeting have resulted in the signing an important document. It imposes a cease-fire in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone and bans any military actions. This is backed by the parties’ demilitarization obligations. Only peacekeepers will stay there. All illegal armed units have to be withdrawn. The deadline is November 20," read a Russian Foreign Ministry statement drafted after the agreement was signed on Friday.
"All essential conditions for resuming negotiations on a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict have been set up," it said.
"The document also stipulates the need to carry out joint economic projects. Fundamentally important is also the fact that the statement has been signed by the Georgian prime minister and the president of South Ossetia–which means the top level. The leaders of the two sides–displaying wisdom and great responsibility–have undertaken practical commitmen’s to reach a settlement only by peaceful means. Russia is confident that these commitmen’s will be honored," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
South Ossetia is legally a province of Georgia–but an armed conflict following a USSR collapse in the early 1990s led to its de facto independence. Tensions between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali have escalated in recent months–involving skirmishes–as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has stepped up efforts to restore control over the breakaway republic.