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Georgia confirms bilateral talks with S.Ossetia

RIA Novosti

06/08/2008 15:06 TBILISI, August 6 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia's Reintegration Minister Temur Iakobashvili confirmed Wednesday that his country would hold direct talks Thursday with its rebel republic of South Ossetia.

The conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia intensified last Friday night into Saturday as Georgian forces shelled the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, leaving six South Ossetians killed and another 15 wounded.

"The arranged meeting will take place on August 7, and it will not be held within the Joint Control Commission," Iakobashvili said. "This will be a bilateral meeting, as we have insisted, that will involve Russians only because it will be held at the peacekeepers' headquarters in Tskhinvali."

The minister said Georgia would discuss finding a way out of the standoff.

"We should discuss how to put an end to all this," Iakobashvili said.

Tskhinvali has also confirmed the possibility of holding conflict settlement talks with Georgia, the South Ossetian information and press committee said.

Yury Popov, a Russian co-chairman of the JCC, said earlier Russia had initiated a meeting to arrange the start of negotiations within the JCC's internationally recognized status. He said the meeting would also involve the Georgian president's envoy for conflict settlement Taimuraz Iakobashili and South-Ossetian co-chairman of the JCC Boris Chochiyev.

Chochiyev said the South Ossetian government was currently considering the Russian proposal.

Georgia rejects the JCC as "outdated," believing that the balance of the commission is weighted in favor of the South Ossetian leadership.

The breakaway republic's Interior Ministry said the situation in the conflict zone remained tense. Georgia is reported to have opened sniper and mortar fire at 11:00 a.m. local time (07:00 GMT).

South Ossetia's Defense Ministry said Georgian units had been attempting to take the Nuli village to gain control of the Znauri road and adjacent South Ossetian villages, while the Interior Ministry said Georgia had shelled police outposts in Sarabuk and the southern outskirts of the capital Tuesday night.

Tskhinvali vowed to bring an end to the Georgian shelling.

South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity has issued instructions to have South Ossetians living in Russia enlisted in the rebel republic's Interior Ministry troops. His interior minister said 536 troops were needed.

A spokesman for the Russian Federal Security Service's border department in the Southern Federal District said the influx of South Ossetians had subsided.

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