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RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, March 17 (RIA Novosti) - The co-chairmen of the Mixed Control Commission for settling the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict have agreed upon a procedure for demilitarizing the conflict zone, Georgian State Minister for Conflict Settling Georgi Khaindrava said at the RIA Novosti news conference on Thursday.

The first stage intends the elimination of trenches and fortifications, he said. "When there are no trenches, there will be no place to sit in and look at each other through the cross-hairs. This will provide an opportunity for start of the second stage, economic cooperation", Mr. Khaindrava believes.

Later on, the sides will withdraw their armed formations illegally found in the conflict zone and concentrate them in one place, he said. Both the places of concentration should be accessible for monitoring by peacekeepers and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Mr. Khaindrava said.

To him, Russia and Georgia can in May go for the conclusion of a big treaty of friendship and cooperation, he said.

"In spring, in May we may go for concluding a comprehensive treaty of friendship and cooperation. It will help in resolving the issues of problem zones", he noted.

Mr. Khaindrava said that Georgia hopes for resuming active dialog with Russia. To quote: "We hope that a breakthrough in our relations will be made".

Mr. Khaindrava believes that a withdrawal of the Russian military base from Akhalkalaki (on the Georgian-Armenian border) will not affect the economic situation of the town's residents. That was his comment on the March 13 meeting in Akhalkalaki. Its participants (mostly Armenians) insisted on being in no hurry with the withdrawal of the Russian bases from Georgia (another Russian base is in Batumi in Adzharia).

"Life of about 300 residents of Akhalkalaki is connected with Russia's 62nd military base. People were alarmed by the prospect of losing their jobs. From the economic point of view, there can be no talk of a serious importance of the base withdrawal", Mr. Khaindrava said.

He recalled that problems of the region were recently discussed in Tbilisi. Just before the discussion, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili promised jobs to local employees of the Akhalkalaki and Batumi bases at installations of the Georgian Defense Ministry. They will all have jobs and "no cardinal changes in their lifestyle will happen", Mr. Khaindrava promised.

The meeting of the MCC co-chairmen with the involvement of the Russian and Georgian sides, as well as representatives of South and North Ossetias, took place in Moscow on March 16 to 17.

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