ILLEGAL ARMED GROUPS MUST BE WITHDRAWN FROM GEORGIAN-OSSETIAN CONFLICT ZONE BY NOVEMBER 20 - RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY

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MOSCOW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) - All illegal armed groups must be withdrawn from the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone by November 20, 2004, says the statement disseminated by the department of information and press of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Russia, the Foreign Ministry points out, expresses confidence that all ceasefire agreements in the conflict zone will be observed.

On Friday, November 5, leader of South Ossetia (self-proclaimed republic on the territory of Georgia) Eduard Kokoity met with Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania in Sochi (Russian resort on the Black Sea). Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Loshchinin attended the meeting.

"As a result of serious work and constructive attitudes, the participants have signed an important document. It provides for the ceasefire in the conflict zone and bans any military actions in the region. The document is supported by mutual obligations to demilitarize the conflict zone. Only peacekeeping forces are allowed to remain in the zone [they are deployed there since 1992]. All illicit armed groups must be withdrawn before November 20. The sides also stressed the necessity of implementing various joint economic projects in the area," the Russian Foreign Ministry statement says.

Russian diplomats conclude that the talks "created necessary conditions for resumption of negotiations on the overall political settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict."

"The fact that the statement has been signed on the highest political level - by the Georgian Prime Minister and the South Ossetian President bears great significance. Showing wisdom and high sense of responsibility, both leaders made a concrete commitment to use only peaceful means to achieve peaceful settlement of the conflict," Russian diplomats emphasized.

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