Russian, Georgian MPs discuss peacekeeping row

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TBILISI, February 14 (RIA Novosti) - The head of the Georgian parliamentary committee on defense and security met with Russian members of parliament Tuesday in the wake of a dispute over Russian peacekeepers deployed in the self-proclaimed Georgian republic of South Ossetia, the Novosti-Georgia news agency said.

"This is the first precedent of interparliamentary cooperation with the Russian side at the level of defense and security commissions," Georgian MP Givi Targamadze said.

The Georgian side informed the Russian parliamentarians about claims against Russian peacekeepers. Targamadze said the peacekeepers' offenses would be discussed February 16, after the Russian delegation visited Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia.

Mikhail Babich, head of the defense committee of the State Duma, Russia's lower chamber of parliament, said, "It always makes sense to hold talks. We have had a constructive dialogue and found common points, so further developments are expected to prove the effectiveness of the meeting."

The long-standing controversy over the Russian peacekeeping contingent flared up last week as Tbilisi threatened to deport three peacekeepers arrested in South Ossetia on charges of violating visa regulations and again accused Moscow of secretly arming the breakaway province, thus undermining Georgia's national security.

The Georgian parliament's security and international relations committees are expected to draft a resolution demanding the expulsion of Russian peacekeepers from South Ossetia that will be put to a vote February 15.

The Russian delegation arrived in Georgia for a three-day visit to study the situation in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone. The agenda includes meetings with Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Nino Burdzhanadze and Minister for Conflict Resolution Georgy Haindrava.

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