S.Ossetia turns down peace talks in Tbilisi - Kokoity

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MOSCOW, August 3 (RIA Novosti) - South Ossetia's delegation will not participate in an August 9-10 session of the Joint Control Commission (JCC) on the settlement of the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict, the unrecognized republic's president said Friday.

"We are in favor of continuing the JCC's work, but outside Georgia. Moscow, Vladikavkaz, Tskhinvali, or any other city, but not Tbilisi," Eduard Kokoity was quoted by the republic's information and press committee as saying.

He said the republic's leadership could not risk the lives of its delegates, as the OSCE Mission in Tbilisi is refusing to guarantee security for South Ossetia's JCC representatives, the key mechanism for discussion and seeking a solution in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone.

South Ossetia, which declared its independence from Georgia following a bloody conflict that left hundreds dead in 1991-1992, has been a sensitive issue in bilateral relations between Georgia and Russia.

Georgian authorities are seeking to bring it back under their control, and have accused Russia, which has peacekeepers in the area, along with Georgian and South Ossetian troops, of encouraging separatist sentiments.

Russia Foreign Ministry special envoy Yury Popov, who is the Russian co-chairman of the JCC, which comprises Russia, South and North Ossetia, and Georgia, said he has not yet received an official notification from the South Ossetian side on the issue.

"We are checking the information, but the Russian side considers the session should be held anyway, as agreed," Popov said.

The last session of the JCC co-chairmen, without Georgia, took place in Tskhinvali July 13-14.

This spring, pro-Western Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili appointed Dmitry Sanakoyev as the new South Ossetian leader, declaring Kokoity's post illegitimate, even though Kokoity was officially elected for a second term at November 2006 presidential elections in the self-declared republic.

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