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    Georgia calls on Russia to ensure talks with S.Ossetia

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    Georgia's Foreign Ministry on Thursday called on Russia to arrange direct talks between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, the capital of the Georgian breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

    TBILISI, August 7 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia's Foreign Ministry on Thursday called on Russia to arrange direct talks between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, the capital of the Georgian breakaway republic of South Ossetia. (IMAGE GALLERIES)

    Six South Ossetians were killed and another 15 wounded in a Georgian attack on Tskhinvali on the night of August 2. South Ossetia also said another 14 people were wounded in a bombardment of its capital on Wednesday night. Georgia has in turn accused South Ossetia of attacks on border villages and of provoking confrontations.

    South Ossetia also claimed on Thursday afternoon that large numbers of Georgian troops were moving towards the breakaway republic's de facto border.

    "Georgia again calls on Russia to use its influence over the separatists to establish peace in the region and halt the systematic shelling of peaceful villages. Georgia also strongly urges Russia to ensure the participation of the separatists in talks with central authorities, instead of inciting them to begin military action," a Georgian Foreign Ministry statement said.

    The Foreign Ministry statement also said that, "the separatists have been able to maintain their authority by virtue of the military, human, and technical assistance afforded them by Russia."

    "Responsibility for the latest events lies with Russia," the ministry said. Georgian diplomats also said that mercenaries and military hardware were arriving to support the separatists through the Roki Tunnel, which joins Russia's North Ossetia to South Ossetia.

    The Georgian Foreign Ministry also proposed defusing the current situation by establishing Georgian-Russian joint monitoring at the South Ossetian sector of the border, increasing the number of OSCE military observers in the area and launching direct talks between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali.

    Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called on breakaway South Ossetia on Thursday to stop fueling tensions in the region.

     "This is madness, we should all stop. We should find measures to stop the violence," the Georgian president said.

    The president said Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili would visit the separatist republic's capital Tskhinvali for talks with Russian peacekeepers and the region's authorities.

    However, Yakobashvili, who is also Georgia's presidential envoy for conflict settlement, ruled out any possibility of talks in the Joint Control Commission (JCC) format, saying that the commission "is responsible for what is happening in the region."

    Yakobashvili also warned that, "If negotiations fail, we will doubt Russia's role as a peacekeeper."

    He also added that if Russia was unable to bring its "puppets' to the negotiating table then its status as a mediator in the conflict would be "in doubt."

    Yury Popov, a Russian co-chairman of the JCC, who arrived in Tbilisi last night, said he was seeking to visit Tskhinvali with Yakobashvili.

    "We have not yet arranged a trip to Tskhinvali...The negotiations will be held if the situation allows it," Popov said.

    South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity warned Popov earlier in the day that his visit to Tskhinvali would be dangerous due to continued Georgian shelling. He also said, in comments broadcast on Russia' NTV television station, that the republic's military would launch attacks to force Georgian troops shelling Tskhinvali out of their positions if the bombardment of the capital continued.

    Another Georgian breakaway republic, Abkhazia, has put its troops on alert in connection with the current violence in South Ossetia, Abkhaz Defense Minister Merab Kishmariya said earlier on Thursday.

    "The Abkhazian Security Council held a meeting [earlier] today, where our republic's Commander-in-Chief Sergei Bagapsh gave me instructions to put our troops on combat readiness," the minister said.

    Anatoly Barankevich, South Ossetia's Security Council Secretary, said on Thursday that Georgia was preparing "massive aggression" against the republic, and that Abkhazia would be on the defensive if large-scale military operations were launched.

    Collective peacekeeping forces in the region have also been put on alert.

    NATO and the EU Council of Ministers have called on all the sides in the conflict to avoid the use of force, to calm tensions, and seek a peaceful solution through negotiations.

    The latest reports quoted a source in the South Ossetian Defense Ministry as saying that the shelling of Tskhinvali by Georgian forces had resumed.

    South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, gaining de facto independence after bloody conflicts with Tbilisi.

    Georgia has pledged to bring the two tiny republics back under central control and has accused Russia of trying to annex the regions.

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