Russia and Georgia hail stability, calm in region: mediators

14th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Mediators in talks between Russia and Georgia aimed at soothing tensions since their brief 2008 war on Wednesday welcomed signs of increased stability in the region.

"The number of major incidents on the ground has been reduced considerably," said UN representative Antti Turunen following the latest round of negotiations in Geneva.

"This is a good basis to continue work on discussing further confidence-building measures and activities that will help the local population alleviate their concerns."

Turunen described the talks, the 18th session since violence flared over the two Moscow-backed breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as "business-like and constructive."

"The participants reviewed the security situation on the ground and welcomed the continued stable and calm environment," said European Union mediator Philippe Lefort.

"They also noted a positive trend towards improving stability on the ground."

Further discussions are scheduled to take place on March 28 and 29 next year.

Georgia said it was waiting for a reciprocal pledge from Moscow against the use of force in the region following a promise made by its president, Mikheil Saakashvili, in November last year.

"We wait for the pledge on the non-use of force from the Russian delegation," said Georgia deputy foreign minister Sergi Kapanadze.

"We hope that over the next rounds Russia will be able to issue its pledge.

"We need that in order to be able to move forward, to build confidence."

Russia recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent after a five-day war between Moscow and Tbilisi in August 2008, a move condemned by Georgia's Western allies and only followed by a handful of other states.

Wednesday's meeting came a month after Tbilisi and Moscow sealed a rare deal that removed the final obstacle for Russia's 18-year bid to join the World Trade Organization.

The WTO is set to rubberstamp Russia's accession on Friday.

© 2011 AFP

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