The authorities in breakaway South Ossetia have dismissed Georgian claims that a meeting between the sides had been arranged for Tskhinvali on August 7.
“The South Ossetian side has always been in favor of talks, but only in the framework of the existing quadripartite format – the Joint Control Commission,” a statement posted on the South Ossetian Press and Information website reads.
Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, said on August 5 an agreement had been reached, wherein he would meet chief South Ossetian negotiator Boris Chochiev in Tskhinvali on August 7 in the presence of a Russian diplomat.
The Russian diplomat was to have been Yuri Popov, the chief Russian negotiator over South Ossetia from the Russian Foreign Ministry, Iakobashvili said.
Russia’s North Ossetian Republic would not be represented at the meeting, Iakobashvili told journalist on August 5.
“We already have preliminary agreement [from Tskhinvali and Moscow] and if nothing changes the meeting will be held in Tskhinvali,” Iakobashvili said. “But I want to reiterate that it will not be in the framework of the Joint Control Commission; it will be bilateral talks in the presence of the Russian side,” he said.
Tbilisi is against holding talks in the framework of the quadripartite Joint Control Commission (JCC), which along with Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian negotiators also involves a representative from North Ossetia.
Iakobashvili said the Russian diplomat would have “the status of observer” at the proposed meeting.
Talks over South Ossetia have been stalled for months because of disagreement between the sides over the format negotiations should take.
Tskhinvali and Moscow have been insisting on the resumption of talks in the frames of the existing mechanism - the JCC; Tbilisi, however, rejects this format and has instead proposed a new negotiating body based on a 2+2+2 formula, which would see the North Ossetian side replaced by the South Ossetian provisional administration and the inclusion of the OSCE and EU. Moscow and Tskhinvali refuse to consider the proposal.
The proposed meeting on August 5 with the participation of Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian negotiators seemed to be a compromise allowing both sides to move beyond their stated positions.
Iakobashvili reiterated on August 5 that Tbilisi would never again participate in a JCC session.
Speaking at a news conference, he also said that the Georgian side had received a letter from the Russian commander of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces in the South Ossetian conflict zone on the results of the monitoring of the situation on the ground after the August 1-2 violence that engulfed the region. Six people were killed and 22 injured in the fighting. According to Iakobashvili, the monitoring results show that Georgian villages had been shelled by heavy weaponry.
“This is a very important document, which confirms the allegations of the Georgian side,” Iakobashvili said. “The document proves that the accusations leveled against us - that the Georgian side had opened fire first and shelled residential areas in Tskhinvali [and Ossetian villages] and threatened open war - are a farce.”
The state minister also said that monitoring of the Roki Tunnel, linking the breakaway region with Russia’s North Ossetian Republic, was urgently required.
“Huge amounts of ammunition and arms are being brought into the region through this uncontrolled tunnel,” Iakobashvili said. “It is necessary to conduct joint Russian-Georgian monitoring of the Roki tunnel; we raised this issue long ago and now the time has come to do something about it.”
The U.S. Department of State said on August 4 that joint Russo-Georgian monitoring of the Roki Tunnel was needed in order “to stem the flow of illicit arms, ammunition, and armed groups into the region.”