The chief Russian negotiator on S.Ossetia confirmed that a meeting between the sides had been arranged for August 7 in Tskhinvali.
Yuri Popov, a Russian Foreign Ministry special ambassador, told Itar-Tass news agency on August 5 that he will also be present at the meeting between Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, and Boris Chochiev, the breakaway region’s deputy prime minister and chief negotiator.
“We hope the sides manage to find compromise decisions that will help in defusing tensions in the region,” he was quoted as saying.
Authorities in breakaway South Ossetia retracted their initial refusal to take part in talks in the frames of the proposed format and said on August 6 that “the consultative meeting may take place.”
The South Ossetian side said on August 5 that it would only participate in a JCC meeting, which would entail the involvement of the North Ossetian side as well. It, however, said on August 6 that a meeting between the Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian negotiators might take place.
“The South Ossetian side has been informed by Yuri Popov, the Russian co-chairman of the JCC, about the proposal to hold a preparatory-consultative meeting on resuming talks in the frames of the internationally recognized negotiating body – the Joint Control Commission,” the statement posted on the South Ossetian Press and Information Committee reads.
The wording of the statement, in particular the suggestion that the meeting is being held in order to prepare a JCC session, seems to be a face-saving move by Tskhinvali, as it has consistently insisted it would only negotiate within a JCC format.
The planned talks were initially announced by Iakobashvili on August 5. He said that the Russian diplomat would have “the status of observer” at the proposed meeting and there would be no representative from Russia’s North Ossetian Republic. North Ossetia's involvement would effectively have meant the sides were meeting under the JCC aegis. Tbilisi has been boycotting the JCC for some time, claiming it is Russian dominated and insisting on its replacement.
“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, adding that Tbilisi would never again take part in talks in the framework of the JCC.
Iakobashvili also said later on August 5 that he did not expect any major breakthrough from the planned meeting; he, however, added: “having negotiations is much better than shooting.”
Speaking on Tbilisi-based Kavkasia TV, he said economic cooperation and demilitarization of the region should be priorities, adding that the Georgian government was considering offering Tskhinvali the creation of “some kind of limited free economic zone.”