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Tbilisi Says "No" to the Use of Force, Despite Attacks on Georgian Checkpoints in South Ossetia
/ 8 Jul.'04 / 18:45
Civil Georgia

The Russian NTV television station broadcasted
footage showing the detained Georgian soldiers
kneeling at gunpoint in Tskhinvali.
In the wake of the detention of dozens of Georgian peacekeepers deployed in the South Ossetian conflict zone, three Georgian soldiers were wounded after the Georgian checkpoint of peacekeepers came under fire at noon on July 8, adding fuel to a recent crisis in breakaway South Ossetia.

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania said in a news briefing that the checkpoint utilized by Georgian peacekeepers in the South Ossetian conflict zone, between the villages of Kurta and Tamarasheni, came under fire on July 8. 

South Ossetian de facto Special Minister Boris Chochiev also confirmed that an exchange of fire broke-out "between unknown Georgian and Ossetian armed groups." "South Ossetian authorities are now trying to figure out what has happened," Itar-Tass news agency reported quoted Chochiev as saying.

Georgian authorities claim that "the criminal regime" of Eduard Kokoev, the President of self-styled South Ossetian Republic, seeks to provoke Tbilisi into engaging in an armed conflict. "War is the only way for Kokoev to retain his power. But we will not yield to his provocations," Georgian Security Minister Vano Merabishvili said at a news briefing on July 8.

"We knew that Kokoev was planning provocations and we were ready for this. The Georgian government is capable of dealing with the current situation and we will not be involved in armed clashes," Vano Merabishvili added.

International efforts are underway to resolve the current crisis. "We are engaged in frequent contacts with our colleagues in the United States, Russia and other countries. I can say for sure that Kokoev’s regime does not enjoy support from Moscow," the Georgian Security Minister said.

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania held phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on July 8 and discussed satiation in breakaway South Ossetia. “Mr. Powell expressed readiness to help Georgia in overcoming the current crisis. He also welcomed Georgian government’s efforts to avoid armed confrontation in the conflict zone,” Avto Pavlenishvili, spokesman of the Georgian Prime Minister told Civil Georgia.

He also said that Premier Zhvania held phone conversation with Secretary of the Russian Security Council Igor Ivanov twice on July 8.

Zurab Zhvania also held a meeting with foreign diplomats accredited in Georgian on July 8, to inform them regarding the recent developments in South Ossetia. The Russian Ambassador, Vladimir Chkhikvishvili, was among them.

Vladimir Chkhikvishvili called on the Georgian and South Ossetian sides to settle the current conflict in South Ossetia through dialogue.

"The situation is extremely tense in the region. The further acceleration of tensions will trigger a great deal of problems for Georgia and for the entire region. However, there is a simple way out - the conflicting sides should launch talks and settle the existing problems through dialogue," Vladimir Chkhikvishvili told reporters on July 8.

He also said that Goga Khaindrava, the Georgian State Minister in charge of conflict resolution issues, will leave for Moscow on July 9 in order to hold talks with Russian officials over South Ossetia.

The Russian Ambassador continued by saying that these issues will also be discussed during planned phone talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is currently visiting Iran.

Meanwhile, up to 50 Georgian peacekeepers, detained by the South Ossetian militia groups who raiding the Georgian village of Vanati in the breakaway region in the early hours of July 8, remain captive in Tskhinvali, the capital of the self-styled republic. The Russian NTV television station broadcasted footage showing the detained Georgian soldiers kneeling at gunpoint in Tskhinvali.

A Georgian peacekeeper unit in South Ossetia is part of the Joint Peacekeeping Troops, composed of South Ossetian and Russian components who oversee the ceasefire in the region.

Tensions in the breakaway region flared after Georgian internal troops and peacekeepers intercepted an arms convoy deployed into the conflict zone, which belonged to Russian peacekeepers.

The Georgian side seized two trucks loaded with arms that triggered Moscow’s protests. The Russian Foreign Ministry, which demanded the immediate return of arms, accused the Georgian side of "forceful actions" in the conflict zone and described the arms seizure as "a provocation."

"We have demonstrated that we will not tolerate the movement of unauthorized arms in the territory of Georgia," Zurab Zhvania, the Georgian Prime Minister, said on July 7.

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