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Georgia, Russia hold security talks in Geneva

Stephanie Nebehay - Washington Post 

GENEVA (Reuters) - Georgia and Russia resumed security talks on Tuesday after international mediators and a U.N. report helped nudge Moscow's negotiators back to the table, officials said.

Delegations from Russia and the Moscow-backed rebel region of South Ossetia had withdrawn from the two-day talks in Geneva on Monday citing the refusal of another Moscow-backed rebel region, Abkhazia, to attend, due to a delay in a U.N. report.

"The formal discussions have just finished," a U.N. spokeswoman said. "Everyone participated."

A senior Georgian official in Geneva said that the closed-door discussions had lasted about 3-1/2 hours.

In the report on the U.N. mission in Abkhazia, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said tensions between Georgia and Russia, who fought a brief war over South Ossetia in August, were weighing heavily on the region, an important transit territory for Western gas and oil deliveries to the West.

Talks to date had helped to maintain a "relative calm."

MONITORING

It cites the official title of "United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia" but otherwise skates round the sensitive question of whether Abkhazia is part of Georgia or not.

"I hope that these efforts can lead to the establishment of a more stable security regime in the area," Ban said.

It is the fifth session between Russia and Georgia since September.

Tensions remain around areas of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, particularly Akhalgori in South Ossetia and the Kodor(i) Gorge and Gal(i) regions of Abkhazia.

The U.N. deploys 129 military observers, drawn from 30 states, and 16 police officers in Abkhazia.

Ban's report recommended that security zones with no armed forces or military equipment be enforced for 12 km (8 miles) on both sides of the ceasefire line, and restricted zones with no heavy military equipment for another 12 km on each side.

He also called for regular U.N. monitoring of conditions in the Kodor(i) valley and regular meetings between Russian and Georgian officials to maintain calm and stability.

(Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Ralph Boulton)

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