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South Ossetia and Abkhazia to take part in Geneva conference, Bernard Kouchner said

LUXEMBOURG (Itar-Tass) - Representatives of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will take part in a conference, which will be held in Geneva on October 15 and focus on security in these republics, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

France is currently holding the rotating presidency in the EU.

At the same time, he declined to specify at what level South Ossetia and Abkhazia would be represented in Geneva.

Kouchner said Russia had fulfilled its obligations on the withdrawal of troops from Georgia.

Summing up the results of the EU ministerial meeting, Kouchner said Russia had fulfilled its obligations on the withdrawal of troops from Georgia.

At the same time, he said the problem of Akhalgori remained. The region is populated mostly by Georgians. But Russian military are now staying in the area, the French foreign minister said.

Akhalgori (Leningori in the Soviet times) is located within the limits of South Ossetia. After the Ossetian-Georgian conflict emerged in the beginning of 1990’s, this settlement was controlled by Georgia till August 7. After Russia conducted an operation to coerce Georgia to peace, Georgian military units withdrew from the area and South Ossetia regained control over it. As part of his visit to Georgia on October 10 Kouchner called for withdrawing Russian troops from Akhalgori.

On October 11 as part of his working trip to Germany Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a demand Russia withdraw peacekeepers from Akhalgori in South Ossetia runs counter the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan.

“I heard certain European representatives to regret that Russian peacekeepers have not been withdrawn from Akhalgori. This demand runs counter the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan. It says we will withdraw from the areas adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. EU observers deploy in these regions,” the Russian minister stressed.

“Akhalgori is within the borders of South Ossetia. Thus, the plan’s provisions do not include it,” Lavrov said.

He said his talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier focused on the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan. “Germany makes its contribution to forming a corps of EU observers in the areas adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” the Russian minister said.

“Both parties understand the need to move towards strict implementation of all provisions of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan. In particular, it is very important in light of discussions (on South Ossetia) in Geneva on October 15,” Lavrov said.

“We confirmed our position. It is that the discussions cannot yield results without the full-fledged participation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. As for Russia, we will take part in the formats where these republics will be represented equally with the rest,” the Russian minister said.

“They fell victims of the aggression,” Lavrov said. “It is necessary to listen to their voice when we discuss ways not to repeat such tragedy,” the Russian minister emphasised.

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