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Secessionist leader proposes one-on-one meeting with Saakashvili

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, January 24
De facto South Ossetian president Eduard Kokoity proposed a personal meeting with President Mikheil Saakashvili yesterday, saying he would request a peace pact and a special economic zone covering both Georgian and separatist-controlled territory.

Tbilisi responded skeptically, suggesting that Kokoity would need to offer serious proposals for conflict resolution—which Georgian officials say must include breakaway South Ossetia’s return to state control—before any meeting could be arranged.

“The first issue we will bring up [in the meeting] is signing a pact on the non-resumption of violence or threats of violence,” Kokoity told Russian news agency Interfax.

He said he would appeal to Russian and OSCE representatives to help arrange the meeting.

The separatist leader also suggested the creation of a special economic zone overlapping secessionist-controlled South Ossetian territory, Georgia’s Gori district and part of Russia’s North Ossetia, as well as a meeting between ethnic Georgian and ethnic Ossetian religious leaders.

Acting state minister for conflict resolution Davit Bakradze, however, told journalists that any agreement on the non-resumption of violence is out of the question so long as the language of the text implies a “cease-fire between neighboring countries.”

“If Kokoity has concrete proposals on how the conflict should be resolved and he is ready to really participate in resolving it, we are waiting for these proposals and, after these proposals are considered, it will be possible to make a decision on whether such a meeting will take place,” Bakradze added in response to Kokoity’s request for a one-to-one with Saakashvili.

In his statement yesterday, Kokoity also said he was upset about comments Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II made after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; the Patriarch, Kokoity claimed, had “called for attacks” against ethnic Ossetians and Abkhaz.

The Patriarch told journalists after the January 20 meeting that “separatism is a contagious disease, and this problem should be quickly resolved.”

In Abkhazia, meanwhile, tensions flared over a disputed incident off the breakaway region’s western coastline.

After separatist officials claimed their forces fired on and chased away Georgian warships in waters off the Abkhazian coast, the de facto Abkhaz defense minister told Interfax that any more Georgian ships sighted in separatist-claimed waters would be destroyed without warning.

Georgian coast guard officials, speaking to journalists, denied any confrontation took place.