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Europe

EU Remains Skeptical on Future of Georgia-Russia Talks

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has said he is skepical about the outlook for strategic partnership talks between Georgia and Russia, since a planned meeting broke down before it even began.

Tanks roll in Georgia during the 5-day war

There is little hope for diplomacy after the Caucuses conflict, observers have said

The two countries will have trouble meeting face to face considering all the tension between them in August, Solana said. He added that he would do everything possible to make the meeting work out.

Late Wednesday, Georgia and Russia were supposed to gather for internationally-backed peace talks in Geneva. But they broke down on the first day when the rivals, who fought a war in August, blamed each other for the failure to even enter the same room.

Talks are unlikely to resume until November, Solana added.

Sergei Shamba, foreign minister of the pro-Russian separatist region of Abkhazia, told AFP news service that on Wednesday "there were two separate meetings, the Russians and the Abkhazians (in one) and the Georgians in another," he said.

'Procedural difficulties' at fault

It would have been the first time representatives of the two sides have held direct negotiations since the five-day war after Russia thwarted a Georgian assault to retake its breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Russia has kept troops in South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, and recognises both as independent states.

Pierre Morel, an official for the European Union, which organized the talks with the United Nations and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, blamed "procedural difficulties" for the quick suspension of the negotiations.

Javier Solana

Solana said he's skeptical new talks will happen soon

Georgia said that Russia had refused to meet its delegation.

American involvement

"It's regrettable that the Russian Federation has put the process from the very beginning under severe constraints," Georgia's head of delegation and deputy foreign minister Giga Bokeria told AFP.

Russia would not take part in any further talks with Georgia if representatives from South Ossetia and Abkhazia were not invited, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said.

The Americans injected a third element to the breakdown, with its head of delegation Daniel Fried saying that it was the South Ossetians and Abkhazians who failed to exhibit a "constructive spirit" to keep talks going.

"Unfortunately... the de facto authorities of South Ossetia and Abkhazia who were present at the meeting, I'm sorry to say did not exhibit such a constructive spirit -- they chose instead to walk out of the informational session," he told AFP.

Tension between parties

Following the walkout, the parties demanded to be treated as full national delegations before coming back to talks, but "no one was prepared to do that," said Fried.

"This was unfortunate and so the session ended early because the South Ossetians and Abkhaz walked out," he added.

Even before the session, there was tension over the participation of the Abkhazians and the South Ossetians, with Russia insisting there could be no agreements without their presence.

The Georgians had argued that the official talks should only include representatives of Georgia, Russia, the United States, the European Union, the OSCE and the UN.

Russia has said it wants security guarantees and a ban on all weapons sales to Georgia, which in has demanded that all Russian troops leave Georgian territory, including South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia called on the Georgians to sign "concrete and legally binding" security pacts with the two breakaway regions.

Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili accused Moscow of adopting "Soviet" tactics during the talks.

"Despite the fact that Georgia had a very constructive approach and the rare opportunity for negotiations, Russia has left the negotiations. This is how the Soviet Union acted in the past," Saakashvili said in comments broadcast on Georgian Public Television.

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