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Europe

Russia, Georgia Hold Constructive Post-Conflict Discussions

All the delegations attended "constructive" talks on the Russia-Georgia conflict Wednesday, Nov. 19 and agreed to meet again for another round of negotiations next month, the EU representative to the discussions said.

Giorgi Bokeria, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, addresses journalists during a press conference after the second round of the Caucasus talks to try to settle the Russia-Georgia conflict at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland

Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister Giorgi Bokeria only wants talks with Russia

"We had constructive meetings of the two working groups," said Pierre Morel, the EU's special representative to Georgia. As planned, the two groups, with eight delegations in total, met on security and refugee issues for about three hours each.

The first round of talks last month ended with Moscow and Tbilisi accusing each other of walking out without the two sides having sat in the same room.

"Today, we have taken a big step forward," said Morel, adding that the talks had entered a "fully operational phase."

The sides also set out priorities for work to go on before the third round, now set for Dec. 17 and 18 in Geneva. It remained to be decided if next month's talks would include a plenary session.

Giorgi Bokeria, a Georgian deputy minister of foreign affairs, said later that his country supports a plenary session that does not include representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"The conflict is between Russia and Georgia," he told reporters.

Willingness to address ceasefire violations

Georgian soldiers stand at their positions in the ethnic Georgian village of Ergneti

Georgian troops reported South Ossetian incursions

Recent claims of ceasefire violations were discussed during the day's meetings, and the moderators said incident prevention and management mechanisms were going to be drawn up with the hopes of getting a system in place to ensure stability.

"That fact means that there is a mandate to do something," said the UN's representative John Verbeke, noting that all parties felt "the ceasefire should be respected."

The Georgian official said he wanted to see the observer mandate of the EU and the OECE to be extended to include breakaway regions not currently part of the mandate to help aid the planned incident prevention mechanisms and the ceasefire deal.

In addition, projects were under way to provide thousands of shelters for the most desperate refugees before winter fully set in and Russia and Georgia agreed on the need to facilitate a return of the displaced peoples to their homes.

"Our concern is the people themselves," Verbeke said, adding that field visits by the various moderators would continue.

Contentious issues to be tackled at a later date

The parties said they had agreed to suspend talks on thorny issues likely to derail the meetings and to focus on the areas where there was agreement.

A map of the Caucasus region

The Caucasus region is still a highly disputed area and there is much to be resolved

The delegations from Russia, Georgia and the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia had arrived in the morning at the United Nations building in Geneva for the second round of talks since they went to war in the summer.

Also at the meetings, in addition to the EU and UN officials, were representatives from the United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"It will be eight individuals in groups working together," said Maxim Grinjia, a deputy to the foreign minister of the breakaway region of Abkhazia, before going into the working groups.

He added that a dinner the previous evening saw the delegates meet in a "nice atmosphere."

Peacekeeping missions on next meeting's agenda

Soldiers on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo

UN peacekeepers are preferred to Russian ones

Ahead of the talks Georgia has said it wants international peacekeepers in the breakaway regions instead of Russian troops and has called for an investigation into who started the conflict.

The next round is expected to include a broader discussion of the peacekeeping missions though the issue was touched on during Wednesday's talks.

Russia and Georgia waged a five-day war in August, which began over the region of South Ossetia.

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