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Moscow hopes tensions between Georgia and South Ossetia be defused — diplomat

TBILISI, October 9. /TASS/. Russian hopes for de-escalation between Tskhinval and Tbilisi after checkpoints opened near Akhalgori, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told Georgian reporters after the 49th round of Geneva Discussions on Security and Stability in the South Caucasus on Wednesday.

"At the Geneva talks, all the parties expressed their readiness for soonest de-escalation of tensions along the Georgian border with South Ossetia, which emerged in late August and early September. We hope that, along with joint efforts to reduce tensions, the checkpoints, which are now closed, will be opened. Now the issue is under consideration," Georgia’s First Channel reported citing Rudenko.

On September 4, Tskhinval opted for shutting down the border checkpoints Razdakhan and Sinagur, located on the outskirts of Akhalgori near the border with Georgia. Initially, the checkpoints were scheduled to be opened on September 6, but this has been postponed for unknown reasons.

The 49th round of Geneva Discussions was held on October 8-9. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko joined them for the first time replacing Secretary of State Grigory Karasin.

Rudenko told TASS the sides could not find a solution to the current escalation on the Georgian-South Ossetian border during the latest round of consultations, so the talks would continue.

"The agenda focused on the situation around the South Ossetian village of Tsnelis. The participants confirmed the tensions sparked by the deployment of a Georgian checkpoint should be defused. So far, the issue is under consideration," he said.

According to the high-ranking diplomat, "there are certain symptoms that the impasse might be broken." However, it was still premature to voice a concrete solution.

"There is a Georgian police checkpoint, and our friends from South Ossetia responded in kind by deploying their checkpoint. The situation remains tense, so the discussion will be continued," he stressed.

"Concrete results could hardly be expected from the discussions. It is of importance that the mechanism tackling the region’s pressing issues remains in place," Rudenko concluded.

The tensions were sparked by Georgia’s construction of a checkpoint near the South Ossetian border village of Uista (Tsnelis). South Ossetia demanded the checkpoint be removed from its territory. The August 29 settlement talks within the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) yielded no result. In early September, South Ossetia installed own checkpoints near the village and beefed up presence near the border. Later, Tskhinval claimed that Tbilisi had plans to erect more checkpoints in other border zones, as more Georgian troops and hardware were spotted in some areas.

The Geneva Discussions on security and stability in the South Caucasus are the only platform for dialogue between Georgia and the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Geneva Discussions are based on agreements reached by the Russian and French presidents after Georgia’s act of aggression against South Ossetia in August 2008. Representatives of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Georgia, Russia and the United States along with observers from the United Nations, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) participate in the Geneva talks. The main aim of the talks is to reach a legally binding agreement on the non-use of force between Abkhazia and Georgia as well as between South Ossetia and Georgia.