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Senior Official on Geneva Talks

The Geneva talks, scheduled to start on October 15, deal with the Russo-Georgia conflict and consequently the secessionist authorities of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia can not be represented there as sides, Giga Bokeria, the Georgian deputy foreign minister, said on October 10.

He, however, also said that if “fundamental issues” such as replacement of Russian forces in the two regions with international peacekeepers, were agreed, the involvement of leaders of all the communities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia could be possible at the next stage of the Geneva talks.

Bokeria’s reference to "leaders of all the communities" apparently includes the Tbilisi-backed provisional South Ossetia administration, led by Dimitri Sanakoev, as well as the Abkhaz government-in-exile.

“No single group has the exclusive right to represent the entire community,” he said on Tbilisi-based radio station Imedi FM.

He said that there was a need to engage with the section of the South Ossetian population, as well as with “a significant part” of the Abkhaz population, which did not see their regions as part of Georgia. He, however, said representatives from those regions with a different position should not be ignored either.

Bokeria said that the October 15 meeting in Geneva would be “a preparatory one to define the format of the talks.”

Russia is pushing for the participation of Abkhaz and South Ossetian officials in the talks.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on October 8 that the talks should be all-inclusive. “To succeed, these talks must include all the parties involved, while also respecting the positions of each side,” AFP quoted Sarkozy as saying at an international conference in Evian, France.

AFP also quoted an unnamed European diplomat as saying that the EU’s special envoy for the Georgia crisis, Pierre Morel, was working on ways to include representatives from the two breakaway regions in the talks, without alienating Georgia.

"We are well aware that it is more than a mere detail," the official said, adding that there were ways "for them [the secessionist authorities] to be there, without actually being seated at the table."

According to the September 8 agreement reached between the French and Russian presidents, the Geneva talks should be related to the following issues:

Stability and security in the region;
Return of refugees based on the internationally recognized principles and practice of post-conflict settlement;
Other issues for discussion should be mutually agreed between the sides – the agreement does not specify the sides.

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