Georgia vows to end conflict with breakaway republics
Mr Saakashvili surprised the twelve heads of state gathered in Turkey for the Black Sea Economic Co-operation Summit by putting the issue in the spotlight.
“I think at this stage we are really moving towards a breakthrough, with a temporary administration already in place in South Ossetia. Georgia is starting talks with the head of this temporary administration, basically promising the South Ossetians everything they have been dreaming of for all these years,” Mikhail Saakashvili said.
The statement follows last week's decree signed by Georgia’s President that ends the 2000 agreement with Russia on co-operation in the South Ossetian conflict zone. But Russia insists the agreement is still in force.
Earlier, the Russian paper Kommersant Daily reported Georgian officials as saying Tbilisi offered Moscow the role of official guarantor in future agreements on granting South Ossetia broad autonomy. They added that Georgia was ready for concessions.
There were no further discussions on these issues at the summit.
“By definition the Organization of Black Sea Economic Co-operation deals with economic issues. Attempts to politicise its work are counter-productive. This is simply not within the brief of BSEC. Resolving conflicts should be done within the framework of the UN and OBSE. Ideologically motivated discussions should not detract from the work of those who came to talk business,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
In his speech, President Saakashvili mentioned starting talks with the temporary administrations of the breakaway republics, calling those talks a breakthrough.
The stumbling block would be that although these administrations enjoy direct support from Tbilisi they are unrecognised by the de facto leadership of South Ossetia, who live in exile and have little influence on the republic's politics.
South Ossetia has held several national referendums with the overwhelming majority of the population voting for independence from Georgia.
On Saturday, the democratically elected leader of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity reconfirmed his stance on the issue.
“South Ossetia has succeeded as an independent state, whether Georgia’s President wants it or not. The people of South Ossetia made their choice and everyone has to accept this. The choice was made not against Georgia or its people. It was made because we want to live in a free country without genocide,” Eduard Kokoity said.
To prevent the conflict from flaring up again, Russia has deployed its peacekeepers to provide safety under the UN mandate. But provocations on the border continue with artillery fired into the South Ossetian territory on a regular basis.