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Talks to Reach Political Resolution to Georgia Crisis Make Modest Progress


Georgia and Russia have agreed to work to resolve security incidents in the breakaway South Ossetia region where the two countries fought a war in August. Although the two days of talks did not produce a detailed accord, mediators say progress was made.

Representatives attending a third round of international talks aimed at resolving the crisis in the North Caucasus region agree that progress has been made.

Mediated by the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the talks focused on the security and humanitarian situation in the Caucasus.

The situation has seriously deteriorated since Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in August over the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The Special Representative of the European Union for the Crisis in Georgia, Pierre Morel, called the talks productive. But he said the parties failed to reach an agreement because of a couple of outstanding issues.

He said the parties agreed on the need to improve conditions for thousands of refugees and internally displaced people in the region, including the delivery of humanitarian aid.

"The participants agreed to quickly find ways to resume gas delivery to all affected populations," said Morel. "They also agreed to continue to work towards resuming all multilateral rehabilitation programs in the region."

The head of the U.N. Observer Mission in Georgia, Johan Verbeke, said the parties also engaged in in-depth political discussions.

"The crux of our attention went to one very important point - that is looking at the mechanism that could help up prevent and resolve incidents as they arise," he said. "This is not just a technical question, it is an imminently political question. There is an agreement among all the participants in the Geneva talks, so-called 'international discussions,' that an agreement, in principle, on the very fact that such a mechanism is necessary."

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Daniel Fried noted that the talks were occurring amid post-conflict tensions in Georgia and the region. He said the situation on the ground is dangerous and that there is no time to lose in reaching an agreement.

"We will continue to work to improve the situation on the ground and to improve coordination among the various actors on the ground," said Fried. "Despite the serious disagreements we have with the Russian Federation over the origins of the conflict and the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the United States will work with Russia."

The participants said the talks are on track and they have agreed to meet again in mid-February.

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