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Georgia-Russia Peace Talks Break Down

Talks aimed at easing tensions between Georgia and Russia have broken down. But international sponsors say they have just hit a snag and will resume next month. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

Everybody is putting a brave face on these short-lived talks. The United Nations, European Union and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which are mediating, adamantly reject any suggestion of failure.

They prefer to call the walkout by the Georgian and Russian delegations a procedural snag. Special U.N. Representative to Georgia Johan Verbeke says no one should dramatize what happened today.

"What happened is what we call in French, 'un incident de parcours', a procedural incident, which had to be resolved," he said. "Rather than doing a quick-fix, which may leave us with other problems later in the day or later in the process, we better address them. And that is why we decided to take some breathing space to address those few procedural points which would be handled through consultations."

Verbeke calls this just a temporary suspension of the work and says the talks will resume on November 18.

The talks are aimed at resolving a host of political and humanitarian issues that have resulted from the brief war that erupted between Georgia and Russia in early August. The conflict, which broke out over Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, lasted only five days, but its effects are expected to last a long time.

The major sticking point, which led to the breakdown, appears to have been over Georgia's two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Georgian and Russian delegations differed over the role they should play in the negotiations.

Russia, which recognizes both territories as independent states, objected to the exclusion of the South Ossetian and Abkhaz representatives from the talks.

Special Envoy of the OSCE, Heikki Talvitie says differences must be put aside because there are important issues that must be discussed in a practical way.

"We would like to enhance the stability in the region and we would like to enhance the humanitarian situation in the region," he said. "For this purpose, it is really important that we will find ways and means that everybody can express their views. These are not negotiations, these are discussions. But, in some way, in the future, there should be a kind of an understanding that we can agree on some measures in the region to help the situation there."

The United States, which is an ally of Georgia, attended the talks. In a brief statement earlier in the day, the U.S. delegation said the talks would address compliance with the ceasefire, security issues, the return of internally displaced persons and human rights.

Those issues are to be deferred until next month.