Page last updated at 11:25 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Deal to calm Russia-Georgia ties

Johan Verbeke (left) and Pierre Morel in Geneva (18 February 2009)
The agreement was welcomed by the UN envoy to Georgia, Johan Verbeke

Russia and Georgia have agreed on proposals aimed at preventing regional conflicts, six months after they fought over South Ossetia, mediators say.

EU special representative Pierre Morel said both sides would set up a hotline and meet weekly to defuse tensions.

"We think this is an important step to security and stability," Mr Morel said.

During the brief war last August, Georgia's attempts to regain control of the breakaway region of South Ossetia were repelled by Russian forces.

Putting it into effect will depend on goodwill on the ground on both sides
Daniel Fried
US Assistant Secretary of State

Georgian troops were eventually ejected from South Ossetia and the other breakaway region of Abkhazia, both of which Russia subsequently recognised as independent states - a move which drew strong international condemnation.

Under an EU-sponsored ceasefire, EU monitors were deployed to Georgia. But thousands of Russian troops remain in both breakaway regions.

'Significant' step

In a joint statement, the three mediators from the EU, UN and Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said talks in Geneva since October between Russia and Georgia had produced consensus "proposals for joint incident prevention and response mechanisms".


They said the mechanisms, which have yet to be detailed, would allow for regular contacts "between structures responsible for security and public order in areas of tension and relevant international organisations".

"They will meet on a weekly basis, or more often as required," the mediators added. "As a follow-up to incidents, agreed joint visits may be conducted."

The agreement was welcomed by the UN envoy to Georgia, Johan Verbeke, who said it was a "significant" first step.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried agreed the deal was "positive and practical", but warned that "putting it into effect will depend on goodwill on the ground".

Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Giorgi Bakeria told a separate news conference that he considered the agreement "a step in the right direction", but insisted it should be followed by talks on a full Russian withdrawal from Georgian territory.

His Russian counterpart, Gregory Karasin, welcomed the consensus, adding: "We have to work on the ground now".

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