Georgia and S Ossetia agree truce

Fighting stops as the two sides reportedly prepare to hold talks.

    Saakashvili has repeated an offer of "full autonomy" for South Ossetia [Reuters] 

    Reports of the talks came just hours after Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's president, offered an immediate halt to the heavy fighting and said he had ordered his forces not to return fire if attacked.

    "I offer you an immediate ceasefire and the immediate beginning of talks," he said in a televised address.

    Saakashvili also repeated an offer of "full autonomy" for the breakaway region and said Russia could be the guarantor of any deal.

    'Emergency' meeting

    Boris Chochiyev, the deputy prime minister of South Ossetia's de facto government, confirmed that talks would take place on Friday, Interfax reported.

    "Tomorrow's meeting is of an emergency nature ... Such a meeting is necessary," he was quoted as saying.

    RIA news agency reported that Chochiev and Temur Yakobashvili, the Georgian re-integration minister would meet at the Russian peacekeepers' base in the region's capital Tskhinvali.

    Jonah Hull, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Moscow, described the offer as an "olive branch".

    "It seems that Georgia is offering here some sort of an olive branch. It's certainly an admission and a sign of just how serious things have become in South Ossetia," he said.

    "It's also a sign perhaps of how unwilling Georgia is to be drawn into a full-scale conflict, knowing very well that that would jeopordise its cherished chances of joining Nato."

    Border clashes

    The de facto government in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, said that 18 people had been wounded by Georgian fire on Thursday.

    South Ossetia said 18 people were injured in Thursday's fighting [AFP]
    While Marina Salukvadze, a spokeswoman for Yakobashvili said two Georgian servicemen were wounded after attacks on Georgian positions by South Ossetian forces.

    South Ossetia also said that six people had died in fighting over the weekend.

    Both sides have blamed each other for the fighting.

    Thursday's renewed peace efforts came as the United States and Russia agreed to work together to find a solution to the growing tensions in the region.

    Dan Fried, US assistant secretary of state, told the Reuters news agency he had spoken Grigory Karasin, Russia's deputy foreign minister, by telephone, and "we both agreed to work together to get the fighting stopped in South Ossetia, and encourage political dialogue".

    "It appears that the South Ossetians have instigated this uptick in violence," he said. "We have urged the Russians to urge their South Ossetian friends to pull back and show greater restraint."

    Earlier, Karasin urged "the Georgian leadership to show common sense and stop irresponsible military activities in South Ossetia".

    South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia, receive extensive political and financial backing  from Moscow.

    Tbilisi has repeatedly accused Russian peacekeepers of supporting the separatists, while  Moscow has accused of Georgia of planning a full-scale invasion to re-establish control over the region.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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