Monitors' role

Western states say OSCE monitors patrolling Georgia's conflict zone with South Ossetia can provide early warning of a new flare-up in hostilities, and investigate allegations of rights abuses against ethnic Georgians.
 
Their mandate expires on December 31. Russia's proposals for a new mandate have stalled because Moscow says it must acknowledge that South Ossetia is an independent state, a status that only Russia and Nicaragua have recognised.
 
A small force of unarmed military observers from the OSCE and a larger European Union observer contingent were deployed to Georgia to monitor observance of a ceasefire agreement after Tbilisi's forces tried to retake South Ossetia in August.
 
Russia launched a counterattack on land, sea and air in August, saying it was compelled to act to protect civilians in South Ossetia from Georgian aggression.
 
'Secret talks'
 
In another development, the Kommersant daily newspaper in Moscow reported on Tuesday that Georgia had secret talks through intermediaries with Russian officials about restoring direct flights and diplomatic ties after the August war.
 
The newspaper said that the key intermediary in the talks has been Mikheil Khubutia, the head of the Union of Georgians in Russia, who Kommersant said met Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president, on November 21 in Munich.
 
"I spoke recently to Saakashvili ... We discussed restoring flights between Georgia and Russia and restoring diplomatic relations," Khubutia said.
 
The Georgian presidency refused to comment on the report.
 
But an influential legislator from the ruling United National Movement party, Giorgi Kandelaki, called it "a baseless rumour".
 
"It is impossible to restore diplomatic ties with Russia when it occupies historic Georgian territories, commits ethnic cleaning there of the Georgian population and tries to overthrow Georgia's legitimate government through military intervention," he said.