Medvedev, Sarkozy to discuss South Ossetian developments

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will meet with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

Georgia launched a massive ground and air offensive against South Ossetia's capital Tskhinvali on Friday. Russia's Foreign Ministry said 1,600 civilians and 15 peacekeepers have been killed. Over 34,000 South Ossetians have fled to Russia. Tskhinvali has been completely destroyed, and the entire rebel province is facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Shortly after the August 8 attack France, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, urged all sides in the conflict to show restraint and proposed avoiding any escalation in tensions. Paris also called for a resumption of direct dialogue between Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia.

Sarkozy is expected to arrive on his peace mission in Moscow at 13:10 Moscow time (09:10 GMT), and to travel to Tbilisi later in the day.

Russia rejected a draft ceasefire plan proposed by France and signed on Monday by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

"Troops should be withdrawn and negotiations launched, so that people can return home. It will take time," said France's top diplomat, who travelled to Russia's North Ossetia from Georgia and arrived in Moscow for talks on Tuesday.

In Moscow Kouchner met with his Russian and Finnish counterparts, Sergei Lavrov and Alexander Stubb. Finland is currently presiding over the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The presidents of Poland, France, Ukraine, Estonia and Lithuania plan to travel to Tbilisi for talks in the next few hours, Georgian Prime Minister Vladimir Gurgenidze said.

"Though disappointed to a certain extent that our European partners have failed to prevent the developments," Georgia will be happy to accept their support, Gurgenidze said.

A number of Western countries, including the United States, have condemned Russia's action in South Ossetia and the "disproportionate" use of force against Tbilisi.

Russia dismissed the accusations saying its aim was to protect its nationals and peacekeepers and accused the West of double standards and retaining a Cold War mentality in its assessment of the situation in South Ossetia.

At least 12 people were killed overnight during shelling of Tskhinvali, the capital of Georgia's rebel province of South Ossetia, and clashes in its suburbs, a chief health official said on Tuesday.

"Eight Russian servicemen and two South Ossetian fighters were admitted last night," he said.

[Source: Novosti, Moscow, 12Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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