Leaders from Shanghai group to discuss situation in Georgia

The leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will discuss the situation in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia at a two-day summit which opens on Wednesday in Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference ahead of the SCO summit that "leaders will expound their shared position on issues of interest within the framework of the agenda, and the South Ossetia issue will be no exception."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed decrees on Tuesday recognizing Georgia's breakaway republics as independent states. The move has been condemned by Western leaders with U.S. President George Bush calling the action an "irresponsible decision."

Gang said Beijing hoped that Moscow and Tbilisi could find "a peaceful solution to the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict through dialogue." And he went on to say, "We believe this summit will further promote the SCO's development and contribute to safeguarding regional peace and stability and promoting common development of SCO members."

Russian officials said Georgia, however, had lost its right to the two regions after launching a military offensive on August 8 that killed hundreds of people and forced thousands to flee devastated South Ossetia.

Shortly after announcing the decision, Medvedev said, "This is not an easy decision, but it is the only way to protect lives."

At the Dushanbe summit, the heads of state will adopt a series of documents on security and cooperation, and issue a joint declaration, which is expected to focus on the situation in South Ossetia.

The post-Soviet regional bloc, that is widely seen as a counterweight to NATO's influence in Eurasia, comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The group primarily addresses security issues, but has recently moved to embrace economic and energy projects.

[Source: Novosti, Dushanbe, 27Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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