Shevardnadze told the country on radio that his November 14 meeting with South Ossetian leader Lyudvig Chibirov may have heralded "the time of Georgian-South Ossetian reconciliation in the framework of a single Georgian state." Shevardnadze commented that the actions which triggered the exodus of ethnic Ossetians from Georgia in 1990-1991 [under then-president Zviad Gamsakhurdia] were just as "criminal" as the expulsion of ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia. Shevardnadze and Chibirov agreed at their meeting to work out the procedures for repatriating both groups to their respective areas within one year. (Radio Tbilisi, November 17)
Held in the South Ossetian town of Java and attended by Russian and OSCE mediators, the Shevardnadze-Chibirov meeting produced a joint statement which noted "growing mutual trust" between the two sides and "positive developments" in the negotiations. Shevardnadze and Chibirov designated 1998 "the year of the return of all refugees," and they called for international relief aid to both sides in order to facilitate that reciprocal repatriation. Shevardnadze commended the Russian peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia, contrasting their performance to that of Russian troops in Abkhazia.
The meeting skirted the thorny issue of South Ossetia’s political status. President Akhsarbek Galazov of North Ossetia, a constituent republic of Russia, encouraged South Ossetian rigidity by calling for "an independent and sovereign South Ossetia within a single Georgian state." This is the Russian Foreign Ministry’s approach to conflict settlement, designed to create a state within a state without violating internationally recognized "external borders." Galazov attends the negotiating sessions along with the Russian delegation. Tbilisi is offering South Ossetia the status of an autonomous region; South Ossetia is calling for confederal status. Both may eventually settle for a federal solution. But Galazov and South Ossetian leaders — including Chibirov at times — are known also to be contemplating North Ossetian-South Ossetian "integration," if short of unification under Russian auspices. Unofficial consideration of this option contributes to the impasse in the negotiations on South Ossetia’s political status. (Iprinda, Kavkazia Press, Prime-News, November 14-16)
Red Cross Survey Depicts Poverty in Kazakhstan.