A protocol preparatory to the signing of a memorandum on security- and confidence-building between the Georgian government and Georgia’s South Ossetia region was signed yesterday in the latter’s administrative center Tskhinvali by representatives of the parties to the conflict and the participants in negotiations to settle it. Those signatories were: Georgian foreign minister Irakli Menagarishvili, South Ossetian prime minister Vyacheslav Bodorayev, North Ossetian prime minister Yuri Biragov, Russian first deputy foreign minister Boris Pastukhov, and the OSCE’s Georgian mission chief Dieter Boden. No date was set for the actual signing of the memorandum, but South Ossetian Supreme Soviet chairman Ludvig Chibirov said that he would seek a meeting with Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze. (Interfax, April 17 & 18)
Disagreement over the memorandum has long centered on the provisions regarding the political status of South Ossetia within Georgia. Although general attention has been focused on the Abkhazia conflict, the situation in South Ossetia has also been deadlocked. Russian "peacekeeping" troops there have in practice provided a protective cover for the secessionist region. At the same time, Moscow and the North Ossetian leadership loyal to it, headed by Akhsarbek Galazov, have discouraged South Ossetian aspirations for an early and open merger with North Ossetia, which is part of the Russian Federation. Chibirov’s political position has been weakened by serious charges of corruption and public demonstrations against him.
Azerbaijan Apprehends More Conspirators but Won’t Carry Out Death Penalty.