On March 4 and 5 in Moscow, another round of negotiations to settle the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict ended without results. South Ossetia’s chief delegate, the self-styled Prime Minister Aleksandr Shavlokhov, sought recognition of "special relations" between South Ossetia and the Russian Federation’s republic of North Ossetia on the grounds that "two parts of the same people aspire to reunification." South Ossetia’s delegation also called for recognition of a South Ossetian citizenship in parallel with Georgian citizenship in the breakaway region. A few days before this negotiating round, South Ossetia’s Supreme Soviet adopted a law requiring Georgian refugees wishing to return to their homes in South Ossetia to sign a declaration recognizing South Ossetia’s legislation as valid.
These demands are nonstarters with Tbilisi, whose chief delegate at the talks, Foreign Minister Irakly Menagarishvili, had optimistically predicted progress. This round was renumbered as the "first" in a planned new series of the long-running talks. A follow-up round is tentatively scheduled for June-July and will focus on economic matters — another indication of the deadlock on the central political issues. (Interfax, March 4-5; Iviria, March 3; Nezavisimaya gazeta, February 26) The OSCE’s Mission to Georgia attends the negotiations and supports Georgia’s territorial integrity. However, the negotiating format is stacked against Georgia, which usually faces a common front of Russia and North and South Ossetia. As mediator, Russia is represented by First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov, and has been instrumental in freezing the conflict. The parallel, Russian-mediated negotiations with Abkhazia are similarly deadlocked, as Georgia’s top leaders have pointed out with growing concern in recent days.
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