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Russian-Georgian talks open in Geneva

Talks aimed at settling the conflict between Russia and Georgia have opened at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva.

The talks are the first time representatives of the two sides have met face to face since the armed conflict between them, which broke out at the beginning of August. The meeting had remained in doubt until the last minute, and three members of the Russian delegation only arrived after it had officially started.

Six delegations are attending the talks. In addition to the Georgians and Russians they represent the US, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the UN.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in Geneva for the meeting, told journalists on Tuesday that negotiations would require "time and patience".

The meeting is taking place behind closed doors. It is planned to hold two plenary sessions as well as individual meetings to discuss ways to improve security and the issue of refugees.

The talks were initiated by France, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU. The first target is to establish a process to deal with the most urgent humanitarian needs.

The EU wants to organise meetings every two weeks to keep up the pressure on both sides.

The conflict broke out when Georgia launched military strikes against its breakaway region of South Ossetia in an attempt to regain control. Russia, which had granted passports to most South Ossetians, responded with overwhelming military force, driving the Georgians back. Russia has subsequently recognised the independence of South Ossetia and of a second breakaway region, Abkhazia.


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