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Russian-Georgian talks suspended in Geneva

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

The European Union envoy to the meeting said that "procedural difficulties" had led to the suspension of the afternoon discussions and that it was hoped to resume them on November 18.

The Russian and Georgian sides never met face to face. A Georgian delegate said the Russians had not turned up for the morning's plenary session. The foreign minister of Abkhazia - the breakaway region of Georgia which is represented in the Russian delegation - told journalists there had been two separate meetings, with the Russians and Abkhaz at the one, and the Georgians at the other.

It had been hoped that the talks would provide a framework for the first meeting between representatives of the two sides since the armed conflict between them at the beginning of August.

Six delegations were attending the talks. In addition to the Georgians and Russians they represented 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, warned journalists on Tuesday that negotiations would require "time and patience".

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

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 Abkhazia.


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