18 August 2004 -- Georgia today reiterated a call for an international conference to end the escalating violence in its separatist republic of South Ossetia.
Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili made the request during an address to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow that Russia sees no need for such a forum.
"As for South Ossetia, settlement mechanisms do exist. Those are the Joint Control Commission and the [joint] peacekeeping forces. These mechanisms work. In these circumstances, one should not look forward to convening a new forum but rather to implementing those agreements that are being reached in the framework of existing forums," he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in televised comments from the Russian Black Sea resort town of Sochi, blamed the persistent conflict on what he called the "foolish" decision by Georgia after the breakup of the Soviet Union to revoke the autonomous status of South Ossetia and another separatist republic, Abkhazia.
Georgia says nine of its soldiers were killed in the conflict zone in less than a week. Georgia and South Ossetia have blamed each other for the fighting, and now suggest rogue elements may be attempting to trigger a large-scale conflict. Zourabichvili today said militant Cossacks were entering South Ossetia from Russia to fight alongside separatist forces.
(Reuters/AFP/AP) For the latest news on the tensions in South Ossetia, see RFE/RL's webpage on Ossetia and Georgia.