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South Ossetian Leader Hopes Next Year Will Bring Peace --> President Eduard Kokoity (file photo) (epa) 14 December 2005 -- The president of Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia said todayhe hoped a peace agreement with Tbilisi would be reached next year.

Addressing reporters in Tskhinvali, Eduard Kokoity said he believed this objective would be attained only if Georgia and South Ossetia talk to each other directly, not through third parties.

"We're extending the hand of friendship to the Georgian side. Our [hope] is that the upcoming new year will make the citizens of South Ossetia confident that 2006 will be the year of stability and peace," Kokoity said.

Kokoity added that he was ready to meet with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to discuss his own proposals to settle the 15-year-old Georgian-South Ossetian dispute.

Kokoity's proposals were made public on 12 December. They call for demilitarization of the conflict zone, confidence-building measures, and economic reconstruction.

Georgia welcomed the proposals, calling them a "step forward" that matches its own peace plan. Russia, which is South Ossetia's main sponsor, also praised Kokoity's initiative.

(Imedi TV)

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