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U.S. To Take Part In Russia-Georgia Talks, Diplomats Say


GENEVA (Reuters) -- The United States will join the talks Russia and Georgia are holding on October 15 following their war in August, diplomats say.

The talks, organized by the European Union, United Nations, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), aim to promote stability and security in the region and help refugees and displaced people hit by the fighting.

U.S. participation seems to have been part of diplomatic wrangling in the run-up to the talks, which will also see officials from Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkazia taking part only in informal sessions.

Months of skirmishes between separatists and Georgian troops erupted into war in August when Georgia sent troops and tanks to retake the pro-Russian rebel region of South Ossetia, which threw off Tbilisi's rule in 1991-92. Russia responded with a powerful counterstrike that drove the Georgian Army out of South Ossetia.

Moscow's troops then pushed further into Georgia, saying they needed to prevent further Georgian attacks.

Last week Moscow pulled out of buffer zones adjacent to the rebel regions ahead of an October 10 deadline in a cease-fire brokered by France as current president of the EU.

The West has condemned Russia for a "disproportionate response" to Georgia's actions and had repeatedly demanded that Moscow pull its troops out of core Georgia, which the United States views as an ally in the region.

Moscow -- joined only by Nicaragua -- has now recognized the independence of the two regions. But Georgia had rejected talks at which representatives of the two regions would have an official status.

However, diplomats said all parties recognized the need to set protocol aside and start talking.

"If we can create a process now it will give a lot of security to people in the region," said one European diplomat.

The three groups organizing the talks -- billed strictly as discussions, not a formal conference -- all have observers in Georgia proper or in the breakaway regions.
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