Negotiations between Georgia's State Minister for Separatist Conflicts Georgy Khaindrava and Russia's ground forces deputy commander Lieutenant-General Valery Yevnevich will be continued on Friday in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia (a self-proclaimed republic in Georgian territory).
The sides will carry on discussion of how to stabilize the situation around South Ossetia, Mr. Khaindrava told RIA Novosti by telephone.
The minister recalled that the full-day talks he had with Yevnevich on Thursday resulted in an agreement to release Georgia's interior servicemen detained in South Ossetia.
Khaindrava did not rule out that later on Friday or on Saturday he would arrive in Moscow to discuss the situation surrounding South Ossetia.
The Novosti-Georgia agency reports that according to the Georgian side, an armed formation up to 200 men strong entered on Thursday morning the village of Vanati, situated in South Ossetia, and disarmed Georgian peacekeepers deployed there.
The South Ossetian authorities interpret these events differently. They said that the republic's law enforcement bodies are conducting an operation to discover and detain armed persons who are illegally staying on their territory and who have no papers.
South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity urged Georgian co-citizens to expel armed bandits from their villages no matter what uniforms they were wearing.
"Do not allow them to turn your land into a military bridgehead and kindle the flames of war. In response to your appeal we are ready to give you every assistance in bringing law and order, expelling bandit formations and providing reliable protection," Mr. Kokoity said in a statement addressed to the population of South Ossetia. Its text was circulated by the republic's information and press committee.
"The wisdom of our peoples and the common will to preserve peace should prove stronger than the aggressive plans of the Tbilisi hawks," the document noted. "The irresponsible actions of the leadership and law enforcement structures of Georgia show that Tbilisi is giving no thought to the fate of villages with a predominantly Georgian population in South Ossetia, making them hostage of its criminal policy," said Eduard Kokoity.
The Novosti-Georgia agency reported that the message stresses that "all Georgian armed formations in the conflict zone that do not belong to the peacekeeping force must be viewed as illegal. Peacekeepers must take measures to neutralise them."
The South Ossetian leader addressed the command of the peacekeeping force, asking it, in order to avoid provocations, to supply lists of all battalions of peacekeepers and also furnish the personnel with appropriate certificates and distinguishing marks.
Kokoity expressed his indignation at the detention on July 7 in the conflict zone by the Georgian side of two vehicles of Russian peacekeepers, which were carrying arms.
The head of South Ossetia said that "this is an example of the fact that the Georgian authorities have set course towards wrecking the peace process and are poised at any moment to resort to force."
Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili, who is on a visit to Iran until July 9, in his turn demanded that Russia "bring to its senses" the leadership of South Ossetia.
"The main responsibility in the present situation rests not with Eduard Kokoity, but with Russia and Russian peace-keepers who should do all they can to bring the Tskhinvali authorities to reason," Mr. Saakashvili told Georgian journalists during his visit to the Iranian province of Fereidan, which has a Georgian diaspora.
The president emphasized that "Georgia has many chances, but in the first place we should use all peace possibilities for settling the problem." "One must not take the lead from a criminal and smuggler (as he called the South Ossetian president)", he remarked.
The situation in South Ossetia was also discussed at a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (PA OSCE). The Georgian delegation said that it intends to table the issue of exacerbation of the situation in South Ossetia at a plenary meeting of the forum's session.
Nino Burdzhanadze, vice-chairman of the PA OSCE and head of the Georgian parliament, said in Thursday's interview with RIA Novosti that she succeeded in collecting "enough signatures for the parliamentary assembly to examine this question as an issue of prime importance." Such a procedure is envisaged in the rules of the PA OSCE session.
"We would be happy if this situation ends up in a settlement and we will not have to consider it at a plenary session," Ms Burdzhanadze noted. Otherwise, she said, "tomorrow (that is, on Friday) we will examine this question without fail".
Alexander Kozlovsky, deputy chairman of the international affairs committee of the State Duma (lower house of Russian parliament), speaking before the PA OSCE session, in his turn warned it against hasty conclusions, since, according to him, the words of the representatives of the Georgian delegation ran counter to what is said by the Russian leadership, in particular, the Foreign Ministry of Russia.
"I would like to believe that we will not allow our emotions to run away with us and without thorough analysis will not start examining some resolutions which can only do harm," he said.
Vladimir Kulakov, head of the Federation Council group in the Russian delegation to the PA OSCE session, noted in his speech: "The rostrum of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE should not be used for pursuing domestic political aims and objectives." "I have no doubt that this issue will be resolved in the next few days by the governments of our countries," he said.
Heikki Talvitie, European Union special representative for the South Caucasus, who is in Baku, in an interview with a RIA Novosti correspondent expressed hope that representatives of Georgian and South Ossetia would intensify contacts to settle the South Ossetian problem
"Without contacts it would be very difficult," he said, adding that he spoke of that during his visit to Georgia both in Tbilisi and Tskhinvali.
"The situation there is very strained and, I hope, the sides will do everything to lower the level of tension," Mr. Talvitie noted, saying that "there is hope that the parties to the conflict will be more pro-active in their contacts and talks with each other."
An explosion of household gas occurred in a nine-storeyed apartment building in the city of Shakhty, the Rostov region of Russia. The blast destroyed two storeys of the building