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Lavrov urges Georgia to join in talks

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Georgia's refusal to attend talks in Geneva with its breakaway regions would be seen as a "challenge," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.

Grigol Vashadze, a deputy foreign minister in Georgia, said his country would be willing to attend the Geneva talks but would oppose South Ossetia and Abkhazia joining them, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

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Later Tuesday, another deputy foreign minister, said Georgia would be willing to participate in informal talks with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But he said "legitimate" authorities from the two regions would have to be at the table as well, meaning the officials recognized by Georgia.

"If Georgia really refuses to participate in the Geneva discussions while South Ossetian and Abkhazian representatives attend, this is sad," Lavrov said. "It is an outright challenge to all those concerned about regional security."

The talks are to resume Nov. 18. Pierre Morel, the European Union representative, said they were suspended in October for "procedural difficulties."

South Ossetia and Abkhazia have unilaterally declared independence but are only recognized by Russia.

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