South Ossetia's says his region would become part of Russia
"We`re not intending to set up some independent Ossetia..."
South Ossetia`s separatist leader backtracked Thursday after initially saying his region would become part of Russia in the wake of last month`s conflict in Georgia.
`Of course we will become part of Russia. We`re not intending to set up some independent Ossetia,` Eduard Kokoity had been quoted as saying by the Russian news agency Interfax.
However, Kokoity later said his comments -- during a meeting of a Kremlin discussion group in the southern Russian Black Sea city of Sochi -- had been misunderstood.
`We are not planning to give up our independence, achieved at the cost of collosal casualties, and South Ossetia is not planning to join Russia,` Kokoity said, again quoted by Interfax.
Although many in the territory talk about unification with Russian North Ossetia, the territory `intends to build civilized international relations with all states within the framework of international law,` he said.
It was a Georgian military assault on August 7 to regain control of South Ossetia from Moscow-backed separatists that sparked the full-blown five-day war between Georgia and Russia last month.
Hundreds of people are estimated to have been killed.
After routing the Georgian army with its overwhelming military superiority, Moscow enraged the West a couple of weeks later by recognising the independence of South Ossetia and a second breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia.
Abkhazia`s leadership has always said it wants to remain formally independent from Russia, but Kokoity`s remarks Thursday were his clearest statement yet that South Ossetia hopes to one day become part of Russia.
South Ossetia`s ethnic kin inhabit the Russian province of North Ossetia just across the internationally recognised border between Russia and Georgia. There are strong trade and family ties between the two halves of Ossetia.