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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Churkin Upbeat on Geneva Cease-Fire Talks

SARAJEVO -- Russian special envoy Vitaly Churkin on Wednesday expressed cautious optimism that cease-fire talks between rival Bosnian factions would go ahead in Geneva on Thursday as scheduled. Churkin, special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, told reporters after meeting Bosnian government leaders that the main obstacle to the meeting was the government's refusal to attend unless Serb troops leave the Moslem enclave of Gorazde. The UN ordered Serb attackers to withdraw from a three-kilometer exclusion zone around the town last month under threat of NATO air strikes, but the Serbs left behind about 150 troops acting as police. The Serbs argue that the troops are there to keep order and protect Serb refugees who resettled homes they had to abandon in 1992 when the Moslems drove the Serb population out. Churkin said UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi, who called for the cease-fire talks in Geneva this Thursday and Friday, would decide if the Serbs had met conditions of the exclusion order. "If he decides that things have been performed adequately in Gorazde, that his demands have been complied with, I hope the meeting will take place and everyone will attend." But Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic responded coolly to the proposal, saying: "Mr. Akashi can sell us out. We have to see if there is a resolution." Churkin said he was assured by Serbian leaders that the Bosnian Serbs wanted the Geneva talks and would do everything to make them possible.