French President Sarkozy to seek Russian breakthrough on Georgia

10:07, 08 September 2008
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The West says Moscow has yet to honour the cease-fire plan

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will travel to Moscow on Monday to tell Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to comply with a month-old peace plan for Georgia or risk damaging relations with the European Union, Hot News Turkey reports.

Four weeks after Sarkozy brokered the ceasefire deal between Russia and its smaller neighbour, the West says Moscow has yet to honour half of the six-point plan, including pulling troops back to positions they held before a brief war with Georgia.

The kremlin says a provision in the deal allowing it to conduct `special measures` permits the stationing of troops in a buffer zone around South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- an interpretation Tbilisi, and the West, denies.

Sarkozy is returning to Moscow with the backing of the European Union, which agreed last week to postpone talks with Russia on a new partnership pact scheduled for later this month if Moscow did not pull back its forces.

In addition to a withdrawal, he will press Russia to accept more international observers to monitor the pullout, and to set up talks on security arrangements in the rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Russia stormed after Georgia tried to take back South Ossetia last month, officials said.

"It seems to us that it would be good to manage in Moscow to set a date and a place for these international discussions," an official close to Sarkozy told reporters ahead of the trip. The talks are part of the six-point plan agreed by both sides.

Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, will be accompanied on the trip by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

The EU has condemned Russia`s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states -- a move followed only by Nicaragua -- and said the peace plan must be fully respected.


EU foreign ministers meeting in the southern French town of Avignon this weekend would not comment on what steps the 27-nation bloc might take next towards Russia, saying everything depended on the outcome of Sarkozy`s talks on Monday.

The EU has so far stopped short of imposing sanctions against Europe`s largest energy supplier, but one EU diplomat said Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Poland had already called for punitive measures to be taken if there is no progress.

In a sign of increased Russian cooperation ahead of the visit, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Saturday its team of around 20 observers were now able to circulate freely throughout Georgia. It aims to send more observers soon.

EU foreign ministers meeting on Saturday approved plans for a civilian EU monitoring mission to work alongside OSCE observers in Georgia, increasing pressure on Russia to withdraw.

"The aim is clear: as big a deployment as possible so the Russians can leave as quickly as possible," one French official told reporters.

After his talks in Moscow, Sarkozy will head to Georgia to brief President Mikheil Saakashvili on the negotiations. He is then due to attend a summit on Tuesday between the EU and Ukraine, a country wich French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has said might be next in Moscow`s sights after Georgia.

The Georgian conflict has sparked calls from some EU countries for the bloc to deepen ties with Ukraine and other countries in the region.

EU officials say they will do so at the summit in Evian, near the Swiss border, at which the bloc is expected to offer Ukraine an `association agreement`, a type of accord that can, but does not necessarily, prepare a country for EU membership.

Georgia will seek a ruling from the U.N`s highest court in the Hague on Monday ordering Russia to stop what it says are human rights violations against ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In an emergency three-day hearing at the ICJ or World Court, which investigates disputes between nations, Georgia will also request that Russia allow the safe return home of Georgian refugees displaced by the violence.

Hot News Turkey

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