Sarkozy to seek Russian breakthrough on Georgia

September 08, 2008, Monday/ 17:50:00
French President Nicolas Sarkozy will travel to Moscow today to tell Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to comply with a month-old peace plan for Georgia or risk damaging relations with the European Union.Four weeks after Sarkozy brokered the cease-fire deal between Russia and its smaller neighbor, the West says Moscow has yet to honor 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 today.

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. Paris Reuters

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