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Sarkozy In Moscow To Discuss Georgian Cease-Fire

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is in Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.

Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the rotating European Union presidency, is trying to persuade Russia to fully implement an accord to end its conflict with Georgia and remove its forces from the country's territory.

"I fully share the point of view of President Medvedev that the starting point is the agreement," Sarkozy said at the start of talks. "It is precisely this agreement which should be carried out.

"I have no doubt that if everyone acts responsibly, we will find a solution," he continued. "Like our Russian friends, we want to strongly defend our convictions."

Sarkozy is accompanied on his mission by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

The European delegation will then head to Georgia to brief President Mikheil Saakashvili on the negotiations.

Russian troops entered Georgia on August 8 following an attempt by Georgian troops to restore control over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Phased Pullout

The EU is seeking to secure a phased pullout of Russian troops, first from within Georgia proper and later -- in part, at least -- from South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian republic, Abkhazia.

But Russian officials have made clear that they disagree with the EU's interpretation of the six-point cease-fire plan negotiated by Sarkozy on August 12.

Moscow says the cease-fire entitles it to a continued military presence in a "buffer zone" abutting the territory of South Ossetia along its border with Georgia.

The European trio is also expected to press Russia on arrangements to monitor developments on the ground.

The EU stands ready to contribute observers to an Organization for Security and Cooperatio in Europe mission currently in the process of being deployed in Georgia. On September 15, the bloc will also formally declare itself ready to send its own, separate team of 200 monitors to the country.

Allegations Of Ethnic Cleansing

Meanwhile, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has opened hearings in a legal bid by Georgia to end alleged "ethnic cleansing" in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Georgia is asking the court to order Russia to halt the alleged abuses, including physical violence causing civilian deaths. Tbilisi is also asking that Russia allow the safe return of Georgians displaced by the violence.

The hearing is expected to last three days. A judgment is not expected for several weeks. However, the ICJ has no power to enforce its judgments.

At an emergency summit in Brussels earlier this month, EU leaders agreed to postpone talks with Russia on a new partnership pact if Moscow has not withdrawn its troops to pre-conflict positions in Georgia by the start of the talks, scheduled for September 15-16. The pact is due to regulate relations in the energy sector and on trade.

On September 6, in the southern French city of Avignon, the EU's 27 foreign ministers agreed to move ahead with easing current visa restrictions on Georgia and establishing free trade with the country. The EU has pledged 100 million euros in aid ahead of a donors' conference for Georgia in October.

with agency reports
Crisis In Georgia
For RFE/RL's full coverage of the conflict that began in Georgia's breakway region of South Ossetia, click here.