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EU: Brussels Welcomes End To Georgia Crisis

Brussels, 24 November 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The EU today said it welcomes the peaceful end to the crisis in Georgia, but warned that all sides must continue to refrain from violence and prepare for early elections.

Diego de Ojeda, a European Commission spokesman, today issued the following statement: "We welcome that the crisis in Georgia has [been] or is in the process of being resolved through dialogue, and certainly we urge all sides to maintain the situation as until now, that is, that they've all refrained from violence, which is of utmost importance. We hope that all the political parties in Georgia will now agree on conditions and calendar for bringing the situation forward by calling new elections."

De Ojeda said the EU will be closely cooperating with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) "as regards EU input into any monitoring of new elections when they are called for."

Cristina Gallach, the spokeswoman to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, told RFE/RL today that a special EU envoy, Heikki Talvitie, arrived in Tbilisi yesterday and will be staying "for a few days." Gallach said Talvitie has met ambassadors of EU countries resident in Tbilisi, the chairwoman of the Georgian parliament and now acting president, Nino Burdjanadze, as well as other leaders of the opposition.

Yesterday, Gallach said Solana held phone conversations with Eduard Shevardnadze, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Gallach said the envoy will be telling "all parties" in Georgia to return to the constitutional framework, prepare for free and fair elections, and ensure that the situation in the streets of Tbilisi returns to normal so that a "peaceful transition" can take place.

Gallach said Eduard Shevardnadze had acted "wisely" yesterday when he resigned the presidency to avoid bloodshed. She said the EU expects Georgia's leaders to extend Shevardnadze "dignified treatment," adding officials in Brussels do not know where he is at the moment.

Commission spokesman Diego de Ojeda told RFE/RL today the EU views as "positive" the mediating role played by Russia in securing a handover of power from Shevardnadze yesterday. "The Russian foreign minister, Mr. Ivanov, was dispatched to Tbilisi on behalf of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States]," de Ojeda said. "We believe that the CIS mediation efforts have been positive in ensuring that the situation gets back on track as soon as possible through dialogue and without violence, so in that sense it has been a positive intervention." But, de Ojeda stressed, "it is up to the political forces in Georgia to decide what steps to take."

An EU diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, told RFE/RL today that although the EU has received no formal request for assistance, the bloc would be ready to help the country with limited "crisis management" measures if necessary. The official said the EU could under its Rapid Reaction mechanism mobilize "small funds" to provide experts to help the new government to fight organized crime and corruption and reform the judiciary. The official said similar aid was recently provided to Venezuela after unrest there. The EU contribution then amounted to 600,000 euros ($700,000).

De Ojeda said the commission still has "no plans" to include Georgia -- or the other South Caucasus countries -- in the EU's "Wider Europe" program.

On 19 November, the European Parliament said all three countries should also benefit from the project, which envisages eventual participation in all EU activities except political decision making.