Sarkozy in Moscow to enforce Georgia ceasefire plan


Moscow : French President Nicolas Sarkozy will spearhead international efforts to pressure Russia into withdrawing more troops from Georgia, in talks in Moscow and Tbilisi Monday to save the ceasefire pact he brokered last month.

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Sarkozy is attempting to force Moscow’s full compliance with the accord that stopped the five-day war over South Ossetia, by threatening to suspend talks on a new partnership agreement between the European Union (EU) and Russia.

France currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

The EU has said that it will postpone the next round of talks towards a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which governs Russia’s practical relationship with the EU trading bloc, unless a full withdrawal to Aug 6 positions has been made.

The talks are scheduled for Sep 15.

Moscow has shown no signs of softening its position. It refers to its troops still in Georgia’s Black Sea port of Poti and in a seven-kilometre buffer zone around the breakaway states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as “peacekeepers”.

Monday’s talks in Moscow are likely to be less about hard results than cooling tensions.

Sarkozy, flanked by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, is set to meet Medvedev at his residence outside Moscow at 1100 GMT.

In an exercise of shuttle diplomacy after Russia and Georgia swore off direct talks, the three are set to fly to Tbilisi for talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in the evening.

One concrete goal sought by EU negotiators will be for 200 monitors to replace that same number of Russian “peacekeepers” still in check points inside Georgia.

Russia has said it won’t pull out troops unless European military observers step in. The OSCE currently has only 20 observers in Georgia.

Russia also insists that the Georgian side sign a non-aggression pact before returning to the other six points of last month’s ceasefire agreement.

Under the accord, Russia and its former Soviet neighbour are not permitted to discuss the status of the Georgia’s regions, but Moscow recognized the independence of the two provinces on Aug 26, leading to the current deadlock.