Russia upbeat over no sanctions from EU over Georgia

September 3rd, 2008 - 12:47 am ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Sep 2 (DPA) Russia’s top leaders were upbeat Tuesday in the wake of the European Union’s (EU) recent refusal to hit the Kremlin with sanctions over its continued troop presence in Georgia.The EU’s emergency summit Monday on the Caucasus produced a statement sharply criticising Russia, but imposing no sanctions for retaining ground forces in Georgian territory, and recognising the renegade Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking via the Interfax news agency, even gave some praise to the EU leaders’ collective position on the Russo-Georgian war, calling the EU’s view of the conflict “a realistic point of view”.

The relative closeness between the majority of nations gathered in Brussels and Moscow on the conflict makes possible “the (further) development of relations between Russia and the EU”, he said.

Britain and Poland were outspoken but in the minority in favour of hitting Russia with sanctions. A majority led by France and Germany prevailed with a decision for no early sanctions.

Asked by reporters about the danger of Russian international isolation given no other nation’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent, Medvedev responded “Russia cannot be isolated”.

Medvedev said he was sorry the EU at its Monday emergency summit failed to agree totally with Moscow’s arguments that its troop presence in Georgia was not violating ceasefire terms, but added: “This is sad, but it is not fatal”.

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the world’s disagreement with Russia’s view that the two Georgian territories as a result of the war had now become independent states was not an important factor in Kremlin thinking, saying “For us it (world approval) is absolutely uncritical”.

Russia’s top priorities remained “guaranteeing regional security” and “protecting our citizens”, Putin told the local media during a visit to Tadjikistan capital Tashkent.

Russia’s continuing military presence in Georgia - which, according to Tbilisi, includes combat formations operating as many as two dozen checkpoints controlling most traffic in the country - has, according to Putin, little effect on the Georgian economy.

“We have no troops in Georgia, there are only peacekeepers,” Putin said. “There are only 500 of them … and their only job is to maintain security.”

The terms of an Aug 16 ceasefire agreement brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and signed by Medvedev committed both Russia and Georgia to returning troops to pre-war positions, but according to Kremlin officials permits “additional security measures” allowing Moscow to station troops within Georgia proper.

The moderate EU position on Georgia would assist “both sides in mutually-advantageous cooperation”, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

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