Russia’s troop pull-out from Georgia not enough: EU

October 16th, 2008 - 10:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, Oct 16 (DPA) European Union leaders agreed Thursday to harden their common stance towards Russia by saying its partial troop withdrawal from Georgia was not a sufficient reason to reopen talks on a cooperation deal with Moscow.While welcoming the Russian pull-out from the areas adjacent to the separatist enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, EU leaders meeting for a summit in Brussels insisted that this was only an “essential supplementary step” for the implementation of international peace accords.

“All 27 EU member states welcome the withdrawals while recognising that they do not completely finish Russia’s commitment under the peace plan of Aug 12,” said British Foreign Minister David Miliband.

The insistence by Britain, Sweden and the Baltic nations that Russia needs to do more risks dashing the hopes of those politicians who want a quick re-start of talks on a key strategic deal with Russia.

At an emergency summit held Sep 1, EU leaders decided to freeze further talks on a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Russia “until (its) troops have withdrawn to positions they held prior to Aug 7,” when the war broke out.

Since then, EU nations have split between those who argue that Russia’s withdrawal from core Georgia is enough to re-start PCA talks, and those who say Russia would also have to scale down its strengthened presence in the two separatist enclaves.

On Thursday, EU leaders effectively delayed any decision until the European Commission presents a “full in-depth evaluation of EU-Russia relations,” to be discussed by EU foreign ministers Nov 10.

That leaves foreign ministers just days to decide on a relaunch of the PCA talks ahead of an EU-Russia summit set for Nov 14.

The EU summit ended a day after a first round of peace talks between Georgia and Russia collapsed in Geneva, prompting EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to express scepticism about the chance of those talks succeeding.

“After the big tension in August, it is very difficult to get face-to-face talks. But we will do everything possible,” Solana said.

The Geneva talks, co-hosted by the EU, United Nations and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), are now expected to resume Nov 18.

Meanwhile, the EU has sent a monitoring mission (EUMM) to Georgia to oversee Russia’s withdrawal from core Georgia, as agreed in an international peace deal brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The PCA is a contract governing matters such as trade, investment, environmental protection, tourism, and cultural exchanges between the EU and Russia.

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