French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev not to station missiles on Europe's border in reaction to US plans for a missile shield. He promised to back Russian calls for a new continental security treaty.
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy urged Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev Friday not to deploy missiles on Europe's border, promising to support his call for a new continental security treaty.
Moscow has reacted with fury to US plans to expand a missile defence system into Eastern Europe, seeing it as an attempt to gain the strategic upper hand, and has announced a plan to respond with new weapons of its own.
Medvedev, already at odds with the West over August's war in Georgia, has threatened to deploy medium-range Iskander missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad region that could strike targets across northern and eastern Europe.
Speaking after an EU-Russia summit in Nice, Sarkozy said he had tried to assuage Russian anger by giving his backing to Medvedev's desire to renegotiate the security agreements governing Europe since the end of the Cold War.
"I told President Medvedev how much we are concerned about his declarations, and how there should be no deployment in any enclave as long as we have not discussed the new geopolitical conditions of pan-European security," he said.
Sarkozy said he would bring up the missile question at a NATO summit in April and called for a security summit with Russia under the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
"I propose that in mid-2009 we meet in a framework, which could be the OSCE, to lay the foundations of what could be Europe's future security," he said, urging Moscow to refrain from unilateral measures.
"It would not be a conclusive summit, but we could lay the foundations of what could be an accord between us," Sarkozy said.
"Until then we should not talk about missile deployments which lead to nothing for security, which complicate things and rather make things go backwards," he said, standing alongside Medvedev.
Medvedev welcomed the idea of security talks, but was far from mollified. Rather than standing down his missile threat, he insisted that it had come in response to unilateral decisions by US allies in Europe.
Russia's move was "a response to various nations in Europe who, without consulting anyone, agreed to deploy new weapons on their soil," he said. Poland and the Czech Republic have agreed to host elements of the US missile shield.
Washington insists its system is a defensive project designed to intercept missiles fired by so-called "rogue states" -- such as Iran -- while Moscow regards it as an attempt to undermine its strategic deterrent.
Friday's summit, which included talks on Europe and Russia's plans to deal with the global economic crisis, also underlined tensions over the situation in Georgia, where Russian troops are deployed in two breakaway regions.
Again, Sarkozy was careful to reach out to his Russian colleague, thanking him for having "largely implemented" the terms of a promised withdrawal from positions occupied in Georgia.
But the French leader also called on Medvedev to complete the pull-out from a village in a district on the outskirts of the South Ossetia, which Russia regards as independent and Georgia as illegally occupied territory.
"I had an opportunity to say to Mr Medvedev that there needs to be progress on the retreat of Russian forces in two particular parts of Ossetia, I'm thinking of Akhalgori and Perevi, outside South Ossetia," he said.
Medvedev reiterated Moscow's support for the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a second Russian-occupied Georgian region.
Under the terms of a ceasefire brokered by Sarkozy in August, Russian forces were supposed to return to their previous positions. Tbilisi insists that this has not happened and Europe has called for further withdrawals.
Date created : 2008-11-14