Sarkozy in Russia to revive peace plan

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has landed in Russia. Sarkozy, who has the European Union backing, is seeking full withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia and hoping to calm escalating tensions between Moscow and the West.


French President Nicolas Sarkozy, head of the rotating European Union presidency, travelled to Moscow and Tbilisi Monday to try and obtain the full application of the Georgia peace agreement which the Russians have kept postponing since August.


Sarkozy initially negotiated a ceasefire agreement on August 12. But several of France’s European partners have criticized the negotiated terms.


Sarkozy won’t be going alone, this time.


The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and EU chief diplomat Javier Solana are travelling alongside the French president, who can count on the unanimous support of his European neighbours this time around. A meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has been scheduled for 0930 GMT.




Three key negotiating points



Sarkozy hopes to break the deadlock on three aspects of the peace agreement.


The first point is about the deployment of a mission of independent observers in Georgia. The EU would like to add its own civilian observers to the UN mission in Abkhazia and the OSCE’s project in South Ossetia.


Secondly, the French presidency would like to obtain from Russia the precise dates, commitment and procedures needed to guarantee the withdrawal of Russian troops still stationed in Georgia outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia.


Moscow claims that the only troops left are those in the buffer zones, as stated in point 5 of the agreement. France alleges that close to a thousand troops are still deployed around Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


Last but not least, Sarkozy expects from Moscow that it give the date and place to start discussions as planned in point 6 of the agreement on the “security and stability” of the two Georgian separatist republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.



The EU’s credibility at stake



If the crisis were to last beyond the meeting, then the question of the sanctions would be back on the table. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner remained cautious Saturday. "Let’s give Medvedev a chance to stick to his commitment. Of the six points in the agreement, only two, maybe three have been observed.”  The cancellation of the EU-Russia summit of November 14 is one of the sanctions considered.


The meeting could be decisive for the future of EU-Russia relations. “In this conflict, the EU has the opportunity to flaunt itself as an equal of the United States,” Yvan Rioufol, an editorialist for French daily le Figaro, said on FRANCE 24.


After Moscow, the three European leaders will make their way to Georgia, where they are scheduled to meet President Mikhheïl Saakachvili at 15:20 GMT.



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