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EU calls for Georgia probe as crunch Moscow visit looms

Posted by seumasach on September 6, 2008


6th Septenber, 2008
Avignon, France – International experts should investigate who carries the blame for starting the war between Georgia and Russia in August, European Union foreign ministers agreed Saturday ahead of a crunch EU mission to Moscow and Tbilisi. “We were all together in favour of an international inquiry. No allegation, no provocation without proof: we have to know what happened,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who chaired the informal meeting in the French town of Avignon, said.


The foreign ministers of the bloc’s 27 member states had agreed unanimously that there should be an investigation into the causes of the war, “even if it hurts feelings,” Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said. 

That agreement came as French President Nicolas Sarkozy was preparing a crucial visit to Moscow and Tbilisi on Monday in which he was mandated by the EU to demand that Russia pull all its troops out of Georgia in line with a peace deal he brokered in August. 

EU leaders at an emergency summit on Monday agreed that if Russia does not pull out, they will freeze negotiations on a future strategic treaty with their biggest neighbour. 

“We expect Russia to respect the engagements of the (peace) plan,” Kouchner said. So far Moscow has only lived up to three of the six points it agreed to in the plan, with the most important breach being that it still has troops in Georgia, he said. 

He dismissed claims that Russia’s recognition of the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was in breach of the plan, saying that the document rather called for an end to hostilities and the opening of peace talks. 

But the recognition question remains a major long-term stumbling block, with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt saying that “we’ll have to look at all of this in a longer perspective to de-recognize them in the ways that are possible.” 

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said, “The first duty is the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia, then we should deal in practice with what this recognition means on the ground, and what could be the steps from the international community.” 

Ahead of the meeting, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on the EU to launch an investigation into the causes of the Georgian-Russian war. 

“If we are going to think about how our relationship should develop with the conflict partners … it’s important to find out who played what role in the escalation leading up to the armed conflict,” he said. 

Initial proposals were that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – whose current chairman, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, was at the meeting – should organize an “objective” investigation into the “origins and causes” of the conflict, Moratinos said. 

Such an investigation “would not be a bad thing,” the EU’s top diplomat, Javier Solana, who is also set to travel to Moscow and Tbilisi on Monday, said. 

Paet added, “It’s absolutely necessary to let in international observers who can give an objective assessment of what happened and what is going on. We all heard lots of rumours … so it’s absolutely necessary that the objective international enquiry team can start work, but there is an issue that Russia won’t let them in.” 

Separately, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called for a UN fact-finding mission to be sent to the Caucasus, Kouchner said.

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