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16 Oct, 2008 06:29

EU keeps Russia on waiting list

The EU has decided to put off making a decision on the renewal of talks concerning a new EU-Russia partnership agreement. It's been put on hold since the conflict with Georgia in the summer. On day two of the EU summit in Brussels European leaders are dis

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told journalists he hopes the EU will manage to come to any conclusion about the partnership agreement before November 14. Another Russia-EU summit will be held on this date to discuss a whole range of bilateral issues.

To watch the latest report from Brussels, please follow the link.

The thorny issue of Russia and Georgia remains very much in European minds with no less than three European cities dealing with the issue on Wednesday.The region's security and humanitarian challenges were on the agenda in Geneva, where EU and UN sponsored discussions with Russia and Georgia were held. But the high-profile meeting seems to have come unstuck over whether or not South Ossetia and Abkhazia should be given a voice.

“We’ll only take part in the discussions as equal members of the process. This time, the Georgian side was against it, so nothing happened at all,” said Sergey Shamba, Abkhazian Foreign Minister.

Moscow, which officially recognises both republics, says the talks can achieve nothing without them. They've now been postponed until next month to allow all sides to reach a resolve.

Georgia refused to take part in the plenary session.
“That' deprives us of the opportunity to clearly express our opinions, including those we prepared for the Georgian representatives,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin.

Tbilisi has appealed to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to stop what it calls a campaign of “racial discrimination” by Russia against Georgians living in the breakaway regions. But the court rejected Georgia’s request to indict Russia for violating its territorial integrity. Instead, the court ordered both countries to refrain from any further acts of war and racial discrimination, and to prevent human rights abuse and help with aid.

In Brussels, if EU leaders who are meeting there find the time to talk about anything other than the global economic meltdown, they may turn their attention to a new Russia-EU partnership agreement.

The old one expired at the end of last year. Talks on the deal were frozen by the EU on September 1, and some nations still seem keen to keep Moscow on the back burner. Thus British Foreign Secretary David Miliband believes that today “is not the day to restart talks” and that the partnership and cooperation agreement can be discussed “in due course”.

But France, Germany and Italy are promoting a speedy relaunch of the talks after Russia withdrew its troops from security zones in Georgia.

“Of course nothing is ideal but look at what has already been achieved. In less than two months there has been a ceasefire, the pullout of Russian troops and the talks on the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have already started,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at the Brussels summit. “We should have a frank, open and friendly dialogue with Russia, especially in the context of our energy security.”

Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was even prepared to go further.

“I feel that Russia is a Western nation. My project is that, in the coming years, the Russian Federation can become a member of the EU,” he said.

The first day in Brussels didn’t make the situation on the new Russia EU agreement any clearer. What is clear though is that Russia and Georgia remain high on the European agenda and the European Union is likely to refrain from any harsh statements, keeping its own interests in mind, especially with the financial crisis as a backdrop.

Related links

Georgia torpedoes talks on South Ossetia – Moscow
Russia-EU relations on the line?
EU to delay Russian partnership talks