EU-Russia pact on hold as Georgia talks collapse

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The EU summit today (16 October) postponed a decision to resume talks on a new partnership agreement with Moscow until an EU-Russia summit in Nice, scheduled for 14 November.

Meanwhile, talks on a post-conflict agreement following the short August war between Russia and Georgia collapsed in Geneva after a disagreement over the participation of Georgian breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. 

EU leaders attending the Brussels summit said they welcomed the withdrawal of Russian troops from the breakaway regions and the launch of the Geneva talks, but kept on hold negotiations over a wide-ranging trade pact with Russia. 

The launch of the Geneva talks (EURACTIV 15/10/08) coincided with the EU summit and helped to divert attention away from post-conflict management in the Caucasus, while leaders struggled to find common ground on the financial crisis and the climate change package. But all eyes were soon back on Brussels, after the Geneva talks abruptly ended just half-an-hour after they began. 

Russia’s insistence that South Ossetian and Abkhaz leaders be invited to the table (EURACTIV 03/10/08) reportedly prompted the Georgian delegation to leave. EU representative Pierre Morel said the talks had encountered “procedural difficulties”, explaining that the parties would meet again on 18 November. 

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he hoped a decision to start talks with Russia could be agreed if there were to be a positive evaluation of the situation before the EU-Russia summit. 

The fact that the Geneva talks will only resume on 19 November does not appear to help the French EU Presidency’s plans to launch negotiations over a new basic treaty with Russia, diplomats said. Several EU countries remain opposed to starting negotiations with Russia, taking the view that Moscow has failed to comply with the EU-brokered peace plan and increased its military presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. 

Polish President Lech Kaczy?ski, who arrived at the summit despite not being invited (EURACTIV 16/10/08), told the Polish press that his country would reject the EU Council’s decisions if it proved impossible for Europe to present a united front on how to handle Georgia. 

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