EU Leaders Talk Tough, but Act Softly, Toward Moscow

At an emergency Sept. 1 meeting in Brussels, European Union leaders adopted the unexpectedly stern stance of threatening to suspend negotiations with Moscow on a renewed cooperative framework agreement unless Russian troops withdraw from Georgia. The decision was amplified by the drama of the gathering, which represented the first emergency session of the EU heads of government, formally known as the European Council, since the beginning of the 2003 Gulf War.

According to the statement of the Extraordinary European Council, "Until troops have withdrawn to the positions held prior to 7 August," when they first intervened in Georgia, "meetings on the negotiation of the Partnership Agreement will be postponed" beyond their scheduled Sept. 15 start date. The heads of the 27 EU governments also explicitly condemned Russia's "disproportionate reaction" to the South Ossetian crisis, rejected as "unacceptable" Moscow's decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and urged other national governments to refrain from offering similar recognition.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, will lead a high-level EU delegation to Moscow and Tbilisi on Sept. 8 to review implementation of the six- point peace plan he negotiated between Russia and Georgia last month. If Sarkozy, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana find that Russia is not fulfilling its commitment to withdraw troops by then, the EU would postpone the opening of the talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).

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