Kouchner says EU nations may consider Russia sanctions

Georgia Materials 28 August 2008 19:16 (UTC +04:00)

Three days before an emergency EU summit in Brussels, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Thursday said some European nations were considering imposing sanctions against Russia as a result of its actions in Georgia, reported dpa.

However, he later denied some press reports suggesting that he was in favour of sanctions against Moscow because of the crisis in the Caucasus.

Addressing journalists early Thursday, Kouchner said "sanctions were being considered, as well as other means" to address the issue, but he did not specify.

"I, myself, would not anticipate sanctions (being imposed) while the meeting has not yet taken place," said Kouchner. France is currently president of the Union and has been at the forefront of the EU's attempts to resolve the crisis.

It was the first time France had brought up the possibility of sanctions against Moscow.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed such action, saying Kouchner "says a lot of things."

He noted the French minister had also expressed fear that Russia could move its military into Moldova and the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, news agency Interfax reported.

"To me, this outpouring demonstrates utter confusion," Lavrov told journalists on the sidelines of a summit of Asian states in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe.

Russia was gunning for support from China and four Central Asian states that are fellow members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at the summit Wednesday as the Western leaders debated measures to punish Moscow for its actions in Georgia.

However, a spokeswoman at the French Foreign Ministry told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that Kouchner's statement regarding sanctions referred only to a handful of EU member nations who could raise the possibility at Monday's summit.

The ministry also issued a statement declaring that "if certain (nations) are considering sanctions, France's position as head of the European Union is to obtain a common position for the entire European Union."

It is widely believed that Poland and the three Baltic nations could ask the EU to impose sanctions on Monday.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski was slated to meet with his counterparts from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia either on Thursday or Monday to work out a common stance on Georgia for the emergency summit, his chancellery told Radio ZET on Thursday.

"There's an expectation from the Baltic states that the president in Brussels will present a common stance of... the three Baltic states and Poland," said Piotr Kownacki, vice-chief of the president's chancellery.

Demands for diplomatic action against Russia have grown louder since Moscow recognized the independence of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Kouchner said the aim of Monday's extraordinary summit, the first such crisis meeting since the 2003 Iraq war, would be to "draw up a strong statement reflecting our determination not to accept" the situation in Georgia.