Red-faced EU postpones Georgia peace talks over date clash

Georgia Materials 15 September 2008 21:16 (UTC +04:00)

Red-faced European Union diplomats on Monday confirmed that a peace conference on the Georgian crisis, initially scheduled to be held in Geneva on October 15, would have to be moved because it clashes with a long-planned EU summit in Brussels.

"We arranged (the peace talks) for October 15 ... that was a bit of a slip-up because there will be a (European) council (summit). So it will be a little bit later," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said after a meeting with EU counterparts.

Last week French President Nicolas Sarkozy, acting as the current chairman of the EU's rotating presidency, agreed with his Russian and Georgian counterparts that the EU would chair "international talks on the modalities of security and stability in Abkhazia and South Ossetia", with the talks due to begin in Geneva on October 15.

But Sarkozy apparently overlooked that he was already scheduled to chair a summit of EU heads of state and government in Brussels on the same day - leaving diplomats in Brussels scratching their heads over how the talks could be arranged.

"We don't know anything" about the meeting, one EU diplomat lamented to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa ahead of Monday's talks.

Following the mix-up, EU ministers decided to shift the date of the peace talks.

"In the document signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev it states very clearly that there will be an international conference, but because we have a summit on (October 15), it will be on another day. It is going to happen very soon," Kouchner said.

"The date will certainly be moved. It will be moved some days before or after - more likely after," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.

October's summit is set to discuss hot issues such as global warming and financial turmoil.

It is also expected to debate the Georgian situation, as the EU has pledged to deploy at least 200 observers to Georgia by October 1 and Russia has promised to pull out of Georgia by 10 days later, dpa reported.