German chancellor Merkel calls for immediate Georgia ceasefire
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Sunday for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in the Georgia conflict, the dpa reported. Deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg said that Merkel had held a telephone call with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss the situation, calling as well for forces on both sides to return their troops to their positions before the fighting. Merkel expressed her great worry about a further escalation with dramatic consequences for the civilian population, Steg said. The German chancellor also demanded that Georgia's territorial integrity be respected, and that Russian air attacks on Georgia had to stop immediately. France currently holds the European Union (EU) presidency, with Merkel pledging Germany's support for French efforts to attain an end to the military conflict and reach a political settlement. Merkel and Sarkozy agreed to stay in close consultation over the issue. Earlier, Paris announced that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was to go Sunday to Tbilisi and then likely travel on to Moscow on Monday in a bid to get the two sides to agree to a ceasefire.