EU seeks common response to Georgia-Russia crisis

Other News Materials 13 August 2008 13:35 (UTC +04:00)

The European Union's foreign ministers were Wednesday seeking to find a united response to Georgia's conflict with Russia at an extraordinary meeting in Brussels, dpa reported.

The ministers were due to be briefed by their colleague Bernard Kouchner, who has just toured the region on behalf of the French presidency of the bloc, about his country's efforts to broker a ceasefire.

On Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared an end to Russian military operations in its neighbouring country. The announcement coincided with a visit to Moscow by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who put forward a six-phase plan for stabilizing the region.

The biggest challenge of Wednesday's meeting in Brussels was to show that the EU can play a decisive role in its eastern backyard.

But deep divisions remain within the 27-member bloc, with its Eastern European members eager to blame Russia for its perceived aggression of Georgia, and its traditional economic powerhouses in the West keen to avoid damaging their commercial ties with Moscow.

"We should not have a long discussion on how to respond to the escalation of the last days. The EU must decide which role she wants to play in the future," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Steinmeier said the only way for the EU to play a "real role" in the region would be to keep all channels open, rather than make "one-sided condemnations."

Wednesday's agenda included discussions on the sending of European peacekeeping troops to the region.

"We need an international presence," said Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).