Russia signs six-point EU Caucasus peace plan

Other News Materials 16 August 2008 20:56 (UTC +04:00)

Both sides to the Russia-Georgia conflicts signed a six-point European Union-mediated plan with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev on Saturday, the Kremlin announced, dpa reported.

Medvedev's signature comes a day after Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili signed the document aimed at defusing the crisis in the Caucasus.

The plan was brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the EU.

Just before the Kremlin announcement, the Russian Foreign Ministry had divulged a telephone call between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in which Moscow insisted on Georgia's adherence to the six-point plan.

The United States faxed a copy of the document to the Russian Foreign Ministry after Saakashvili signed it Friday as Rice looked on.

The agreement is not a peace settlement but provides the basis for a legally binding text to end the fighting and pave the way for a political solution.

The United Nations Security Council is to formalize the six principles.

One of the key points of the plan is the withdrawal of Russian armed forces to positions held before hostilities began in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia last week.

There were conflicting reports Saturday on whether this was happening or not.

Georgian media reports said that Russian troops in Georgia were making no preparations for withdrawal.

However, the Russian Army's General Staff in Moscow denied reports that Russian troops are still in Gori, north-west of the Georgian capital Tbilisi, or in the Black Sea port of Poti.

"Presently we have no units in Gori or Poti," Deputy Chief of Staff General Anatoly Nagovitsin said as reported by the Interfax news agency.

Russian troops were still in the vicinity of Gori, he said, because they had discovered a Georgian base there with 15 tanks.

Other points in the peace plan include no recourse to use violence between the protagonists, the cessation of hostilities, the granting of access to humanitarian aid, the return of Georgian armed forces to their usual quarters and the opening of international discussions on the modalities of security and stability of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The framework plan falls short of the original proposal by the EU presidency.

The draft had called for the "full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia" and the deployment of an EU or UN peacekeeping force.

On the political front, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was set to visit Tbilisi Sunday to meet Saakashvili.

She will press for the rapid implementation of the peace plan, government officials said in Berlin Saturday.

"The ceasefire must be verifiable and durable," German government sources said.

Merkel met with Medvedev in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday.

Meanwhile, Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Saturday criticized Germany and France for what he considered their pliability towards Russia in the Caucasus crisis.

Both Western European countries have had a "very typical" relationship with Russia, Kaczynski said in an interview published in the Rzeczpospolita daily.

This position of the two countries is due to "the historical experiences and interests of corporations" that are looking to make "big money" in Russia.

Kaczynski said he was disappointed that the European Union decisions in the Georgian crisis were made "between Berlin and Paris."

Kaczynski and the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia condemned the actions of Russian forces in a sternly-worded joint statement and travelled to Tbilisi to express solidarity with Georgia.