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Europe

EU Pledges Support for Georgia

In the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Georgia, EU leaders have vowed to make reconstruction aid available to Tbilisi and to send observers to monitor the ceasefire agreement and troop withdrawal.

Georgian refugees reach out for food relief in Gori

Georgian refugees reach out for food relief in Gori

"We are aware of the expectations on the Georgian side, and we will not disappoint them," French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced at the conclusion of an emergency EU summit focused on the simmering crisis in the Caucasus.

The EU leaders agreed to "take the initiative of convening an international conference shortly to assist reconstruction in Georgia," according to the official statements released Monday.

Euopean Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the commission had already provided six million euros ($8.75 million) to Georgia while member states have donated nine million euros. Thus, he added Europe's commitment to Georgia is not merely "rhetoric."

In addition, leaders agreed to ease visa restrictions for Georgian nationals travelling to the EU and introduce improved trade agreements.

Monitoring ceasefire and troop withdrawal

On top of providing humanitarian and economic aid, the EU pledged to boost its civilian mission, which currently compromises about 40 people. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana also said the EU was planning to send hundreds of observers to Georgia to verify if Moscow is implementing the ceasefire agreement and withdrawing its troops.

Russia has withdrawn most of its forces in line with a French-brokered ceasefire but has kept soldiers and equipment in "security zones" outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia that Moscow claims are designed to prevent further Georgian aggression.

Reports from Georgia suggest that hundreds of people died and tens of thousands were displaced in the brief war, which erupted on Aug. 7-8. Georgia alleges that militias acting under the wing of the Russian military have burned Georgian villages and killed civilians.

Monitors on the ground in Georgia will carry out evaluations for the EU. The withdrawal of troops to the pre-Aug. 7 line is an integral point in Russia-EU partnership negotiations.

Georgia seeks closer EU integration

Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze thanked European Union leaders for rallying behind his country, and said he looked forward to closer ties between Brussels and Tbilisi.

"Georgia is grateful for the solidarity of the EU," he told reporters in Brussels, after the leaders had pledged to send reconstruction aid, ease visa restrictions and look to set up a free-trade area.

"Georgia looks forward to closer links with the EU," he said. "We would welcome any measure of achieving greater integration with the EU."

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