Europe and the US warned they will impose new sanctions on Iran if it refuses to suspended uranium enrichment. Iran, Russia’s meddling in Georgia and trade were top issues at a Tuesday, June 10 US-European Union summit.
Bush came to Slovenia with Iran on his mind
United States President George W. Bush started his last trip to Europe by focusing on points of agreement in trans-Atlantic diplomacy. At the top of the list was a joint warning to Iran that both the EU and US are prepared to add their own round of sanctions to those that the United Nations has already imposed.
The joint warning calls on Tehran to freeze its suspect nuclear program or face "additional measures," which would likely be aimed at Iranian banks.
"We will continue to work together ... to take steps to ensure Iranian banks cannot abuse the international banking system to support proliferation and terrorism," the leaders said.
Yet Europeans also seemed keen to signal to Iran that they believed a "mutually satisfactory, negotiated solution" could be found.
Tehran denies Western allegations that its nuclear program's real goal is to develop atomic weapons, insisting that it will be used to generate peaceful energy. Iran is already under three rounds of UN sanctions for refusing to freeze its uranium enrichment efforts.
Russia warned to back off
Bush's next stop: a boroque palace near Berlin
The EU and the US also urged Russia not to interfere in a dispute involving Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia.
"We reiterate our commitment to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, and call on all parties, in particular Russia, to support these principles," the leaders said.
Tension between Tbilisi and Moscow has escalated in recent weeks, with Russia claiming that it had intercepted a Georgian spy helping rebel cells in the Caucasus, and Georgia accusing Russia of shooting down one of its reconnaissance flights.
The redeployment of some 400 Russian troops in Abkhazia has also raised concern in the West. After stating that the troops were in fact unarmed engineers called in to carry out rail repairs, Moscow indicated last week that it was ready to pull them out of the region.
The EU and the US also backed efforts by Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to draw closer to the West, a move which is likely to anger Russia.
Trade deal urgent concern
Bush has vowed not to let Iran get nuclear weapons
Both the US and EU also want progress in a trade deal, which has been under negotiation since 2001. The deal talks about lowering barriers for industrial goods and agriculture products among World Trade Organization members.
If countries find common ground on the so-called Doha round of talks, ministers could meet early next month to negotiate the main outlines of a deal. Without a breakthrough, progress could stall for another couple of years.
The US and EU want Brazil, India and China to open their markets to imports. But many developing countries accuse their richer counterparts of protecting farmers and making it difficult to compete.
Bush called on an end to protectionism.
"It's not going to be easy but it's in our judgment necessary ... It's really important to defeat the forces of protectionism now," he told a news conference at the end of the summit.
Many important issues not discussed
Russia was warned to stay out of Abkhazia
The one-day EU-US summit was held Tuesday at a secluded resort in the shadow of the Slovenian Alps.
The White House had warned not to expect any “dramatic announcements” on major bones of contention between the EU and the US. Climate change, an EU ban on chlorine-washed chickens from the US and the faltering Middle East peace process were all off the agenda.
EU leaders said they have given up trying to convince Washington to join the bloc in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. US officials want China and India to make similar commitments first.
Bush acknowledged on Slovenia's Pop TV Tuesday that he is unpopular in Europe, as well as at home. "A lot of people like America. They may not sometimes necessarily like the president," Bush said.
Bush travels to Berlin later on Tuesday where he will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel before continuing his European tour by visiting Italy, the Vatican, France, England, and Northern Ireland.