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Europe

Georgia, Russia Agree to Modified Peace Plan

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday from Tbilisi that his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili had agreed to a French-brokered plan to restore peace with Russia over the breakaway South Ossetian province.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili address the press

Sarkozy brought his peace plan to Moscow and Tbilisi

Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, met on Tuesday, Aug. 12, with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow before flying on to Tbilisi to hold talks with Saakashvili. Moscow had ordered a halt to military operations in Georgia earlier in the day.

Both Medvedev and Saakashvili reportedly agreed to the EU peace plan, though it has not been finalized and several points of contention still need to be ironed out.

On Saakashvili's request, Medvedev agreed to remove a clause in the peace document referring talks on the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, separatist provinces in northern Georgia with strong ties to Russia.

"The territorial integrity and belonging of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to Georgia can never be put under doubt," said the Georgian president early Wednesday at a joint news conference following his talks with Sarkozy.

EU ministers hold crisis talks

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Medvedev called Tuesday for a halt to hostilities

The six-point peace plan, which calls for an end to hostilities on both sides and a return to pre-conflict positions, is to be reviewed Wednesday by EU foreign minister in Brussels.

Both Tbilisi and Moscow continued to report attacks Tuesday even after Medvedev had ordered an end to military operations.

Though the EU called for an immediate cease-fire and appealed to Russia to respect Georgia's territorial integrity, the bloc is deeply divided and has avoided taking sides in the Caucasus crisis.

While leading powers like France, Italy and Germany have had positive ties with Russia, the formerly communist eastern European member states have condemned what they call Russian aggression against Georgia.

During talks on Wednesday, EU ministers would discuss a variety of measures including halting EU assistance, cancelling visa talks and reviewing negotiations on a new partnership agreement with Moscow, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas told Reuters news agency.

Some EU countries have called for a European peacekeeping force in the disputed regions, but there has been no indication that Russia would accept such a plan.

Georgia's membership bid divides NATO

Collage of EU, NATO and Georgian flags

An attack on one NATO member is considered to be an attack on all members

Meeting Tuesday in Brussels, NATO ambassadors criticized Russia for "excessive, disproportionate use of force" and reiterated support for Georgia's eventual membership in the alliance.

Georgian membership, however, has divided the alliance. Its bid to join was deferred at a summit in Bucharest in April, with NATO leaders promising that both Georgia and Ukraine, another former member of the Soviet Union, would become members at some point in the future.

NATO has agreed eventually to allow Georgia entry into the western alliance. Moscow is fiercely opposed.

Fighting broke out in the South Ossetian region on Friday when Georgian troops launched on offensive to reclaim the breakaway territory, which broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990s.

Russia responded with military support for the separatists, pouring troops into South Ossetia and then into Georgia proper.

Map of Georgia

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