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Europe

Steinmeier Tells EU to Take "Level-Headed" Approach to Russia

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Europe must play a "strong and level-headed role" to settle the conflict in the Caucasus, according to a German newspaper published Sunday.

Foreign ministers Lavrov and Steinmeier in front of microphones at a news conference in July

Steinmeier, right, and Lavrov agreed Saturday to work to ease international tensions

"We need a strong and levelheaded role for Europe, to ensure that there can be a return to reason and responsibility," the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported on Sunday, Aug. 31 .

"Unfortunately, the situation has become bogged down in unilateral actions in the last few days."

Steinmeier added that he expects the European Union to give a clear response at its emergency summit on the conflict in Georgia on Monday.

"The dangerous spiral of violence must be stopped," he said.

Leaders of the 27-nation EU are to agree on a response to Russia's military surge into Georgia and decision to recognize the independence of two secessionist regions.

For her part, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel worked to convince Poland, one of the leaders of a group of countries calling for a strong European condemnation of Russia, to support a common European front in the Russian-Georgian conflict.

A bloc divided against itself

Five stars from part of the EU flag superimposed over a night shot of the Kremlin

Many hope the EU will speak with one voice when dealing with Moscow

The bloc has been divided over how to deal with Moscow since the Caucasus war flared up on Aug. 8. Former Soviet states and countries that fell under the USSR's direct influence have tended to favor a tougher stance than western European nations.

In a sign that the situation may have calmed, Moscow and Berlin agreed on Saturday to seek to calm tensions in Europe over the conflict in Georgia, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier "agreed on the need to put an end to attempts to use the situation surrounding Georgia... to raise tensions in Europe by speculating on non-existent threats concerning other post-Soviet countries," it said.

The statement appeared to allude to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's earlier comments in which he said that Moscow could have designs on the Crimea, Ukraine and Moldova.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier rejected the comments in an interview with the German network ARD.

"We recognized the borders of modern-day Ukraine long ago," he said.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine have been strained over Kyiv's demands that Moscow prepare the withdrawal of Russia's Black Sea fleet from the Crimean port of Sevastopol, where the Russian fleet has been based for 200 years.

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