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Punishing Russia

DW staff (nda)
August 28, 2008

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Thursday, Aug. 28 said European nations were considering imposing sanctions against Russia while Germany called for an investigation into alleged abuses in Georgia.

The Russian and EU flags merged
A number of European nations think sanctions are a suitbale way of punishing RussiaImage: DW-Montage/Bilderbox.de

Addressing journalists three days before an emergency EU summit in Brussels, Kouchner said "sanctions were being considered, as well as other means" to address the issue, but he did not specify.

"I, myself, would not anticipate sanctions (being imposed), while the meeting has not yet taken place," said Kouchner. France is currently president of the Union and has been at the forefront of the EU's attempts to resolve the crisis.

It was the first time France has brought up the possibility of sanctions against Moscow.

However, a spokeswoman at the French Foreign Ministry told the DPA news agency that Kouchner's statement regarding sanctions referred only to a handful of EU member nations who could raise the possibility at Monday's summit.

Demands for diplomatic action against Russia have grown louder since Moscow recognized the independence of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Kouchner said the aim of Monday's extraordinary summit, the first such crisis meeting since the 2003 Iraq war, would be to "draw up a strong statement reflecting our determination not to accept" the situation in Georgia.

Russia dismisses sanctions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Lavrov said the EU wanted to protect "its pet" GeorgiaImage: AP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the EU threat to impose sanctions on Russia saying it was only an emotional response by the West to negative developments in its "little pet" Georgia.

The EU sanctions warning was made "just because they're upset that the 'little pet' of certain Western capitals didn't fulfill their expectations," Lavrov told reporters.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on Moscow to allow an international probe into Russian allegations of abuses by the Georgian military in South Ossetia.

"(Moscow) alleges that atrocities were meted out on the South Ossetian population. Russia or South Ossetia must document whether this is the case and to what extent," Steinmeier told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

"Russia ... would be well advised to allow for example the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) the possibility to investigate," he told the paper in an interview.

Steinmeier said he was "appalled by those in the West and Russia who seem to want a return to cynical realities of the Cold War."

"I am horrified by the forgetting of history ... and I do not understand ... what is driving some people to make frivolous comparisons with historical situations such as Munich 1938 or Sarajevo 1914," he said.

He also called Moscow's recognition this week of the independence of South Ossetia and fellow separatist Georgian region Abkhazia a "dangerous escalation."

Steinmeier rejects comparisons to Kosovo

Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Steinmeier is concerned about abuses and rhetoricImage: AP

He also rejected any comparison with Kosovo whose own independence from Russia's ally Serbia was recognized by many Western countries. The move angered Russia and Moscow has since portrayed its support for the two Georgian regions as being no different.

"Kosovo is and remains a special case in international law that cannot and should not be misused as a model," Steinmeier said.

He also said that Monday's emergency European Union summit on the crisis should come up with a "clear position" towards Moscow's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia.

The EU must also offer humanitarian support and help in reconstruction and should assist in efforts towards a political stabilization of the Caucasus region, Steinmeier said.

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