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Georgia Wants Closeness

DPA news agency (win)
September 2, 2008

Georgian Premier Lado Gurgenidze thanked the European Union for its support Tuesday and called for closer ties with Brussels. Russian officials on the other hand had had a mixed reaction to the emergency summit.

Georgians demonstrate with giant Georgian, EU and NATO flags
Georgia wants EU and NATO membershipImage: AP

"What Georgia needs is to consolidate the gains we have made through tightened integration (with the EU)," Gurgenidze said after talks in Brussels with the EU's external affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

"The free trade and the visa facilitation are indeed important pillars, although we are hoping for a comprehensive discussion on how this tightened integration (with the EU) can be achieved," Gurgenidze said.

The premier also raised his estimate on the number of Georgians needing long-term resettlement as a result of Russia's military intervention from 20,000 to 30-35,000.

Ferrero-Waldner said the European Commission and individual member states had made a total of 15 million euros ($21.7 million) available for humanitarian aid to Georgia.

Russia's path of partnership

Diplomats from Russia's foreign ministry on Tuesday said they were pleased with a European Union decision not to impose sanctions on the Kremlin over Georgia.

Officials speaking to the Interfax news agency said the EU's choice at a crisis summit on Monday to ask Russia to remove troops in Georgia, rather than attempt to exert economic or political pressure, was a sign a majority of EU nations were seeking "a path of partnership" with Russia.

The moderate EU position on Georgia would assist "both sides in mutually-advantageous cooperation," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Some regrets

But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that the bloc had not understood his country's motives for intervening in Georgia.

"Unfortunately, there is still no understanding of what motivated Russia to make decisions on repelling the Georgian aggression and recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states," he told Euronews TV channel, according to Reuters news agency.

"This is sad, but not fatal because things change in this world," he added. "Another situation, in my opinion, is more positive. Despite certain divisions among the EU states on the issue, a

reasonable, realistic point of view prevailed because some of the states were calling for some mythical sanctions."

A minority bloc of EU nations led by Britain and Poland had been calling for immediate economic sanctions on Russia as punishment, they argued, for the Kremlin's violation of a mid-August ceasefire agreement obliging Georgia and Russia to pull troops back to pre-war positions.

Russia defeated Georgia in August's Ossetia war. Russia army forces have dug in north and west Georgia, and operate some two dozen road checkpoints along roads in the region.

Energy dependency

Europe receives some 30 percent of its natural gas and 50 percent of its oil from Russia.

Russia's national gas monopolist Gazprom on Monday announced it would shut down supplies for some 24 hours for "maintenance" in coming days. The switch-off was for routine technical reasons and not a pressure tactic aimed at Europe, Gazprom officials said.

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