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EU Condemns Russia Over Georgia Action


The European Union has strongly condemned Russian action in Georgia and agreed to suspend talks with Moscow on a wide-ranging partnership agreement until Russian troops withdraw from Georgia. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.

European Union leaders met for a one-day emergency summit in Brussels on Monday to discuss how to deal with Russia in light of its military action in Georgia and its recognition of independence for the breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that given these events, there can be no "business as usual" with Russia. "The 27 members of the European Union are totally united in condemning the aggression of the Russian government," he said.

In the end, EU leaders called Russian military action in Georgia unacceptable and condemned its recognition of the two breakaway regions.

There was also a warning that relations between the EU and Russia could suffer. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the rotating EU presidency, said Europe wants a real partnership with Russia. But, he said, it takes two to make that happen. So for now, Europe has postponed talks on a wide-ranging economic and political partnership agreement with Russia until Moscow withdraws its troops from Georgia.

Fighting between Russia and Georgia began in early August after the Georgian military launched an offensive against pro-Russian separatist forces in South Ossetia. Russian forces then launched a counter-attack, driving the Georgians out of South Ossetia as well as Abkhazia, and sending troops into other parts of Georgia.

President Sarkozy brokered the cease-fire agreement between Russia and Georgia and says he will travel to Moscow again next week.

In Washington, the Bush administration welcomed the European Union's decisions on Georgia. The White House said "Europe and the United States are united in standing firm behind Georgia's territorial integrity, sovereignty and reconstruction."

But the European Union has been divided over how to deal with Russia during this crisis. Some, including Britain and some of the former Soviet bloc nations of Eastern Europe, wanted tougher action. There has been talk of imposing sanctions against Russia. Others, including France, Germany and Italy, balked at that idea and stressed the need for continued dialogue.

Speaking on British radio, former British Foreign Secretary David Owen said sanctions are not a viable option for the E.U. because they would expose Europe's weakness, its dependence on Russian energy exports. "Europe is divided over Russia. And one of the problems is that Germany, France and Italy have a very heavy dependence on Russian gas. But the fact is that all the European Union is very dependent on Russian energy supplies," he said.

Owen said he believes talk of a new Cold War has been blown out of proportion and that he is confident the current crisis can be resolved through diplomacy.

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