Sunday, August 24, 2008

France, Russia at Odds over Content of Leaders' Phone Talks []

France, Russia at Odds over Content of Leaders’ Phone Talks

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 24 Aug.'08 / 01:34

French and Russian Presidents have agreed to replace Russian forces in so called “buffer zone” outside South Ossetia with OSCE monitors, the French President’s press office said in a statement – something which was strongly denied by the Kremlin.

French President, Nikola Sarkozy, spoke with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, on Saturday evening, August 23.

After the phone conversation the statement was posted on the French President’s website reading: “The two Presidents have agreed on the need to set up an international mechanism under the OSCE aegis to replace Russian patrols in the security zone in the south from South Ossetia.”

The Kremlin, however, has denied having such an agreement and even said that the issue was not at all discussed.

“There was no discussion of an issue related with the replacement of the Russian peacekeeping forces with monitors from OSCE,” the Russian news agencies quoted a statement by the Kremlin. “During the conversation with Nikola Sarkozy, Dmitry Medvedev reaffirmed [Russia’s] readiness to cooperate with OSCE in this zone in accordance to the fifth principles of the [six-point ceasefire accord] developed jointly by the French and Russian Presidents.”

Russia, which is trying to capitalize on a vaguely worded ceasefire accord brokered by the French President on behalf of EU, has set up stationary checkpoints in the southern areas from the breakaway region. One of the checkpoints is about five kilometers away from the town of Gori, on the road to Tskhinvali.

In what appears to be another controversy over the two Presidents’ phone conversation, the Kremlin also said that President Sarkozy “gave positive assessment to the pull back” of the Russian forces “within the timeframe announced by the Russian side.”

The French statement, however, says that Sarkozy urged Russia to completely honor its commitment and fully withdraw troops from deep inside the Georgian territory, in particular from Poti and Senaki.

“President Sarkozy insisted it was important that Russian troops present at the Poti/Senaki area should withdraw as soon as possible,” the statement on the French President’s website reads.

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