EU Wants to Work with US on Georgia, Says Italian Minister

The European Union wants to work closely with the United States on resolving the crisis in Georgia, Italy's foreign minister said after meeting with US Vice President Dick Cheney.

"This Caucasian crisis won't be resolved if there is not an intense collaboration -- that Europe wishes for, that the United States wishes for, and we will carry out," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters on Sunday, Sept. 7, following brief talks with Cheney.

Frattini also said he had informed the US vice president of the EU's plan to send civilian observers to the disputed territory in the Caucasus region to help enforce the French-brokered peace deal agreed by Tbilisi and Moscow.

At an informal meeting in southern France on Saturday, EU foreign ministers laid out plans for the bloc's observer mission, which could begin as early as next month. They also called for an international probe into the cause of the five-day war.

Moscow maintains adherence to accord

Both the US and Europe have insisted that Russia pull its troops out of Georgia, as outlined in the ceasefire accord worked out last month by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency. Russia has not yet fully complied with the demand.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Saturday from the meeting with his EU counterparts that different interpretations of the peace plan may have arisen due to a translation error.

The Russian version spoke of security "for South Ossetia and Abkhazia," while the English text referred to security "in" the two regions, reported AFP news agency.

Sarkozy is scheduled to go to Moscow on Monday to clear up any misunderstandings. He is expected to insist that Russia abide by the terms of the agreement.

US-Russia relations reach post-Cold War low

Tensions between Russia and the US intensified Saturday when Cheney criticized Russia of carrying out a "chain of aggressive moves" and accused Moscow of reverting to Soviet-era tactics. It was the sharpest statement from Washington since the outbreak of the conflict in early August.

The vice president's comments came just a few hours after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had warned that Moscow was "a force to be reckoned with."

Cheney was in Italy Saturday and Sunday after visiting US allies in the former Soviet bloc, including Georgia. While in Tbilisi, he promised the country $1 billion (680 million euros) in aid.

Frattini on Sunday also said that Cheney had suggested inviting Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to an EU meeting next month where increasing Europe's independence from Russian oil and gas is on the agenda.

Currently, the EU buys 30 percent of its oil imports and 40 percent of its natural gas imports from Russia.

[Source: Detusche Welle, Berlin, 07Sep08]

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