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EU ready to send observers into Georgia, differ over response to Russia
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The European Union (EU) is ready to send observers to Georgia as announced after an emergency meeting of the foreign ministers here on Wednesday, despite failure to forge a united stance on how to respond to Russia's military action in South Ossetia.

Speaking at a joint press conference with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the EU will "engage in observational activities" and is "preparing for the possibility to send personnel into the field if the UN Security Council passes a political resolution to the problem."

Kouchner proposed the idea as he told reporters before the meeting that the EU should send personnel into Georgia to help facilitate the ceasefire agreement between Georgia and Russia brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The French minister, whose country holds the current EU presidency, declined to call the personnel "peacekeepers" but rather "monitors, controllers or facilitators."

He said that many EU nations were ready to join in the mission, but the EU has to wait "for days" for the UN Security Council to pass a resolution on the matter. Maybe "at the beginning of September we will have a result."

The one-day meeting failed to forge a unanimous response toward Russia.

Some members, particularly those from Eastern Europe, strongly condemned Moscow, while countries having close ties with Moscow, such as France and Germany, were reluctant to do so.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas warned "some consequences" for Russia's actions in Georgia, describing Moscow's response to Georgia's military offensive in breakaway South Ossetia as an act of "aggression."

Vaitiekunas supported the call for EU troops as part of an international peacekeeping force in Georgia.

Hardliner Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged a reassessment of EU-Russia ties.

"The European Union should be able to address its relations with Russia" at its foreign ministers' meeting in September and "through decisions about whether or not and how to proceed with the partnership and cooperation agreement," Miliband said.

Both Miliband and Vaitiekunas expressed support to send EU monitors.

But responses from other EU nations were quite cautious.

"If the EU wants to mediate, it has to remain objective and impartial. We should be careful about what steps we take," said Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, ruling out the possibility of sanctions against Moscow at this meeting.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, "I do not think we should get lost today in long discussions about responsibility or who caused the escalation in the last few days."

Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb also warned of any "blame game." Stubb has acted as a mediator in the Georgia-Russia conflict, as Finland is now holding the presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has been trying to broker peace in the region.

The meeting did not issue any statement condemning Russia as Eastern European EU nations asked, but published a conclusion urging both Georgia and Russia to stop fighting and respect international law and UN Security Council resolutions.

The EU ministers gathered here to analyze the situation after the breakout of fighting in Georgia, including the humanitarian situation, and consider the actions to take to promote a rapid solution to the problem.

Georgia launched military actions against South Ossetia's forces last week in an attempt to re-establish control over the breakaway region. In response, Russian troops moved into the region to fight the Georgian forces.

(Xinhua News Agency August 14, 2008)

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