Kouchner approves Russian withdrawal in Georgia
France’s Foreign Minister visits Georgia on Friday and confirms that Russia partly meets the Georgia ceasefire agreement.10 October 2008
ERGNETI -- French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Friday that Russia withdrew from Georgian buffer zones but "a long road" lay ahead in resolving other issues from August's war.
The withdrawal plan as required by a ceasefire "is fulfilled up to the 10th (of October)", he said near the border with Georgia's rebel region of South Ossetia.
"The Russians needed to have left the adjacent zones, they have", he said, referring to the buffer zones around South Ossetia and Georgia's other rebel region, Abkhazia.
"Negotiations will begin in five days in Geneva. Nothing is perfect, it's a long road, step by step", he said. "For the moment it seems to be relatively satisfying".
Under an agreement arranged by the European Union in September, Russia had until Friday to withdraw from Georgian territory outside of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the so-called "buffer zones".
But the initial ceasefire agreement that ended the war in August called for Russian soldiers to withdraw to positions held before the conflict.
Russian forces remained Friday in at least two positions they did not hold before the conflict: the Akhalgori district of South Ossetia and the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia.
Both areas were under Georgian control before August.
When asked if Russian forces returned to positions before the conflict, as required by the agreement, Kouchner said "not yet."
"We had said the adjacent zones first and the adjacent zones have been emptied", he said. "It's not the same step".
The French foreign minister was in Georgia to determine whether Russian forces withdrew by Friday as required by the EU agreement.
Kouchner, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, was also to hold talks with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Friday, when the EU deadline for the buffer-zone withdrawal expires.
[AFP / Expatica]