Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding GAERC’s press communique on the “EU-Russia Relations”

In a communiqué issued after their General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on November 10, 2008, the Foreign Ministers of the European Union confirmed their commitment to the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Georgia and underlined the importance of Russia’s compliance with the August 12 cease-fire agreement. This agreement unambiguously requires the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops from the occupied territories of Georgia.

The EU also stressed that the Russian Federation should comply with its obligations and engage in the Geneva talks in a constructive spirit. Should Russia fulfill its obligations in good faith, it is our strong conviction that the next round of the Geneva talks will be productive. We look forward to what we hope will be constructive discussions in Geneva on November 18, 2008.

The EU Foreign Ministers also made it clear that the dialogue with the Russian Federation in no way implies that the EU is legitimizing the existing status quo in Georgia or the actions of the Russian Federation that are contrary to European values and principles. It is noteworthy that the European Union underlined the importance of assessing the compliance of the Russian Federation with its international obligations and taking this assessment into account when deciding how to conduct the business with Russia.

It is also important that the European Union made a high priority of the issue of access for international monitors to Abkhazia, Georgia, and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia. Indeed, without transparency and international monitoring, the occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will remain safe heavens for continuous human rights violations, including ethnic cleansing, as well as organized crime, terrorism, and arms and drugs trafficking. They will serve as a means to continually undermine Georgia’s sovereignty and stability.

It is essential for the European Union, as it has in the past, to act swiftly and consistently with regard to the issues outlined in the November 10 GAERC Communique. It was the EU’s, as well as other important international actors’ response to Russia’s August invasion that sent a clear message to Moscow, helped slow Russian aggression, and cleared the way for the EU to broker the ceasefire agreement. Equally effective were the EU’s rapid deployment of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM), its provision of generous financial and humanitarian assistance to Georgia, and the Union’s decision to speed up Georgia’s integration with the EU. Only the EU’s strong engagement with steady and consistent actions will deter aggressive states from forcefully changing Europe’s boundaries, undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of European nations, and using ethnic cleansing as a tool for implementing foreign policy goals. Such aggressive states should not have any hope that fundamental principles can be sacrificed for the sake of short-term convenience, thus giving them license to illegally use their military or economic power.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia once again reiterates that Georgia continues to be in full compliance with the August 12 cease-fire agreement, brokered by the Presidency of the EU. The strong, principled, and consistent stance of the European Union on the need for the Russian Federation to strictly abide by the August 12 agreement is essential for the security not only of Georgia, but of the entire European neighborhood.