September 13, 2008 / 12:57 PM / 10 years ago

EU Georgia monitoring team ready on time - Solana

CAIRO (Reuters) - The European Union has enough pledges from member states to form a 200-strong team of monitors and deploy it in Georgia before the beginning of October, the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Saturday.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana speaks with the media after meeting with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak at the Presidential palace in Cairo September 13, 2008. REUTERS/Nasser Nuri

He also said he was confident Russia was committed to the Oct. 10 deadline to withdraw its forces from Georgian territory outside the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

“We have plenty of pledges and we will do it,” Solana told Reuters, referring to the monitoring team. “We will do it in time and we will do it properly.”

Russian troops withdrew from the region around Georgia’s Black Sea port of Poti on Saturday, two days before the Sept. 15 deadline set for the first phase of a pullback brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the EU.

Russia sent forces deep into Georgia last month after repelling an attempt by Tbilisi to retake the breakaway, pro-Russian South Ossetia region.

Moscow agreed on Monday to withdraw its troops from “security zones” inside Georgia around South Ossetia a second breakaway region, Abkhazia, within a month.

“By the 10th of October that part (undisputed Georgian territory) will be without any Russian troops. That is the most important thing,” Solana said.

“That is what (Georgian) President Saakashvili wanted and that is we have been trying to broker with the Russians.”

The deal between Russia and the European Union also includes the deployment of 200 EU monitors. The mandate of that team, however, has already become an issue of dispute.

The EU delegates view the monitors as a reinforcement to a pre-war peacekeeping force, which can operate anywhere in Georgia. Russia says the monitors are not part of pre-war international monitoring missions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and should operate under separate rules.

Solana struck a conciliatory tone. He said there would be “Europeans everywhere” in Georgia under Monday’s deal, whether with the EU team, United Nations observers in Abkhazia or with the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose ceasefire monitoring mission is deployed in South Ossetia.

Solana also said the deployment of the international community in Georgia would likely be discussed during talks in Geneva, starting on Oct. 15, as part of the EU-Russia deal.

Moscow’s intervention in neighbouring Georgia, an ex-Soviet republic that has angered Moscow by pushing for membership of NATO, drew widespread international condemnation.

Solana dismissed the idea that the conflict risked resurrecting Cold War sentiments between Russia and the West.

“We are not in the Cold War. We will never be back to the Cold War. Nobody wants that. Nobody needs that,” he said.

“What we need now is more cold blood than Cold War, and that cold blood is important to analyse the situation properly and to react properly.”

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