Summit Likely to Announce EU Will Not Punish Russia

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European Union leaders at a summit next week are not expected to impose sanctions on Russia but may name a special envoy to Georgia to ensure that a cease-fire between there is observed, officials in Paris and Brussels said Friday.

In addition, the EU leaders may send a high official — perhaps French President Nicolas Sarkozy — on a shuttle mission to the region, the officials said.

The 27 European Union leaders are scheduled to hold a special summit in Brussels on Monday to discuss how to respond to the recent brief and bitter war between Russia and Georgia, and Russia's subsequent recognition of the independence of two breakaway regions of Georgia.

The EU already has an envoy to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. But under a plan that will be discussed at the summit, that job would be split up to create the special envoy to Georgia, said an official at the EU headquarters in Brussels.

The official also said that a visit by Sarkozy to both Moscow and the Georgian capital, Tbilisi would be discussed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the rules of the job.

A high-ranking official in Sarkozy's office confirmed Friday that EU leaders would not impose sanctions on Russia, although some EU countries have pushed for them. EU members including Poland and the three Baltic countries Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — like Georgia, former Soviet republics — were among those countries who had pushed for sanctions against Russia, the official said.

France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, had said the EU was considering sanctions against Russia following its recognition of independence for two breakaway Georgian provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

But the official in Sarkozy's office said no such decision will be made Monday. France currently holds the EU presidency.

The EU is also likely to ask Sarkozy to continue his "mission" in the crisis, which involved shuttle diplomacy and visits to both Moscow and Tbilisi earlier this month, the official said, also on condition of anonymity because of office policy.

France and Germany have been working closely together during the crisis, the French official said.

The official said France's priority is ensuring that Russia respects a cease-fire deal that France helped craft.

"At this stage, we don't foresee sanctions decided on by the European Council," the official said, adding that the question could be tackled later, at an EU-Russia summit on Nov. 14 in Nice, France.

Kouchner, speaking to reporters later Friday, said that a provisional text for the Brussels meeting has been drawn up, and that his focus was on unity in the 27-member EU bloc.

"France doesn't foresee any sanctions," he said.

The minister said the EU's support for the cease-fire accord "at a minimum" would be reaffirmed during the summit, and "the preparatory document that already exists goes farther." He did not elaborate.

Moscow's recognition Tuesday of South Ossetia and Abkhazia followed a brief war between Georgia and Russia earlier this month. Georgia had launched a military offensive to retake South Ossetia from separatists, and Russia responded by sending tanks into the Moscow-friendly province and Georgia proper.

European countries considerably toughened their stance against Russia after Moscow's move to recognize the provinces as independent. Kouchner said Thursday that sanctions were being considered, though he stressed that France was not behind the proposal and that the French role was to unite Europeans in a common position.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she believes it is important for Monday's summit to send "a clear political signal of the European Union's unity" on the crisis.

The EU is united in saying that Georgia's territorial integrity is not up for discussion, that the EU will help in rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and that the recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence is unacceptable, Merkel spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said in Berlin.

Wilhelm told reporters that the EU countries would again "push for the six-point (cease-fire) plan to be implemented faithfully." However, he declined to speculate about other details of Monday's discussions.