President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to say a few words to start with. President Sarkozy, our other European colleagues and I had a very important meeting today. As is often the case this meeting went on longer than expected, but the main thing is that we had a frank discussion of all the most complex and relevant issues on the agenda today. Of course we spent most of the time discussing the situation following the recent crisis in the Caucasus provoked by Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia.
I want to say from the outset that our country values the mediation efforts made by the European Union, the French presidency and my colleague Mr Sarkozy personally. The French President has taken as active a part as possible in this issue right from the start. We speak with each other frequently and at length, and this does produce results it seems.
Our colleagues confirmed today that the European Union is ready to continue its efforts to help resolve this conflict, including by establishing international mechanisms to guarantee security in the zones around South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Furthermore, we discussed the European Union’s involvement in the measures that will be carried out in agreement with the OSCE.
We examined other issues too. Of course there are matters on which we differ – the issue of recognising the independence of [South] Ossetia and Abkhazia. You know that the EU has condemned this decision, but as we have already stated, this was the only way we had of protecting peoples’ lives, the only way of protecting the Ossetian and Abkhazian peoples’ continued existence.
I want to say that we worked on implementation of the plan that was agreed, and I think that Russia is complying in full with this plan. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same of Georgia, which is trying to restore its military potential with the active help of some of our partners, above all the United States of America. I think that more countries will come to understand the decision we have taken in the future, and countries for whom human rights and people’s democratic will are not just empty words will follow our example. Some have already done so and I am sure their number will grow. But most important of all, in my view, and what we especially stressed today, is that from now on, dialogue with Sukhumi and Tskhinvali can take place only as with separate entities under international law.
In the European Union we see our natural partners, our key partners, and this is why we have agreed on additional measures today for implementing the plan of August 12, 2008. As was the case last time, I would like to present the document’s content. I will do this in Russian first, and my colleague Nicholas will then do so in French.
“Implementation of the plan of August 12, 2008.
Reconfirm each side’s obligation to respect in full the Medvedev-Sarkozy six-point plan of August 12, 2008.
Section one: Withdrawal of troops.
Point one. Russia will withdraw all of its peacekeepers from the five observation posts along the line from Poti to Senaki inclusive within a maximum deadline of seven days, taking into account the signature on September 8, 2008, of legally binding documents providing guarantees of non-aggression against Abkhazia.
Point two. Russia will withdraw in full its peacekeepers from the zones adjoining South Ossetia and Abkhazia to the positions where they were stationed before the start of hostilities. This withdrawal will be carried out within ten days following the deployment of international mechanisms in these zones, including at least 200 observers from the European Union, no later than October 1, 2008, taking into account legally binding documents guaranteeing non-aggression against Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
I want to stress that Russia has already received these documents.
Point three. The complete return of Georgian armed forces to their home stations by October 1, 2008.
Section two. International observation mechanisms.
Point one. UN international observers in Georgia will continue to carry out their mandate in their zone of responsibility in accordance with the number and deployment scheme as at August 7, 2008, without detriment to possible future adjustments decided by the UN Security Council.
Point two. International observers from the OSCE will continue to carry out their mandate in their zone of responsibility in accordance with the number and deployment scheme as at August 7, 2008, without detriment to possible future adjustments decided by the Standing Council of the OSCE.
Point three. Speed up preparations for the deployment of additional observers in the zones adjoining South Ossetia and Abkhazia in number sufficient to replace the Russian peacekeepers by October 1, 2008, including at least 200 observers from the European Union.
Point four. As guarantor of the principle of non-aggression, the European Union will actively prepare the deployment of an observer mission in addition to the existing observer mechanisms.
Section three – International discussions. The international discussions stipulated in point six of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan of August 12, 2008, will begin on October 15, 2008 in Geneva. Preliminary discussions will begin this September.
Point two. These discussions will examine the following issues in particular: ways to ensure security and stability in the region; settling the issue of refugees and displaced persons on the basis of internationally recognised principles and post-conflict resolution practice; any other issue put forward with the mutual approval of the parties”.
This is the document we have approved. I want to stress that it will take effect immediately, given that Russia has already received guarantees of Georgian non-aggression from the European Union and from France, as the country currently holding the EU presidency.
I give the floor to my colleague Nicholas.
President of France Nicolas Sarkozy (Retranslated from Russian): Thank you Mr President. I am going to speak for Mr Barroso and for myself. Of course what I have to say reflects the views of Bernard Kouchner and Mr Solana, because the four of us worked in concert with our Russian partners. I won’t bother to reread the text, since Dmitry Medvedev has already read it. But I can summarise it as follows.
We do not believe that it is possible to resolve all the issues associated with the Caucasus for many years in four hours. As far as the European Union is concerned, we seek to serve the interests of peace. And since 2 August, Mr Barroso and myself, French diplomacy and Bernard Kouchner – we have all been working on the behalf of ordinary people.
What we have decided with President Medvedev means in concrete terms that within a week the roadblocks between Poti and Senaki will be removed. And I want to thank the Russian side for agreeing to a one-week deadline for this. A month later there will be a full withdrawal of Russian armed forces from Georgian territory, those that are not in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The presence of international observers will confirm this. This concerns the UN and the OSCE as part of their current mandate, that is, these observers will be deployed outside the administrative zones of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The EU has agreed to deploy 200 EU observers by 1 October. Javier Solana and I will look into the possibility of deploying some more after 1 October.
President Medvedev has announced and I want to confirm here, along with President Barroso and Mr Solana, the commitment of the EU to the principle of the non-use of force. I have even passed on to President Medvedev a letter from President Saakashvili affirming his intentions to honour the commitment not to use force in Abkhazia and Ossetia that was part of the agreement of 12 August.
Then international talks in Geneva will begin on 15 October, which means that we will have to get to work immediately. These will involve President Barroso, Bernard Kouchner and others. What will the subject of these talks be and how will they proceed? You have just heard President Medvedev say that the refugee issue will be at the centre of these discussions.
I believe I can say that the talks we have had over the last few hours have been fruitful. Now we are going to Georgia in order to make clear what has been agreed to here, so that all sides can act in the name of peace. Within a week the roadblocks will be removed, within a month Russia’s Armed Forces will have left Georgian territory.
Of course I have to talk about our discussions with President Medvedev. As he rightly said, we are not in complete agreement. The European Union has condemned the unilateral recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia’s recognition of their independence. President Medvedev restated his position. But we didn’t discuss the future, we were talking about implementing the plan agreed to on 12 August. I must say frankly that what we signed today and what we said today clearly represent the spirit which prevailed at the time of the ceasefire.
And I would like to add a word or two so that everything is crystal clear. It is obvious that these are very important talks, very serious negotiations for the European delegation — Mr Barroso, Mr Solana and Mr Kouchner. If everything goes well, as we indicated in about a month a conflict that could have resulted in a far more serious loss of human life will have ended. I am saying that the weapons will remain silent. And we have reflected long and hard on this. We strongly support the ceasefire, which will help to create confidence among the different parties, which will in turn help find a settlement. Of course, there will still be important discussions in Geneva with regard to security, stability and the conditions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We didn’t address these issues, because we had other important things to discuss. This agreement represents the most that could have been achieved. If we went to work on all the conflicts around the world in the same way, there wouldn’t be any.
I must say that for us it was a great success to work with the President of the European Commission, Mr Solana, because our watches were synchronized. And President Medvedev’s desire to avoid a war was important, since there are enough hotspots in the world. This sort of risky undertaking is unnecessary. Everything must be done to achieve peace, and that is what we want.
Of course there are unresolved issues, but what we have agreed on today marks a very important step forward.
QUESTION FROM RUSSIA TODAY: First of all, a question for Dmitry Medvedev. Mr President, how would you assess the overall position of the EU concerning the situation in Georgia?
I also have a question for Mr Sarkozy: why do Europeans prefer not to talk about the initial aggression by Georgia against South Ossetia?
And a question for both presidents: what are the prospects for the Russia-EU summit in Nice to be held in November, and what are the prospects for the preparation of agreements on partnership and cooperation between Russia and the EU?
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: That makes four questions, three of them for me. And four for Nicolas.
In regard to the EU’s position on Georgia, I have already expressed my position in interviews for various European television channels. I see the EU position as having two different aspects. First, it seems to me lacking in a clear understanding of what happened in South Ossetia when Georgia launched its attack against South Ossetia. Because they are not taking those circumstances fully into account, they have not grasped the reasons for our recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And here we need more time to refine these positions and communicate to our European colleagues the reasons for our actions.
As for the other aspect of the European position, it seems to me that the European Union’s approach to the situation in South Ossetia and to the crisis that occurred there has been quite balanced. This is true especially in light of the fact that there was another, much more exotic perspective – one could even call it extremist – that involved a demand for some sort of strange sanctions and other actions against Russia. I have repeatedly responded to this position. It is unproductive, pointless and not in the best interests of the European Union. In this sense the approach that was taken during the EU summit on 1 September seems very reasonable and undertaken in the spirit of compromise. That is what I have to say about the EU position.
I can give you an answer right away about the prospects for our summit in Nice, as well as the prospects for an agreement. I believe that in this situation the ball, as they say, is now in the court of our European partners. We do not want our relations to deteriorate, we do not think it is the right decision to suspend discussion of the text of the new treaty. But if that is what our European colleagues want, so be it. No disaster will ensue, even if it takes longer than we expected to agree on a treaty. Over the last year, we haven’t even broached this subject in our discussions. Although nothing has been said about it, our relations have developed quite well: our trade has increased, we have worked out agreements on trade, and investment has proceeded apace.
I therefore believe that the decision to suspend work on the agreement is at the very least ill-advised. But in any case, in itself this decision will do no great harm to Russia’s interests.
As for the prospects of the summit, I believe that we need to get together, that we need to talk to each other. Today we did spend some time on this issue, although it’s true that it wasn’t a lot. We talked about what a good idea it would be to meet and discuss a wide range of issues concerning cooperation between Russia and Europe. And in this sense, Nice would be a good place to do precisely that. In any event, we will prepare for this event as carefully as possible.
NICOLAS SARKOZY: Everything is really very simple. First, I think that the European Union has taken a perfectly balanced position. If you look texts of the decisions, the unanimous decisions of the European Council, they condemn Russia’s disproportionate response. If we are talking about a reaction, that obviously means that there has been some kind of action. The meaning of these words is perfectly clear. And I believe that we have responded in a balanced manner.
On the second point of disagreement: we believe that Russia should not have unilaterally recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There are international rules which have to be followed. These are the two points which are creating problems for us.
There is a third element. The document that we signed, the one that President Medvedev and I present to you today, if this document enters into force with the consent of President Barroso, I see no reason that the meeting between Russia and Europe that was postponed in September should not be held in October. All this is perfectly clear. We want partnership, we want peace, and no one needs a confrontation between Europe and Russia.
First of all, the words in the document must be taken seriously. President Barroso, President Medvedev and I negotiated this document. And of course there is still a strategic partnership between Russia and Europe.
Question From Associated Press: France came here with three goals, all of which have been attained. First, the withdrawal of troops, then a date for talks and the possibility of observers.
Mr Russian President, I would like to ask you something related to the European side. Was there on the European side any sign that they recognise the idea of independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Have you made some progress in this sense?
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course it would be better for you to ask our colleagues rather than me, especially since we had no plan to discuss with our colleagues (the President of France, and our colleagues in the European Union) issues related to the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It was our decision to recognise them. As I have said publicly on several occasions during my telephone conversations with Nicolas and with my other colleagues, this choice is final and irreversible. Our decision is irrevocable. The act of recognition was performed according to international law, relating to the emergence of states – two new states have emerged. Everything else depends on who else makes such a decision and when. As you know, the process of recognition is now underway, and I am sure that this process will gain momentum as it proceeds. At what point in this process the EU countries choose to join depends on the position they take.
There is no such thing as a decision that lasts forever. We are perfectly well aware that everything in the world is subject to change, including the position whereby a country refuses to recognise this or that new state. This is the reality with which everyone has to come to terms, including our partners in the EU. And I am sure that they fully understand this. But of course no concrete decisions or specific dates of recognition were discussed at today's meeting. But if our colleagues are ready to do so here and now, we certainly will not object.
Nicolas Sarkozy: I should thank President Medvedev for volunteering to speak for Europe on this issue. We had four objectives: the withdrawal of Russian forces and a clear timetable. This we have achieved. We have agreed on the deployment of international observers. Then addressing the refugee issue, because it must be said that this is not linked to the question of independence, and the refugee issue is an important one. And, finally, to answer your question, international talks. If the international talks are to begin in Geneva, it means there is something to discuss. That is my answer.
Dmitry Medvedev: For us that is an encouraging sign.
Question From Itar-Tass: A question for both presidents. What is your opinion of the need for a new concept of international security? Doesn’t it seem to you that, given what has happened in Iraq, Kosovo and South Ossetia, whatever was operative in this area before has now collapsed?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think the examples that you cite clearly indicate the weaknesses of previous approaches to international security. I raised this issue not that long ago when I announced the five principles on the basis of which Russian foreign policy would be conducted. The second most important principle I called the principle of the rejection of a unipolar world and the inadmissibility of any state’s attempts to dominate in the international arena or to address every issue on behalf of the world community, without naming any nation in particular. Even the biggest and most respected countries, such as the United States, are not entitled to define the rules of the game for the international community. There are institutions that were created to perform precisely this role: the United Nations and other regional organisations. And they need to make their contribution.
Regarding the inefficiency of the security system, it is perfectly clear that in crisis situations this system has failed, precisely because it is one-sided and unipolar, precisely because of the desire to resolve crises by imposing decisions, decisions taken by a single state. In this case, it felt like arming “one member of the international community” to the teeth, and beefing up the army there until it was very well-equipped indeed. And that country decided to resolve at a stroke by the use of armed force a long-standing, complex problem that was historical in nature. It obtained the blessing of this other state. I won’t go into how this was done, whether it was an explicit or tacit approval, but I have no doubt that it was done. An idiotic escapade ensued. People died. Now the whole of Georgia has to pay for it. This is a perfect example of a solution based on a unipolar world in which you know that there is someone there to help you sort things out if you are not strong enough. But nobody was there to help. We have to behave decently. We must obey international law. Then everything will proceed properly.
This is why I believe it is essential to put together a new approach to international security.
Nicolas Sarkozy: Just a word or two. In this crisis we have seen the emergence of an important actor, the European Union, which has tried to find the path of reconciliation for the war in the Caucasus. From the perspective of international law South Ossetia and Abkhazia belong to Georgia. There was an action, then a reaction, then a clash of Armed Forces, for which it was necessary to find a solution, a ceasefire and a withdrawal. The discussion showed that when Europe wants to play such a role — and here we really do represent Europe, Mr Barroso, Mr Solana, Mr Kouchner and I — Europe can be a factor for peace. It can play this role even in regions where it has not played such a role before. It is not easy to take on such a role – in fact, it’s very difficult. Regarding what pushed us to take extreme positions, I have to say that then after a certain point we are no longer able to simply act as peacekeepers.
I think that every time it is necessary to maintain contact at the highest level with the Russian authorities, to never lose contact with the Georgian authorities, to try to work out a reconciliation, and not to succumb to the temptation to try to resolve everything at the moment of the crisis. We must do everything in stages: first a ceasefire, then the withdrawal of forces and international talks. I think this is the only prudent, intelligent attitude to take in our unstable world. And that is what the European Union can do.
I understand that people want to give me a whole bunch of advice about what is worth doing and what is not worth doing. That is just a lot of talk. What is important is results. The European Union has arranged the ceasefire, the European Union is negotiating with President Medvedev, seeking the withdrawal of Russian troops, and working to ensure that talks take place in Geneva, which is very important. We have been in other situations where we could not hold such talks and things simply got worse.
Perhaps we should have just one more question, because there are a number of journeys that we still have to make.
Question From Liberation: It has been ten days since the unilateral recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It seems that this issue wasn’t discussed. And today it hasn’t been discussed either. And maybe it will not be discussed in Geneva. Do you perhaps have a new impression of Georgia’s borders? Or does the European Union find itself forced to recognise a fait accompli?
Nicolas Sarkozy: Excuse me, I actually said exactly the opposite of what you said. I don’t want to be argumentative. I said that we condemned the unilateral recognition, and I said that Russia cannot determine what Georgia’s borders should be. And in the third point of the document that we worked out together, that we have written out here, international discussions that will begin on 15 October in Geneva are envisaged as per the six-point Medvedev-Sarkozy plan of 12 August. Perhaps this wasn’t made clear enough because I didn’t discuss Russia's position. Russians say what they want to say. And I can not speak for Russia. Mr Barroso and I are speaking on behalf of the European Union. We have condemned certain actions. I have a mandate, and it is clearly to implement the agreement of 12 August and to make sure that international talks continue. And how can you say that we have said nothing about this issue regarding South Ossetia and Abkhazia? I have already talked about this and Mr Medvedev talked about it. We said that this was an item of disagreement between us and that we cannot consider in half a day a problem that has already lasted 20 years. We took up these questions in order to begin negotiations.
Question: So you feel that this should be considered in Geneva?
Nicolas Sarkozy: In Geneva, measures for ensuring stability in the region will be considered. Of course it’s obvious that we will be addressing the issue of stability and security in Ossetia and Abkhazia. President Medvedev confirmed Russia’s position on this and I have confirmed it on behalf of the Union.
Question: Do you want to change only Georgia’s borders in Europe or do you intend to change other European borders too? Perhaps in Russia or in other countries?
Dmitry Medvedev: As you know, we are not changing any borders and have no interest in doing so. But I would like to say a word or two about the issue you’ve raised. Ten days have gone by since the recognition of independence, but a month has passed since the start of the aggression. And this is a sad day, which unfortunately will go down in the history textbooks as the date on which the aggression against the Ossetian people began, and as the date on which we began working out new approaches to security in the world. And I talked about this.
As for recognition, for us the matter is closed: in terms of international law for us two new states have emerged. We have already prepared agreements with them, including agreements on the establishment of diplomatic relations. There will be other agreements, according to which we will provide them with economic, cultural and military support. Let no one have any doubts on that score. But this is a distinct situation. Everything else is a fabrication. I have already characterised it as the phantom pains felt by those who are determined to see the Russian Federation as a new version of the Soviet Union. Russia is not that, but it is a country that has to be reckoned with.