Georgia hails withdrawal deal as a "step forward"

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Georgia hails withdrawal deal as a "step forward"

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Russia has agreed to withdraw its forces from undisputed territory in Georgia within the next month, after a day of shuttle diplomacy by a top EU delegation.

But it is only on condition that 200 European Union monitors are deployed to South Ossetia, and Georgia agrees not to resort once more to using force in the region.

Speaking in Moscow, President Dmitri Medvedev also defended Russia’s much-criticised decision to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, describing it as “irrevocable.”

“I have stated this several times,” he said. “It is definitive and without appeal.”

The EU delegation, led by French and current EU President Nicolas Sarkozy, then left for Tbilisi to present the details of the Russian agreement to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Despite the conciliatory tone of the meeting, Sarkozy flatly rejected attempts by Moscow to question the status of the breakaway regions:

“No country has the right to take it upon itself to modify the borders of a neighbouring country and member of the UN. So, while there can be no doubt that the EU and Russia disagree on this issue, what we wanted to avoid was a resurgence of the Cold War situation.”

And, while Saakashvili hailed the deal leading to the withdrawal of Russian troops as a “step forward”, he reserved the strongest terms possible for Moscow’s actions, including likening its reaction to the August conflict to Nazi Germany’s annexation of the Sudetenland before the Second World War.

As part of the agreed deal, international peace talks have been planned to take place in Geneva on the 15th of October.