The French EU presidency has thrown its weight behind calls by Western diplomats for Russia to accept a ceasefire offer from Georgia over the ongoing fighting in South Ossetia.
On a TV news debate, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner left viewers in no doubt about the EU stance.
“The 27 countries of Europe are determined to firmly ask for the cessation of the conflict immediately and a withdrawal of forces to previously held international positions,” he said.
The statement reflects the French government’s demands for an end to the fighting.
EU foreign ministers are to hold an emergency meeting early next week to assess the situation.
In Washington the US administration has accused Russia of using “disproportionate force” in response to Georgia’s offensive to regain control of the breakaway separatist region.
President George W. Bush urged Moscow to stop bombing raids which, he said, marked a “dangerous escalation” of the crisis.
The Russian foreign ministry says Moscow is ready to discuss the situation on two conditions; one, that Georgia withdraws all its forces from the conflict zone and second; the immediate signing of a binding agreement on the non-use of force.
Asked whether the US would offer military assistance to Georgia, a US official said: “We are not talking about anything beyond diplomacy at this point.”