The EU and Georgia today formally opened negotiations for an Association Agreement aimed at reinforcing links between the ex Soviet satelite state and the EU. Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, was also in Georgia for talks with Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili. The burning issue was of course persuading Russia to withdraw their troops from Georgian territory.
Mikhail Sakashvili said: “These vast regions are without inhabitants. The only reason that people cannot return to their homes is because Russian troops are stationed there. Russian troops are there to consolidate their position resulting from the ethnic cleansing that was carried out. This is clear. We cannot call it anything else. I mean, what else can we call it? Military tourism?”
The talks come hard on the heels of a visit by Hillary Clinton who took the opportunity to remind the world that the US supported the “territorial integrity” of Georgia. According to the ceasefire agreement broked by France to end the 2008 Georgian conflict with Russia, Russia was supposed to withdraw her troops to their pre-war positions but despite international urging, so far, has not done so.