Despite all the difficulties, Georgia should engage in talks with Russia, Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said during his visit to Tbilisi on July 15.
Kouchner’s visit came five weeks after Saakashvili met with French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, in Paris.
He reiterated support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and said that the August 12 six-point ceasefire agreement, mediated by Nicolas Sarkozy in capacity of EU presidency, was still in place, which should be fully implemented by Russia.
Kouchner said that France and EU were raising this issue in talks with Russia and work was ongoing to secure full implementation of the six-point ceasefire agreement.
He, however, also said that only two years have passed since the August war and it was not possible to achieve any significant progress in such a short period of time.
“Russian [forces] should be pulled back to the positions they held prior to the August war. What do you expect me to do in terms of pressing Russia [to fulfill this agreement], except of having talks with [Russia]?” Kouchner said.
“We try to achieve success in frames of Geneva discussions and we try to talks as much as possible with Russia,” he added. "Russia must leave the territory of Georgia and France must apply maximum strength to achieve it."
“I am grateful that Bernard Kouchner today and previously mentioned the word‘ ‘occupation’; that’s exactly describes the situation on the ground in occupied territories,” President Saakashvili said at the joint news conference with Kouchner.
Georgia tries to establish internationally a term “occupied territories” in reference of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. During her visit to Georgia on July 5, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, spoke against Russia’s “continued occupation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia said in response that use of term “occupation” by Clinton was “groundless”.
Kouchner said that although he mentioned the term “occupation” in reference to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but the conflict would not be solved through use of this term.
Before meeting with President Saakashvili, Kouchner spoke about European policy issues to an audience in Europe House in Tbilisi.
The French Foreign Minister told the audience, involving representatives of political parties, civil society and media, that although it was not easy for Georgia to engage in talks with Russia, it was necessary.
President Saakashvili did not directly address the issue of talks with Russia at the joint news conference with Kouchner, but he made a statement on the matter on June 29, when he said that Tbilisi was ready for talks with Russia “without pre-conditions” despite Moscow’s stance that it would not negotiate with Georgia’s current leadership.
“We are fully ready to hold comprehensive talks with Russia without any pre-conditions on normalization of relations,” Saakashvili said on June 29 and added: “This normalization means [talks] on return of 500,000 displaced persons back to their homes and restoration of their property rights, as well as on other issues related with bilateral relations, including political, economic, diplomatic and humanitarian aspects.”
“We have no interest in having confrontation with Russia; we are ready to talk with the Russian leadership, which unlike the Georgian one is elected through violation of all the international norms and that’s observed by international organizations; despite of that it is the Russian leadership and we recognize it as partner in negotiations and we want to have talks with them providing that Georgia should be recognized as united, sovereign, independent state,” Saakashvili added.
On Thursday morning Kouchner met with Georgian opposition representatives, including Irakli Alasania, leader of Our Georgia-Free Democrats; Nino Burjanadze, ex-parliamentary speaker and leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia; Tina Khidasheli of Republican Party and MP Petre Mamradze of Movement for Fair Georgia, party led by ex-PM Zurab Nogaideli. Opposition representative said that internal political situation and democracy, as well as issues related with Russia were discussed.
Before departure from Tbilisi, the French Foreign Minister visited a settlement of internally displaced persons in the village of Koda.
In an interview with Euronews this week, French Minister for European Affair, Pierre Lellouche, said that Paris was Georgia’s friend and France considered recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia as illegitimate.
“The so called independence of these territories, locally declared and recognised by Russia, for us has no legal jurisdiction,” he said. “Furthermore, I think it is a mistake to give a false sovereignty to territories which are in fact enclaves within a sovereign country. It creates precedents which benefit no one, absolutely no one. And some people in Moscow understand that.”