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Medvedev: European monitors to deploy to Georgia
Russia EU Georgia M 5099386
From left, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and French President Nicolas Sarkozy meet, in Medvedev's residence outside Moscow, Monday, Sept. 8, 2008. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana began the difficult mission on Monday of trying to persuade Russia to honor its pledge to withdraw troops from Georgia. - photo by Associated Press
    MOSCOW  — European Union monitors will deploy to regions surrounding South Ossetia and Abkhazia by next month and Russian troops will pull out after that, President Dmitry Medvedev said Monday.
    After talks with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Medvedev said that 200 EU monitors will be deployed to South Ossetia no later than Oct. 1. International talks on the conflict in Georgia would be held beginning Oct. 15 in Geneva.
    Medvedev also alleged that Georgia’s leader, Mikhail Saakashvili, had received ‘‘a blessing, either in the form of a direct order or silent approval’’ from the United States to launch an ‘‘idiotic action’’ against the other breakaway province of South Ossetia.
    ‘‘People died and now all of Georgia must pay for that,’’ Medvedev said.
    Russian tanks and troops entered South Ossetia after Georgian forces began an offensive to gain control of the pro-Russian territory, which has had de-facto independence for more than 15 years. The Russians quickly repelled the soldiers and drove further into Georgia.
    Nearly a month after the five-day war, Russian troops remain entrenched deep inside Georgian territory. Georgia and the West have accused Russia of failing to honor its pledge to withdraw its troops to positions held before the fighting broke out Aug. 7. The dispute has plunged relations between Moscow and the West to near Cold War levels of animosity.
    But Russia says those troops are peacekeepers and that they are allowed under the accord to help maintain security around Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
    Moscow has recognized the two regions as independent states, a move denounced in Georgia and abroad. The regions make up roughly 20 percent of Georgia’s territory — and include miles of prime coastline along the Black Sea.
    Medvedev said Russia would not revisit that decision.
    ‘‘Our decision is irrevocable, the two new states have come to existence,’’ Medvedev said. ‘‘This is a reality which all our partners, including our EU partners, will have to reckon with.’’
    He insisted that Russia is complying with terms of the cease-fire that Sarkozy negotiated last month. He said Russian troops would pull out of the Black Sea port of Poti and nearby areas in the next seven days, but only if Georgia signed a pledge to not use force against Abkhazia.
    Sarkozy suggested that the talks Monday were difficult but ‘‘what was accomplished today, it was rather significant’’ — referring in particular to the decision to send European observers.
    Sarkozy was slated to fly to the Georgian capital later Monday to meet with Saakashvili and present the update to the cease-fire plan.
    The head of Georgia’s Security Council said Georgian authorities awaited a full report from Sarkozy but that ‘‘there are some heartening aspects’’ in what Sarkozy and Medvedev described.
    Alexander Lomaia said it was ‘‘very important’’ that Sarkozy had persuaded Russia to commit to ‘‘a concrete timetable for the withdrawal of all forces from all of Georgian territory’’ outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
    Earlier Monday, Russian soldiers prevented international aid convoys from visiting Georgian villages in a tense zone around the breakaway province of South Ossetia.
    The convoy of four vehicles from U.N. aid agencies waited for about an hour at the Karaleti checkpoint — located on the main road between the central Georgian city of Gori and the South Ossetian city of Tskhinvali. They were later turned away after a brief discussion with a Russian general.
    The three aid agencies’ SUVs and a World Food Program truck loaded with wheat flour, pasta, sugar and other staples were headed to Georgian villages near South Ossetia. David Carden, who was leading the interagency mission, said the group’s had been trying to assess the situation in the village.
    ‘‘It didn’t work out today as we would have hoped, and we will make every effort to continue to conduct such missions in the future,’’ Carden told The Associated Press.
    The general, identified by servicemen as Maj. Gen. Marat Kulakhmetov, head of the Russian peacekeeping forces in South Ossetia, left immediately after the exchange.
    An official at the headquarters of the Russian forces said later by telephone that no official request for passage had been submitted by the U.N. agencies. The official, who said he was not authorized to give his name to the media, said aid deliveries must be escorted by peacekeeping forces.
    Carden, however, said U.N. humanitarian authorities had told the Russians of their plans in advance.
    Also Friday, Russian forces barred the ambassadors of Sweden, Latvia and Estonia from villages beyond Russian checkpoints where they wanted to deliver aid, the ambassadors said in a statement. The diplomats said they also wanted to assess the situation in the villages and verify allegations of ethnic cleansing.
    A vehicle from CARE International on an assessment mission on behalf of several non-governmental aid agencies was also turned away Monday, before the general arrived. Wolfgang Gressman, an emergency response adviser, said he had been turned away Sunday and told to come again Monday after submitting a list, in Russian, of the agencies involved.
    Czech lawmaker Lubomir Zaoralek told Georgia’s Rustavi-2 television he and other parliament members were also barred from passing at Karaleti.
    Also Monday, Georgia accused Russia of a ‘‘campaign of harassment and persecution’’ in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and urged the International Court of Justice to intervene to halt killings and forced expulsions.
    Russia also accuses Georgia of crimes against humanity, for launching a massive attack last month on South Ossetia, killing Russian peacekeepers and dozens of civilians.
    The 15-judge tribunal, unofficially known as the World Court, will likely take years to deal with Georgia’s case.
    Associated Press writers Steve Gutterman in Karaleti, Georgia; Vladimir Isachenkov and Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow; and Mike Corder at The Hague contributed to this report.

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