The French president told MEPs in Strasbourg on October 21:
• U.S. position was different from ours;
• Tbilisi’s actions were inappropriate;
• Russia’s reaction - disproportionate;
• Russia aimed at overthrowing Saakashvili.
Russia’s reaction to Georgia’s “inappropriate actions” in South Ossetia was “disproportionate,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at the European Parliament on October 21.
Sarkozy, who holds the EU presidency, started his address to the European parliamentarians in Strasbourg by laying out efforts undertaken by France to stop the August war in Georgia.
“We saw the war as a completely disproportionate reaction from the Russians in the case of the conflict with Georgia,” he said. “And I use this word – disproportionate – because it was disproportionate to intervene as the Russians did in Georgia.”
“And I also use the word ‘reaction’, because [Russia’s] reaction was disproportionate but that was because there was a preceding inappropriate action, and Europe has to be fair. Europe shouldn't hesitate to step out of the ideological framework to put across a message of peace.”
Sarkozy made a similar statement on October 8, when he said that Georgia’s attack on Tskhinvali was “a mistake,” but added that Russia’s response was “not proportionate.” Giga Bokeria, the Georgian deputy foreign minister, said seeing Georgia’s move as “a mistake” was “not correct.” “Such a formulation – that it was a mistake – made no matter by whom is not correct and any investigation can prove that,” he said on October 8.
The French president said that the EU had intervened and negotiated a ceasefire, which, he said, although “not perfect,” led to the end of the war and “the withdrawal of the occupying forces.”
He also said that on August 12 when he and Foreign Minister Kouchner went to Moscow to negotiate a ceasefire, Russian troops were only 40 kilometers from Tbilisi. “And the aim was to overthrow Mr. Saakashvili,” Sarkozy said.
“Obviously there are lots of shortcomings, a lot of points of ambiguities; lots of compromises have been made; but I think that we pulled out all the stops and if Europe had not raised the voice of reason and dialogue, who would have done that?” he said.
The French president pointed out that there were “various different opinions” about the EU’s peace efforts, with some people, Sarkozy said, claiming “dialogue was pointless and that a response to military aggression should be military.”
“That was a folly,” he continued, adding that the United States had also thought the trip to Moscow was “inappropriate.”
“Europe should no longer be an accomplice of another Cold War just because we can not keep a cool head. It was a problem that we overcame with our American allies, who thought that the trip to Moscow was inappropriate,” Sarkozy said. “Nevertheless we played hand-in-hand with our American allies. Their position was not the same as ours, but we tried to build collaboration rather than opposition.”
“Given the state of the world today, I don't believe the world needs a crisis between Europe and Russia; it would be irresponsible.”
“We can defend our ideas about the respect of sovereignty, the respect of Georgia’s territorial integrity, human rights – the differences with those who lead Russia, but it would be irresponsible to create the conditions for a conflict for which we have no need,” he added.
Sarkozy said that the Geneva talks on, as he put it, “the future status” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia had already started.
“It started in difficulty, but who could imagine anything else? The important point is that those talks are getting underway,” he said.