EU said resumption of partnership talks with Russia “no way legitimise the status quo in Georgia, or Russian action contrary to our values and principles.”
“For the Union, dialogue and negotiation are the best means of pursuing its aims, furthering its principles and values,” a press statement released after the EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on November 10 reads.
“The conflict in Georgia has affected the trust which is necessary for the partnership between the European Union and Russia,” it said. “Russia must continue to implement its commitments and enter constructively into the international discussions which have opened in Geneva.”
The EU-Russia partnership talks and Georgia became interlinked after EU leaders decided on September 1 to postpone these talks “until [Russian] troops have withdrawn to the positions held prior to 7 August.” Russia has withdrawn its troops since then from the areas adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but it still keeps troops inside the two breakaway regions, including in those areas, where there was no Russian military presence before the August war.
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said after the foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels: “We think it is time to resume the talks.” The decision is expected to be formally approved at a Russia-Europe summit on November 14.
Poland and Lithuania were against of the resumption of talks.
Poland, however, eventually dropped its opposition. Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said after the Brussels meeting that the talks “should restart at the very end of this month or the first half of next month.”
Lithuania remained strongly against of resuming talks. "We think this is a mistake. History will show who was right and who was not,” Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Zygimantas Pavilionis told AFP.
No consensus of EU’s 27 member states was needed for restarting talks, as European Commission already has a relevant mandate.
AFP quoted French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner as saying on November 10 that “26 out of 27 is not so bad as a majority and secondly it was not necessary to vote.”
In a joint statement British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and his Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt, said on November 10, just before the Brussels meeting that restart of talks with Russia, should no way be interpreted as EU’s return “to business as usual” with Moscow. “Nor are we turning the page on the conflict in Georgia,” they said.
Georgia's Foreign Minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili, said it was “very hard to assess” EU’s decision at this point. She said that it was clear that Russia was not in compliance with its ceasefire commitments.
Davit Bakradze, the Georgian Parliamentary Chairman, said earlier on November 10 that Tbilisi was not against “development of EU-Russian relations” in itself. But he also added: “Whatever the decision is, I hope, EU-Russian relations will not continue at the expense of ignoring Georgia’s legal interests.”