PARIS – The European Union is not expected to imposed sanctions on Russia at a summit next week but may name a special envoy to Georgia to ensure that a cease-fire there is observed, officials in Paris and Brussels said Friday.
They also said that the EU might send a high official — perhaps French President Nicolas Sarkozy — on a shuttle mission to the region.
The 27 European Union leaders are scheduled to hold a special summit in Brussels on Monday to discuss how to respond to the recent brief and bitter war between Russia and Georgia, and Russia’s subsequent recognition of the independence of two breakaway regions of Georgia.
The EU already has an envoy to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. But under a plan that will be discussed at the summit, that job would be split up to create the special envoy to Georgia, said an official at the EU headquarters in Brussels.
The official also said that a visit by Sarkozy to both Moscow and the Georgian capital, Tbilisi would be discussed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the rules of the job.
France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, had said the EU was considering sanctions against Russia following its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
But he told reporters Friday that a provisional text for the Brussels meeting has been drawn up, and that the focus was on unity in the 27-member EU bloc.
“France doesn’t foresee any sanctions,” he said.
A high-ranking official in Sarkozy’s office also said sanctions wouldn’t be imposed at the summit.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office policy, said the EU is also likely to ask Sarkozy to continue his “mission” in the crisis, which involved shuttle diplomacy and visits to both Moscow and Tbilisi earlier this month.
The French official said France’s priority is ensuring that Russia respects a cease-fire deal that France helped craft.
Moscow’s recognition Tuesday of South Ossetia and Abkhazia followed a brief war between Georgia and Russia earlier this month. Georgia had launched a military offensive to retake South Ossetia from separatists, and Russia responded by sending tanks into the Moscow-friendly province and Georgia proper.
European countries considerably toughened their stance against Russia after Moscow’s move to recognize the provinces as independent. Kouchner said Thursday that France was not behind the effort for sanctions and that the French role was to unite Europeans in a common position.
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she believes it is important for Monday’s summit to send “a clear political signal of the European Union’s unity” on the crisis.
The EU is united in saying that Georgia’s territorial integrity is not up for discussion, that the EU will help in rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and that the recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence is unacceptable, Merkel spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said in Berlin.