Verhagen: ‘It’s better to talk with Russia than about it’

Negotiations between Russia and the European Union on a new partnership agreement can be resumed as soon as Russia has fully implemented the six-point plan for resolving the crisis in Georgia. Foreign minister Maxime Verhagen made this statement after his talks in The Hague with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

‘In recent weeks in the EU we have mostly talked about Russia,’ Mr Verhagen said. ‘So I’m glad that I had a chance today to talk with a Russian representative. This is the way to find solutions to our differences of opinion.’

Among other things, Mr Verhagen and Mr Lavrov discussed the aftermath of the crisis in Georgia. Russian troops have now mostly withdrawn from the buffer zones around Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia cooperated as an EU monitoring mission was deployed.

Fighting broke out in August between the Russian and Georgian armies in and around the regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. After EU mediation, a six-point plan was agreed to end the hostilities and enhance stability in Georgia. Subsequently Russia unilaterally recognised the two regions’ independence.

In the spirit of the six-point plan, Mr Verhagen urged Russia to pull its troops back to their pre-conflict positions, admit EU observers to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and adopt a constructive approach in the Geneva talks on the security situation in the Caucasus.

Mr Verhagen also raised with Mr Lavrov the findings of the fact-finding mission on the death in Georgia of Dutch cameraman Stan Storimans. The mission concluded that Mr Storimans was killed by a cluster weapon that only the Russian army possesses.