EU Links Talks to Georgia Pullout

The European Union said Monday that it would postpone talks on a partnership agreement with Moscow until Russia withdrew its troops from Georgia.

But a resolution reached by EU leaders, gathered for an emergency summit in Brussels, avoided even a hint of possible sanctions against Russia.

The resolution strongly condemned Moscow for disrespecting Georgia's territorial integrity and recognizing Georgia's separatist republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, and it urged other countries not to follow Russia's lead.

"It is clear that, in the light of events, we cannot continue as if nothing had happened," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said after the summit.

The next round of talks, scheduled for Sept. 15, will be dependent on Russian troop movements, Barroso told reporters.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will fly to Moscow on Sept. 8 to see whether Moscow has fully followed a six-point peace plan that he brokered with President Dmitry Medvedev last month, Barroso said.

Russian forces crushed Georgian troops in a five-day war that erupted last month after Tbilisi tried to reclaim South Ossetia by force. Russian military units remain in what Moscow calls security zones in Georgia proper, set to ensure the safety of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian borders. Moscow has promised to withdraw the troops when international peacekeepers take over the security zones.

Monday's summit -- held under the aegis of France, which holds the revolving EU presidency -- revealed a schism among EU members' attitude toward Russia.

Britain was joined by Poland and the Baltic states in demanding harsh measures against Russia. Other states chose a more moderate position, urging Russia not to isolate itself.

In the run-up to the summit, Russian officials had expressed confidence that the EU would not slap Russia with economic sanctions. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the notion of possible sanctions as "sick" and "confusing."

Political analysts both in Russia and abroad also had voiced skepticism over the possibility of sanctions, saying Europe's dependence on Russian energy would prevent EU leaders from entering a head-on conflict with Moscow.

Vladislav Belov, an analyst with the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said postponing talks on the EU-Russia partnership was not a punishment for Russia.

"The last agreement, reached in 1997, is automatically being extended every year until a new accord is reached," he said.

Among other topics, the agreement is to set new principles for Russia's energy cooperation with Europe -- principles that Belov said the EU needed more than Moscow at the moment.

Georgian diplomats have been calling on EU leaders to take a tougher stance with Russia. But leaders of West European countries have said they would seek to avoid further straining diplomatic relations with Moscow over Georgia in order to continue their mediation in the conflict.

Going into the summit Monday, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters that the meeting would not consider sanctions but rather the necessity of rethinking Europe's relations with Russia. He said EU foreign ministers would discuss possible options at talks Friday and Saturday in Avignon, France.

Russian television showed hundreds of pro-Georgia supporters rallied Monday in Brussels, many of them wearing T-shirts reading, "I am a Georgian" and carrying Georgian flags. A much smaller group of people carrying South Ossetian flags rallied separately.

Georgian and Russian official delegations did not participate in the summit.