Separate tables

The French government appears to be trying to negotiate a private bilateral foreign policy deal of its own with Russia. A report from Sochi, where the French prime minister Francois Fillon has had talks with Putin, points out that

Fillon flew to Sochi at a time when the European Union is reviewing ties with Russia. The EU condemned Moscow’s intervention in Georgia, launched last month to crush Tbilisi’s attempt to retake two pro-Moscow regions.

The new French line seems to be that if the provisions of the Medvedev-Sarkozy deal – which has already been condemned by the U.S., amoong others – are carried out, then there is nothing to prevent France from pursuing trade and energy deals which were held up because of the Georgia crisis. However, statements by Fillon suggest that France’s efforts to resume “business as usual” with Moscow – a goal earnestly desired by Putin and the Russian leadership – go further than a deal between the two countries:

We wanted this meeting to take place at the original time because it’s very important to strengthen the partnership between the European Union and Russia, and France and Russia,” Fillon told Putin at their first meeting late on Friday.

It looks as though more dissension within the ranks of the European Union may now arise because of this, as several nations, including Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic States have stated their opposition to such “partnership-strengthening” until Russian forces have withdrawn to the positions of before August 7, and the issue of EU and OSCE monitors’ access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia – which are being illegally annexed by Russia – has been settled. Neither of these conditions looks likely to be fulfilled in the near future.

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