Monday, September 8, 2008

France Against Sanctioning Russia

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has warned that imposing any sanctions against Russia could backfire as much of Europe depends on it for its oil and gas.

He also suggested European Union buyers unite to strengthen Europe's hand in dealing with Russia as a gas supplier.

France, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, is pressing Moscow to keep its pledge to withdraw troops from Georgia to the lines it held on August 7 before fighting erupted.

EU leaders warned the Kremlin this week they could postpone talks due this month on a new EU-Russia partnership pact, but have avoided tougher sanctions.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Kouchner are due in Moscow and Tbilisi on Monday.

"What sanctions do you want against the country supplying you?" Kouchner told Newsweek in an interview published on the weekly's website on Saturday.

Russia, which holds some of the world's largest untapped gas reserves, supplies about a third of Europe's oil and gas.

"(Russian President Dmitry) Medvedev said: 'Be careful, we can impose sanctions too'. You remember when they did that for Ukraine. What sanctions? ... No one proposed serious sanctions," Kouchner said.

"One reaction could be a European gas-buying unit, meaning solidarity among consumers. That's a priority of the French EU presidency. We are working on it," he said.

Kouchner also said it was important to maintain relations with Russia with regards to Iran

Source: Guardian.Co.Uk - Reuters

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