Germany warns Russia West has other energy options


AFP
August 25, 2008

Germany on Monday warned Russia to respect its pledge to pull its troops out of Georgia, stressing that the West also had leverage in its dealings with Moscow as an energy partner. Deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters that Berlin expected Russian troops to withdrawal from western Georgia in line with a six-point, French-brokered ceasefire plan to end the conflict.

 

When asked what measures could be undertaken to bring pressure to bear on Moscow, Steg noted that Russia was also reliant on Western cooperation in overhauling its infrastructure.

“Without EU cooperation, this modernisation will not succeed,” he said at a regular government news conference.

Steg added that Germany had made progress in recent years in diversifying its energy supply, reducing its reliance on Russian gas.

“We of course have an interest in secure, regular, reliable deliveries of Russian gas,” Steg said.

“(But) it must be remembered that we are not only dependent on Russia even if it is an important supplier.”

Steg said economic ties must rest on a “certain understanding of common values” which Germany would not abandon.

“We won’t see this issue in a different light this winter,” when demand for gas for heating soars, Steg said.

The European Union has signalled growing impatience with Russia by announcing a special European summit on the Georgia crisis on September 1.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said late Sunday in a television interview that she trusted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to comply with the ceasefire plan he signed this month.

But she acknowledged that the troop withdrawal to date has fallen short of the plan’s terms.

“We could be looking at a breach if things remain as they are,” she said in reference to Russian checkpoints in areas such as the Black Sea port of Poti, which lie beyond the boundaries of a so-called buffer zone.

She began a tour of Sweden and the Baltic states Monday, hoping to mend damaging differences in Europe’s response to the Georgia crisis and over future relations with Moscow.

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