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People gathered around a lorry filled with EU aid

The EU has provided €6 million in aid for people caught up in the conflict affecting South Ossetia and other parts of Georgia. More help is on the way.

The aid is being distributed by non-governmental organisations, specialised UN agencies and the Red Cross/Red Crescent. Individual EU countries have provided a further €8.4 million between them.

The situation in Georgia was discussed at an emergency EU summit on 1 September. EU leaders decided to postpone talks with Russia on a new partnership pact until Moscow withdraws its troops to pre-conflict positions. They also agreed to a review of relations with Russia, condemning Moscow’s recognition of breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will accompany French president Nicolas Sarkozy on a visit to Moscow next week. France currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

A team of EU experts has already been sent to the region to evaluate humanitarian needs. Civilian observers will follow – to monitor implementation of the EU-brokered six-point truce. Along with a ceasefire, the agreement calls for international talks and a return to lines held before the five-day war, which saw Russian troops take up positions in Georgia beyond South Ossetia.

EU leaders also agreed to make reconstruction aid available for Georgia and to press for a free trade deal and a relaxed visa regime for its citizens. They agreed to help organise an international donors’ conference for Georgia. External affairs commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said €110 million would be needed to help an estimated 20 000 - 30 000 displaced people.

The EU has sought to strengthen its ties with Georgia in recent years, especially since the bloc’s eastward expansion in 2004. Under its European neighbourhood policy , the EU offers Georgia financial support for economic and political reform. Ms Ferrero-Waldner said the EU would step up those efforts and deepen ties with Ukraine and Moldova, also covered by the policy.

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