Sarkozy accuses Russia and warns Turkey during Caucasus trip

French President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers his speech at Liberty Square in Tbilisi, October 7, 2011

From Emmanuel Jarry, Reuters:  French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Russia before a cheering crowd in Georgia on Friday of violating the ceasefire that ended the 2008 war in the Caucasus and assured his audience that the door to the European Union remains open.

Sarkozy addressed some 30,000 people packing Freedom Square in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, his last stop on a two-day Caucasus region tour that also took him to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

He said Russia had flouted the truce he brokered to end its five-day war with Georgia by building up forces in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia instead of withdrawing to pre-conflict positions.

"France will not resign itself to a ‘fait accompli’," he said, with Georgia’s pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili, looking on. "I would like to reiterate here my commitment to watch over the enforcement of the accord. . . ."

Sarkozy said the ex-Soviet republic was "free to express its aspirations to join NATO, if it is the will of the people", as well as "to draw closer to the European Union and one day join.

"When I am in Tbilisi, I feel I am in Europe," he said.

Sarkozy also pleased his hosts in Armenia, warning Turkey that it might soon become illegal in France to deny that the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 was genocide. He called on Turkey to make a "gesture of reconciliation" and recognize the killings as genocide.

If it does not, he said, France "will consider it must go further to amend its legislation to penalise this denial. . . ."

The challenge by the president of France, which opposes Turkey’s bid to join the EU, drew an angry rebuttal from Ankara.

Turkey’s foreign minister said France should confront its colonial past before giving lessons to others.

The French "do not have the right to teach Turkey a history lesson or call for Turkey to face its history," Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference.  (photo: Reuters)

Image: reuters%2010%2010%2011%20Nicolas%20Sarkozy%20Tbilisi.jpg