Medvedev hosts EU leaders in Siberia
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev began a summit with EU leaders Friday expected to relaunch talks on a partnership pact after a thaw in relations, reported dpa.
Analysts say the negotiations will offer both sides a chance to size up the political will to overcome a host of problems in the energy and security sectors before a deal can be brokered.
Official talks on the broad-ranging political pact will begin on July 4 in Brussels.
Brussels-based diplomats hope Medvedev will prove a more flexible partner than his predecessor Vladimir Putin, whose bellicose line aggravated relations with the EU's post-Soviet member states.
Poland and Lithuania vetoed earlier attempts at an agreement because of bilateral trade rows and Russia's entanglement in the so- called frozen conflicts in Georgia and Moldova.
Medvedev has shown no inclination to exacerbate things, but press statements by his top advisors have criticized attempts by EU member states to "politicize" relations and manipulate the EU.
Both sides differ on what form a new agreement should take. Russia wants a more general plan mapped on the one which expired last year, while the EU insists on a more detailed pact, with precise wording on energy and security issues.
"The whole complex of energy-related issues is one of the most important elements of our relations with Russia," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in an interview ahead of the talks.
"It is an area where our interdependence is very strong, and it is only natural that this should be reflected in the new agreement," he said.
Russian officials said holding talks in the oil-rich Siberian city of Khanty-Mansiysk was symbolic. The region accounts for about 40 per cent of the country's exports, of which the EU is biggest customer.
Brussels is also intent on including discussions of recent escalations in tensions with Tbilisi over Russia's backing of Georgia's rebel region of Abkhazia.
Medvedev, in a diplomatic stand Thursday, met with the leader of the separatist province and stressed the importance of adhering to an existing UN peacekeeping treaty that allows for Russian troops to patrol the autonomous region.
EU officials are pushing for a new peace accord to govern the region that could diminish Russia's peacekeeping role, but the proposal was dismissed by a senior Kremlin aide.
Sergei Prikhodko, Medvedev's foreign policy advisor, said Russia rejects any changes to the current format of negotiations over the conflicts.
Given Russia's successful bilateral relations with its main EU trading partners, analysts say there is little impetus for a speedy conclusion of negotiations. Both sides have declined to cite a deadline for a new agreement.
The talks were scheduled to start around noon to allow the assembled leaders to sleep after Russia's semi-final against Spain in the Euro 2008 in the early morning hours Russian time.