Russia cancels visit over Poland, US missile-defence deal

Other News Materials 15 August 2008 02:37 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov canceled an upcoming trip to Poland hours after US and Polish negotiators struck a deal on an American anti-missile defence shield to be placed on Polish soil, the Polish Press Agency reported Thursday.

Lavrov was scheduled to visit with his Polish counterpart in September, reportedly to discuss the Russian-controlled Strait of Baltiysk.

But the diplomat canceled the trip after Poland and the United States sealed a deal on hosting part of a US anti-missile shield, in return for military aid. The agreement capped more than a year of tough bargaining over a project that has infuriated Russia.

Tensions have been rising between the two nations over the shield, with Russia warning of a military response if the plan moved ahead.

Russia has strongly opposed the project, despite assurances from Washington that the system would target ballistic missile threats from countries like Iran and wasn't meant to undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent.

The Strait of Baltiysk is the Vistula Bay's only connection with the Baltic Sea, and the only route from the sea to the Polish port of Elblag. But Russia has, on several occasions, blocked access for Polish vessels and closed access completely in 2006.