EU should re-open strategic talks with Russia, Brussels says

Other News Materials 5 November 2008 16:58 (UTC +04:00)

The European Union should re-open talks on a strategic deal with Russia which it froze following Russia's invasion of Georgia as soon as possible, the bloc's executive said Wednesday.

"It is the view of the (European) Commission that the next negotiating sessions should be scheduled now," a report from the Brussels-based body on the EU's relationship with Russia said, reported dpa.

"These negotiations should continue, first because this would allow the EU to pursue its own interests with Russia, and secondly because this is the best way to engage with Russia on the basis of a unified position," the report said.

EU-Russia relations have been ruled since 1997 by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) agreed with the government of the late Boris Yeltsin. Both sides agree that the deal needs updating.

However, talks on the so-called "New EU-Russia Agreement" have repeatedly stalled over rows between Russia and EU member states such as Lithuania and Poland.

The latest blow came after Russian forces occupied Georgia in August and Moscow recognized the independence of the Georgian breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia - a move which the EU firmly opposed.

EU leaders in an emergency summit on September 1 decided to freeze talks on the new agreement "until troops have withdrawn to the positions held prior to (the outbreak of fighting on) August 7."

Russian troops have since pulled out of most, but not all of the occupied zones. However, a great majority of EU member states favour re-opening talks on the new agreement nonetheless.

EU foreign ministers are set to debate the issue on Monday ahead of an EU-Russia summit on November 14.