EU, Russia re-open strategic talks
The European Union and Russia on Tuesday re- opened high-level talks on a new strategic treaty which EU leaders froze in September to protest Russia's invasion of Georgia, dpa reported.
The meeting between Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, and EU negotiator Eneko Landaburu was intended to discuss the "general architecture" of a future deal, sources in the European Commission, the EU's executive, said.
Relations between Russia and the EU are currently governed by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) agreed with the government of Boris Yeltsin in 1997.
It covers issues such as trade, cultural exchanges, the promotion of democracy, education and environmental protection.
Since then, Russia has rapidly re-built its military and political power, while the EU has expanded all the way to the Russian border, leading both sides to call for a new deal.
After many internal rows within the EU, the first round of talks on the "New EU-Russia Agreement" was held on July 4. However, on September 1, following the Russian-Georgian war, EU leaders postponed any further talks as long as Russian troops remained in Georgia.
Although Russia still has troops in Georgia, and has recognized the independence of the Georgian breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, EU foreign ministers decided on November 10 to re-launch talks on the new deal, overriding Lithuanian objections.
Advocates for such a move argued that the EU would only be able to exercise leverage over Russia if it returned to the negotiating table.
As the EU-Russia talks opened on Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers - 21 of whom represent EU member states - were meeting in Brussels to discuss whether they should re-start high-level talks with Russia which they froze after the Georgian war.