Leaders of Russia and the European Union (EU) Tuesday started official talks at their 25th summit at Russia's southern city of Rostov-on-Don, Xinhua reported.
On the agenda are Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Partnership for Modernization as an initiative to deepen bilateral strategic cooperation, lifting of visa regimes, a replacement pact for comprehensive Russia-EU partnership, as well as international issues such as Iran, climate change and the financial crisis.
The summit, themed "Facing the Future", brought together Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, European Council President Herman van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Vice President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, and Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht.
Prior to the closed-door talks scheduled to last about three hours, both van Rompuy and Barroso conveyed their condolences over the victims of Moscow metro blasts in late March at the opening of their talks.
Medvedev expressed hope that the upcoming summit would mark the initiation of the partnership between Russia and the EU in the field of modernization.
Recalling their last summit in Stockholm in November 2009, Medvedev said both sides have agreed that the Partnership for Modernization would become one of the themes of EU-Russia cooperation in the coming years.
"Today we are in essence, declaring the beginning of work on this initiative," said Medvedev, since "this will give significant impetus to our good, strategic relationship."
Van Rompuy, who met Medvedev for the first time, said hopefully the two sides could engage in discussions in "open spirit" under a new context such as the prospective launching of the Partnership for Modernization, modernizing the Russian economy, visa-tree travels between Russia and the EU, and Moscow's accession to the World Trade Organization.
All these were somehow "interlinked," said the EU head.
Moscow and Brussels were also expected to discuss the global financial and economic crisis and the continued counter-crisis measures, climate change, energy security as well as domestic and international issues.
Barroso said it has now become "crystal clear" that the EU and Russia should stand "side by side" to form a close partnership.
Pinpointing the Partnership for Modernization as the new momentum for deepening bilateral ties "more, faster and better," Barroso also held high hopes toward the upcoming, in-depth summit which he said was "very important."
The Rostov-on-Don summit was the first top-level meeting between Russia and the EU under the Lisbon Treaty.