EU not yet ready for new partnership talks with Russia - foreign policy chief

Other News Materials 15 May 2007 14:52 (UTC +04:00)

( RIA Novosti ) - The EU foreign policy chief said Tuesday the European Union was not yet ready to begin talks on a new strategic cooperation pact with Russia, reflecting persisting differences between Moscow and some East European EU members.

Talks on a new deal to replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) expiring in December were to be launched at a summit in Russia May 18, but will have to be delayed again after Poland extended its November 2006 veto Monday, citing Moscow's refusal to lift an import ban on its meat, which it calls political.

But Javier Solana played down the delay in an interview with RIA Novosti, saying that differences were inevitable in international relations, and that Europe and Russia had learned to discuss them in an open and constructive way.

He admitted, however, that a weeklong siege of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow, triggered by the removal of a Soviet war memorial from central Tallinn and a relentless anti-Estonian campaign in the Russian media, had also overshadowed relations between the EU and Russia.

Lithuania also threatened to block the PCA talks if Russia failed to resume oil supplies from the Druzhba pipeline, suspended last July after a purported accident. Russian authorities have said repairs are still continuing, but the Baltic state insists the suspension is politically motivated.

Media reports also said that Poland and Lithuania, seeking to reduce their energy dependence on Russia, were also angered by President Vladimir Putin's Caspian gas deal with the Kazakh and Turkmen leaders last week, which delivered a blow to a rival project to build pipelines from Central Asia bypassing Russia, proposed by Europe and the U.S.