"Reason must prevail" in EU-Russia ties

14th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

14 May 2007, Brussels (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday urged Russia and European Union states to overcome current frictions and use this week's summit in Samara to forge stronger ties. "I am absolutely sure that on both sides reason has to prevail," Steinmeier told reporters as the 27 EU foreign ministers began preparations for the EU-Russia summit on May 17-18. Diplomats said Steinmeier would be travelling to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei

14 May 2007

Brussels (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday urged Russia and European Union states to overcome current frictions and use this week's summit in Samara to forge stronger ties.

"I am absolutely sure that on both sides reason has to prevail," Steinmeier told reporters as the 27 EU foreign ministers began preparations for the EU-Russia summit on May 17-18.

Diplomats said Steinmeier would be travelling to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Steinmeier admitted that EU-Russia ties were currently "complicated", but said this made it even more important to talk to Moscow. Germany currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

The German Foreign Minister said he intended to continue efforts to resolve the row triggered by a Russian ban on imports of Polish meat.

"But of course I cannot say if we are going to be successful," he warned.

Poland is refusing to approve the launch of a new EU-Russia cooperation agreement until Moscow lifts it embargo.

The planned EU-Russia partnership agreement includes EU demands for better and secure access to Russia's vast oil and gas resources, a priority for the energy-hungry 27-member bloc.

Also casting a pall over the summit is a dispute between Estonia and Russia over the removal of a memorial in Tallinn erected during Soviet times for Red Army soldiers who died in World War II.

Moscow's interruption of oil supply to a refinery in Lithuania has emerged as another area of disagreement.

Steinmeier warned that suggestions that the EU-Russia summit should be called off were not helpful. He also insisted that given current tensions, the focus should be on "proposals not accusations."

Separately, EU ministers will focus their talks with the Arab League delegation on a revived Arab proposal for a land-for-peace deal with Israel.

The EU has welcomed the initiative as a step in the right direction. "Now it is important that the talks can be kept stable," said Steinmeier.

The Arab League team includes Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr, a man described as "a respected independent" member of the Hamas-Fatah coalition government.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told reporters she had been "encouraged" after her talks with Abu Amr, saying she believed the new government was making progress in meeting some of the key challenges facing Palestinians.

The EU severed all direct aid to the Palestinian Authority last year following the formation of a Hamas-led government. The militant Islamic group is black-listed as a terrorist organization by the EU.

But EU governments have agreed to hold "selective" meetings with non-Hamas members of the new Palestinian government, saying full contacts will only resume once the administration recognizes Israel's right to exist, abandons the use of violence and agrees to abide by past treaties.

However, EU humanitarian assistance to Palestinian health and education sectors is continuing.

Speaking prior to the meeting with the EU, Abu Amr said he planned to urge Europeans to resume economic aid to the Palestinian Authority and pressure Israel to release funds and take "confidence-building" steps.

Turning to the western Balkans, EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn urged all democratic forces in Serbia to finalize negotiations on the formation of a new government, backed by the parliament.

Rehn said he intended to go to Belgrade soon to study the government programme, but said negotiations on a new EU-Serbia association pact depended on the country's cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The EU is hoping that the formation of a pro-European government in Serbia will help push forward a final settlement for Kosovo.

Russia on Saturday, however, dismissed as "unacceptable" a draft UN Security Council resolution, introduced by Western powers, endorsing a supervised independence plan for Kosovo.

In separate discussions, EU defence ministers will agree a new strategy to build a European defence industrial base to encourage military cooperation among governments in the bloc.

They are also expected to finalize plans for EU police operations in Afghanistan and post-settlement Kosovo.

Separately, EU ministers will review sanctions imposed on Uzbekistan two years ago in the wake of a fierce government crackdown on protestors.

Diplomats said the bloc was likely to take some names off the list of key government officials from Uzbekistan denied entry into the EU.

Discussions are planned on Monday and Tuesday with South African and other African ministers.

DPA

Subject: German news

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