Warsaw and Moscow must build ties: Poland's Walesa

6th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Warsaw and Moscow must do all they can to keep ties on an even keel, communist-era Polish opposition chief Lech Walesa said Monday as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev embarked on a landmark state visit.

"We're condemned to co-exist. When we fall out, others take advantage. Enough of that game! We need to have normal ties once and for all," Walesa told Polish rolling news channel TVN24.

"We live in a period when there's nothing to be gained from fighting. These days we're traders, and you don't kill traders," he added.

Walesa said Poland and Russia should boost ties in a swathe of sectors, from business to culture and tourism to youth exchanges.

"This is an opportunity that needs seizing. Young Russians are very open, well-educated and intelligent. We can get along with them," he said.

Medvedev's state visit, the first to Poland by a Kremlin leader in nine years, comes amid a thaw in what has long been a rocky relationship between Moscow and its communist-era satellite Poland.

Fences have been mended gradually since Poland's liberals beat a conservative, nationalist party in a 2007 general election.

The relationship has improved further amid shared mourning after Poland's president Lech Kaczynski died in a plane crash in Russia in April as he landed for a World War II memorial ceremony.

Walesa, a former shipyard electrician, was among the founders of Poland's Solidarity trade union and opposition in 1980.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for his non-violent struggle against Warsaw's communist regime, which finally crumbled in 1989, sounding the death-knell for the entire Soviet bloc two years later.

He was elected president of Poland in 1990 and served one five-year term.

Polish-Russian relations have often been frosty in the post-Soviet era, notably after Poland joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.

© 2010 AFP

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