Poland, Russia ink unprecedented cooperation accord

19th December 2013, Comments 0 comments

Poland and Russia on Thursday inked an unprecedented accord outlining cooperation until 2020, signalling a warming of often frosty relations since the collapse of communism over two decades ago.

"Our social, regional and commercial relations are better than media reports would suggest," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said at a joint press conference with his visiting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The accord focused on boosting political and economic ties between EU and NATO member Poland and its Soviet-era master Russia including an agreement on cooperation in the international arena.

"We decided to pursue activity at the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe (...) but also to reinforce effectiveness and trust at the heart of the NATO-Russia council," Lavrov said, adding he hoped the agreement would "bring a new quality" to bilateral ties.

At the same time, as an EU member since 2004, Poland has long been an ardent advocate of Ukraine moving closer to the bloc, a move vehemently opposed by Moscow.

Both Sikorski and Lavrov acknowledged it was up to Ukraine to decide whether it wanted to pursue an association agreement with the EU.

But under pressure from Moscow, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych last month rejected an EU pact, prompting mass opposition protests. Russia has now offered Ukraine a multi-billion-dollar bailout package as the pro-EU rallies continued in Kiev.

Russia ranks as Poland's fifth export market and is its number two supplier, mainly in the energy sector.

In 2012, bilateral trade stood at $37.9 billion and was up 13 percent over the first three quarters of this year on an annual comparison, according to Sikorski.

Russian investment in Poland tallies at $675 million, he added.

Warsaw reiterated it wanted Russian citizens to be able to travel visa-free to the European Union.

Historically, ties between the two countries have been difficult over centuries of bad blood and suspicion.

And some tensions remain as Russia is opposed to plans by the United States to install a missile shield in Poland and neighbouring states.

Although Washington insists it is designed to ward off attacks by so-called rogue states like Iran, Moscow sees it as a threat on its doorstep.

© 2013 AFP

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