Quick end to Russia food ban unlikely: EU minister

8th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia is unlikely to lift its ban on European vegetables before the two sides open a two-day summit in the Volga river city of Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday, a EU agriculture minister said.

Dutch Agriculture State Secretary Hans Bleker held urgent talks Wednesday with his Russian counterpart in Moscow to resolve a dispute that threatens to overshadow an event aimed at boosting trade and political ties.

Bleker said he planned to hold talks later Wednesday with Russia's food safety watchdog chief Gennady Onishchenko but noted that the chances of Moscow lifting the ban quickly were remote.

"We will see in the next hours, the next two or three days what will be the complete results," Bleker told reporters.

"No expectations that there will be an end to the export ban within a couple of days," he added.

Russia infuriated the European Union on Thursday by banning fresh vegetables from its 27 member states and blaming its health safety system for the death of at least 25 people from a lethal bacterial strain.

The European Union argues the ban contradicts Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organisation while Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has countered that he would not "poison" people for the sake of the world trade club.

Onishchenko was also expected to hold meetings with representatives from Denmark and Spain, Interfax reported.

State television reports that Russia imports about one-fifth of its vegetables from the European Union and 60 percent from China and Turkey.

© 2011 AFP

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