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EU, Russia seek to ease strained relations

Latest update : 2009-02-06

The head of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso (pictured), and other EU envoys are meeting Russian leaders for talks aimed at mending ties strained over a recent gas supply row and the Kremlin's military incursion into Georgia last August.

AFP - The head of the EU Commission is to meet Russian leaders in talks aimed at sorting out disagreements over gas supplies and Georgia that have frayed ties over the last six months.

 

Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso as well as nine members of the EU Commission were to have discussions with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin starting at around 1030 GMT.

 

Russia's relationship with the European Union was severely damaged by its August war with Georgia and subsequent recognition of two Georgian breakaway regions as independent.

 

The EU brokered a ceasefire between the two sides but waited impatiently for Moscow to withdraw its troops from deep inside Georgia.

 

To make matters worse, in a freezing January several EU states were deprived of Russian gas supplies for two weeks as the bloc was caught up in a venomous row between Moscow and Kiev over gas prices.

 

Russia said that Ukraine was entirely responsible for triggering the crisis but EU officials repeatedly expressed exasperation it had taken Moscow so long to restore supplies.

 

The Kremlin said that the talks would focus on "perspectives for the future development" of ties with the European Union, as well as security issues and the "lessons of the gas crisis caused by Ukraine."

 

"It is urgent to get this relationship to work to our best advantage, acknowledging our differences but also our values and common international commitments," Barroso said in a statement ahead of the talks.

 

EU external affairs commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the two sides needed to "maintain our channels of communication on issues where we do not agree" such as on the "territorial integrity" of Georgia.

 

Barroso has brought with him to Moscow four EU Commission vice presidents and five commissioners, including energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

 

The last such full-scale meeting between the EU's executive arm and Russian leaders dates back to 2005.

 

Date created : 2009-02-06

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