NICE - European and Russian leaders sought common ground on Friday on tackling the global financial crisis despite divisions over Georgia and European concerns about security and energy supplies from Russia.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, heading the EU side at a one-day summit in the French resort of Nice, and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev will then fly directly to Washington to join the G20 meeting of top economies on the crisis.
Despite some reservations, EU states agreed on Monday to relaunch talks on a broad partnership pact frozen after Russia's August military incursion into Western ally Georgia. The two sides are expected to discuss a date for that.
They plan to focus on the financial turmoil and the Europeans will air concerns about security of energy supplies from Russia, the bloc's number one supplier of gas and number two supplier of oil.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the "tonality" of the meeting was more important that concrete outcomes.
"You can't expect it's going to be business as usual in 24 hours -- you know what is the mood in some of the countries of the European Union," he told Reuters.
"But everybody thinks that to have a framework in which a relationship can take place is better than not having it."
He welcomed comments by Medvedev on the eve of the summit in which he spoke of the need to cooperate on the financial crisis and confirmed Russia's intention to join the World Trade Organisation, but on "non-humilitating" terms.
"He has made an effort to be clear on matters that are economic in nature, some of them will help to find common ground ...and he was very clear on the WTO.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said ahead of the summit more cooperation was in the interests of both sides and the EU sought a clear signal from Russia.
Medvedev said Russia hoped to see relations pushed forward and he pledged Moscow would remain a reliable energy partner.
"We want transparent relations with all states which buy our energy resources, including those in Europe," he said on Thursday. "I hope tomorrow we will give an impetus for more intensive talks. We are ready to start as early as tomorrow."
LACK OF TRUST
EU officials say the summit will not aim for a joint position ahead of the G20 but would see some convergence.
Medvedev said he was working with Europeans on such ideas. "Our positions often coincide, sometimes even in details," he said. "I am sure in Washington we will be speaking one language."
The 27-nation EU wants to keep its reliance on Russian supplies growing after disputes between Moscow and transit states disrupted supplies in recent years and Russia's incursion into Georgia which has stoked tension with the West.
EU officials say Russia's action in Georgia and Medvedev's threat to station missiles near EU member Poland have undermined trust. They say the decision to resume talks was based on necessity, not acceptance of Russian actions.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin did little to calm EU unease when he warned on Wednesday Moscow may scrap its Baltic Sea gas pipeline project, Nord Stream, and build liquefaction plants instead if Europe keeps delaying the project.
The pipeline, due to link Russia and Germany, has sparked protests in EU countries such as Poland, Lithuania and Estonia, angered at being shut out of a key gas supply route.
Putin did though offer a concession in a dispute that has held up EU ratification of Russia's WTO bid. Moscow would delay bringing in prohibitive duties on raw timber exports that threaten industries in Sweden and Finland, he said.