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Russia, EU avoid talk of crisis in relations ahead of summit

Russia and the European Union have avoided talk of a crisis in relations caused by numerous differences, including Poland's veto on a partnership deal, ahead of a summit in Portugal opening Friday.

The 20th Russia-EU summit, to be held in a castle in Mafra, near Lisbon, is expected to automatically extend the Russia-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement by another year, as Poland’s refusal to lift its veto imposed over Russia’s meat ban continues to block talks on a new deal.

The Russian president’s special envoy to the EU, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said differences with the 27-nation bloc on bilateral and multilateral issues were not critical. „If we cannot start negotiations on a new partnership and cooperation pact for well-known reasons, we can make up for it on other tracks,” he said. „For example, we recently launched an unplanned dialogue on regional policy.”

Other agreements include early warning system for the energy sector, Yastrzhembsky said, adding that the idea had been voiced at the summit in Samara, in Russia’s Volga area, in May. Russia is Europe’s leading energy supplier, accounting for over a quarter of the continent’s gas needs, 18% of oil and 17% of coal, Yastrzhembsky said earlier this week.

Early next year, Russia and the EU also plan to sign a memorandum on joint emergency relief efforts. European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner was also generally upbeat about current relations between Russia and the EU. She said the sides dealt in four common areas - international affairs, domestic policy, economic ties, and culture and education, which will have to be revised.

Manuel Marcelo Curto, the ambassador of Portugal in Russia, said the EU would confirm its serious approach to partnership with Russia. Portugal currently holds the rotating presidency of EU. „We have all the necessary conditions to make Russia and the EU end the pause in their dialogue, which has only been useful for them.” Yastrzhembsky said earlier this week that the summit in Portugal would highlight the situation both within the EU and Russia, bilateral border cooperation, and pressing international issues such as the Middle East, Iran and Kosovo. (Ria Novosti)