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Russia will not make major concessions to EU - FM Lavrov

Russia will demonstrate patience in relations with the EU, but will not make concessions on matters of key importance, the foreign minister said in a newspaper Tuesday. 

In an article published in Russia's Izvestia daily, Sergei Lavrov said: “I do not see any alternative to a persistent, consistent, and patient approach in relations with the European Union.” Relations between Moscow and the EU have soured recently over a host of issues, including Europe's concerns about growing energy dependence on Russia and criticism of Russia's democratic record. The sides failed to advance talks on a strategic partnership pact to replace the current treaty, which expires in November, at a summit May 18. The talks were earlier vetoed by Poland angered by Russia's ban on its food exports, which Moscow says was due to health risks and Warsaw calls politically motivated.

Lavrov said in the article Russia should not sacrifice its interests. “Russia should not be embarrassed to pursue its interests, which is portrayed by unscrupulous commentators as encouraging confrontation,” adding that delays in drawing up a new pact could give sides a chance to find a comprehensive approach to tackling problems. The EU, which has recently expanded to admit 10 former Communist-bloc states and Soviet republics, also needs time to overcome internal differences and emerge as an alliance with a common vision of its future development, Lavrov said in the article. He said Europe should also renounce its “cold war security architecture,” based on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO, and the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, and drop its anti-Russian propaganda, which nurtures the "politico-psychological" division on the continent. Lavrov said those organizations had failed to be transformed to take account of the new reality and were more a source of tension.

Moscow has repeatedly accused the bodies of bias toward Russia, expressed concern about the emergence of new NATO bases close to its borders. Recently, Russia declared a moratorium on the amended CFE over what it said was reluctance by NATO members to ratify the crucial arms control mechanism in Europe. NATO states have argued that Russia should first withdraw its troops from Moldova and Georgia before the alliance's members ratify the CFE treaty. But Moscow insists the issues are unrelated and ratification delays were rather due to the planned deployment of US missile shield elements in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Kremlin also threatened to point warheads at Europe if the plans were carried out.

Lavrov said stakes were high for all countries. “There is a danger of a new arms race, which would lead European policy away from crucial problems... It is up to our European partners to decide whether they want a return to the past.” Lavrov also said the EU, the US, and Russia should step up ties to overcome stereotypes and hurdles, and come up with a more effective approach to new challenges and threats. “Broad cooperation in the EU-Russia-US format could be a key element to the positive agenda... Joint efforts to tackle urgent issues would bring us closer to the ultimate goal, i.e. greater mutual trust and Europe without dividing lines,” the minister said. (rian.ru)