Russia doubts new agreement with EU by yearend - govt. source
MOSCOW, May 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia welcomes the start of the talks with the EU on a new Partnership and Cooperation agreement, but doubts a deal can be reached by the end of this year, a government source said on Thursday.
The old agreement expired in December 2007 and was extended for a further year, after a mandate for talks on a new pact was blocked by Poland and Lithuania. On May 26, EU foreign ministers finally agreed on a mandate for new talks.
The negotiations are expected to be launched at a Russia-EU summit in Khanty-Mansiisk, Western Siberia, on June 26-27.
"We are expecting to start the negotiations at the Russia-EU summit in Khanty-Mansiisk," an anonymous government source said. "However, it is unlikely that we will prepare the final draft by the end of this year.
The official said the negotiations would be difficult and comprise a number of complicated issues.
Poland had vetoed the start of talks until late last year over Russia's imposed embargo on imports of Polish meat. Warsaw signaled its readiness to lift its veto after the two countries resolved the dispute and took steps to improve relations under the new Polish government. Russia resumed Polish meat imports in December 2007.
The Lithuanian veto had been imposed in protest against Russia's closure of the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline. Lithuania also demanded that Russia pay compensation for Soviet-era deportations and for a solution to 'frozen conflicts' in Moldova and Georgia. Lithuania lifted its veto when the rest of the EU agreed to include the issues in the talks with Russia.
Lithuania dropped its objections to the start of Russia-EU talks at a foreign ministerial meeting on May 12.