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10 Apr, 2008 09:51

Poland backtracks over veto threat

Polish President Lech Kaczynski has rejected media reports that he threatened to maintain Poland’s veto on the EU-Russia partnership talks until Georgia and Ukraine are on a clear path to NATO membership. The denial comes after Moscow asked for a clarific

Lech Kaczynski reportedly backtracked at a news conference in Helsinki where he is currently visiting. His original statement was published by Reuters on Wednesday.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says the EU has to decide for itself whether it wants to continue partnership talks with Russia.

NATO has refused to comment on Kaczynski's statement saying the reaction should come from within the European Union.

The Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, is expected to make a special statement on the issue. Tusk entered office in October promising to improve relations with Russia, after they soured under the previous Prime Minister.

The previous Russia-EU agreement expired last December, but was extended for another year due to a Polish veto on new negotiations.
In 2007 Poland blocked talks between Russia and the EU after Russia imposed a ban on Polish meat imports. Russia later lifted the meat ban, but Poland's veto remains in force.

Boris Malakhov, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, says the new cooperation agreement is as important to the EU, as it is to Russia.

“We are ready for closer and more sufficient co-operation with the EU in all spheres – the sphere of security, in political, economical, cultural and humanitarian ones. But I must stress that Russia is interested in the new agreement with the EU not more, than the European Union itself. And it is the problem for the European Union to decide whether they are ready – and when they are ready – to negotiate the agreement which will be mutually beneficial,” said Malakhov.