Poland Reconsiders Position on Partnership

Poland's foreign minister signaled on Monday that Warsaw could soon unblock Russia-EU partnership talks and pledged to consult with Moscow about elements of a missile defense system the United States wants to install in Poland.

Radek Sikorski, visiting Moscow, said the removal of Russia's ban on Polish meat last month had paved the way for Poland to consider lifting its veto on talks between Russia and the European Union.

"I'm very glad that the trade embargo is gone," Sikorski told reporters after talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "I think it would allow us to resume talks on providing a mandate for the continuation of Russia-EU contacts."

Sikorski said the issue would be discussed when Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk visits Moscow next month.

Russia had barred meat from Poland since late 2005, citing health concerns amid heightening tensions in bilateral relations. Warsaw responded by vetoing the start of talks on a new EU-Russia cooperation agreement.

Tusk has pledged to improve relations with Moscow. After taking office in November, he dropped a veto that had blocked the opening of talks for Russia to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Moscow quickly lifted the meat ban.

Tusk said he would resume talks with the United States on accepting a U.S. missile defense base in Poland, signaling a greater hesitancy over the plan than the previous government.

Lavrov said that Russia "appreciates the new Polish government's willingness to conduct consultations on the issue."

"We aren't going to exert any pressure on Poland or others," he added. "We simply want our specific concerns to be heard and understood."

Sikorski said missile defense consultations did not signal any concessions to Russia. "The United States is our ally and this decision is to be made by the United States and Poland," he said.