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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Set to Seal Key Pact With EU

CORFU, Greece -- President Boris Yeltsin arrived on the Greek island of Corfu on Thursday to sign a "historic" agreement with the European Union one day after Russia finally worked out a landmark agreement on relations with NATO. The dual moves give renewed impetus to Yeltsin's drive to end years of isolation from the West during the Soviet regime. Before leaving Moscow, Yeltsin told reporters that the accord with the EU to strengthen political, economic and trade ties with the European Union was "a first tactical step, when Russia really enters Europe, becomes a European country." He added, "Russia can only gain from this." The revitalized drive toward improved relations with the West was also on display across the Atlantic as Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was scheduled to meet with President Bill Clinton in Washington. On Wednesday, Chernomyrdin signed a multibillion-dollar energy agreement with international oil companies and gained another $820 million in World Bank loans (Page 11). Yeltsin did express some criticism of the United States in his remarks, however, saying the agreement with the EU "recognizes that Russia is going through a transitional economic phase. That is very important. The United States has not yet recognized this." Yeltsin took part in a special dinner with the leaders of the 12 nations of the European Union on Thursday night in advance of signing the agreement Friday. The dinner and trade accord underscore the steady improvement recently in overall East-West relations. Both sides became wary in the first part of the year following the victory of Russian nationalists in last December's parliamentary elections. Next month, Yeltsin is scheduled to attend the Group of Seven summit of leaders of the leading industrialized nations in Naples, Italy. Russia has been gaining support in its efforts to become a formal member of the group. Yeltsin is also scheduled to have a second summit meeting with Clinton within nine months, this time in Washington, in September. On arrival in Corfu, Yeltsin told reporters that the agreement with the EU was "a historic document which will allow us to continue a course toward entering Europe and abolish the discrimination that took place in the past. We move forward as equal partners toward our mutual interests." He was accompanied to Corfu by Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, who signed the Partnership for Peace with officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels on Wednesday. The partnership agreement, which Russia had resisted signing for the last two months, pledges a new era of military and political cooperation between the former rivals. The 10-year Partnership and Cooperation Agreement that Yeltsin will sign with the EU sets the seal on economic cooperation after more than 18 months of negotiations. Russian leaders have frequently protested against what they say are discriminatory trade barriers erected by Western nations, saying they need to be allowed to sell their products more than they need Western aid. The agreement will be signed for the European Union by Commission President Jacques Delors and EU national leaders. It will take effect after it has been ratified by the parliaments of Russia and EU member states and the European Parliament. European Trade Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan on Wednesday called the agreement "a milestone on the road toward greater economic and political stability across the entire continent." The accord lifts trade barriers, offers greater certainty to traders and investors, and opens the prospect of negotiating a free-trade zone after 1998. It establishes regular political contacts at all levels, from heads of government to officials. It also supports Russia's future accession to the GATT -- the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade -- and the World Trade Organization, scheduled to replace GATT next year. The agreement confirms the removal of all quotas on Russian exports to the EU apart from certain textile and steel products. But it also allows Russia to impose temporary quotas on limited amounts of EU imports. (Reuters, MT, AP)