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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Differences on Chechnya Papered Over

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Russia and the European Union have smoothed over differences on Chechnya ahead of their summit in St. Petersburg this week, EU officials said Wednesday.

While a dispute over Moscow's demands for visa-free travel to the EU for its citizens could still sour Saturday's summit, officials said there was a good chance of a post-summit communique.

The issuing of a communique is an important symbol of agreement after such meetings, and had been in doubt.

"Chechnya is in the draft statement. The question is how to get an agreement on visa-free," an EU official said.

"I would say there was a 75 percent chance for a final communique," the official said.

The official said the statement would express hopes for a peaceful solution in Chechnya and stress the respect of human rights.

EU officials said Russia was unlikely to get any commitment at the summit for concrete steps to discuss the start of a system of visa-free travel to the 15-nation bloc.

"There is absolute agreement among member states for no timing on that," said the EU official, responding to reports that Russia wanted a target date of 2007 to be set. "We don't want to deny the possibility in the long term, but Russia has so much progress to make in a number of areas."

He cited the need for better cooperation with police forces in the EU and an agreement that would allow for the readmission to Russia of people who had arrived in the bloc illegally.

The EU will also urge Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions.