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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Sees End to Polish Meat Dispute

BRUSSELS -- Poland and Russia expressed hope Friday that a long-running dispute over Moscow's ban on Polish meat imports could be resolved in the course of a series of high-level diplomatic contacts mapped out amid warming ties.

"I think we're on the right track," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a Brussels news briefing before a meeting with Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski aimed at normalizing ties that deteriorated under Poland's previous government.

Sikorski said after the talks that Polish Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki would visit Moscow next week and that Lavrov had invited new Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to visit the city in the first quarter of next year.

Asked when a Russian ban on imports of Polish raw meat and plant products, in place since November 2005, might be lifted, he said Warsaw wanted this as quickly as possible. The rift between Moscow and Warsaw is holding up development of Russia's ties with the European Union.

"No dates were cited, but the businesslike and very friendly ambiance of the meeting leads me to hope that in the course of the rich calendar of contacts that we have sketched out that the issue might be resolved," Sikorski told reporters. "Everybody knows that a better climate of relations between the two countries can help resolve the issue and that is our hope."

Russia cited poor quality controls for the meat ban. Poland called the move politically motivated and blocked the start of talks between Moscow and Brussels on a new strategic partnership agreement covering areas such as energy, human rights and trade.

Officials in Warsaw say Poland is likely to drop its opposition to talks on the EU-Russia partnership if Moscow lifts the ban, but it will not happen soon and Poland will still set certain conditions.

"We will definitely talk about this with our European partners and with Russia," said Krzysztof Lisek, the head of the Polish foreign affairs committee. "Good relations between Poland and Russia are also good for relations between Russia and the EU."

Sikorski also said Poland would consult with the Russians on the proposed stationing of elements of a U.S. missile defense system on Polish soil, which Moscow opposes.

He said a Russian deputy foreign minister would visit Poland to discuss the issue before the end of the year.

"We will make our decisions but we are willing to listen to our neighbors and their arguments," Sikorski said.

Under the conservative government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which lost power in October after two years in office, Poland picked fights with the EU, and its traditionally uneasy relations with Russia deteriorated sharply.

Center-right liberal Tusk has pledged to put Poland back into the EU mainstream and to patch up relations with Moscow.

He says his Cabinet is ready to continue missile defense talks with Washington but wants to reassure Moscow that Poland sees the project as part of a pan-European defense system against any threat of a "rogue" nuclear attack.