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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Hopes EU Talks Will Resume

ReutersLavrov briefing the media after meeting with Germany's Steinmeier, left, and the EU's Solana in Moscow on Monday.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday told top European Union officials that he hoped stalled talks on a new agreement with the bloc would begin soon. He reiterated Russia's reluctance, however, to allow foreign companies greater investment into its oil and gas fields and wider access to pipelines.

Moscow objects to those provisions of the Energy Charter Treaty, a pact backed by the EU, that concern transit and investment, Lavrov told a news conference. He made the comments in Moscow after talks with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and foreign ministers Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany and Luis Amado of Portugal.

Germany currently holds the EU presidency, while Portugal will fulfill the role in the second half of this year.

Russian and the EU are seeking to negotiate a comprehensive new partnership deal this year. The EU hopes it will bind Moscow to guaranteeing its energy supplies by signing up to the principles of the Energy Charter. Russia, while not ratifying the treaty, agreed to include some of its provisions in the deal.

Russia does not reject the charter's underlying principles, Lavrov said. "Moreover, we follow them," he said, Interfax reported.

But some countries that have signed the Energy Charter Treaty ignore these principles, and this leads to disruption of supplies, Lavrov said in an apparent reference to Ukraine. "So signatories of the treaty could take measures toward these countries," he said.

A pricing spat with Belarus halted Russian oil flows to Europe last month, while in January 2006 a gas-price dispute with Ukraine also hit European supplies.

Ukraine is a full signatory of the Energy Charter Treaty.

EU officials welcomed Russia's embracement of the treaty's basic principles. "It will play a key role in the new deal, on which we will soon begin talks with Russia," Solana said in Brussels on Sunday, Interfax reported.

Russia and the EU will remain mutually dependent, Solana said. "Russia is and will be our primary external energy supplier," he said. "As for the EU, it will remain an important client for Russia and a foreign investor."

The current partnership agreement expires at the end of this year. If not replaced, it will automatically be extended year-by-year. Talks on a new partnership deal can start only after Poland lifts its veto, which it deployed in response to Russia's ban on Polish meat imports. Russian experts on Monday began inspections of Poland's veterinary services as well as its exports routes and controls.

Solana and Lavrov expressed hope that such talks would begin by summer.

"We also hope that the talks will begin soon, although we don't make a tragedy out of the delay," Lavrov said. "This delay is obviously artificial."

The EU officials spoke about the need to put in place an early warning and improved consultation system on energy disputes, said Sean Carroll, spokesman for the EU delegation in Moscow. "What we are trying to do is improve the quality of communication. There was realization that we need to sit down and make it work better," he said.

Lavrov and EU officials also discussed Kosovo, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iran and other international issues, Carroll said.