Lavrov, European leaders discuss strategic ties

Lavrov, European leaders

lavrov eu 248 88 (photo credit: )
lavrov eu 248 88
(photo credit: )
Talks between the European Union and Russia are on track to conclude a new partnership and cooperation agreement to replace the one that expired last year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday. After meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt - whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency - Lavrov said efforts to reach a new "strategic partnership" deal with the EU were going well. Lavrov said he and the EU officials had agreed to press negotiators "to seek compromises and solutions that would be based on a balance of interests." He said other issues discussed were Russia's proposal for a binding trans-Atlantic security treaty. The talks in Brussels also focused on the upcoming EU-Russia summit, which will take place next month in Stockholm, an EU spokeswoman said. Leaders of the two sides hold formal meetings twice a year, alternately in Russia and in the EU. The upcoming summit is expected to focus on securing Russian energy supplies for Europe, as well as tackling Iran's nuclear program and supporting the Middle East peace process. Russia and the EU are linked closely by commerce, although Europe has grown wary of relying on Russian energy supplies after Moscow in January halted natural gas shipments through Ukraine over a dispute over payments with the government in Kiev. The two-week cutoff left millions of Europeans without gas in the dead of winter. Lavrov offered no direct guarantee against an interruption in gas supplies to Europe this winter, blaming Ukraine for the cutoff in January and suggesting it is largely up to the EU to ensure uninterrupted supplies by helping Ukraine. "We consider it more important that the European Union engage in guaranteeing the continuity of supplies," he said. "I am counting on the fact that we all learn the lessons from the hardships caused last year."