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Lithuania considers blocking EU talks with Russia

  • 2008-10-30
  • TBT Staff in cooperation with BNS

French Foreign Minister Bernard Koucher said that it may be possible to resume talks with Russia (Photo Courtesy of World Economic Forum)

VILNIUS 's A Lithuanian officialspeaking on the condition of anonymity has hinted that the country would blocka French proposal to renew EU talks with Russia.

In an interview with the AFP news agency, the unnamed Lithuanian officialsaid that he was "shocked" by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner'sapparent suggestion that talks could be unfrozen.

"We're absolutely shocked by the idea. The minister is basicallysuggesting the breach of a deal that his own president struck with Russia,"the official told AFP.

"Pragmatic interests must not get the upper hand. As long as Russiadoesn't pull out and the observers aren't allowed into the separatist areas,there's no way we can talk about re-launching negotiations between Russiaand the EU," the official said.

Lithuania has repeatedly noted it would not consent to the resumption of the EU-Russiatalks until Russiafully withdraws its troops from Georgia'sseparatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

At a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, Kouchner, whose country holdsthe rotating presidency of the 27-nation European Union, did not rule outreopening of the EU-Russia talks during the Nov. 14 summit in Nice.

"I think I can tell you that the negotiations on the new partnership accordwill be able to go ahead," Kouchner said after the meeting in St. Petersburg.

"As long as there are no surprises before the 13th, I think we can finda new timetable," he said.

Under the agreements in force prior to the Georgia-Russia conflict thatbroke out on Aug. 8, Russiahad a right to deploy approximately 500 peacekeepers in South Ossetia and up to 3,000 in Abkhazia. Up to 8,000 Russian troopsare now reportedly present in South Ossetia andAbkhazia, although agreements allow presence of peacekeepers, not troops in theregions.

"According to our information, the number of Russian troops hasrisen," said the Lithuanianofficial. "What we have is an uncontrolled military build-up in theregion. But we're being asked to go along with the occupation of an independentcountry."