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Bildt calls for new EU talks with Russia

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13:23 CET+01:00
Sweden joined Britain on Monday in urging the EU to resume stalled partnership talks with Russia, saying that any new talks could not be “business as usual” because of Russia's actions in Georgia.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt and his British counterpart David Miliband released the joint statement as they arrived for talks in Brussels, where all 27 EU foreign ministers will review EU relations with Russia.

"Russia's disproportionate actions in the summer against Georgia, in clear violation of international law, continue to cast a shadow over the EU's relationship with Russia," the two ministers said in their statement.

"It has changed the character and atmosphere of the EU's cooperation and political dialogue with Moscow."

The statement was released in a bid to overcome Polish and Lithuanian objections to resuming the talks, aimed at upgrading the bloc's more than decade-old framework for ties with Russia.

“We are confident of the possibility of maintaining the unity of the union around this hard headed approach," Miliband and Bildt said.

Britain and Sweden welcomed the fact that Russian troops have withdrawn from most of Georgia, since Moscow and Tbilisi fought a short war in August, and that EU monitors have started to deploy there.

"However, we are deeply concerned that Russia has not yet withdrawn to its pre- August 7th positions as the EU has made clear that it must," the two foreign ministers added, referring to the date when hostilities began.

Britain and Sweden underlined the need to resume talks on the partnership deal with Russia so as to tackle key issues including energy, climate change and trade, while adding that relations would remain under review.

"We believe that the EU should be clear about the basis on which it is resuming the negotiations. We are not returning to business as usual, nor are we turning the page on the conflict in Georgia. The EU will stick to the tough mandate that has been agreed for the negotiations."

"We will also ask other EU ministers to agree to keep the overall EU-Russia relationship under regular review."

Most EU countries hope the greenlight for the talks could be given at an EU-Russia summit in Nice, southern France on Friday.

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