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EU, Russia, Ukraine to resume trade pact talks

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EU, Russia, Ukraine to resume trade pact talks

Russia - EU

(BRUSSELS) - The EU, Russia and Ukraine will resume talks in Brussels next week on Moscow's concerns about the European bloc's free trade pact with Kiev, EU officials said Tuesday.

The free trade accord is part of the broader 2014 EU Association Agreement at the heart of the Ukraine crisis, with Moscow angry to see its Soviet era satellite turn to the West at its expense.

"Trilateral talks between the EU, Ukraine and Russia will resume next week in order to achieve a practical solution to concerns raised by the Russian side with regard to the implementation of the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement between Ukraine and the EU," European Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario told a press conference.

"These technical level talks will take place in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday and we expect that these contacts move very soon from a technical to a political level," the spokesman said.

A European Commission source told AFP earlier that resumption of the talks, last held in September, "was a very positive development."

"We are ready to take advantage of the existing flexibility to take into account the reservations voiced by Russia," the source said.

The European Union agreed in September, at the same time as a first Ukraine ceasefire accord was negotiated in Minsk, to delay implementation of the trade pact until next year so as to give the trade talks with Russia a chance.

In return, Russia promised that it would not change its trade regime with Ukraine, whose EU tie-up it said would put its exports to a major market at a serious disadvantage.

Russia had threatened to retaliate if the EU and Ukraine went ahead with the trade pact without resolving its concerns.

The trilateral talks were effectively suspended when the Minsk accord failed to end the fighting between Kiev government troops and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Next week's talks follow a meeting Monday between the French and German foreign ministers with their Ukraine and Russian counterparts to follow up the second Minsk ceasefire Paris and Berlin brokered in February and which so far is holding better than the first.

EU, Ukraine and Russian technical officials are also due to meet Thursday in Brussels to continue talks on securing gas supplies for the next year, another running sore in the crisis.


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