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Germany hails Polish step forward on EU talks with Russia

04 April 2007, 16:44 CET

(BERLIN) - Germany on Wednesday welcomed signs from Poland that it is ready to lift a veto on talks between the European Union and Russia about a new cooperation pact, but said the matter was not settled.

"It is correct that the Polish side has indicated to the Commission that they have withdrawn their opposition," foreign ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told a press conference.

"This is but a first step, it is not a final solution. But it is an important first step towards the adoption of the mandate to negotiate, and we obviously welcome it."

European Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said in Brussels earlier that Poland had given "indications" it will drop its veto which was imposed in retaliation for a Russian embargo on Polish meat.

This has long delayed negotiations to replace an accord which expires at the end of 2007.

Diplomats in Brussels indicated however that a formal agreement to start talks was unlikely until Russia lifted its embargo.

In Warsaw, Polish President Lech Kaczynski told reporters: "We will lift our veto when we have guarantees that the embargo will be lifted."

Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU until the end of June, is eager to get the negotiations off the ground on its watch.

The new agreement is viewed as crucial by Chancellor Angela Merkel at a time when Europe wants to secure its long-term energy supplies amid fears that Russia is using its oil and gas resources as a foreign policy tool.

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