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EU FMs agree to resume negotiations with Russia
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Foreign ministers from the European Union's 27 nations decided in Brussels on Monday to relaunch suspended negotiations with Russia despite opposition by Lithuania.

"We have found a good way to proceed," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner after emerging from a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

"We think it is time to resume the talks," said the commissioner, adding that no date was set.

A mandate that the EU's executive Commission has to restart the negotiations on a new Cooperation and Partnership Agreement with Russia doesn't need a consensus among all the 27 EU members.

"Twenty-six out of 27 is not so bad as a majority and secondly it was not necessary to vote," said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country is holding the EU presidency, because of the commission's mandate.

Lithuania insists that the negotiations, which was frozen at the EU's Sept. 1 extraordinary summit due to the Georgia-Russia conflict, should remain suspended unless Moscow fully complies with a EU-brokered ceasefire between Georgia and Russia.

Britain and Sweden voiced support to restarting talks, despite that they called for continued review of bilateral ties with Russia.

"We are not returning to business as usual, nor are we turning the page on the conflict in Georgia," they said, "The EU will stick to the tough mandate that has been agreed for the negotiations."

Poland, another strong opponent of Russia, also gave up its opposition to opening the talks, which are designed to update a decade-old deal that governs bilateral relations.

"We agree with the consensus of views," said Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, predicting that the talks may restart at the end of this month or the first half of next month.

The foreign ministers met here to prepare for an EU-Russia summit on Nov. 14 in Nice, France.

(Xinhua News Agency November 11, 2008)

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