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Juncker: 'EU Must Talk With Russia'

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (file photo)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (file photo)

During a visit to Russia, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said the EU needs to engage with Moscow despite the sanctions exchanged over the past two years.

Juncker made the comments at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 16, ahead of a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

He is the highest ranking EU official to visit Russia since it annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, triggering economic sanctions from the EU. Moscow retaliated by banning some products imports from the block.

"I take the view that we must talk with Russia, the leadership, its people," Juncker said.

He also said the relationship between Russia and the EU is "not broken beyond repair." "We need to mend it and I believe we can," he added.

However, he warned that the 28-nation bloc will only lift its sanctions if the Kremlin fully implements the Minsk peace agreement for Ukraine.

"This is the only way to begin our conversation and the only way to lift the economic sanctions that have been imposed."

During his meeting with Putin, Juncker said "some in Europe weren't pleased" with him meeting the Russian president but stressed it was an opportunity to "exchange opinions."

Based on reporting by AP and AFP