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EU Suspects Political Motives In Russia-Poland Meat Row

(epa) BRUSSELS, May 22, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The EU's public health commissioner Markos Kyprianou has said that Russia must make clear in its farm-trade row with Poland whether it wants to "find a solution, or to maintain the problem."

Speaking at a press conference in Strasbourg, France, Kyprianou said Moscow must give a "political" instruction to its negotiators to resolve the 18-month dispute.

Russia introduced a ban on Polish meat and plant products in 2005, saying exports did not meet food-safety requirements.

In response, Poland has blocked talks on a new EU-Russia strategic partnership accord. The issue is currently one of many poisoning the EU-Russia relationship.

Sign Of Hope

Polish officials appeared upbeat earlier this week, after Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly told his Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeyev on May 21 to "intensify dialogue with the EU" on the issue. Kyprianou also said today he remains "optimistic" Russia is not looking for "justifications" to continue the ban.

Kyprianou repeated the EU view that Russia has no grounds for maintaining its import embargo on Polish meat and plant products. He said Polish goods are allowed to be freely traded in the EU's internal market, adding that "if there were any concerns, that would not be allowed."

The EU commissioner also said the EU has provided Moscow with "all the evidence" it has requested. Kyprianou said Russian objections appear to have shifted to transit products -- a concern which he said does not justify the continued ban on Polish meat.

Kyprianou said that despite the failure of earlier negotiations, the EU is open to further talks with Russia. But, he said, future talks must comprehensively address the entire Russian import ban and not selected, separate aspects of it, and they must have a clear timeframe and deadline.

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