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Lavrov: Russia could join EU Eastern Partnership

MOSCOW – Agence France-Presse | 11/25/2009 12:00:00 AM |

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia does not rule out joining the EU's Eastern Partnership programme.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia did not rule out joining the EU's Eastern Partnership programme, which the bloc forged with six ex-Soviet states earlier this year. "Of course we will study the proposals on our joining some projects or others within the framework of the Eastern Partnership," Lavrov said.

"We cannot rule this out for ourselves," he added, speaking at a joint news conference with his Belarussian colleague Sergei Martynov. "We are watching the general evolution of the Eastern Partnership programme, which is just beginning to take shape in practical deeds," Lavrov said. Lavrov's announcement appeared to be a softening of Russia's reaction to the partnership programme, which is intended to fortify the European Union's ties with ex-Soviet nations that Moscow considers to be in its sphere of influence.

Earlier, Russia had repeatedly indicated it eyed the Eastern Partnership programme with suspicion and President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking to the Belarussian media earlier this week, dismissed it as useless. "Frankly speaking, I don't see any special use (in the program) and all the participants of this partnership are confirming this to me," said Medvedev, who was due to visit Belarus on Friday.

At the joint news conference with Martynov, Lavrov also expressed hope that the EU's efforts would not harm Russia. Meanwhile, Martynov said it was "highly advisable" for Russia to participate in the new EU programme. His country, Belarus, angered its longtime ally Moscow by agreeing to join.

The EU launched the partnership at a summit in Prague in May to "accelerate political association and further economic integration" between its 27 member states and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

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