Polish, Russian foreign ministers to meet, Ukraine on agenda

Dec. 19, 2013 at 12:04 AM   |   0 comments

WARSAW, Poland, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Russia says it will be seeking a new "road map" with Poland this week in high-level Warsaw meetings but reports indicated Ukraine will be on the Poles' agenda.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov were set to meet Thursday in Warsaw to discuss what Moscow called a "2020 Russian-Polish relations road map" designed to boost "medium-term bilateral relations to a new, higher quality."

The occasion will be the eighth meeting of the Committee on Strategic Russian-Polish Cooperation, or Stratkomitet.

The Russian Foreign Ministry's statement said the talks will "examine in detail the state of bilateral relations, as well as chart the concrete steps for their further development in key areas."

While the Russians said the talks will also include "current international issues and issues of strengthening security and cooperation in Europe," diplomatic sources told the Polish news agency PAP the unrest in Ukraine and Russia's strained relations with European Union would be high on Warsaw's list of concerns.

Pro-EU protesters in Ukraine, mainly in Kiev, have been demonstrating for more than three weeks against the government's decision last month to pull out of a comprehensive free-trade "association agreement" with Brussels.

Protesters have been calling for the removal of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from office, while Kiev has maintained the association agreement would worsen economic relations with Russia.

Lavrov this week dismissed the free-trade agreement as a bad deal for Ukraine that would allow European goods to flood its markets without raising its own competitiveness, calling it tantamount to asking a country not only to open its doors, but "to remove its goalkeeper," EurActiv reported.

Instead, he proposed a "unified economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok" to be established between the EU and the Russian-led Eurasian Union.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Yanukovych Tuesday agreed on a $15 billion investment into Ukrainian bonds and to temporarily cut gas prices to Kiev by one-third in a bailout of Ukraine's ailing economy.

Critics immediately denounced it as sellout to the Kremlin and a move that will sharply increase Russia's influence over the former Soviet republic.

Sikorski said this week he backed an decision by the EU Council of Foreign Ministers to suspend negotiations on an association agreement with Ukraine, while also agreeing with its desire to resume them as soon as Kiev is ready, PAP reported.

"I think this is a reasonable position, because the constitutional authorities of Ukraine have to know what they want," the Polish diplomat said. "In a situation where the president of Ukraine says the agreement is unprofitable for his country, a pause is required for new thinking."

The Ukraine crisis, he added, has "some interesting factors. For example, the largest pro-European demonstrations over the past few years, maybe ever. This creates certain obligations on the part of the EU to a society that wants rapprochement with Europe -- there is a lot of hope for that."

In terms of improved relations with Russia for his own country, Sikorski said they are needed because of the growing trade between the two nations.

He told Radio ZET he wouldn't be "blackmailed" by Law and Justice, Poland's center-right political party, which the government has blamed for a wave of "anti-Russian hysteria" that resulted in the grounds of the Russian Embassy in Warsaw being attacked with rocks and firecrackers last month.

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