BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Union decided Monday to resume negotiations on a major economic and political partnership accord with Russia that was frozen after the Russian invasion of Georgia.
EU foreign ministers overruled objections from Lithuania, which claimed that Moscow continues to violate the EU-brokered peace deal that ended the Georgian war in early August.
The decision was a victory for France, which holds the EU presidency and had pushed hard to relaunch the talks in an effort to improve relations with Moscow. The proposed partnership deal would include closer cooperation in fields such as law-enforcement, immigration, food safety, trade, human rights and democratic reforms.
Most EU nations see the resumption of the talks as a way to defuse tension with Russia, which were highlighted last week when President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to deploy short-range missiles close to the Polish and Lithuanian borders in response to US plans for anti-missile installations in eastern Europe.
Lithuania argued, however, that the Kremlin has failed to respect truce terms that call on Russian and Georgian troops to return to positions held before the war.
The EU had tried for weeks to secure the agreement of all 27 members in order to present a united front.
Moscow has been resisting EU pressure that it open up its energy sector to more foreign investment and its ambassador to the EU indicated the talks will be tough.
"Any concessions by Russia are out of the question," Vladimir Chizhov was quoted telling the Itar-Tass news agency. He added that the EU's failure to agree a united position "does not strengthen its image" in Russian eyes.
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said no date had been set for the negotiations.
France said the EU would continue to watch Russian actions closely.
"We expect reasonable behavior from Russia, respecting all its engagements to restore confidence," it said. "We will remain vigilant, including on the question of [Russia's] neighbors."