THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Russia and the European Union (search) failed to complete negotiations on a partnership to boost security, trade and democracy but said Thursday they were confident a final agreement would be reached next year.
"We have not reached agreement on all" points, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende (search), whose country holds the EU presidency, said after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin (search) at an EU-Russia summit at The Hague.
The summit was overshadowed by the disputed election in Ukraine (search), a former Soviet republic. The EU and Russia urged Ukraine leaders Thursday to find a nonviolent solution to the election crisis gripping the former Soviet republic.
Russia and the EU sought to forge a partnership to boost ties in four areas: the economy; freedom, security and justice; external security; and research, education and culture. While some progress was made, the Dutch leader said, the focus of talks should be on "quality rather than speed."
Russia and the EU are becoming increasingly interdependent economically. Russia provides much of the energy for the rest of the continent, and more than half of its exports go to the expanded EU.
The two sides could not agree on how to craft closer cooperation in security issues, an area touching on Russia's relations with Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and the Caucasus republics, Balkenende said.
"There is still a great deal to be done," Balkenende said at a joint news conference with Putin.
The Russian leader added, "Everyone sees movement forward."
The EU wants to reach out to its eastern neighbors with economic and political assistance, but that has caused concern in Moscow.
In the proposed partnership arrangement, the EU wants Russia to commit to greater respect for human rights.
Moscow also is wary of how the EU might address Russia's handling of Chechnya (search).
It also accuses the EU of double standards on human rights, saying the treatment of the Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic former Soviet republics of Latvia and Estonia falls far short of international and EU standards.