Source AP ©

President Vladimir Putin urges his government to "intensify dialogue" with European Union on agricultural trade

President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to "intensify dialogue" with the European Union on agricultural trade, including a dispute over Polish meat imports.

The remarks, three days after a chilly Russia-EU summit that produced no agreements and highlighted troubles plaguing the relationship, appeared to reflect a desire to resolve a dispute that has deepened the strains in Moscow's ties with the West.

Putin said in a televised comment that "the interests of ... our partners" should be taken into account more conciliatory language than Russian officials have been using recently in comments on the dispute over meat imports from Poland.

"We have ... problems in our own agricultural sector, and if products are coming by transit from third countries, this creates additional problems and not just a few," the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted Putin as saying during a Cabinet meeting.

"Nonetheless, it's necessary to seek a solution, and I ask you to intensify this dialogue," Putin told Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev, according to RIA-Novosti.

"This must be done. It is necessary to depoliticize these questions and resolve the problem on a professional, expert level, but with goodwill, in a regime of partnership, in order to take into account the interests of both our partners and our own farmers," Putin said in a televised comment.

Poland, angered by a 2005 Russian ban on imports of Polish meat and plants, has prevented the EU from beginning talks with Russia on a long-delayed new partnership agreement that would replace a decade-old deal and improve cooperation.

The inability to start the talks contributed to the chilly atmosphere at a Russia-EU summit Thursday and Friday near the Russian city of Samara.

Putin sparred with his guests over human rights issues which also are plaguing relations amid EU concerns about the Kremlin's treatment of opponents and its commitment to democracy _ and Russia and the EU made no visible progress on commercial, security and other issues dividing them.

At the summit, Putin sought to cast the meat dispute as a bilateral problem that was blocking the expansion of Russia-EU ties, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso emphasized European solidarity.

Philip Tod, the European Commission's health spokesman, said the EU had written to Gordeyev to propose technical talks to overcome the deadlock.

"We would welcome, as soon as possible, talks to resolve this issue," he told reporters. "We wish to treat this matter with urgency and make progress."

He said the EU believed it had answered all of Russia's concerns. "We are ready to meet at the earliest convenience of the Russian authorities to try and take this matter forward," Tod said.

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