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Lithuania Cuts Deal to Lift Veto on EU-Russia Talks

The Baltic nation of Lithuania agreed to lift its veto on the launching of a new European Union partnership agreement with Russia, local media reported on Monday, May 12.

EU and Russian flags

With the Lithuanian veto lifted, the EU hopes to sign a new partnership agreement with Russia

"Solidarity, demonstrated by the 27 EU nations and the European Commission, is not an empty word," said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas, according to delfi.lt news portal.

Vaitiekunas met in Vilnius on Sunday with three EU foreign ministers: Sweden's Carl Bildt, Poland's Radoslaw Sikorski and Slovenia's Dimitrij Rupel, whose country chairs the EU presidency until June.

Vilnius had threatened to veto the opening of talks in protest at Russia's closure - allegedly for technical reasons - of the pipeline feeding Russian oil to Lithuania's only oil refinery.

"We have found ways to reflect in the mandate of the talks the issues of the Druzhba pipeline, issues of legal cooperation with Russia, and frozen conflicts," a statement by the four foreign ministers said.

"The success of the negotiations with Russia will directly depend on the renewal of supplies via the Druzhba pipeline," Vaitiekunas said.

Legal cooperation

New president of Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region Sergei Bagapsh holds the separatist region's flag during his inauguration

Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region wants international recognition as an independent state

Breaking away from the Soviet Union in 1991 and joining the EU in 2004, Lithuania wanted to see a declaration on legal cooperation in the mandate, urging Russia to help investigate who was behind sending Soviet tanks to the Baltic nation in January 1991, killing 14 people and injuring 700 others.

Saying that Russia's actions in the so-called "frozen conflicts" are connected with the security of Lithuania and, in turn, the EU, Lithuania wanted to add a declaration regarding Georgia and Moldova in its negotiating mandate.

The mandate will be discussed at a May 26 meeting of the council of foreign ministers from the 27-nation EU, which will have to approve Sunday's deal before Lithuania formally lifts its veto.

Veto rights

masked soldiers in a tank

Lithuania expects Russian cooperation regarding the deployment of Soviet troops in 1991

Any EU member can block talks between the union and other countries if it feels its national interests are being sidelined as Poland did in 2006.

The former Soviet republic of Georgia is going through a bitter dispute with Russia over the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, run by pro-Moscow separatists in the presence of Russian troops.

"Progress in the solution of frozen conflicts in Georgia and Moldova is a direct condition for the successful result of the EU talks with Russia," Vaitiekunas said.

The EU hopes the talks can be launched at an EU-Russia summit in Siberia on June 26-27.

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