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Russia has agreed to resume the import of vegetables from the European Union, ending a bitter dispute over vegetable safety. Russia banned all EU vegetables in early June, after a deadly E.coli outbreak swept Germany.
EU vegetables could be back on Russian shelves by the end of the week
Russia signed an agreement with the European Union on Wednesday to resume the import of EU vegetables, possibly by the end of this week.
Russia blocked imports of fresh European vegetables after they were blamed for a deadly E.coli outbreak which struck Germany last month.
"Following today's agreement, I now expect a swift resumption of the EU's exports to Russia," EU Health Commissioner John Dalli said in a statement.
"Both sides have shown good will to make sure that this incident is now behind us," he added.
The European Commission announced that a deal to end the ban had been signed in Moscow during a visit by a high-level Brussels delegation. The agreement does, however, include a number of stipulations.
For a limited time, all European vegetables exported to Russia must be accompanied by certificates stating the origin of the product and an assurance that it doesn't carry the E.coli bacteria strain.
Earlier this month, President Medvedev promised to lift the ban if his demands were met
Brussels must also provide Moscow with a list of official bodies and laboratories authorized to issue the food safety certificates.
"Everything depends on them," Gennady Onishchenko, head of Russia's state consumer protection watchdog, told Reuters.
It was agreed, however, that these conditions would be lifted once ten days had passsed without any new reports of human cases linked to the E.coli strain.
The Netherlands, Poland and Belgium already have these systems in place and are expected to resume exports by the end of the week.
The source of the E.coli outbreak, which claimed the lives of more than three dozen people, initially puzzled German authorities.
The uncertainty prompted Moscow to issue a blanket ban on all vegetables. This angered the EU which accused Russia of taking too long to resume imports, arguing that such a ban was not scientifically justifiable.
In return, Moscow criticized the EU for failing to locate the source of the infection.
The outbreak has since been traced to contaminated German bean sprouts from an organic farm in Lower Saxony.
Last year, the EU exported about 600 million euros ($862
million) worth of vegetables to Russia.
Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Susan Houlton