RUSSIA URGES EU TO DEAL WITH DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ETHNIC MINORITIES IN BALTIC STATES

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LUXEMBOURG, April 1 (RIA Novosti) - At its session in Luxembourg Friday, the Russia-EU Permanent Partnership Council has discussed the alleged discrimination against ethnic Russians in the three Baltic countries that used to be part of the now defunct Soviet Union and examined the possibility of arranging for Russian nationals to travel to the Kaliningrad region, Russia's Baltic enclave, without visas.

Speaking to reporters after the session, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Russian side had once again made it clear to its European partners that it would like them to take an active part in dealing with discrimination against the Russian minority in the three Baltic states, primarily in Latvia and Estonia.

Passing on to the Kaliningrad issue, Mr Lavrov said he had called his EU counterparts' attention to documents indicating an increase in the price of transit via Lithuania and Poland and that they had agreed to speed up their search for a mutually acceptable solution.

According to the minister, Russia and the EU reaffirmed their identical approaches to the conflicts in Iraq, Kosovo, and in Cyprus. "We considered the Iraqi problem, emphasizing that the UN should be given the lead role in rebuilding that country. We also stressed the importance of approaching Kosovo settlement responsibly," Mr Lavrov said.

The Russian minister also pointed out the need to put the OSCE house in order and make its financial activities more transparent to taxpayers and to national legislatures. He suggested that in so doing, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should draw from relevant methodological expertise of counterparts at the United Nations.

According to Lavrov, the OSCE understands Russia's concerns and is willing to reform. The issue would have been settled sooner, had the organization adopted its charter, said the minister. But this has not happened just yet, with the process held up by one member state, he added.

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