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Polish envoy hopes Russian inspectors will help solve meat spat

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Poland's envoy to Russia said Tuesday he was hopeful Russian veterinary inspectors will make impartial conclusions about the quality of Polish meat, putting an end to a trade row between the two countries and paving the way to a new cooperation pact between Moscow and the European Union.
MOSCOW, February 6 (RIA Novosti) - Poland's envoy to Russia said Tuesday he was hopeful Russian veterinary inspectors will make impartial conclusions about the quality of Polish meat, putting an end to a trade row between the two countries and paving the way to a new cooperation pact between Moscow and the European Union.

Russia's ban on meat and other agricultural imports from Poland led the EU newcomer late last year to veto the launch of negotiations on a new trade and energy cooperation deal between Moscow and Brussels to replace the current partnership accord, which expires at the end of 2007.

A delegation of experts from Russia is now examining Polish meat slated for export to determine whether it meets the country's food safety standards and should be allowed back in. They have been working in Poland together with EU counterparts since Monday.

Ambassador Jerzy Bahr said the November 2005 ban goes beyond bilateral Russian-Polish relations, undermining Moscow's ties with Brussels.

"We hope the necessary conditions will soon be created to solve the controversies, thereby opening the way to a new [EU-Russian cooperation] agreement," Bahr told a news conference in Moscow.

"We are glad we have reached a stage when there are experts working in Poland to examine all issues related to the export of Polish meat. To us, it is only natural that alongside Russian experts, the current consultations involve EU representatives, as the issue has proved to go beyond the scope of bilateral Polish-Russian relations."

The problem is a purely technical one, Bahr said. "But if it remains unsolved for too long, this technical problem will assume a political dimension," he added.

"We are certain we will [eventually] be able to export to Russia products whose quality is as high as that of our exports to EU nations."

Relations between Russia and Poland, a former Communist Bloc country that joined the EU in May 2004, have deteriorated dramatically in the past few years. A string of recent diplomatic spats has increased mutual distrust between the two neighbors, prompting many politicians in Warsaw to conclude that the Kremlin is using the embargo on Polish imports as a political weapon.

European Commission officials have described Russia's trade ban as unjustified and disproportionate.

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