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    MOSCOW SEEKS TO HAVE DISPUTES SETTLED BEFORE EU ADMITS NEW MEMBERS

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    TALLINN, February 26 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is seeking to develop friendly and mutually beneficial relations with Estonia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov said at a meeting with Ms Tiina Intelmann, Estonian Foreign Ministry State Under-secretary, on Wednesday night. The diplomats discussed the state of Russian-Estonian relations.

    A series of problems hamper the development of bilateral relations, the situation around the Russian-speaking residents in Estonia, being one of them, Mr Chizhov told reporters after the meeting.

    "Russia's position on the matter echoes concerns and proposals, which were advanced to Estonia by many international organizations. I do not think that this position is hostile to Estonia. Russia is only concerned about the observance of the human rights of people, whom it is continuing to take care," said the deputy minister.

    Ms Intelmann, for her part, said Mr Chizhov had not given answers to the questions, which were of tremendous interest for Estonia, i.e. the border treaty, the return of Estonia's presidential symbols that were taken out of Tallinn before WWII and other inveterate problems.

    The conferees were more optimistic about bilateral cooperation against drug trafficking, organized crime and the spread of AIDS. "These are the spheres where progress is possible," said Ms Intelmann.

    The Russian deputy minister promised to accelerate the settlement of issues related to navigation on Chudskoye Lake, said Ms Intelmann.

    "I am glad the Russian deputy foreign minister came in Tallinn for political discussions and this meeting took place," added the Estonian diplomat.

    Mr Chizhov told reporters that the Russian-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) would certainly be applied to the new EU members. The Union will only have to address Moscow's apprehensions over the EU expansion.

    "I am optimistic about the PCA's future," said Mr Chizhov.

    Fourteen items Russia handed over to the EU make a list of its concerns, including over talks in Brussels, rather than demands, emphasized the diplomat.

    The application of the PCA to the new member-countries is a legal procedure, "this is a protocol, which has to be agreed on, signed and ratified," said Mr Chizhov.

    The Russian diplomat refrained from qualifying the EU's position on the PCA as tough. The EU insists that the agreement should be extended to the new members immediately after their accession.

    Mr Chizhov said such assessment of the EU position would have been biased. "I am positive, there is enough time and opportunity to settle some of the problems and embark on settling others before May 1, when the EU's legal enlargement is due to take place," said Mr Chizhov.

    When pressed for comment on the Estonian foreign minister's statement to the effect that if Russia did not agree that the PCA be applied to the new member-countries, the EU would impose sanctions, the diplomat said the EU had not made an official statement to this effect. "Official EU documents do not contain such a statement," noted Mr Chizhov.

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