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    EU divided over strategic partnership talks with Russia

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    EU member states have yet to agree on whether to resume talks on a new cooperation pact with Russia, temporarily put on hold last month over Russia's military operation in Georgia, an EU diplomatic source said.

    BRUSSELS, October 14 (RIA Novosti) - EU member states have yet to agree on whether to resume talks on a new cooperation pact with Russia, temporarily put on hold last month over Russia's military operation in Georgia, an EU diplomatic source said.

    The 27-nation bloc announced on September 1 that it had suspended talks on the partnership and cooperation agreement with Russia over Moscow's presence in Georgia and would not resume the negotiation process until the country pulled all its troops in Georgia back to their pre-conflict positions.

    Germany and Italy called for strategic talks with Russia to be resumed last week after Moscow completed its troop pullout from a buffer zone in Georgia, near the borders with breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in line with an EU-brokered ceasefire deal.

    Meanwhile, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Sweden and the three ex-Soviet Baltic states said they wanted to see progress in talks on the future of South Ossetia and Abkhazia - recognized by Russia as independent states - before sealing ties with Moscow.

    The issue will be discussed at international talks in Geneva on Wednesday, set to focus on future security arrangements for the rebel republics and the situation in the region as a whole following the five-day war between Russia and Georgia in August.

    Speaking in Luxembourg on the prospects of talks with Russia, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said: "It is very difficult to flag up the exact date."

    The first round of talks on a new wide-ranging deal between Russia and the EU was held in July. The agreement is set to replace the 1997 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which expired in December 2007. The talks were delayed over disputes between Russia and EU members Poland and Lithuania. The second round of talks was due to take place on September 16.

    Russia's EU envoy Vladimir Chizhov said earlier the EU could resume talks with Russia by the end of October. The decision to resume talks on the long overdue strategic cooperation agreement is expected to be announced at an EU summit in Brussels on October 15.

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