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5/21/09 Russia and EU begin summit amid mutual exasperation - by Luke Harding

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Russia and EU begin summit amid mutual exasperation - by Luke Harding

Russia and the European Union were today holding a summit intended to improve their battered relationship, amid mutual exasperation and irritation in Moscow at the EU's recent attempts to lure eastern European countries away from Moscow's orbit. Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev, was hosting a two-day EU-Russia summit in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, close to Vladivostok and Russia's Pacific coast. EU leaders, including the European commission president, José Manuel Barroso, arrived in the city this morning. The summit comes at a time of growing frustration between Brussels and Moscow over a host of issues ranging from energy policy to the war in Georgia. The EU was irritated by Russia's gas war in January with Ukraine and Medvedev's failure to pull Russian troops out of the breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Today EU's Barroso stuck a conciliatory note. "Russia and the EU are interdependent. The global financial and economic crisis stresses the need to develop the potential of our relationship, remove obstacles and co-ordinate our efforts," he declared, saying that "regular and frank dialogue" was the way to overcome "difficult" issues.

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