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Foreign and defense ministers from Russia and France
Foreign and defense ministers from Russia and France are to meet in Paris on March 11 for a session of the Russian-French Council for Security Cooperation.

"Among the key issues on the agenda will be the preparation for talks on signing a new long-term strategic Russia-EU agreement, replacing the current 1997 Partnership and Cooperation agreement," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said.

Poland blocked negotiations for a new EU partnership agreement with Moscow because of a Russian embargo on Polish meat in November 2005, which Moscow said was over health concerns, but Warsaw called political.

The 2005 meat ban was a major source of tension between the two countries under the previous conservative government in Poland. Russia resumed meat imports from Poland in December 2007.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who visited Moscow at the beginning of February, said that Poland could soon lift its veto on EU-Russia partnership agreement talks. Warsaw has not yet done this, however.

Last year, Russia and the EU extended the Partnership and Cooperation agreement by a year, and are hoping to reach a new deal by the end of 2008.

All of the 27 EU's member-states must give their approval to talks on a new agreement between the European Union and Russia.

France will take over the presidency of the European Union from July 1, and Moscow has plans to discuss "further steps to ease the visa regime between Russia and the EU," in Paris, Kamynin said.

The Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, the U.S. missile shield plans in the Czech Republic and Poland, and the prospects for Russia-NATO cooperation, as well as Kosovo's independence and the Middle East will be also on the meeting's agenda, the diplomat added.

The Russian-French Council for Security Cooperation was established on July 8, 2002 to meet the goal of enhancing bilateral cooperation in international security. The two countries' foreign and defense ministers attend the council sessions, which are held once a year.


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