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The European Commission expects to receive a mandate for talks
The European Commission expects to receive a mandate for talks on a new partnership deal with Russia in Luxembourg on April 29, the head of the commission's delegation to Russia said on Friday.

Poland, which had until recently blocked EU-Russia talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation deal over Moscow's embargo on Polish meat, said on Thursday it was ready to lift its objections to negotiations.

"We hope a positive decision will be made, and feel certain that EU member countries will reach agreement on the issue," Marc Franco said.

Luxembourg will host an EU foreign ministerial meeting on April 29.

Later that day Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet with the EU Troika (external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency) to discuss arrangements for re-launching the Russia-EU talks.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who visited Moscow on Thursday, said he expected difficulties in the launch of talks on a new agreement to be ironed out soon.

President Vladimir Putin told him Russia relies "on Luxembourg's friendly attitude for boosting ties with the 27-nation bloc."

Franco also said the European Commission and Slovenia had done everything possible to get approval for the talks' resumption.

Russia is hoping for a simplified document, without binding obligations relating to its energy exports to the EU.

A number of EU countries, including Poland and Lithuania, have insisted on including an energy section in the new pact. The idea is supported by those EU nations, which question the reliability of Russian energy supplies, in particular natural gas.

"The agreement, we believe, should have no excessive details but be a brief, legally binding and politically important document that looks to the future," Malakhov said.

Fears over Russian gas supplies, which account for over a quarter of European consumption, have been a major factor in EU energy policy since Russia's dispute with Ukraine at the start of 2006, when Gazprom turned the taps off to the country, resulting in shortfalls to the EU.

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