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Editorial Note: The following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may also include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology. Comments are in parentheses.

Merkel Meets with Russian Leaders, Putin Accuses Europeans of Substituting the UN with NATO

Merkel meets with Russian leaders, discussing NATO, Kosovo 2008-03-09 04:45:37

    MOSCOW, March 8 (Xinhua) --

As the first foreign leader to visit Russia since the country's March 2 presidential election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Dmitry Medvedev here on Saturday, exchanging views on international issues and bilateral relations.

    NATO's continued enlargement is harmful to the status of the United Nations, Putin told reporters after meeting Merkel.

    "You get the impression that attempts are being made to set up an organization that would be a substitute for the UN. Humankind is unlikely to agree with such architecture of future international relations, and I believe the potential for conflict would only increase," Putin told a joint press conference with Merkel.

    Putin said Russia will agree with Ukraine's accession to NATO, "if this is the choice of the Ukrainian people and not of the political elite."

    "If the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians do not want their country to join NATO, and the country is being dragged into it by the neck, we cannot consider it a manifestation of democracy," Putin was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

    Germany hopes that progress on a new agreement between Russia and the European Union will be achieved at the next Russia-EU summit in the middle of the year, Merkel said after talks with Putin.

    "We would welcome the signing of a new agreement on partnership and cooperation," she said.

    "I personally would like relations between the EU and Russia to be raised to a new level," she added.

    The current 10-year-old EU-Russian Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) was signed in 1997 and expires in December, 2007. Both sides agree that there should be a new agreement to replace it, but talks on the future deal have been blocked by Poland, on which Russia imposed a ban on meat imports.

    Russian officials are counting on a new government in Poland to soften its position to unblock such negotiations.

    "We could work together to develop a new agreement on partnership and cooperation," Putin said. "We hope that no one will use the so-called principle of European solidarity to cover his narrow selfish interests."

    "We need less fuss, fewer scandals and less hysteria. We must sit down at the negotiating table and discuss these issues," Putin said.

    Unless either side declares its intention to terminate it, the PCA will automatically be renewed every year until a new deal has been signed.

    Russia could only recognize Kosovo's self-declared independence within the framework of international law and with Serbia's consent, Putin said.
    "If such a compromise is found, we will agree," Putin said.

    The recognition of any country's independence is possible "within the framework of the negotiating process and upon consent of all parties," including Serbia, Putin said.
    He stressed that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence is very dangerous, setting a precedent for the breakup of European countries.

    Kosovo's ethnic Albanian authorities unilaterally declared the independence of the Serbian province on Feb. 17, which was recognized by a number of countries, including the United States, Germany and France, but has been strongly opposed by Serbia, Russia, Romania and some other countries.

    Russia believes that the unilaterally-declared independence runs counter to international law and Resolution 1244 passed by the United Nations Security Council and warns of negative consequences of that move to the region and the whole world.

    Russian First Prime Minister and President-elect Dmitry Medvedev met Merkel later in the day, vowing to continue mutually advantageous cooperation between their countries.

    "We highly appreciate your coming here and consider the visit as a continuation of the strategic cooperation and partnership that has traditionally existed between Russia and the Federative Republic of Germany," Medvedev was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

    Merkel said that "there is every reason" for Germany and Russia "to cooperate with each other successfully."

    Merkel is the first foreign leader to visit Russia since the country's March 2 presidential election. Her meeting with Russian leaders "is evidence of the privileged nature" of Russian-German relations, according to Putin.

    "This is not a mere coincidence. It is evidence of the privileged nature of bilateral relations," Putin said. 
Editor: Mu Xuequan

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