May 14, 2007 / 4:49 PM / 12 years ago

EU deal on Siberia overflights may need more talks

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A pact agreed last November to phase out fees that Russia charges European airlines to fly over Siberia may require further negotiation, Russia’s ambassador to the European Union said on Monday.

Vladimir Chizhov said the Russian government had not yet approved a deal to end the more than $300 million in charges paid by EU carriers flying to Asia over Russian territory.

A number of ministries were seeking further clarification on commercial and technical issues, he said.

The issue is the latest in a string of disputes that have plagued relations between the 27-nation bloc and its chief energy supplier in the run-up to a summit between President Vladimir Putin and the main EU leaders on Friday.

The European Commission regards the arrangement negotiated last year, under which Russia agreed to reduce the charges from 2010 and scrap them by the end of 2013, as a done deal.

“You could see that as a compromise which not everybody necessarily agrees to,” Chizhov told Reuters in an interview.

“(Russian officials) are seeking further clarifications, and perhaps that will be the subject of further negotiations between Russia and the European Union.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier acknowledged after chairing a preparatory meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday that it was an open question whether the Siberian overflights issue could be resolved this week.

TENSIONS

Chizhov said the summit was a chance to ease tensions but the EU should not expect breakthroughs on issues such as Russia’s ban on Polish meat imports, which prompted Warsaw to block the start of talks on a new cooperation agreement.

“The Samara summit may be a good opportunity to allay fears, defuse tensions, and put an end to speculations,” he said.

He declined to name a date when Russia would end the meat embargo but said there were more serious disagreements between the EU and Moscow, citing the status of Kosovo and U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile shield in two new EU countries.

The only announcement likely to emerge from the summit was the entry into force of visa facilitation and readmission agreements, he said.

Chizhov said it was ridiculous to suggest that the Russian government was involved in cyber-sabotage of Estonian web sites after the former Soviet satellite country removed a World War Two monument, sparking outrage in Russia.

He called Estonia’s move “irresponsible and provocative” and urged the EU to help the Baltic country heal what he called “a conflict of Estonia with itself.”

Chizhov said Russia supported calls for major developing nations such as China and India to be part of new global agreement to fight climate change.

If all countries played their part, Putin would likely support German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s drive to produce a global agreement to cut emissions as part of her presidency of the G8 group of rich nations.

“If it’s a genuine worldwide limit, I believe he might be interested,” Chizhov said.

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