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Russia Signals Willingness for EU Role in Georgia, Moldova

Russia has signaled that it is prepared to work with the European Union to resolve conflicts in former Soviet states where it has previously resisted outside influence.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says he is open to ideas the EU may have for dealing with long-running disputes in Georgia and Moldova, which have both elected pro-western governments, but still have Russian troops on their territory. He spoke after meeting with EU officials in Luxembourg and is heard through an interpreter.

"Our EU friends have reaffirmed their interest in contributing to the resolution of situations in Transdnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We have to state that Russia is ready to interact and cooperate with EU representatives who are charged with the resolution of conflicts there, as we are already cooperating with the EU representatives on Transcaucasia," said Mr. Lavrov.

Transdnistria is a breakaway region of Moldova, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia are involved in conflicts with Georgia. Foreign Minister Lavrov also said that Russia looks forward to meeting the European Union's special envoy to Moldova.

Ties between Moscow and Brussels have been under new pressure since the EU enlarged to take in several former Soviet states last May. In addition, pro-Western governments have come to power in Ukraine and Georgia, and there have been parliamentary elections in Moldova. All three are seeking to join the European Union.

EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner says the fact that Mr. Lavrov discussed Georgia, Moldova, and Kyrgyzstan, whose leader was overthrown last week, indicates that Russia recognizes the EU's participation in the region.