MOSCOW, May 21 (RIA Novosti) - Despite recent difficulties in relations, the European Union favors "dialogue and engagement" with Moscow, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told RIA Novosti ahead of an EU-Russia summit.
The summit takes place in Russia's Far East city of Khabarovsk and begins later this evening when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the EU delegation, led by EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and Czech President Vaclav Klaus, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, meet for an informal dinner.
The summit gets underway for real on Friday however, and is expected to focus on energy and security in the light of Russia's recent natural gas dispute with Ukraine and last year's five-day war between Russia and Georgia.
The gas spat saw supplies to a number of European countries cut off and doubts raised over Russia's reliability as a stable energy provider. Russia-EU ties were also damaged by the August 2008 conflict, which began when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia in a bid to bring it back under central control.
"The war in Georgia last summer put our relationship under heavy stress. The situation is not yet settled and we have issues where we disagree. Nevertheless, we continue opting for dialogue and engagement and I hope that we will be able to have a constructive exchange on this issue," Solana said.
"The gas crisis this winter between Russia and Ukraine had serious consequences for EU consumers. Hence, there is a need for a stronger, more elaborate framework for our relations in this field, so that we can avoid a repetition of such incidents in the future and build trust between us."
On the issue of Medvedev's proposals for a new legally binding treaty on European security and a new international agreement on cooperation in the energy sphere, Solana said that, "The EU is willing to engage in an open and constructive dialogue on ways of enhancing security in Europe."
"There is scope today for renewed efforts, so that everybody in Europe can feel comfortable from the security perspective. Areas in which we can work and advance include in particular disarmament, non-proliferation, the security impact of climate change, terrorism, etc," he added.