Russia called the European Union “fragmented” after the bloc failed to agree on a Franco-German proposal for direct talks with President Vladimir Putin.
Berlin and Paris on Thursday called on the EU to resume talks with the Russian leader, a week after US President Joe Biden’s decision Meet with him in Geneva.
While they said resuming talks would help restore ties and enable cooperation in areas of mutual interest, some member states strongly opposed the plan, with critics from Eastern Europe denouncing it. as “dangerous”.
The idea was formally rejected at a European Council meeting in Brussels, which began on Thursday and lasted until the early hours of Friday.
Putin praised the plan after its announcement, but Moscow expressed disappointment with the outcome on Friday.
“In general, President Putin was and remains interested in improving working relations between Moscow and Brussels,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “The European position is fragmented, not always coherent and sometimes vague.
The 27-member bloc froze summits with Putin following Russia’s annexation of Crimea to Ukraine in 2014, and relations between Brussels and Moscow have steadily deteriorated to a low point since the war cold.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was attending what could have been her last EU summit before the September elections to choose her successor, said EU leaders had instead agreed to maintain and develop a ‘dialogue format’ with the EU. Russia.
“I would have liked to see a more daring step here, but it is also good that way and we will continue to work on it,” she said. “We have again defined under what conditions we are ready to work and communicate more closely with Russia.”
The EU is deeply divided in its approach to Moscow.
Russia is the EU’s largest supplier of natural gas and plays a role in issues related to Europe’s strategic interests, including the Iran nuclear deal and the conflicts in Syria and Libya.
Germany, a European heavyweight, has strong economic interests there, including the Nord Stream 2 submarine gas pipeline project, and a number of countries, including France, are reluctant to continue to wage a sanctions battle with Russia. .
But the bloc and Russia clash over Ukraine, Belarus and human rights, and accuse each other of threatening security and stability from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
Poland and the Baltic states say the EU-Putin meetings would send the wrong message.
“It was a common position of many leaders” not to change the position on Russia, said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, who claimed the idea was like “trying to hire the bear to keep a pot honey safe “.
Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said any communication from the EU to Moscow about a possible summit risked being interpreted as weak by Putin’s government.
“For now, if it goes as proposed, Russia will annex Crimea, Russia is waging war on Donbass, and Europe shrugs its shoulders and continues to try to dialogue,” he said. , referring to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine featuring Russians. -supported separatists.
“The Kremlin does not understand this kind of policy.
As they rejected the plan for direct talks, bloc leaders in a statement called on the European Commission and EU senior diplomat Josep Borrell “to present options for further restrictive measures, including sanctions. economic ”against Russia.
Since 2014, the EU has imposed successive waves of sanctions against Russia’s energy, finance and armaments sectors, as well as individual sanctions against Russians accused of human rights violations or abuses. use of chemical weapons prohibited.
Moscow in turn responded with countermeasures.