Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called on the European Union (EU) to forget about political differences with Moscow and join the broader Eurasia partnership.
“We bear no grudge, and we are ready to meet our European partners halfway,” Putin said at a plenary session during the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
“This undoubtedly cannot be a one-way street,” he said in a call for efforts from both sides for rapprochement.
Relations between Russia and the EU soured after the latter joined the United States in imposing several rounds of sanctions on Russia over its takeover of Crimea and involvement in the Ukraine crisis since 2014.
While reiterating Russia’s long-held position that Moscow is not the initiator of the strained ties, Putin voiced his hope for the EU, one of Russia’s key trade and economic partner, to join the project of the big Eurasian partnership, which he said would involve China, India, Pakistan, Iran and countries of the Commonwealth of Independent states of the former Soviet Union, as well as other interested states and organizations.
Putin said one of the first steps for implementing this project would be the official start of negotiations on creating a comprehensive trade and economic partnership in Eurasia between the Eurasian Economic Union and China.
“This project is undoubtedly open to Europe. And I believe such interaction can be mutually beneficial,” he said.
With regard to Moscow’s ties with the West, which has been at its lowest point ever since the end of the Cold War, Putin said global confrontation should not be the basis for the development of international relations.
“Neither Moscow or anybody else want a new Cold War,” he said.
The Russian leader urged Washington not to exert pressure on the EU in its cooperation with Russia, while vowing that the Kremlin is ready to work with any U.S. president to be elected.
Facing a NATO that has been keeping up pressure on Russia and stepping up military build-up near its borders, Putin regretted that Moscow’s stances that it is not threatening anyone around were “completely slighted.”