Moscow objects to politicization of progress towards visa-free travel with EU

Russia and the European Union should set a deadline in their work towards visa-free travel to avoid procrastination. The issue should not be linked with human rights either, Russian Foreign Ministry Ambassador at Large, senior official in the visa-free travel dialogue with the EU Anvar Azimov told Interfax on Tuesday.

"We wish for a more intensive listing of joint steps devoid of politicization and artificial links with other problems, primarily, human rights," he said.

"We think that Russia and EU countries are technically prepared for a shift to visa-free travel and consider it necessary to set a deadline for our visa-free travel dialogue so that the drafting of an agreement on short visa-free travels does not drag out," the diplomat stressed.

"Russia is ready for the soonest switch to visa-free travel with the European Union. The ball is in the EU court. The question is largely political," Azimov remarked.

"Russia is not the beggar in the visa-free travel dialogue with the European Union. Abolition of visas is a mutually-beneficial and useful move. Naturally, we will continue the meticulous implementation of joint steps and wait until approximately a dozen EU countries realize the priority of the visa-free travel task. We are confident that we can cover the remaining distance towards visa-free travel more energetically and dynamically with the due political will of EU countries and the due attitude of partners," he said.

He said the sides had exchanged oral and written reports on the fulfillment of joint measures and answered numerous additional inquiries. The exchange of expert missions "is due to end in the middle of this year," he said.

"Our dialogue is based on equality and parity, so EU states have sent two expert missions to Russia for verification of the first and second blocks of the document, and Russia sent two missions to the EU in return," Azimov said.

On the whole, the visa-free travel agreement would become "a serious confirmation of the truly strategic partnership between Russia and the European Union and a powerful incentive for comprehensive development of relations, humanitarian contacts, in the first turn," he said.

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