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ST.PETERSBURG, June 16. /TASS/. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has called to keep the door open for dialogue between the European Union and Russia.
"I like the idea to be here," Junker said at the opening ceremony of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Thursday, which marks its 20th anniversary this year.
"I’ve always believed in the power of dialogue," he said. "When our relations are tense we must keep talking. Even when economic sanctions are in place we must keep the door open."
The EU-Russia relationship is "not broken beyond repair," he said. "We need to mend it and I believe we can."
"We are interdependent," Juncker said, adding that the EU and Russia have a shared responsibility to work together.
"Our path must begin with Ukraine. The Ukrainian people have decided which kind of future they want for their children and everyone must respect that," Juncker said.
The next step is clear - full implementation of the Minsk agreements, which Russia has signed, Juncker said. "No more no less. This is the only way to begin our conversation and the only way to lift the economic sanctions that have been imposed."
European countries have to carry out a dialogue with Russia’s leadership and people, Juncker said.
Juncker said in the coming weeks, the EU and its member states will hold a number of important meetings. "We will spend many hours talking about our relations with Russia. I take the view that we must also talk with Russia - its leadership, its people. For some this may be a radical idea, for me it is common sense."
"I have always worked to build bridges and for dialogue," he said. "I believe that the peace and prosperity of humankind lie in openness and exchange."
"But if our relationship today is troubled and marked by mistrust, it is not broken beyond repair. We need to mend it, and I believe we can. I have always believed in the power of dialogue. When our relations are tense, we must keep talking. Even when economic sanctions are in place, we must keep the door open. And if I am here with you today, it is because I want to build a bridge," Juncker stressed.
The EU and Russia "must share a commitment to the basic human values that underpin a free society. In the end, only these values can bring lasting security here and in the wider world," he said.