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Germany, Russia Propose New Security Committee

MESEBERG, Germany — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Dmitry Medvedev have proposed a joint European Union-Russian security committee aimed at resolving regional crises and conflicts.

Merkel and Medvedev told reporters after a meeting outside of Berlin on Saturday that constant contact between the EU and Russia on security matters needed to progress to a higher level.

"This should help to resolve difficult situations better than in the past," Merkel said.

Medvedev arrived Friday for a two-day exchange with Merkel at the Meseberg mansion in the countryside outside Berlin.

Merkel and Medvedev said they covered a wide range of issues in 10 hours of talks, including the euro crisis, financial markets regulation and international issues like Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The proposed new forum, called the EU-Russia Political and Security Committee, should work on the ministerial level, with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in charge, they said in a joint written statement.

Its main purpose should be to "establish ground rules for joint EU-Russia civil/military crisis management operations," the statement said. In addition, it should work on specific issues, conflicts, and crisis situations, it said.

The first issue to be tackled could be the Transdnestr conflict that has troubled Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and the EU for almost two decades, it said.

The cooperation "could include a joint EU-Russia engagement, which would guarantee a smooth transition of the present situation to a final stage," according to the statement.

No agreement was reached, however, on lifting visa obligations for travels between Russia and the European Union.

Merkel said Germany has always taken a "careful approach" toward the visa question.

"It is not about postponing this forever," she added. "We are now at the stage where we will very specifically talk about what needs to be done to lift the need for visas."

Medvedev reiterated that Russia was ready to go ahead with ending visa obligations.

"If we can agree on this, this will change the quality of our lives," he said. "This will make us true strategic partners."

On Iran, he and Merkel declared that the five world powers negotiating with Tehran supported a new set of international sanctions.

Medvedev said "agreement on the sanctions exists," despite the fact that "nobody wants sanctions."

"We hope the voice of the international community will be heard by the Iranian leadership," Medvedev said.

Merkel said sanctions could be passed by the United Nations Security Council "in the near future."

Russia has been traditionally opposed to sanctions for Iran, a longtime trade partner, but in recent months officials have shown less patience with Iran's refusal to stop enriching uranium and heed other council demands meant to reduce suspicions over its nuclear aims.

"I am very happy that we can stand here jointly today and say that this is a joint position not only of the European Union, the United States of America and Russia, but also of China," Merkel said. "That is an important step the international community has made here."

Moscow has recently joined the other four UN Security Council members — the United States, China, Britain and France — to tentatively back a draft fourth set of UN sanctions against Iran.

Russia and China are against attempts to rush a vote in the UN Security Council on further sanctions against Iran, Lavrov said Friday in Beijing, Reuters reported.

But Lavrov also added that work on the resolution was close to completion and that the economic interests of Russia and China had been taken into account in the draft.

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