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Armenia, Belarus baulk at Riga summit declaration: Sources

 Armenia and Belarus are holding up agreement on a joint declaration at the EU-Eastern Partnership summit over references to Russia`s annexation of Crimea last year, diplomatic sources said Thursday.

Riga: Armenia and Belarus are holding up agreement on a joint declaration at the EU-Eastern Partnership summit over references to Russia`s annexation of Crimea last year, diplomatic sources said Thursday.

EU leaders are meeting in the Latvian capital Riga with their counterparts from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, aiming to cement ties with the former Soviet states but without closing the door on Russia.

The summit is overshadowed by the Ukraine crisis which has plunged EU-Russia ties into a deep crisis.

Armenia and Belarus, on the other hand, have backed away from the EU to join the Eurasian Economic Union promoted by Russia President Vladimir Putin.

The sources said the two countries, ruled in the Soviet era from Moscow, object to describing Russia`s March 2014 annexation of Crimea as illegal but that the problem would be resolved.

"We know about it but it is not a real danger to the summit," a source close to one of the European Union delegations said.

"The Crimea question will be treated in a separate document," said the source, asking not to be identified.

"Armenia and Belarus` behaviour is logical: these two countries voted at the UN with Russia against the resolution condemning the annexation of Crimea. They are keeping their line and we keep ours."

Separately, Latvian foreign ministry spokesman Ivars Lasis told AFP: "It`s all part of the normal process of drafting an agreement acceptable to all. We`re confident agreement among all parties can be reached and everyone will sign."

The European Union formally launched its Eastern Partnership initiative in 2009, offering the six former Soviet states improved economic and political ties for what it says is the advantage of all.

Russia however sees the Eastern Partnership as aimed at countering its influence in the region.