Russia on Friday agreed to lift its import ban on EU vegetables imposed in the wake of the E. coli outbreak that provoked a bitter trade row between Moscow and Brussels.
After two days of summit talks, EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and Russian President Dmitry Mededev both said Moscow would lift the ban although it was unclear if this would happen in the next two days.
"We are happy that we have agreed the ban on vegetables from the European Union will be lifted," Barroso said at a joint news conference with Medvedev in the central Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod.
Without giving a specific time frame for the lifting of the ban, he said that the European Union would send certificates to Russia within the next two days to get the procedure underway.
Medvedev confirmed Russia's willingness to lift the ban, saying sanitary experts from the two sides would have to shortly agree on subsequent moves.
"We discussed a mechanism of resuming supplies of European vegetables to the Russian market," Medvedev said.
"We are ready to resume such supplies against guarantees from competent services of the European Union. This is absolutely certain."
Specialists from Russia and the EU will in the near future have to agree on the certificates that will confirm that vegetables headed for Russia are safe, he added.
In a change from earlier statements, Barroso said that a new system of certification of vegetable safety in the European Union would be be "put in place without any delay."
Russia's chief doctor Gennady Onishchenko, head of the consumer protection watchdog that imposed the ban, declined to confirm that it would be lifted within the next two days.
"The ball is in their (the EU) court so everything will depend on how hard they try," he told reporters afterwards.
Russia last week imposed a blanket ban on vegetable imports to prevent the spread of the E. coli bacteria that has left at least 31 dead and some 3,000 sick.
The European Union reacted furiously to the ban, calling it disproportionate and scientifically unjustified, and called for it to be immediately lifted.
Medvedev and the EU leaders were speaking after official talks on the second day of a Russia-EU summit, a twice-yearly event. On Thursday, they held informal talks and had dinner.
Medvedev jokingly told journalists the leaders had eaten vegetables including a dish of tomatoes and said he did not know their origin. "We ate tomatoes, even various kinds. I don't know where they came from. We'll live and see," he said.
Both sides said talks had advanced Russia's long-held goal of membership of the World Trade Organisation, although Barroso raised the vegetable issue, saying that issues of "sanitary and phytosanitary measures" would have to be regulated.
Barroso said that "Russia's WTO accession is still possible this year."
Russia is frustrated by its 18-year-long accession process to the WTO, which has left it as the largest economy to remain outside the global trade body.
"We are all very sick of this," Medvedev said, adding that in his view only "insignificant" sticking points remained and the chances were "very high" that Russia could join this year.
"I would urge our partners in the EU to conclude these talks within a month so as to come to the procedure of signing documents by the end of the year on Russia entering the WTO," he stressed.
The European Union only briefly raised Russia's human rights record, with the president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy talking of "strong concerns."
Russia in turn repeated its calls to scrap the visa regime with the European Union, a long-running grievance.
Medvedev acknowledged that visa talks were at an early stage but said he was pleased with the progress made on easing rules for some groups of Russians, such as students.
"I am pleased with how the process is developing. Last year I had a little less optimism," Medvedev said.