Is London open to reconciliation with Moscow?

Is London open to reconciliation with Moscow?

Russian and UK foreign ministers agree that Russian-UK relations cannot be called satisfactory, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson today.

"The problems that have accrued and their burden pulls us back, although in my opinion both sides want to find ways to overcome them," the Russian top diplomat said.

Lavrov said that at the talks the have discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula, particularly in the light of the United Nations Security Council debates. "In general, we have agreed that Russia and the United Kingdom, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, should increase cooperation on all the issues included in the agenda of this key body," the diplomat added.

The diplomat said that the parties marked the need to consider the topic related to the consequences of Britain's withdrawal from the EU, primarily in terms of a possible impact of final agreements between London and Brussels on Russia's trade and investment ties with Britain and with the remaining EU members.

Lavrov said that London is refusing to contact with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) over the murder case of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, and this is an obstacle for real anti-terror cooperation.

"Truly effective cooperation in the anti-terror fight is now stalled over the decision of the British government to stop all contacts with the FSB, which was made in connection with the so-called Litvinenko affair. Without full-fledged contacts with the FSB, which as I’ve already said, London is dodging, it is difficult to expect any success in this field," Lavrov noted.

Boris Johnson, in turn, said that Russia and the United Kingdom could find possibilities for cooperation on issues such as the Iran nuclear deal, the North Korea crisis and the Syrian conflict.

"I think we can find possibilities for cooperation on issues where we have substantial interests in common, such as Iran, and the need to continue with the Iran nuclear deal, such as the imperative to stop the North Koreans acquiring a nuclear weapon and the need to progress the future for the people of Syria," Johnson stressed.

UK Secretary of State called himself "a committed Russophile." "I took the trouble before becoming foreign secretary to station my ancestry around the world. And I have them in Germany, in France, all over the place. And of course here in Moscow as well. And I’m certain that I’m the first foreign secretary in the history of my office to be called Boris," he continued. "So, be in no doubt that I want to see the improvement in the relations between our peoples".

The President of the National Strategy Institute, Mikhail Remizov, speaking with the correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that the potential for practical improvement of relations between Russia and the UK is not yet visible. "There are some grounds for rapprochement, for example, our positions on Iran, which are different from the US. There is also a general tension between Trump and the British elite. And there is a process of divorce between Britain and the EU. Perhaps, London could play a more active role in such issues as the Iranian deal, some other processes in the Middle East, the Afghan issue," he listed possible directions for contacts.

Nevertheless, it does not mean that London and Moscow are capable of any deep cooperation in the international arena now. "The space for our cooperation is minimal, we do not see any new positive agenda in the relations. It should be even assumed that this Boris Johnson's visit to Russia is nothing more than a demonstration of London's ability to show foreign policy independent from the US," Mikhail Remizov concluded.

A senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Olenchenko, in turn, drew attention to the artificial obstacles that London has been placing in the way off maintaining a dialogue with Moscow. "The fact is that Johnson identifies three areas: bilateral relations, international problems and international challenges. And it seems to him that it is easiest to focus on international problems, for example, Syria, and  on international challenges, for example, Iran,"  the expert explained.

According to the head of the Foreign Office, Olenchenko pointed out that Russia and the United Kingdom cannot maintain normal relations, because Britain does not like the unresolved Ukrainian issue. "But this is an artificial obstacle. We did not create the Ukrainian crisis, we did not carry out a coup there, we do not support the current incompetent government. We also do not prevent other issues, in particular, the current program in the DPRK," the senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences said.

The expert stressed that the Russian side shows maximum patience and conducts the maximum of work to explain that it is necessary to engage in bilateral relations. "But it's a positive thing that the head of the British Foreign Office has arrived here. His visit says that the UK has started to realize its unconstructive choice to refuse from a dialogue with Russia. But again, unfortunately, we have different understandings of a dialogue. The UK puts us in different conditions, as if the development of bilateral relations is only in Russia's interests, of course, this is in the interests of Britain as well," Vladimir Olenchenko concluded.