No breakthrough evident after mission to Moscow

Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs was back in Riga Tuesday after a weekend of whistlestop diplomacy in Kyiv and Moscow designed to test the chances for a lasting peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia. 

On his twitter feed on Monday, Rinkēvičs had described the talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov as "frank" - a term usually used in diplomatic circles as a way of saying they did not see eye to eye.

Using similar diplomatic code, a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry described the meeting as taking place in a "businesslike" atmosphere, saying:

The Russian side drew attention to some factors obstructing the bilateral dialogue, including Latvia’s unfriendly moves towards some Russian cultural figures and politicians, as well as the unfavourable situation affecting the rights of ethnic Russians. The problems of massive “non-citizenship” and the promotion to heroic status of former Waffen-SS legionaries were also duly noted.

Ahead of the meeting, the Russian Foreign Ministry had said: "We hope that during its first term as EU chair, Latvia will follow the principles of pragmatism and will help remove artificial obstacles to cooperation and to the effort to deal with issues of mutual interest to Russia and EU countries."

But at a joint press conference lasting more than 40 minutes in Moscow, there was little sign of a rapport between the two men. 

A carefully-worded account of the talks released by the Latvian Foreign Ministry went into few details and quoted neither minister directly, saying:

"Foreign Minister Rinkēvičs emphasised that the key to the future of relations is in Russia’s hands – namely, the actions it will now take in Ukraine, the fulfilment of commitments of the Minsk agreement, and de-escalation of the conflict as proof of the words in favour of peace.

Neither the EU nor other countries are interested in isolation of Russia. They all wish to see Russia as a responsible cooperation partner in international relations. The renewal of trust will take time, but it is not impossible.

"The Latvian Foreign Minister drew attention to an unfortunate and significant deterioration of the security environment in the Baltic Sea region. Russia’s stepped up military activity, including with the flights of military aircraft that have been posing threats to civilian airliners, are indeed hard to explain. NATO has been forced to respond and reinforce its presence. The spirit of trust must be restored and we are in favour of a dialogue on these matters, indicated Minister Rinkēvičs."

"During its Presidency of the Council of the EU, Latvia wishes to normalise the relations between the EU and Russia. This cannot and will not be achieved if fundamental democratic principles and international norms are ignored or forgotten. The EU’s position is united and firm; Crimea’s annexation will not be recognised. The democratic world already has an experience with the policy of non-recognition; this policy promoted the spirit of freedom in Eastern Europe."

Rinkēvičs undertook the mission to Kyiv and Moscow on behalf of EU foreign policy supremo Federica Mogherini and will now report his findings to her.

The full press conference can be seen (in Russian) here:

 

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