Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will take part in the first meeting of the Russian-UK Strategic Dialogue in London on Wednesday.
"The Strategic Dialogue is intended to become an important mechanism of political dialogue and practical interaction between Russia and the United Kingdom on foreign policy and defense issues aimed at facilitating trusting discussions and agreeing upon positions on the most relevant aspects of the international agenda and bilateral military-political cooperation," the Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier.
The upcoming meeting is expected to deal with problems of European security, including prospects of the development of equitable interaction on the European missile defense architecture and the current situation in the Middle East and in the Arab world on the whole, the ministry said. "We expect that a substantive conversation will take place on Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear program and the situation on the Korean Peninsula," it said.
The foreign and defense ministers will also have separate meetings on the sidelines of the Strategic Dialogue meeting, at which the parties intend to thoroughly discuss Russian-British political, trade-economic, and cultural ties and military and military-technological cooperation, it said.
The parties plan to adopt a number of documents based on the meeting's outcomes, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The Defense Ministry told Interfax-AVN that the meeting envisions "a discussion on a broad range of issues of mutual interest."
"The program of Russian Defense Minister Army Gen. Sergei Shoigu's visit to London envisions a meeting with his British counterpart Philip Hammond, at which the parties will address the current condition and prospects of the development of Russian-British relations in the military field and exchange opinions on the development of the military-political situation in some regions of the world," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Voice of Russia
The first UK-Russia 2+2 meeting due in London today shows the extent of progress that the two nations have made in developing a mature relationship at a senior level, British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said in an exclusive interview with Russia’s Interfax news agency.
He called the UK and Russia were going to hold a joint session for ministers to cover general security policy issues in what the British foreign chief called a milestone in the bilateral relationship between the countries.
"Minister Lavrov and I will discuss major topical foreign policy issues such as Syria, Iran and the situation in North Africa,” Mr. Hague said.
The minister said there had been many positive developments in UK-Russia relations since he assumed the post in 2010. "The visits to Moscow by the prime minister in 2011, and to London by President Putin last year, demonstrate the strengthening of political contacts at the highest level,” he added.
Mr. Hague also stressed it was only natural for "two fellow permanent UN Security Council members” to have a strong conversation on such issues as the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan. He said that Russia and the UK, as G20 and G8 hosts respectively, were bound to collaborate in bilateral trade, innovation, science and higher education.
Speaking about British-Russian commercial and investment cooperation in the wake of Russia’s WTO accession William Hague noted that "Russia is now the UK's eleventh largest export market with exports to Russia increasing faster than to any other major market.”
He said London hoped that Russia’s WTO membership would increase EU exports to Russia. "We hope that Russia will now work quickly to implement the WTO commitments to which it has signed up,” he concluded.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary William Hague will hold talks in London on March 13 to discuss a wide array of pressing bilateral and international issues, including the development of economic and military and technical cooperation, as well as Syria and Iran.
The London talks will be held in the form of a strategic dialogue or the 2+2 format, which never saw the light of day in the mid-2000s, when Russian-British relations actually came to the freeze because of the Litvinenko case, London’s stance on the 2008 Georgian aggression and other sticking issues.
Something of a thaw in ties took place after the Conservative Party led by Prime Minister David Cameron came to power in Britain. The past few years have seen Moscow and London resume high level contacts, something that was praised by Sergei Lavrov during his interview with the BBC broadcast late last week.
According to Lavrov, a ‘trust-based’ nature of the meeting will help discuss any proposal in the ‘most straightforward way’ and will enable to ‘understand each other’. This is not just lip-service, experts say, referring to the fact that Moscow and London remain at odds over the Litvinenko case. They are echoed by Yevgeni Minchenko, a Moscow-based political analyst.
"Although bilateral relations slightly improved, further breakthrough is unlikely, Minchenko says, alluding to the two’s irreconcilable differences on the Litvinenko case. Britain continues to demand the extradition of Lugovoy, which Moscow says is out of line with the Russian Constitution."
Another contentious issue is the Syrian crisis that was mentioned by Lavrov during the BBC interview. ‘I don't think we are far apart as far as the eventual goal is concerned,’ Lavrov said, admitting a spate of ‘tactical differences’ on the topic. It seems that both Moscow and London are poised for a diplomatic solution of the Syrian crisis, experts say. At the same time, they quote William Hague as saying recently that diplomacy and talks take plenty of time amid further loss of Syrian lives, something that Hague said may prompt Britain to increase non-lethal arms supplies to Syrian opposition. However, it is unclear how this will contribute to a political dialogue in Syria, experts say.
High on the agenda of the London talks will be Afghanistan and North Korea’s nuclear program that Moscow and London currently discuss within the framework of the UN Security Council. The new format will make it possible to deal with these issues on bilateral basis, says Andrei Kulikov, another Moscow-based political analyst.
"As far as Afghanistan is concerned, the main theme is the withdrawal of NATO troops from this South Asian country, Kulikov says. Britain will significantly reduce its contingent in Afghanistan this year, and the London talks will focus on the use of a Russian air base in the city of Ulyanovsk and other options."
Afghanistan and the situation in Mali will top the agenda of the London talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Shoigu and British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, who will also discuss problems related to the deployment of the European missile defense system.