Head of EU diplomacy Federica Mogherini met her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday (11 July) in Brussels following her visit to Moscow in April. Mrs. Mogherini confirmed that the EU and Russia were keeping their channels of communication open and regularly discussed global challenges and international issues despite the strain on their mutual ties.
Since the beginning of the Crimean conflict in 2014, the relations between both sides have cooled but Mrs. Mogherini stressed that both sides could still cooperate on key global topics. In her words, “it is clear we do not share the same positions on everything but… it is essential from our perspective to engage, cooperate wherever possible and today we identified ground for cooperation”.
Brussels and Moscow find it particularly hard to agree on Syria but Mrs. Mogherini sees a light at the end of the tunnel following the US-Russia-brokered ceasefire that was announced after Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump had met during the G20 summit. “We see this as a first step to a broader nationwide ceasefire. At the same time, she recalled how the EU has provided almost €10 billion in humanitarian aid for Syrians who wanted a ‘normal life’,” she commented.
Mrs. Morherini also stressed that the EU is “not military player in Syria… and we are proud of not being one” to which Mr. Lavrov replied that “we all know the contribution the EU is making… but it is high time to consider the humanitarian impact of EU and US sanctions (against) Damascus.” The Russian foreign minister, however, also said that the EU-US sanctions against the regime of Bashar al-Assad had destroyed the country’s pharmaceutical industry and urged the EU to reconsider them. During their meeting, both leaders also discussed a range of other issues such as the Libyan crisis, the latest developments in the Gulf, the Middle East peace process and North Korea.