Russia 110214 Basic Political Developments

Lavrov heads to London to improve Russian-British relations

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Lavrov heads to London to improve Russian-British relations

MOSCOW. Feb 14 (Interfax) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will for the UK for a two days' visit on Monday.

This will be the first visit to London by a Russian government official of this level since the relations between the two countries aggravated following the killing of former Federal Security service official Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

"The minister will be the British government's guest," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

Lavrov is scheduled to meet with his British Prime Minister David Cameron and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague and is expected to make a speech in the London School of Economics.

"The upcoming contacts are expected to address a broad range of bilateral relations issues, including those related to the visit by the UK prime minister to Russia scheduled for this year, Lukashevich said.

The meeting will also address the steps aimed at strengthening Russian-British trade and economic cooperation, the development of political dialogue, a broad range of international and regional issues, including the situation in the Middle East, European security issues, European missile defense, dialogue in the format of Russia-EU and Russia-NATO, the Iranian nuclear issue, etc.

"Naturally, the ministers will also discuss the Middle east peace process, the situation in the Arab world in general, and the situation in Afghanistan," Lukashevich said.

"The negotiations will also address trade and investment cooperation," he said.

Lavrov begins visit to UK to strengthen positive trends in relations

14.02.2011, 01.36

MOSCOW, February 14 (Itar-Tass) - Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov begins his visit to London on Monday.

On February 15, he will meet with British Foreign Secretary William Hague to strengthen positive trends in the two countries’ relations.

Lavrov is also expected to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron and to speak at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“Moscow hopes that the Russian foreign minister’s visit will allow to strengthen positive trends in relations with Britain,” Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. “Of late we register springs, elements and symptoms of their improvement, including that in the economic sector and at the level of political contacts.”

Expects say despite encouraging trends Lavrov’s visit will take place under difficult conditions. A recent scandal over expulsion of Luke Harding, a Moscow-based reporter for The Guardian, when he tried to return to Moscow, heavily troubled the relations that were not easy ones.

The Russian-British relations were strained by the closure of the British Council’s most offices in Russia in 2008 and by the murder of former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko, although positive trends have been reported in this case. In particular, Britain expressed its interest in resuming cooperation with Russia in security and the fight against terrorism that was disrupted four years ago over the Litvinenko case. It is expected that the proposal can be officially voiced during Lavrov’s visit.

In general, the Russian diplomat plans to discuss a wide range of issues on the bilateral agenda and pressing international problems, in particular European security, cooperation in Europe’s missile defence project, Russia-EU and Russia-NATO relations as well as the situation in the Middle East and Afghanistan and Iran’s nuclear program.

Experts reiterate that Russia is one of Britain’s main trade partners. Over 1,000 British companies are working in Russia.

According to experts’ estimates, the two countries’ trade exceeds 17 billion U.S. dollars.

Moreover, Britain is one of Russia’s largest foreign investment partners. Of late Britain’s accrued investments in Russia comprised 18 billion U.S. dollars, while Russia’s investments in Britain – 3 billion U.S. dollars.

Moscow and London jointly implement several economic projects, including the creation of the Skolkovo innovation hub. The first Russian-British venture fund is being created by Russia’s nanotechnology corporation Rosnano and Britain’s innovation company Celtic Pharma.

Stronger cultural relations will be high on the talks’ agenda as well. A series of events aimed at promoting Russia’s culture in Britain will give a fresh impetus to this sector in 2011. Among them are an exhibition devoted to the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight and Russia’s participation as a special guest in the annual London Book Fair.

A telephone hotline linking the Kremlin and Downing St aims to ease tensions

Sam Coates and Tony Halpin

From: The Times

February 14, 2011 10:39AM

DOWNING Street is preparing to install a new secure telephone hotline to the Kremlin in the latest "incremental" step forward in relations between Britain and Russia.

 A better-encrypted telephone link will be provided for David Cameron and President Medvedev in an echo of the London to Moscow hotline used at the height of the Cold War.

The "technical upgrade" will give the leaders a more secure channel to discuss sensitive issues such as al-Qa'ida and the war in Afghanistan.

"This is not as it was, to avert nuclear war, but to allow wider classified discussions between leaders on international issues," a government source said.

The go-ahead is due to be agreed tomorrow when Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, has a rare meeting with Mr Cameron and William Hague. This is his first visit purely for direct talks since his appointment as Russia's top diplomat in 2004.

Mr Hague's first visit to Russia as Foreign Secretary was in October, when he was accorded the rare privilege of a meeting with President Medvedev at the Kremlin, a signal that Moscow was seeking a fresh start with the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition after years of strained relations with the previous Labour Government. Since then, however, British and Russian relations have been beset by problems involving spying.

In December there were tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions when Britain requested the removal of a diplomat after the government claimed that there was evidence of Russian intelligence service activities against British interests. At the same time, it was claimed that Katia Zatuliveter, a researcher who worked for the Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, was a Russian spy. She denies spying and is on bail, fighting a deportation order.

This week's visit is also likely to see agreement that British and Russian law enforcement agencies will be authorised for greater co-operation on counter-terrorism. However, direct intelligence-sharing between MI6 and Russia's FSB remains frozen after the murder in London of the dissident spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 using radioactive polonium-210.

This means that Britain will offer specialist advice on bomb-scene management and forensic science after the recent bombing at a Moscow airport.

Britain is keen to move on from some of the recent difficulties between the two countries - reciprocal expulsions took place as recently as Christmas - and has welcomed more positive statements by Mr Lavrov.

Russia removed one area of tension by reversing the expulsion of the Guardian's Moscow correspondent, Luke Harding. He was deported on arrival in Moscow from London last week, apparently after being blacklisted by the FSB.

Government sources insist Britain will "not give an inch" on areas of disagreement.

The London to Moscow hotline has caused difficulties in the past. Translation was no easy matter as was discovered when the hotline was discussed in 1966, according to historians. Translators had to be on call 24 hours a day, which meant they had to live close to Whitehall. This led to discussion about getting two bachelors to live in a local flat or hotel room.

In 1992 a direct communication link based on the latest technology at the time was installed as part of a friendship treaty between the two countries.

The Times

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