Slovak Foreign Minister Blenner meets Russia’s Lavrov in Turkey

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(Reuters) – A senior member of Slovakia’s government met his Russian counterpart on Saturday, in a rare high-level encounter between an EU member state and a country increasingly isolated by the EU.

Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Juraj Blanar spoke with Russia’s Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of a diplomatic forum in Turkey, the countries said.

The meeting, one of the few involving senior European and Russian officials following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, was immediately criticized by Slovak opposition parties.

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Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said the encounter was an example of “our balanced and sovereign” foreign policy. Slovakia’s Defense Minister Robert Kalinc met his US counterpart Lloyd Austin on Friday.

Fico also said Blenner and Lavrov talked about prospects at the upcoming Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland.

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The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the two sides discussed international issues, including Ukraine.

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“The Russian side confirmed its readiness to restore relations with Slovakia at the inter-parliamentary level in the cultural, humanitarian and military memorial areas,” the statement said.

Fico returned to power after winning elections last year on a promise to halt state military aid to Ukraine, and has in the past made pro-Russian statements and criticized sanctions against Moscow.

In his opening remarks on Saturday, Lavrov said Russia prefers to work with countries like Slovakia or Hungary that “prioritize” national interests, even if membership in the EU or NATO “presents some challenges”.

According to Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Lavrov said, “In this regard, we even more appreciate the ability of Prime Minister (Robert) Fico and his government to express their opinion about the situation in the world.”

(Reporting by Jason Howett in Prague and Maxim Rodionov in London; Editing by Mike Harrison)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters,

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