VIENNA, March 20. /TASS/. Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen’s visit to Russia is in the works and might take place in the coming months, Russia’s Ambassador in Vienna Dmitry Lyubinsky told TASS on Wednesday.
"I can confirm that preparations for the Austrian president’s visit to Russia are actively underway. It is still premature to announce the dates but [we] mean a span of a few months," Lyubinsky said, when asked to comment on reports about a possible visit of Austria’s president to Russia.
Earlier, an Austrian source told TASS that Van der Bellen is likely to visit Russia this May.
The ambassador pointed out that recently Russian-Austrian dialogue has been of very high intensity, including at the highest level, so it is not a thaw but a new peak in relations.
"In March, Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl visited Moscow, while [Russian Foreign Minister] Sergey Lavrov came to Vienna for the 62nd session of United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. It is noteworthy that both ministers were received by presidents of Russia and Austria," Lyubinsky said.
The Russian ambassador pointed out that Vienna hosted the International Railway Congress on March 17-19. At the congress, the Russian, Austrian and Slovakian transport ministers put their signatures under a memorandum of understanding implementing the broad gauge railway line project (Kosice-Bratislava-Vienna). Apart from that, on March 25, Austria’s Economic Chamber will hold the Day of Russian Regions event, which will highlight the investment potential of about fifteen Russian regions and will focus on their business contacts with Austrian partners.
"I would prefer not to speak about a thaw in the Russian-Austrian relations as actually there have been no ‘harsh frosts.’ Certainly, the EU sanctions against Russia along with our tit-for-tat measures could not but tell on the volume of bilateral economic cooperation, so due to mutual restrictions, mutually beneficial opportunities have been missed in certain sectors," Lyubinsky said.
"Nonetheless, according to results of the year 2018, trade volume has exceeded pre-crisis levels, coming to record $5.8 billion," he added.
The diplomat said that Vladimir Putin and Alexander Van der Bellen declared the year 2019 the Year of Youth Exchanges between Russia and Austria.
"If I keep on comparing figuratively, there is not a thaw, but a new high in the Russian-Austrian relations. The inaugurating forum Sochi Dialogue [organized] by the public of our countries and scheduled for this spring will become a milestone event," Lyubinsky said.
On March 11-12, Lavrov and Kneissl signed in Moscow a statement on setting up the Russian-Austrian forum Sochi Dialogue. Besides, the Austrian foreign minister held talks with Putin.
Lavrov arrived in Vienna on March 14 to attend the 62nd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Later in the day, he had a meeting with Van der Bellen at his presidential residence, the Hofburg palace.
In June 2018, Putin and Van der Bellen agreed in Vienna to help implement the Sochi Dialogue project, which should turn into a venue for direct contacts between civil societies of Austria and Russia.