LONDON, March 13 (Itar-Tass) – The first session of the Russia-UK Strategic Dialogue in the format of of a meeting of Foreign and Defence ministers will be held here on Wednesday.
A Russian inter-agency delegation that arrived in London to discuss key matters of international and bilateral agenda is led by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
There will be contacts with the British counterparts -- William Hague and Philip Hammond -- in a closed-door mode. However, a joint news conference has been planned out. It is to commence on Wednesday evening (at about 20:00, Moscow time).
A British Foreign Office official has told Itar-Tass that the Russian Foreign and Defence ministers visit London for talks on the entire spectrum of international and bilateral matters. The Russia-UK Strategic Dialogue is an important landmark in bilateral relations. It shows what headwayhas been made in the development of full-value relations at top level. The joint ministerial forum will enable the sides to discuss important international problems, security-policy matters, bilateral relations, and major foreign-policy issues.
A Russian Foreign Ministry official pointed out that the agenda includes items concerning a broad spectrum of bilateral and international matters. "Lavrov and Shoigu are expected to discuss with the British colleagues European security issues, including prospects for the development of equal cooperation on the European missile defence architecture, as well as the current situation in Syria and the Arab world in general," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. "The sides will hold a substantive conversation on Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear program, and the situation on the Korean Peninsula."
Earlier, in an interview with the BBC Radio Sergei Lavrov referred to the upcoming talks in London as a very “convenient format,” which will make it possible to discuss international issues from all the sides - political, military, humanitarian and social.
Within the framework of the "two plus two" forum, the sides will also hold separate meetings of the Foreign and Defence ministers. "The sides will consider in detail the state of and prospects for the development of Russian-British relations in the trade, economic and cultural spheres, as well as military and technical military cooperation," the Ministry stated.
Alexander Yakovenko, the Ambassador of Russia to Britain, said ahead of the present talks that "The Embassy staff reckoned the number of official (bilateral) contacts at various levels last year and found it to be record-high --100". He also said that "the Russian Minister of Defence and the UK Secretary of State for Defence will meet face-to-face for the first time since 2004". "The Strategic Dialogue presupposes at least one meeting a year at the level of Foreign and Defence ministers," the Ambassador added.
The "two plus two" format -- machinery for consultations with the participation of Foreign and Defence ministers of the two countries is established between Russia and international partners not for the first time.
Earlier, Russia already participated in such talks with France, Italy, and the United States. However, in contacts with Britain, a meeting in such a format is unprecedented. The Foreign Office official pointed out that it is expected that in future such Russian-UK talks will be held on an annual basis.
UK government officials told Itar-Tass that to the British side at the present stage very important are matters connectedwith a drawdown of troops of the Wester coalition from Afghanistan, amongn them a UK military contingent. After the operation, which has been going on since 2001, it will be essential to remove supplies, the cost of which is estimated at billions of dollars. Atfter the first batch of cargo from Afghanistan was airlifted via Ulyanovsk, London loooks into the future with an intention to ensure a smooth withdrawal of forces from that Asian country.
The British interlocutors draw attention to a special pragmatic nature of Russia-UK cooperation. The nascent partnership between the British BP Group and the Russian Rosneft Company is reckoned here as one of examples of that. Pursuing their own interests and acting as strategic partners, the two sides achieve results not with zero amount (one lost, the other benefited) but with a favourable balance. When interests coincide, London and Moscos together can achieve very much, they said.
In the light of this, the two-plus-two format is evaluated as an important political step in the needed direction. It is all the more slymbolic that this year London presides over the G8 while Moscow holds presidency in the G20. Both global forums will be also touched upon in the Dialogue.