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Lavrov to focus on relations with EU, Syrian crisis during talks with Austrian counterpart

Russian Foreign Minister and Karin Kneissl will also discuss prospects of economic ties between the two countries

MOSCOW, April 20. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will hold talks with his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl later in the day, focusing on prospects of economic ties between the two countries, energy dialogue, future relations between Russia and the European Union and pressing global issues. This is going to be the first meeting of two ministers after Kneissl’s appointment as foreign minister last December.

Despite a challenging international background, Russia and Austria "have had good-natured relations, which are resistant to fluctuations of the political environment," Russia’s Foreign Ministry said. "There are no serious problems between the countries. Parliamentarians and ministries maintain an active dialogue, regions are collaborating," the ministry added.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin met Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in late February in Moscow.

On Friday, the ministers will consider the state and prospects of relations between Russia and the EU, particularly against the background of the upcoming presidency of Austria in the EU Council in the second half of this year. Previously, Kneissl said in an interview with TASS that Vienna would call for building dialogue with Russia after it takes over the EU Council presidency in July. It is very important for restoring the lost confidence between the European Union and Russia, she stressed.

The Austrian side, "generally in the wake of the policy of solidarity to EU regarding Ukraine," still "opposes boosting the sanctions pressure," Russia’s foreign ministry said. "The country’s main political forces, public figures and the bulk of businesses share the position. Representatives of business circles have no plans to wrap their operations in Russia and make no secret of their interest in further production localization in the country," the ministry emphasized.

Kurz said earlier that it would be reasonable to gradually remove sanctions against Russia as the Minsk process progressed.

Austria also refused to expel Russian diplomats over the so-called Skripal case as it traditionally maintains good relations with Russia and plans to keep the dialogue channel open further on, Chancellor said earlier.

Ministers of the two countries also plan to discuss the Syrian crisis, ways of solving it and tackling global terrorism.

The meeting is expected to particularly focus on expansion of economic ties between Russia and Austria. Moscow notes that the sides have managed to overcome a negative trend in the mutual trade. "In 2017, the Russia-Austria trade turnover surged by 40.5% compared with the previous year to $4.1 bln," the ministry said. "Meanwhile, Russian exports to Austria soared by 78.9% to the $1.9 bln level, whereas Austrian imports rose by 18.5% to $2.2 bln."

Investment collaboration is also expanding. "The total amount of accumulated Russian investments in the Austrian economy amounted to $22.9 bln in the first half of 2017, while Austrian investments equaled $4.7 bln," Russia’s ministry said.

Lavrov and Kneissl also plan to negotiate energy issues. This year marks 50 years since first gas supplies from the Soviet Union to Austria. "Over 200 bln cubic meters of Russian gas have been exported over half a century (9.1 bln cubic meters in 2017)," Russia’s ministry said.

Following the talks with Vladimir Putin, Sebastian Kurz said that Austria is highly positive on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project.