Slovak foreign minister Blanar meets with Russia's Lavrov in Turkey

  • World
  • Sunday, 03 Mar 2024

(Reuters) - A senior member of Slovakia's government met his Russian counterpart on Saturday in a rare high-level encounter between a European Union member state and a country the EU has sought to isolate.

Slovakia's Foreign Minister Juraj Blanar held talks 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 since Moscow's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, was immediately criticised by Slovak opposition parties.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said the encounter "was an example of our balanced and sovereign" foreign policy. Slovakia's Defence Minister Robert Kalinak met his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, on Friday.

Fico also said Blanar and Lavrov spoke about the possibilities a Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland can bring.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement the two sides discussed international issues, including Ukraine.

"The Russian side confirmed its readiness to restore relations with Slovakia — at the interparliamentary level, in the cultural, humanitarian and military memorial fields," the statement said.

Fico returned to power after winning an election last year on promises to stop state military aid to Ukraine, and has made pro-Russia statements in the past and been critical of sanctions against Moscow.

In his opening remarks on Saturday, Lavrov said Russia preferred working with countries like Slovakia or Hungary that "prioritise" national interests even if membership in EU or NATO "presents some challenges".

"In this regard, we appreciate even more the ability of Prime Minister (Robert) Fico and his government to have their own opinion about the situation in the world," Lavrov said, according to Russia's foreign ministry.

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

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