Minsk, Nov 18: Russia hopes its ties with the EU had not yet crossed the point of no return over the Ukraine crisis, after Brussels slapped more sanctions against Kremlin-backed separatists fighting Kiev.
"We are hoping that the 'point of no return' has not yet been crossed," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting in the Belarussian capital Minsk. "We are interested in the incremental development of ties," he added, speaking ahead of talks in Moscow with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier later today.
Lavrov reiterated Moscow's call for the creation of a "common economic and humanitarian space" from Lisbon to the Russian port of Vladivostok on the Pacific, an idea that has been championed by President Vladimir Putin but has met a cool reception in the EU. Lavrov also urged Kiev authorities to respect a truce agreed in Minsk on September 5 and to enter talks with Kremlin-backed separatists to find a solution to a conflict that has killed more than 4,100 people since April.
"Instead of establishing strong contacts, Kiev has embarked on a course to strangle the southeast socially and economically," Lavrov told a joint meeting of diplomats from Russia and Moscow-allied Belarus, quoted by Russian news agencies.
"I hope our Western colleagues, who exercise influence over Kiev authorities, realise the danger of events developing in this direction." Russia's top diplomat also said the country would push for reforms at the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe which has a team of observers in Ukraine. "We are against turning the organisation into an instrument of democratising space to the east of Vienna," Lavrov said.
Yesterday, the EU agreed to blacklist more Ukrainian separatists but stopped short of fresh sanctions against Russia, saying there was hope of restarting dialogue with Moscow to end the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War. The new punitive measures came after world leaders chastised Putin at a G20 summit in Brisbane at the weekend over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, causing him to leave the summit early.