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

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A senior member of Slovakia’s government met his Russian counterpart on Saturday (2 March) 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.

Slovakia’s FM Blanar meets Russia’s Lavrov in Antalya.

All the diplomatic capital that Slovakia built up over the last few years, by helping Ukraine with military aid, has been single-handedly destroyed by Fico’s government in 4 months.

Utterly shameful & idiotic. pic.twitter.com/o1ZFHy1ys0

— Anton Spisak (@AntonSpisak) March 2, 2024

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, who has opposed sending state military aid to Ukraine, said the encounter “was an example of our balanced and sovereign” foreign policy. Slovakia’s Defence Minister Robert Kalinak met his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, on Friday.

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

Blanar said in a statement he reiterated the Slovak position that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia did not have a military solution, and urged peace talks.

He added he told Lavrov in the meeting, which came at Russia’s request, that Slovakia’s position was based on respect for international law principles, like territorial integrity and sovereignty.

He also said Slovakia was against creating an “iron curtain” between Russia and the EU.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement the two sides discussed issues, including Ukraine, and that Russia “confirmed its readiness to restore relations with Slovakia”.

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.

Read more with Euractiv

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