On 13 October, High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell spoke to the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov. They discussed the situations in Nagorno-Karabakh and Belarus, as well as the latest developments regarding the poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and EU-Russia relations more broadly.
On Nagorno-Karabakh, the High Representative/Vice-President thanked Minister Lavrov for his efforts in negotiating the 10 October ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan and stressed the need for this ceasefire to be strictly observed, for all hostilities to cease immediately and for a de-escalation of tensions, including rhetoric. The loss of life and the toll on the civilian population on both sides are unacceptable. The High Representative/Vice-President expressed the European Union’s full support to the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and reiterated that in his contacts with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, he had called on both sides to urgently re-engage in meaningful negotiations without preconditions. The European Union stands ready to contribute to their efforts.
On Belarus, the High Representative reiterated the European Union’s united and strong support to Belarus’ independence and sovereignty. High Representative Borrell underlined the democratic right of the Belarusian people to elect their president through new, free and fair elections, without external interference. The European Union continues to support the proposal of the current and upcoming OSCE Chairmanships-in-Office to facilitate a much-needed inclusive national dialogue in Belarus. The High Representative regretted that Belarus, as an OSCE participating State, was not responsive to this offer, and encouraged Russia, as an OSCE participating State, to support this initiative. The High Representative explained that the Foreign Affairs Council on 12 October gave the political green light to start the preparation of the next sanctions package, including against Aleksandr Lukashenko.
On the assassination attempt of the Russian opposition politician Mr Alexei Navalny using a prohibited chemical nerve agent, the High Representative informed of the political agreement reached at the Foreign Affairs Council of 12 October to begin the preparatory work to sanction those linked to this assassination attempt. High Representative Borrell underlined that the Russian government must do its utmost to investigate this crime thoroughly in full transparency and to fully cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
High Representative/Vice-President Borrell also informed Minister Lavrov of the agreement among EU Foreign Ministers to continue the current approach to EU-Russia relations, whereby the full implementation of the Minsk agreements remains key. He called on Russia to fully implement the Minsk agreements. As illustrated by the phone call, the High Representative reiterated that the European Union wishes to maintain open channels of communication with Russia and to enhance cooperation on issues of mutual interest. The European Union will continue to defend its interests and values, including respect for international law and fundamental rights.