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Lavrov, Johnson hope for better UK-Russia ties in first talks

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 Sergei Lavrov. PHOTO:AFP

Sergei Lavrov. PHOTO:AFP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his British counterpart Boris Johnson on Thursday pledged to improve battered ties between the two nations in their first phone talks, Moscow said.

During the call initiated by London, Russia’s veteran top diplomat Lavrov congratulated gaffe-prone Johnson on his surprise appointment as Britain’s foreign minister last month.

“Both sides expressed hope for the normalisation of Russian-British ties,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

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“The intent to increase political dialogue was underlined despite the remaining problems in bilateral relations, in order to realise their considerable potential in areas such as the economy, humanitarian ties and foreign policy cooperation,” the statement said, adding that the two also discussed the conflict in Syria.

The talks came after new British Prime Minister Theresa May held her first phone call with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, pledging to hold a meeting in the near future in a bid to improve ties.

British relations with Russia have soured in recent years, notably over efforts to prosecute the case of Kremlin critic and former spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered by radiation poisoning in London in 2006.

Britain has also been one of the most fervent supporters of Western sanctions against Moscow over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis.

May’s appointment of Johnson — a leading campaigner for the UK to leave the European Union — raised eyebrows around the world given the colourful politician’s history of ill-considered comments about international leaders.

Johnson has described Putin as a “ruthless and manipulative tyrant” who looks like fictional Harry Potter character Dobby the House Elf, but has called for greater cooperation with the Russian strongman in the battle against the Islamic State group in Syria.


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