4 Mar, 2017
Johnson and Lavrov will discuss the strained bilateral relations between the UK and Russia, as well as matters of international politics, including the crises in Syria and Ukraine, a spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said.
— Foreign Office (@foreignoffice) March 4, 2017
London stressed that the visit should not be interpreted as “a return to business as usual,” but said that engaging Russia was in Britain’s national interest.
Alexander Yakovenko, Russian ambassador to the UK, stressed the importance of dialogue between two countries on “international and bilateral issues.”
Dialogue is important on international and bilateral issues https://t.co/b6v13BRK5S
— Alexander Yakovenko (@Amb_Yakovenko) March 4, 2017
The visit has been in the pipeline for some time, with UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussing it during a meeting in China last September.
Relations between Russia and the UK have been rather tense for years over a number of issues, and have not taken a turn for the better under the May cabinet. Johnson in particular accused Russia of committing war crimes in Syria in connection with Moscow’s support of Damascus during the campaign to oust jihadist groups from Aleppo.
A lack of any meaningful dialogue with Russia on the part of the FCO was criticized recently by the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, which stated: “Refusal to engage with the Russian government is… not a viable long-term foreign policy option for the UK, because Russia is a European nuclear-armed United Nations Security Council member state.”
Moscow has for years insisted that it was open for dialogue with London, as long as it was willing to treat Russia as an equal partner, rather than lecture on perceived Russian wrongdoing.