The new ‘Hotline’ treaty signed today by Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov paves the way for an upgraded telephone link between No.10 and the Kremlin.
The signing ceremony followed bilateral talks between the Foreign Secretary and Mr Lavrov this morning in the Foreign Office. The talks covered the full range of foreign policy and security issues. They agreed a joint statement on Afghanistan, and discussed Egypt and the Middle East Peace Process. They also discussed how UK and Russia could cooperate more closely in the fight against organised crime and international terrorism.
Speaking at a press conference, the Foreign Secretary said:
“It is a great pleasure to welcome Minister Lavrov to the United Kingdom today as a guest of Her Majesty’s Government. It is a chance to return the generous hospitality Minister Lavrov extended to me when I visited Moscow last October. We have had very good talks this morning, which I am very much looking forward to continuing over lunch.
“His visit comes at a pivotal time. The terrible bombing of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport in January, which killed 36 people, one of them British, brought into sharp focus the common security threat that we face from international terrorism. This is just one of a number of serious challenges we need to tackle together, ranging from nuclear proliferation to climate change.
“As I stressed in my visit to Moscow in October, we cannot address these stark global problems unless our governments work together and seek to narrow differences where differences arise.
“Yes, we have had some serious disagreements between our countries. We do not always see eye-to-eye now. Where we disagree, we are able to raise it with each other, as we have done today. But this should not stop us from working together in areas which can bring benefits to both our countries. So Minister Lavrov’s visit - only four months after I travelled to Moscow - shows that our countries continue to seek a patient, steady improvement in relations. It will take time. There will be no giant leaps. It is about measured, practical steps.
“In this spirit of cooperation, our talks today have already covered the full range of foreign policy and security issues where we have common interests. We agreed a joint statement on Afghanistan, to work together to support the Afghan government towards transition by the end of 2014 and to tackle illicit drug productions, drugs trade and trafficking in the region. We discussed how to ensure a smooth transition in Egypt and agreed on our shared commitment to see renewed urgency on taking forward the Middle East Peace Process.
“We discussed human rights and how we could cooperate more closely in the fight against organised crime and international terrorism. We have some practical ideas on areas where we can work together which we have touched on today and which our officials will be taking forward over the coming weeks and months.
“We are today signing a treaty to update the ‘Hotline’ - the telephone link between No.10 and the Kremlin, allowing for a modern system to be put in place. This is not in any way a sign that we are returning to a cold-war mentality. It is about modernising an important communication link for a modern relationship.”
The Foreign Secretary and Mr Lavrov will continue their talks over lunch before meeting the Prime Minister in Downing Street later this afternoon.