Russia and Britain vow to relaunch strained ties

26th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia and Britain agreed to work to renew ties strained in recent years by a series of controversies when the leaders of the two countries met Friday.

In their first face-to-face talks, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for "more productive and more intense links," while British Prime Minister David Cameron said there was a "real opportunity to put the bilateral relationship on a new footing."

The two countries have had a troubled relationship in recent years, colored by controversy over issues such as the death by poisoning of Russian former spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

Russia has declined to extradite the chief suspect, lawmaker Andrei Lugovoi.

Moscow has also been angered by London's refusal to hand over Russian citizens convicted by its courts who have taken refuge in London, such as businessman Boris Berezovsky.

After a meeting on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Canada, Medvedev said he and Cameron had agreed on the need for "certain changes" in their relations.

"We agreed that our bilateral relations required personal attention of the leaders of the two countries both in terms of economic and other issues and we're determined to make them more productive and more intense," he added, speaking through an interpreter.

Cameron, whose center-right Conservatives took power as senior partners in a coalition government with the centrist Liberal Democrats last month, agreed.

"I think there's a real opportunity to put the bilateral relationship on to a new footing, to try to make a stronger start and to work through the issues where we have agreement and those where we still have things to work through," he said.

His Foreign Secretary William Hague said last month that it was "not in the interests of Britain or Russia to be in a state of permanent confrontation," adding "the door is open to an improved relationship."

The new British government has said it is looking for a "more ambitious approach" to foreign affairs, urging closer ties with emerging nations.

Leaders from the Group of Eight nations were meeting Friday and Saturday in Huntsville, north of Toronto, while the G20 summit of emerging economies as well as the richest nations is on Saturday and Sunday in Toronto.

© 2010 AFP

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