Foreign Minister Maas embarked on his first official visit to Russia on Thursday (10 May). He will meet his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, for talks in Moscow, and his visit will focus on the international crises in Syria and eastern Ukraine. Foreign Minister Maas has on several occasions emphasised how essential Russia’s cooperation is to the resolution of these conflicts. “We are prepared to enter into dialogue, but we expect Russia in turn to contribute constructively,” Maas said
Peace in Syria and Ukraine only possible with Russia on side
In view of its influence over the Assad regime, Russia has a special responsibility for the peace process in Syria. The United Nations Security Council can do nothing unless Russia, a veto power, is prepared to engage in multilateral cooperation. And the people in eastern Ukraine cannot hope for an end to the violence until the N4 peace process gets back on track with Russia on side.
Dialogue is crucial
“We need an honest dialogue, particularly in difficult times,” Heiko Maas said. That is what he will be arguing in Russia. While in Moscow, Maas will also meet a number of Russian citizens active in the fields of, for example, human rights and artistic freedom. Observers have been increasingly concerned in recent times about the shrinking space afforded to Russian civil society.
Bilateral relations between Russia and Germany will also be on the agenda in Moscow. The two Foreign Ministers are patrons of the German Russian Year of Municipal and Regional Partnerships (2017 18), which is currently under way and due to conclude in September. Another German Russia Year is planned for 2018 2020, this time highlighting cooperation between universities.
The first port of call on this official visit will be the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The ceremony, in which Foreign Minister Maas will place a wreath on the memorial, is a potent symbol of the special historical responsibility that is part of the German Russian relationship.