Speaking from Davos, Switzerland, Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák said it would be “good” for Russia to “integrate” in order to face “global challenges”.
However, Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov hit back and said the country did not “curb” relations with the EU and that nothing would be achieved by imposing sanctions.
Mr Lajčák said: “There is not a single agreement, we have all kinds of agreements with almost every country in the world but the legal basis for an EU-Russia relationship is actually our membership within the WTO, which is not normal.
“So it would be good to achieve a level of engagement that will reflect the global role of both the European Union and Russian Federation.
Igor Shuvalov, left, said Russia was "ready and willing" to engage with the EU
So we are facing global problems and global challenges and it would be good to have Russia fully integrated into the global effort
“So we are facing global problems and global challenges and it would be good to have Russia fully integrated into the global effort.”
But Mr Shuvalov disagreed and insisted Russia did have the legal framework to engage in “dialogue”.
“We did not curb our relations with the EU,” he said. “We think that there is a legal framework for our dialogue amongst others the framework [which has] mobilised us twice in a year for the ministers to meet and the commissioners from the EU to meet – and there were high-level meetings.
“We have this legal framework, nobody cancelled it and it has not lost its legal significance.”
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He went on to say “legal mechanisms” could not force the two to “talk to each other” before bringing up the Minsk Protocol – a 2014 agreement to halt fighting in the Donbass region of Ukraine.
“For that we need the interest of the EU,” he added. “If the EU continues waiting for Minsk agreements to be fulfilled where Russia has no influence then that’s a bit bizarre because the Ukraine has to bear some responsibility under the Minsk agreements.
“This is a political agenda, this is not my topic, I don’t want to talk about that too much but it’s not so easy. People ask us why the Misk agreement is not being implemented, you have to ask all the participants.”
However, Mr Shuvalov insisted Russia was “ready and willing” to talk and said “we should stop trying to scare each other off” after the EU imposed sanctions on the country following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“Nobody will achieve anything through sanctions,” he added. “The sooner everybody understands that the better it will be for everyone.”