UK Foreign Secretary to hold talks in Russia

London [United Kingdom]: The Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom (UK), Boris Johnson, will hold talks in Moscow on Friday, in the first visit to Russia by a British foreign minister in five years.

Johnson is scheduled to arrive in Moscow today evening and will hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. He will then hold meetings with civil society activists in the afternoon, the Guardian reported.

This is the third time in this year that Johnson has announced a visit to the Russian capital for the talks. In the previous two occasions, he had called off the trip at the last minute due to political reasons.

In April, Johnson had nixed the trip, in the aftermath of the Khan Sheikhun chemical attack in Syria, and subsequent U.S. airstrikes against a government air base, also in Syria.

The Syrian civil war is expected to be top of the agenda in the upcoming bilateral talks. However, Johnson also wants to engage Russia on a host of international problems for cooperation and coordination involving Iran and North Korea.

The foreign secretary is hoping to probe Russia, regarding its plans for a Syrian national dialogue congress in Sochi in February 2018 and the conference’s relationship with the United Nations (UN).

Also on the agenda for Johnson’s visit, is the issue of cooperation ahead of the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia, which also includes consular issues for English fans travelling in the country and security issues.

England will play their group games in the next year’s World Cup in the three Russian cities of Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod, and Kaliningrad.

Earlier this month, former British Prime Minister David Cameron had accused Russia of winning the right to host the tournament by using bribery.

The two sides are also expected to discuss cooperation, regarding combatting threats to the upcoming mega event.

Russia has welcomed Johnson’s visit but remains wary of the foreign secretary, following the cancellation of his two prior scheduled trips.

Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said: “Picking and choosing dialogue on the issues of interest for Britain, as British officials have been saying in their public statements, is inadequate and is of little added value to us.”

She also said that the visit would be pointless if it was not accompanied by “real steps” aimed at improving bilateral relations.

However, it is to be seen that neither side expects any major breakthrough in the strained bilateral relationship, since the mysterious death of Russian journalist and author Alexander Litvinenko in London, allegedly due to radiation poisoning, in 2006.

Relations have been further impaired in recent years due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and United Kingdom’s (U.K) allegations of Russian meddling in the politics of western nations. This might be another obstacle in improving the already strained bilateral relations between the two nations. (ANI)