Foreign minister: EU must be tough on Russia, cooperate with US, UK

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Foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) has reaffirmed calls for the European Union to take a firm stance with Russia, in conjunction with allies, in the aftermath of the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Russia's hostile stance towards the union. Liimets made her comments Wednesday during a phone call with high representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, recently in Moscow for a widely-panned meeting with the Russian leadership.

Liimets told Borrell Moscow's hostile attitude towards the EU was not surprising.

She said: "What is important for us in the EU is to draw the right conclusions and act accordingly, and boost our cooperation with the U.S. and the U.K., including on issues related to Russia."

Borrell meeting just days after Navalny imprisonment

Liimets also talked about potential sanctions against Russia, in the wake of the arrest and sentencing to prison time opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and harsh crackdowns on protests in support of Navalny, who only returned to Russia last month after several months recuperating in Germany following an alleged poisoning by Russian agents with the Novichok nerve agent.

Navalny has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years' jail, about a year of which is considered having already been served during an earlier house arrests. The sentence, for embezzlement activities, had previously been suspended.

"At the Foreign Affairs Council later this month, the EU must respond decisively to the imprisonment of Navalny and impose restrictive measures against individuals involved," she continued, according to a foreign ministry press release.

Liimets: Russia meeting was cynical

Josep Borrell's visit to Moscow at the end of last week, where he met with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, has attracted harsh criticism in Estonia, the Baltic States and elsewhere, with may saying Borrell had been played by the Russians and that the meeting was a humiliation.

As well as coming so close after the Navalny imprisonment, Russia expelled three EU diplomats from its territory in the days the visit was actually taking place. Borrell has since stated that Russia does not want constructive dialog with Europe.

Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said the meeting was "as cynical as it was predictable", while Isamaa MEP Riho Terras called the meeting a "master class in pandering". Urmas Paet (Reform) said the meeting was a "fiasco" and said it should result in the cancelation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which is in the process of seeing a new section laid down. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the meeting was a "total failure".

Foreign minister: Estonian foreign policy will be based on EU values

Eva-Maria Liimets said during her phone meeting with Borrell Wednesday that Estonia would continue to pursue a foreign policy based on European values, and said she supported the unity and solidarity of the union.

"Transatlantic unity and cooperation remain at the heart of our foreign and security policy – we hope that the cooperation between the EU and the new U.S. administration deepens and is constructive and substantive," Liimets said.
The foreign minister also underlined the need to continue with a foreign and security policy based on consensus, to focus on boosting the EU's global role and deepen the cooperation between the EU and NATO.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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