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Experts: Russia, Estonia should hold more face-to-face meetings

Kadri Liik
Kadri Liik Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Russia and Estonia should meet face-to-face more often, Estonian foreign affairs experts believe, after meetings help between parliamentarians in Moscow this week.

Chairman of the Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson (Reform) participated in rare meetings with his Russian counterpart and other officials on Monday and Tuesday.

The last face-to-face meeting between Russian and Estonian officials was in 2019 when President Kersti Kaljulaid and President Vladimir Putin also met in Moscow, ERR's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

Mihkelson said there are now plans to increase communication between the two parliaments.

"We agreed, possibly in the coming weeks, that we would organize a video meeting where members of the committee here and from the State Duma's foreign affairs committee could discuss all the current issues in a joint session," Mihkelson said.

Marko Mihkelson (right) and Grigory Karasin on February 8, 2022 in Moscow. Source: Marko Mihkelsoni sotsiaalmeedia

"It is not worth creating any illusions that we can now make very fundamental changes on the surface of these talks. But it is difficult to imagine parliamentary diplomacy if people do not meet," he said.

Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations Kadri Liik said more face-to-face discussions should be held even if neither side changes their position.

"Estonia is their neighbor. Nor do they want to give up all contacts. I think they do not take us too seriously. [...] Nevertheless, it is healthy for them to understand how the outside world and their neighbors see their activities," she said.

"Foreign policy discussions happen in small bubbles which do not interact with other bubbles. It is dangerous, in my opinion," she said, adding additional barriers had been placed between the EU and Russia by coronavirus and vaccination.

Raivo Vare Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Russian observer Raivo Vare also said face-to-face communication is better than written correspondence.

"In the eastern cultural space where Russia belongs it is quite important - I know this myself from my own life experience - that no matter how much you write and call us, it is also important to meet face-to-face," Vare said.

As the foreign policy situation between the countries is attracting more attention, meetings should be held in this format, he said.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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