Lavrov: No more ‘business as usual’ with Russia Moscow's foreign minister says relations with Europe and US should be on an 'equal basis'

Russia Foreign Minister - Sergei Lavrov

Russia Foreign Minister – Sergei Lavrov

ANKARA (AA) – Russia’s foreign minister has said the country is ready to have “constructive cooperation” with Western partners but warned that relations would not be the same as before.

Sergey Lavrov’s remarks came on Tuesday in Moscow during an annual news conference on foreign policy results from 2015.

“We are ready to have a constructive cooperation with Western partners, including Europe and the USA. We are open for progressive development in our relations with them but only on an equal and mutually beneficial basis, without interference in each other’s affairs and on the basis of respect of each country,” said Lavrov.

He said international cooperation was “the only way”, adding that Russia wanted to build bridges between Europe, Eurasia and the Pacific.

However, Lavrov added: “But this process is not simple. There are some attempts to restrict Russia and there are attempts to punish us for our independent foreign policy.

“Our Western colleagues sometimes say that business is no longer possible with Russia. I agree with this. No longer ‘business as usual’ when they try to impose on us certain agreements which are based on the European interests or American interests.”

The European Union prolonged economic sanctions on Russia at the end of 2015 by six months after the Minsk agreement, which aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

EU sanctions were first imposed in July 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and over its support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Lavrov said Russia was not interested in the EU “getting weaker”, but a “united and strong” union to work “comfortably” in economic and all other fields.

Also, there is a disagreement between the U.S. and Russia on what role Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should play in any transition. The U.S. wants a transition without Assad but Russia contends that the Syrian people should decide his fate.

Lavrov rejected allegations that Russian President Vladimir Putin last year sent military intelligence chief Igor Sergun to Damascus to ask Assad to step down. He also denied claims that Russia had offered Assad political asylum.

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