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“We reconstituted the group recently and I am honoured to have been elected Chairman. The Group’s purpose is to foster better and closer relations between Great Britain and the Russian Federation, which is no easy task,” Chairman of the British parliamentary group Sir Edward Leigh was quoted by Russian agency RIA Novosti on Thursday.
This comes in the backdrop of recent signs of a pause in the Western leadership’s attempts at “isolating” Russia.
In Moscow earlier this weekend, French Finance Minister Emmanuel Macron said his country would support an end to sanctions when they come up for renewal in July.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper Monday that the EU should forge closer ties with Russia to help resolve the civil war in Syria and reduce tension in the Middle East.
As continuing conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere drives people to seek refuge in Europe, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR this week appealed to donors for $550 million to support the ongoing humanitarian response.
The UN says 2015 saw over a million refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by boat.
Around 850,000 of these crossed from Turkey to Greece. The vast majority of them came from the world’s top ten refugee-producing countries, mainly Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in September that Europe is now bearing the burden of US foreign policy.
“And it is, first of all, the policy of our American partners. Europe is blindly following this policy within the framework of the so-called allied liabilities, and in the end shoulders the entire burden. I am now quite surprised that some of the American mass media are criticizing Europe for what they consider to be excessive cruelty towards migrants,” Putin said.
The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Russia was formally set up in November 2015.
The chairman of the group Sir Edward Leigh is a former UK trade minister and former chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
Ukraine has been “part of Russia” for nearly all its history, Leigh had said in 2014.
“There are several areas where I believe Britain and Russia have mutual interests, such as Syria, but the Government, or even other members of the Group, don’t always agree,” Leigh told Russian media on Thursday.
Moscow has in recent months played a key role in the Iranian nuclear talks that resulted in the lifting of western sanctions against that country.
However differences still persist over Syria where UK, US and its allies in the Middle-east Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been trying to push Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad out of power. Russia says only the Syrian people can decide the fate of Assad.
“The disagreement has been that we think Assad should go at once and Russia obviously has taken a different view and we have to find a settlement where Assad leaves and there is a government that brings the country together. But we must not allow the gap there is between us to be the altar on which the country of Syria is slaughtered. That is the challenge. That is going to take compromises,” Cameron told British broadcaster BBC.
TBP and Agencies