UK and Russia hold first talks in over a year

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Junior foreign ministers from Britain and Russia met in Germany on Saturday in the highest-level contact between the two countries since an alleged nerve agent attack in Britain last March froze diplomatic relations.

Britain’s Minister for Europe Alan Duncan held talks with Russia’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, according to the foreign office in London.

“Alan underlined that we have deep differences, and the Russian state would need to choose a different path and act as a responsible international partner before there can be a change in our current relationship with Russia,” it said in a statement.

The meeting is the first between ministers from the two countries following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 which Britain has blamed on Moscow.

The attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, which Britain said was done using a Soviet era nerve agent Novichok, plunged relations to their lowest ebb in decades.

The attack killed a British woman who came into contact with the Novichok, as well as injuring several others including a policeman.

Among a raft of responses, London suspended all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the two countries, and canceled ministers and members of the royal family attending last summer’s World Cup in Russia.

“(The) minister reiterated the UK’s and Allies’ firm stance in response to the Russian state’s reckless use of chemical weapons in Salisbury,” the foreign office added in its statement.

“He made clear that Russia must address the concerns of the international community.

“This includes ending its destabilizing activity in Ukraine; and the persecution of the LGBT community in Chechnya.”

The foreign office said Britain would continue to “build and strengthen our cultural ties and people to people links with Russia wherever we can.”

Ministers from around the world, including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany, are taking part in several days of talks in Munich this weekend centered on global security issues.

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