Koenders meets Lavrov in Munich

Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders held bilateral talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on the margins of the annual Munich Security Conference on Friday. The ministers’ talks covered the situation in Syria and Ukraine and the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for downing flight MH17.

Mr Koenders and Mr Lavrov discussed the agreement reached the previous evening by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG). Mr Koenders said, ‘It’s important that the international community has now agreed that hostilities in Syria must end and that humanitarian access must be granted immediately. But that’s just a start. The agreement now needs to be implemented. As I impressed upon Mr Lavrov, the bombing of civilians must stop.’

The two foreign ministers also discussed the situation in eastern Ukraine, which remains unstable. ‘It’s still essential that all parties withdraw their troops and weapons now. Ukraine must regain control over its borders, and elections must be made possible,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘Unless these conditions are put in place, there can be no prospect of any long-lasting stability.’

The ministers’ talks also covered the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for downing flight MH17. Making reference to UN Security Council Resolution 2166, Mr Koenders urged Mr Lavrov to ensure full cooperation with the criminal investigation.

‘It’s our job to keep the world’s attention focused on this process and to call on all countries to cooperate fully with the criminal investigation that is underway. I take every available opportunity to stress this in my bilateral contacts. It’s our duty to the victims and their next of kin.’

Mr Koenders described his talks with Mr Lavrov as highly necessary. ‘Russia plays a crucial role in the world. So it’s very important for us to maintain a dialogue, even at times when that proves difficult.’