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SIDEBAR Austria ready to mediate in Russian spy spat, top diplomat says

Europe
29.03.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Vienna (dpa) - Austria could play a mediating role in the international crisis between Russia and the West, Vienna‘s Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said Thursday, defending Austria‘s refusal to throw out Russian diplomats.

The expulsions by more than two dozen countries were based on unconfirmed facts, according to the top diplomat.

Britain accuses Russia of a chemical weapon attack on a former Russian spy turned double agent in England in early March.

"What we have is an incident whose circumstances have yet to be cleared up," Kneissl told reporters at a briefing in Vienna.

"It has never been our practice to expel diplomats," Kneissl said, stressing that open communication channels are important in difficult times.

"Diplomacy is more than presenting each other with position papers. It is about making use of nuances," the politically independent minister said.

Austria would be ready to mediate in this case if it were asked to do so, Kneissl said, adding that there have not yet been any requests.

Kneissl is set to travel to Russia on April 19 and 20, where she is scheduled to meet her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. The visit was organized before the current crisis broke out.

Austria, which used to share a border with the former Eastern bloc of Communist countries, has traditionally tried to maintain good relations with Moscow.

Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has proposed a step-by-step lifting of sanctions against Russia, if there is gradual progress in the Ukraine conflict.

The far-right Freedom Party, which is also part of Austria‘s coalition cabinet, has shown sympathies for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Vienna is home to a large number of Russian diplomats who represent their country at the United Nations as well as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

 

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