Tuesday 24 October 2017

Russian foreign minister criticises the West for supporting Arab protests

Damien McElroy

Russia and Britain engaged in a war of words over the people power protests across the Middle East as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blasted Western support for demonstrations as counterproductive.

Differences between Mr Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary William Hague surfaced during a meeting in London designed to display a rapprochement between Whitehall and the Kremlin after years of tension.

Moscow has called for restraint in the face of demonstrations that have shaken long established regimes. Britain and America have, by contrast, demanded that governments bow to the demands of frustrated protesters.

Tunisia and Egypt have seen the departure of their leaders since the demonstrations began and other regimes have been forced into reforms.

With its own record of corruption and authoritarian leaderships, Russia fears the tide of protest will spread to its own backyard.

"I think that we need to encourage all parties to agree between each other," said Mr Lavrov. "I think that it is counterproductive to impose democracy of a specific pattern."

"We have had one revolution in Russia and we don't believe that we need to call for others."

However Mr Hague stepped forward to lambast the Iranian government for orchestrating a crackdown on protesters that killed two people on Monday even as it praised the overthrow of the Egyptian government.

"It is interesting that Iran advocated the right to protest in Egypt but does not believe in that right in Iran," he said. "There's a shameful hypocrisy here in the case of Iranian authorities."

Mr Lavrov also opened up divisions over more sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme. The Russian foreign minister said that measures adopted last year had "exhausted" the potential to change Tehran's position through international sanctions.

He said: "Further sanctions would mean the creation of social problems for the population and we would not be able to support them."

He added that not even a small strengthening of sanctions was possible despite Tehran's refusal to engage in negotiations over its nuclear ambitions.

Mr Hague said: "Our position is that it will be necessary to intensify the peaceful pressure on Iran to be able to take these negotiations forward."

The Russian minister also met David Cameron for talks over a date on when the Prime Minister will travel to Moscow on trip scheduled for later this year.

Britain and Russia agreed to upgrade the hotline between London and Moscow to allow the exchange of encrypted data.

Telegraph.co.uk

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