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The foreign ministers of the European Union held their first face-to-face meeting this Monday in Brussels to discuss a bloc reaction to the arrest of Russian opponent Alexéi Navalni, and to analyze an agenda that also includes the United States and Venezuela.
The meeting should allow diplomats from the 27 countries of the bloc to discuss relations with the United States, after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the new president.
Tense relations with Turkey should also be on the agenda, but Navalni’s arrest in Russia strengthened voices in the EU of those calling for the adoption of sanctions against Russian government officials.
“I think the EU must send a very clear and decisive message that this is not acceptable,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said when he arrived at the meeting.
For her part, the Foreign Minister of Spain, Arancha González, said that Madrid “wants to send a very clear message to Russia: we ask for respect for human rights and freedoms, and the release of the detainees.”
In relation to Russia, the eventual adoption of sanctions requires the unanimous support of the 27 countries of the bloc, and diplomatic sources suggested to AFP that the meeting would not yet have conditions to reach an agreement on new measures.
But while new sanctions seem unlikely for now, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will face pressure to abandon a trip to Moscow scheduled for next month.
The EU has already imposed sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea, and last October included six senior Russian officials on an asset freeze and travel ban list for Navalni’s “assassination attempt”.
In addition, the foreign ministers will have the opportunity to discuss a consensual position on Venezuela, since the EU does not recognize the “legitimacy” of the government or of the National Assembly that emerged from the legislative elections last December.
“We will have to deal with a series of issues that are on the agenda, from Venezuela to Iran,” González said upon arriving at the meeting headquarters in Brussels.
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