Ukraine crisis at forefront as Logar hosts Latvian counterpart

Ljubljana – Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkevičs called for diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis and for the EU’s unity on the issue as they addressed reporters after talks in Ljubljana on Thursday. They also discussed economic cooperation, which is to be enhanced with the opening of a Slovenian embassy in Riga.

Discussing the situation at the Ukrainian-Russian border, the two ministers agreed that the EU should continue with the efforts to reduce tensions and come up with a diplomatic solution at bilateral and multilateral levels.

They expressed “genuine desire for the EU’s unity” and joint response to security threats along the Ukrainian border, Logar told a virtual news conference after the meeting, reiterating support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Logar underscored the importance of a unified response by the EU and NATO in dealing with the crisis, saying Slovenia was regularly coordinating all its activities with both organisations and pledging its readiness to assist to the best of its abilities where it can, as he responded a journalist’s question whether and how Slovenia could help Ukraine in the event of a Russian attack.

“Both at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the Ministry of Defence we have contingency plans ready,” said Logar while emphasizing the need for dialogue and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Likewise did Rinkevičs emphasize the need for a diplomatic solution to avoid the worst-case scenario but said it mainly depended on Russia.

The West has threatened imposing severe sanctions and serious consequences on Moscow in case of an attack on Ukraine. Unlike the sanctions introduced in 2014 in response to the Russian annexation of the Crimea, this time they would be much more “sweeping and tougher”, said Logar, adding that unlike in 2014 the West was now responding with a joint approach.

The ministers also discussed bilateral ties, which Logar described as good, noting the countries are allies in NATO and Slovenia is participating in the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Latvia.

The good cooperation is one of the reasons why Slovenia decided to open its embassy in Riga, said Logar, noting that Latvia was one of the first countries to recognise Slovenia and establish diplomatic relations with it.

Rinkevičs’s visit to Ljubljana is the first official visit by a Latvian foreign minister to Slovenia since independence.

Logar admitted that bilateral trade is rather modest, but noted it had been enhanced in recent years. The embassy in Riga will “open doors” to strengthening cooperation in various fields, in particular tourism.

Rinkevičs too expects the embassy’s opening to contribute to further strengthening of business ties. Latvia would like to enhance cooperation in digitalisation, IT, tourism, trade, wood and pharmaceutical industry.

Latvia supports Slovenia’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2024-2025, and will bid for the post itself in 2025, said Rinkevičs, expressing his wish for good cooperation.

Rinkevičs also met President Borut Pahor and National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič, Prime Minister Janez Janša and Defence Minister Matej Tonin. Janša’s office tweeted the topics discussed by the pair were bilateral relations and topical foreign policy issues.

Zorčič acquainted the Latvian minister on the National Assembly’s activities and developments ahead of the April general election. Latvia will also hold a parliamentary election this year with Zorčič expressing the hope for a group of friendship with Slovenia to be formed in the new Latvian parliament, a release from the National Assembly reads.

Defence and military cooperation between the two countries topped the agenda of the meeting between Rinkevičs and Tonin. They discussed cooperation in international operations and missions, defence investments and strengthening defence capabilities.

They also talked about security situation in East Europe in light of the tensions on the Ukrainian-Russian border and their impact on other security challenges, in particular in the Western Balkans. They also touched on the challenges faced by the Baltic countries on the border with Belarus, the Defence Ministry has reported.