Foreign minister may think he's not member of Lithuania's cabinet - PM

Linas Linkevičius, Saulius Skvernelis

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius possibly thinks he is not a member of the government, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said in response to the minister's scepticism about his idea of reinstating the intergovernmental task force with Russia.

"The minister of foreign affairs may sometimes think that he is not a member of the government but he actually is," the prime minister told journalists at the government on Thursday.

After the prime minister earlier on Thursday proposed resuming the operations of the intergovernmental commission after six years of idleness, Linkevičius reiterated his position that "currently, there are no prerequisites for renewing high-level political contacts". Headed by the Lithuanian foreign minister and Russia's transport minister, the commission last met in October of 2011, however, held no later meetings due to delays on the Russian side, said Linkevičius.

The idea voiced by Skvernelis was later criticized by President Dalia Grybauskaitė who dismissed it as "irresponsible from the point of view of national security." In her words, the weight of EU institutions should be used in addressing key strategic energy, transport or trade issues.

"Our attitudes are absolutely the same, we're talking about strategic matters," the prime minister told journalists in comment of the criticism.

"I and the president have the same stance on the application of sanctions, I and the president have the same stance on the situation in Eastern Ukraine, the need to ensure implementation of the Minsk accords, it is also unchanged in connection to the unlawful occupation of Crimea and to the aggressive rhetoric. But we have to have a political contact, even if it is not on the top political level," he emphasized.

Linkevicius refused to comment on the prime minister's statement, expressing hope to "calmly discuss" and harmonize the positions on Russia shortly.

"I hope that we will calmly discuss all the matters, just like it should be in a state. Positions, especially on matters of foreign policy, should be harmonized before they can go public. This is not the case here, we have not discussed these things. I hope for a calm discussion to avoid future public miscommunication," the diplomacy chief told BNS.

Skvernelis, who has proposed to resume political contacts with Moscow, says that the Lithuania-Russia dialog could cover trade relations and energy, agriculture and transport issues, as well as the situation of Lithuanian teachers in the Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad.

Diplomats say that the issue of re-establishing the commission was discussed back in 2013, but it was decided that Russia's position on Lithuania's gas market reform, unfavorable for Gazprom, was unacceptable, and the commission did not convene.

Source: BNS
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