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Anglo-Russian Relations

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:05 pm on 4th May 2016.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 5:05 pm, 4th May 2016

That is a remarkable statement. How do we know what Mr Putin thinks? All I can say is that I have discussed that with the Russian ambassador, and he gives the correct line on behalf of his Government. Mr Putin has made absolutely no comment, certainly in public—we have no idea what he says in private. There is simply no evidence that Mr Putin is somehow engaged in some massive conspiracy to encourage Great Britain to leave the European Union. I rather think that in practical terms he has other things on his mind. Russia has made no statement in public. It is neutral on this matter.

Constructive, confident and respectful engagement is the best way for our two countries to flourish together. If we engaged in that way, the appalling conflict in Syria might have some chance of being brought to a conclusion. Assad will not go away and the Russians will not go away, so the Minister should pick up the phone and encourage his boss to pick up the phone to do what Kerry is doing and speak to Lavrov every week. That does not in any way mean support for everything Mr Putin does, but only with constant engagement in building relationships can we make some progress towards peace in Syria.