OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion is sitting down with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Laos, where the two are attending a meeting of Southeast Asian nations.
It’s the first meeting of its kind in years, and represents the most tangible move yet by the Liberal government to thaw relations with Russia.
Until now, contacts between Canada and Russia have been largely limited to discussions between bureaucrats since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.
Dion’s office says the minister is raising Canada’s concerns about Russian involvement in Ukraine and Syria, as well as its current standoff with NATO. Canada recently committed to lead a NATO force in Latvia to counter Russian aggression in the region.
Dion and Lavrov are also discussing potential areas for co-operation, including the Arctic, space and counter-terrorism — issues the Russians themselves are keen to focus on.
The Liberals promised during last year’s election to re-engage with Russia, with which the previous Conservative government cut nearly all ties. Ottawa is also facing calls to maintain pressure on Russia over its actions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.