Thursday, 17 January 2008

Russian foreign office and Britain must reach a compromise

The British Council in Russia has found itself a pawn in the game between two foreign offices. A row over the council, which operates as the cultural arm of the British Embassy has been escalated once again with Stephen Kinnock’s arrest being cited as an example of increased intimidation against its personnel.

Britain meanwhile has refused to comply with Russian law either by designating the Council properly as a diplomatic mission or complying with tax requirements for non-governmental organisations.

The row between the two countries which has caused this situation is two sided. Britain for its part has failed to extradite Chechen terrorist Akhmed Zakayev and robber baron Boris Berezovsky. On the other hand the Litvinenko affair is well documented and the Russian authorities have not cooperated satisfactorily with the UK to attempt to being the perpetrators to justice.

These damaged relations are regrettable, but the two countries have too many common interests to allow this situation to escalate. The British Council provides a valuable service which amongst other things is doing a great deal to teach English to Russian citizens. Both parties need to find an accommodation and halt this tit for tat battle.

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