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'Miliband visit chance to 'reset' ties'

David Miliband's visit to Moscow, the first by a British foreign secretary in five years, was a chance to "reset" ties, Russia's ambassador to London said on Monday.

world Updated: Nov 02, 2009 08:37 IST

David Miliband's visit to Moscow, the first by a British foreign secretary in five years, was a chance to "reset" ties, Russia's ambassador to London said on Monday.

"We all know that relations between our two countries, at least at government level, have not been easy over the last couple of years," ambassador Yuri Fedotov wrote in the London-based Guardian newspaper.

"The visit is a chance to reset our relationship," he said.

Miliband will be seeking during his two-day visit to mend relations damaged by the poisoning in London of a Kremlin critic.

Shortly after arriving on Sunday, Miliband met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for a first round of talks, with more to follow Monday, the British embassy in Moscow said.

Miliband's trip coincides with the third anniversary of the poisoning of former spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, but Russia refuses to extradite the KGB agent-turned-lawmaker who is the chief suspect in the murder.

A row over the status of the British Council and disputes over the ownership of Russian-British oil giant TNK-BP have added to mutual distrust over the Litvinenko case, resulting in an unprecedented degradation in ties.

Fedotov said the easing of strict visa norms implemented after the Litvinenko case would be welcomed.

"Unfortunately, the UK government has allowed political differences to spill over into the granting of visas, making it harder to encourage cultural and business exchanges," he said.

"Restoration of the close cooperation that was building on terrorism policy until two years ago would also be strongly in both countries' interests."

He concluded: "We hope the foreign secretary's visit shows we can turn a page in relations based on mutual interest and respect."