Wed Apr 12, 2017 12:44PM
The European Union's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speaks to the press as she arrives at an Informal summit of the EU heads of state or government in Valletta, Malta on February 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The European Union's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speaks to the press as she arrives at an Informal summit of the EU heads of state or government in Valletta, Malta on February 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini will make her first official visit to Russia this month, with relations strained to breaking point by the Ukraine conflict and the war in Syria.

She will also visit China and India next week, her office said in a statement on Wednesday.

Most attention is likely to focus on her trip to Moscow on April 24, with ties in deep freeze over Russia’s support for pro-Russian independence-seekers fighting in eastern Ukraine and its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Adding to tensions, the European Union is pushing for a political solution in Syria without President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow's long-time ally.

The announcement of the trip comes just as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Moscow for talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to confront Russia over its support for the Syrian government.

Mogherini will also meet Lavrov to "discuss the most pressing foreign policy issues, in particular the conflict in Syria", the statement from her office said.

They will also discuss the situation in Libya, the Middle East peace process, Iran, Afghanistan and Ukraine, as well as EU-Russia ties.

Mogherini took office in 2014 with a reputation of being sympathetic to Russia when she was Italian foreign minister and said repeatedly she wanted to visit Moscow.

European flags fly at half-mast in front of the European Commission in Brussels on April 10, 2017, in tribute to the victims of the Stockholm truck attack on April 7 that killed four people and injured 15. (Photo by AFP)

She tried to stabilize relations with Moscow, arguing that Russia was a huge neighbor that the EU had to learn to live with, but the deepening Ukraine crisis prevented any accommodation.

Mogherini has led efforts to give the EU a high profile voice on the international stage as a major security player, with the bloc looking to a post-Brexit future.

(Source: AFP)