NATO member N Macedonia to briefly lift flight ban in case Russia’s Lavrov wants to attend meeting #NATO #member #Macedonia #briefly #lift #flight #ban #case #Russias #Lavrov #attend #meeting

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — NATO member North Macedonia said Friday it would briefly lift a ban on flights from Russia next week, which would enable Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to attend an international conference in the country should he accept the invitation.

A government statement said the window would apply from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, when North Macedonia hosts a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the capital, Skopje.

Russia is one of the 57 members of the OSCE, set up during the Cold War to ease East-West tensions, whose rotating chairmanship North Macedonia currently holds. Most European countries banned flights from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine in Feb. 2022.

It was not clear whether Lavrov would even accept the invitation which North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said last week had been sent to him.

If so, Friday’s government statement said North Macedonia’s foreign and defense ministries would need to issue additional permits for the visit.

The statement said the brief flight ban suspension is not unprecedented, “especially when it comes to international conferences.”

In order to reach the small, landlocked Balkan country, the Russian delegation would have to fly through the airspace of other NATO or European Union members, which in turn would need to grant special permission.

With the exception of close Moscow ally Belarus, Lavrov has not visited any European countries since the war in Ukraine started. He has traveled to NATO member Turkey which has no ban on Russian flights, and the U.S. where he attended meetings at the U.N. headquarters.

In March last year, Lavrov was barred from flying to Geneva for a United Nations conference after European Union members banned Russian planes from their skies as part of bruising sanctions against Moscow.

He denounced the move as “outrageous” in a video address to the U.N. session, charging that “the EU countries are trying to avoid a candid face-to-face dialogue or direct contacts designed to help identify political solutions to pressing international issues.”

In October, Osmani said that Moscow can expect more diplomatic pressure from the OSCE in coming months during his country’s presidency of the organization, which ends Dec. 31.

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