SLOVENIAN Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec pledged here on Tuesday to maintain good trade relations with Russia, despite restrictive measures imposed by the European Union.

It is “very important to preserve the pre-sanctions level of trade with Russia,” said Erjavec after his meeting with Russian Communications and Mass Media Minister Nikolai Nikiforov.

Economic sanctions were imposed on Russia in March of last year over the Ukraine crisis. In July, the EU expanded the economic sanctions to target Russia’s finance, defense and energy sectors.

Following years of increase since 2012, the trade volume between the two countries dropped in the first two months of 2015, according to Erjavec.

Slovenia’s trade in goods with Russia amounted to 2 billion euros (about 2.24 billion U.S. dollars) in 2014.

Speaking to reporters, Erjavec described the recent decline as “seasonal,” noting there was more room to improve bilateral cooperation in the fields of culture, education, science, health and forest management.

Nikiforov attributed the drop in trading volumes to the fluctuations in the value of the rouble, Russia’s currency, and “subjective reasons” that needed better cooperation between the countries’ respective businesses.

“We are full of optimism regardless of the so-called economic sanctions and convinced that economic cooperation needs to be developed to the maximum extent,” he said.

Russia has been one of Slovenia’s most important trade partners, despite EU economic sanctions against Russia, Erjavec said last December. (PNA/Xinhua)