|2 Weeks Ago||#221|
Interview of the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe Ivan Soltanovsky to the Russia Today TV channel, Strasbourg, August 30, 2017
31 August 2017 - 12:21
In July and August the Russian Federation has joined two conventions of the Council of Europe. One is on countering terrorism financing and another one is on security at sports events. Russia has also signed the Additional Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism. Could you, please, say some words on Russian priorities in these two areas?
How important is it for the Russian Federation to join the convention on countering terrorist financing?
In the early 2000s the World faced the unprecedented surge in the international terrorism. Terrorist organisations gained considerable capacities and support. One of the major causes was their ability to gather large resources through both criminal and legal activities and donations of various NGOs. It is evident that the efforts of single states were insufficient to cope with this challenge. At this time the Council of Europe developed the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism. Russia has ratified this convention in August this year. This convention establishes the mechanism which can prevent terrorist attacks by cutting terrorist financing. Russia gets an additional capability to disrupt the financing of foreign terrorist fighters in its territory.
The Council of Europe does not limit itself to fighting terrorism financing. What can you say about the Additional Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism?
Indeed, we develop different mechanisms to combat terrorism in the Council of Europe. Unfortunately, terrorism continues to evolve, it takes new forms and adopts new methods. The Syrian crisis has given rise to so-called “jihad-tourism”. The states encounter the problem to prosecute their citizens for terrorist activities which have been committed in another country. It is also critical to stop foreign terrorist fighters in its own territory. The Additional Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism which was signed by the Russian Federation on July 27 is a response to these challenges. This document criminalizes trips to other countries to participate in terrorist organisations as well as the organization and financing of such trips even if such activity is not aimed at committing terrorist attacks per se.
I would like to say some words about the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism of 2005. Our country initiated its development and was one of the first signatories. One of its most important features is that it enshrines the principle “extradite or prosecute” as well as criminalizes public incitement to commit terrorist offences, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism. “Extradite or prosecute” principle means that a Party to this convention is obliged to initiate a prosecution against a suspected terrorist whom it denies to extradite to another Party of the convention. The terrorists should be unable to find a safe haven anywhere.
Could you, please, say some words about the activities of the Committee of Experts on Terrorism which is the main specialized body of the Council of Europe on counterterrorism?
Unfortunately, the Russian Federation has gained a great experience in combatting terrorism in recent years. And this experience unequivocally demonstrates that antiterrorism is much more efficient if it is implemented in cooperation, if competent authorities exchange information on a regular basis and share the best practices. This is the reason why the Russian Federation is active in the Committee of Experts on Terrorism or CODEXTER. This Committee coordinates antiterrorism in the Council of Europe, analyses international counterterrorism norms, standards and practices and overcomes their shortcomings. CODEXTER also cooperates closely with other international institutions and organisations such as the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Organisation on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union and the Global Counterterrorism Forum. Thus the CODEXTER promotes trust-based relations between competent authorities of different countries. This simplifies international counterterrorist cooperation, accelerates the resolution of many issues and it will be no exaggeration to say that human lives often depend on this.
In 2015 the Council of Europe adopted Action Plan “The fight against violent extremism and radicalization leading to terrorism”. What can you say about it?
We welcome integrated and systemic approach of the Council of Europe to counterterrorism. We consider the action plan which stipulates the priorities of antiterrorist activities of the Council of Europe for 2015 - 2017 against this background.
We are positive about the fact that this document focuses on terrorism prevention. We consider preventive work against radicalization in prisons to be very important. As both Russian and international experience demonstrates many terrorists become radicalized in prisons. Thus relevant developments of the Council of Europe which are based on the best international practices are highly topical.
Recent events show that the terrorists acting alone pose all the greater threat. The plan envisages that the Council of Europe elaborates a recommendation on terrorists acting alone given the experience which was obtained by a number of countries. No doubts that such a document will be very useful for the Russian Federation.
What could you say as a conclusion before we proceed to another topic of our conversation? How would you evaluate current results of antiterrorism in the Council of Europe?
Counterterrorism has become one of the main activities of the Council of Europe. It has found its own niche in global fight against terrorism. The main efforts of the Council of Europe are focused on counterterrorism through legal, social and cultural means.
I think that the multilateralism is a distinctive feature of counterterrorism in the Council of Europe. We obtain a capability to thwart international terrorism, to cut its foreign financing, prosecute for the crimes committed abroad, request terrorists’ extradition from other countries. So the Council of Europe contributes to a common European legal framework of law and order area and facilitates European democratic stability. We are satisfied that the Council of Europe has managed to retain a depoliticized and result-oriented cooperation in this area in current difficult political climate.
We have always supported stronger antiterrorist cooperation. Unfortunately, practically all the Member-States have encountered the problem of terrorism. In this context our country advocates stronger human and financial potential for the Council of Europe in this area. We are sure that this will increase antiterrorist capabilities of the Council of Europe.
Thank you. Let us proceed to another topic of today’s interview which is also on the radar of the Council of Europe. It is European legal regulation in the sport. What could you say about the activities of the Council of Europe in this sphere?
Sport issues gain an ever growing importance in the dimension of humanitarian cooperation in the Council of Europe. One of the reasons for this is that the organisation seeks to become a major developer of international sports standards. I believe that the Council of Europe has all the necessary potential to succeed here if it keeps current balanced and depoliticized approach. I am convinced that the Council of Europe can play a role of utmost importance in protecting sportsmen from discrimination in different international sports organisations. The European Court of Human Rights could deal with these issues. The reasons are obvious. The breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights are more often than not evident.
In August this year Russia has ratified the Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events. What are the priorities of the Russian Federation in this area in the Council of Europe?
I am sure that the ratification of the Convention will help Russia to prepare even better for the upcoming Football World Cup. Hooliganism at sports events has a trans-border effect. The convention will aid in establishing a new system of ensuring the safety of such events. This step demonstrates Russia’s serious attitude towards both implementation and the development of new sports standards in this area.
This is completely true for fighting doping. A bilateral anti-doping action plan was signed by Russia and the Council of Europe in May 2016. It is aimed to overcome a doping scandal with our country. As a co-author of this plan the World Anti-Doping Agency also approved it. Its systematic and successful implementation has borne fruits. WADA has recently allowed the Russian Anti-Doping Agency to take tests (although under control of the colleagues form the UK) and published a favourable report on the status of the Russian anti-doping system. This plan is unique because it provides for establishing the highest anti-doping standards. After it has been implemented, Russia will become the most advanced country in this sphere and set the bar for other countries.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2850670
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|2 Weeks Ago||#222|
Excepts from Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, August 31, 2017
31 August 2017 - 18:42
Current situation in Syria
Positive dynamics persists in the Syrian Arab Republic. The situation in the de-escalation zones is considered to be stable. The Syrian Government continues its efforts to bring stability to the country and to improve the humanitarian situation of the population, which has been severely affected by the protracted conflict.
With the support of the Russian Centre for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides, it has become possible to hold several meetings via video linkup involving governors from a number of southern Syrian regions and representatives of territories controlled by armed non-extremist groups. In a constructive exchange, the parties discussed specific issues of restoring peaceful life, reactivating infrastructure, including power and water supply facilities, and resolving other issues, including preparations for the new academic year. Syrian authorities have confirmed their social obligations to citizens, regardless of their place of residence. It has been agreed that all schools, including those in areas controlled by the armed opposition, will receive textbooks and teaching aids on time, and that teachers will continue to receive their salaries.
Certain progress is being posted in Eastern Ghouta, where the warring parties have exchanged prisoners and hostages. The Jaysh al-Islam group has released 11 Syrian soldiers in exchange for 40 militants. Damascus expects that all hostages who had been seized by Jihadists in 2013 during an attack on the Syrian capital’s Adra suburb will be released during the Eid al-Adha sacrifice feast or immediately after it.
Illegal paramilitary units are becoming divided against the backdrop of the news about agreements reached between the Russian military and representatives of the Jaysh al-Tawhid group on de-blocking the Damascus-Homs motorway on the Telbis side and deploying the Russian military police units there. The Council of the so-called Coordination Headquarters of the Northern Homs Governorate, which technically consists of seven groups of militants but in reality is run by Jabhat al-Nusra, has decided to expel Jaysh al-Tawhid from its ranks because of an argument over the de-escalation zone. But far from all militants have recognised this decision as legitimate, and many militants have preferred to distance themselves from it.
Abu Jaber Shaykh, the “Military Emir” of the Jabhat al-Nusra-led Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham group, has voiced his group’s readiness to disband, provided that other groups operating in Idlib and neighbouring governorates would follow their example and merge with an integral military organisation under joint command. One gets the impression that Jabhat al-Nusra members have come to believe in the salvation power of another routine rebranding, and they believe that another change in their organisation’s form and name will help them get removed from the list of terrorist organisations. However, all these attempts to step back from responsibility for their crimes and to become “legalised” are doomed to failure. The UN Security Council’s members have listed Jabhat al-Nusra and other Al Qaeda affiliated groups among terrorist organisations, with all the ensuing consequences.
The Syrian Army continues to exercise strategic initiative in all the main sectors and continues to pressure ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra militants.
Government forces are consistently liquidating a large group of ISIS militants who have been surrounded near Akerbat in Homs Governorate. A successful offensive continues in the direction of Deir ez-Zor.
Some alarming reports are coming in. According to our information, the Shabab al-Sunnah paramilitary group has access to chemical weapons. Today, this group’s munitions warehouse in Bosra Al-Sham contains several rockets with toxic agents. The militants are planning to use these weapons in Daraa Governorate, most likely in Hiran, Nawa, Inkhil, Jamila, Tafas and Deira . As usual, government forces will once again be blamed for launching a chemical attack against civilians.
Trench warfare continues in Raqqa, with Syrian democratic forces failing to make substantial progress in the city’s central districts. Air force units of the US-led so-called international anti-ISIS coalition actively support Kurdish units. At the same time, we deeply regret that air strikes are hitting civilians, as well as terrorists. A city hospital has been hit once again recently.
The situation on the Syrian-Lebanese border
Moscow welcomes the recent counterterrorist operation conducted by Lebanese and Syrian troops with the support of Hezbollah to drive militants of ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and affiliated structures out of hard-to-reach areas on the Lebanese-Syrian border. We believe that its success has seriously undermined the international terrorists’ potential to carry out their planned large-scale expansion and contributed to bolstering the national sovereignty of the two neighbouring countries – Lebanon and Syria. The terrorists suffered a major military defeat. They were crushed and, which is also very important, demoralised.
As for concrete parameters of the aforementioned operation, it would be logical to turn for relevant explanations to its direct leaders.
Russia invariably and consistently stands for waging an uncompromising battle against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and believes there is a crucial need for broadly consolidated efforts by all parties concerned in order to eradicate this global threat.
The financial standing of ISIS
I would also like to say a couple of words about the financial standing of ISIS. We have repeatedly brought up this topic, saying that, regrettably, major financial backing of this terrorist organisation in many respects and over many years has ensured its successful advancement.
The losses the ISIS terrorist group sustained in Syria and Iraq have significantly reduced its opportunities to generate profit, especially from trade in hydrocarbons. As a result of operations by the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria, over 15,000 ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra targets have been destroyed since September 2015, including more than 200 oil and gas extraction sites, 176 oil refineries, 112 fuel pumping stations and around 4,000 fuel tanks. In 2016, the ISIS budget received $200-250 million in fresh revenues from trade in oil and oil products. This is significantly lower, compared with $1 billion the year before. Faced with stiff resistance from the international community in Syria and Iraq, the so-called Islamic State is adapting to the new conditions, boosting revenues through the taxation of the territories it controls, extortions and ransom kidnappings, expanding trade in antiquities and human organs, receiving profit from direct investment in fish farming enterprises in Iraq and stock market speculation. In October 2016, the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), during its session in Paris, unveiled reports about ISIS attempts to invest in construction businesses in Germany and in real estate in Europe, the United States, including New York, and also in Turkey. I would like to repeat this once more, otherwise we risk being accused again of interfering in someone’s affairs. The case in point is the FATF international plenary session held in October 2016.
In these circumstances, Russia stands for further coordinated moves to combat this terrorist group. In June, we circulated among the UN Security Council members a draft resolution on introducing trade and economic embargo against the ISIS-controlled territories. We are also proposing to establish close practical multilateral cooperation between special services in a bid to expose countries, individuals and legal entities maintaining economic ties with ISIS and subsequently curb their criminal activities.
On-the-spot reporting by a VGTRK crew headed by Yevgeny Poddubny on the US coalition’s actions in Syria
We paid attention to the on-the-spot reporting by VGTRK correspondents headed by Yevgeny Poddubny, who is now working in Syria. These reports aired on television today; they were broadcast by the Rossiya 24 channel, and were also posted on the internet.
Of course, these materials require a careful review by the relevant agencies, including international ones. According to the reports, the so-called US-led anti-terrorist coalition is not fighting terrorists in the south of Syria, but is actually pursuing its own goals. One of them is creating its zone of influence in this country, which is bled white by the war on terror. For this purpose, according to eyewitnesses, various methods are used, up to the direct transfer of foreign-made weapons to militants, which is what happened at the al-Tanf base in the south of the country.
I urge everyone once again to have a look at the series of investigative reporting by the VGTRK team. They include materials and information that were provided by eyewitnesses. These data are available to the public. Once again, we call upon the relevant international agencies to carefully verify these data and come up with appropriate assessments.
Situation in Yemen
The situation in the Republic of Yemen remains extremely tense. A bloody civil conflict has been going on in the country for more than two years. The area of combat operations is expanding. The most fierce clashes are reported in the central and southwestern parts of Yemen (the Maarib and Taiz provinces, respectively), as well as in the north, including Hajja, Saada and Al Jawf. This has an extremely negative impact on the country’s rapidly worsening socioeconomic situation.
We are concerned by the high intensity of airstrikes by the Arab coalition on Yemeni cities and towns that often lead to civilian casualties. Thus, according to the UN, on August 25, over 30 civilians were killed when a residential area in the south of the Yemeni capital Sana was hit as a result of yet another technical mistake. We hope that the ongoing investigation into this incident will be as objective and effective as possible and will help avoid new civilian casualties in Yemen.
Moscow still believes that there is no alternative to the early cessation of violence in the country and the resolution of all problems on the intra-Yemeni agenda at the negotiating table under the aegis of the UN as part of a broad national dialogue, taking into account the interests of all Yemenis without exception. We also believe it is necessary to ensure unconditional compliance with the norms of international humanitarian law in Yemen, alleviate the suffering of the country’s people and provide unhindered humanitarian access to all of its regions. For its part, Russia will continue to do all it can to facilitate these efforts.
Situation in Iraq
Moscow welcomes the successes of the Iraqi armed forces fighting ISIS. That said, the recent liberation of Tal Afar – one of the last terrorist bases in Iraq – does not mean that this evil has been eradicated. A lot of effort will still have to be taken to that end. Fighting is ongoing northwest of Tal Afar in the al-Ayadia district, and the town of Hawija is still under ISIS control. Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation is cause for concern. Over 900,000 Mosul residents had to flee their homes for safer parts of the country when hostilities broke out. According to some estimates, about a quarter of them have now returned to their homes. All of them are in need of aid.
The war has exposed another serious problem – i.e., the “children of war.” According to UNICEF Iraq, about 3,800 children have been separated from their families as a result of the operation to free Mosul. Russia is working to find out how many of them may be Russian or of Russian descent. As they arrive at Iraqi orphanages they need to be identified to confirm their connections to their families who are looking for them. The Foreign Ministry is working on this, as are our embassy in Baghdad, our consulate general in Erbil; Presidential Adviser and Council for Civil Society and Human Rights Chairman Mikhail Fedotov, and Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Anna Kuznetsova, and naturally, all of these efforts are being closely coordinated with the Iraqi authorities.
We support the Iraqi government’s steps to restore the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Intra-Iraqi national conciliation and harmony is a guarantee of stability and constructive development.
We are also convinced that this goal can be achieved through an inclusive dialogue in the interest of all Iraqis, based on respect for and compliance with constitutional principles. We act on the premise that the upcoming parliamentary elections, which, as we hope, will take place within the timeframe established by the law, will be an important landmark down this path.
Developments in Afghanistan
The situation concerning security in Afghanistan remains complicated.
The Taliban have not eased their pressure on the national security forces and stage large-scale attacks around the country. Over the past week, the Taliban conducted offensive operations in the provinces of Baghlan, Nuristan, Ghazni, Helmand, Zabol as well as in Urozgan. Numerous casualties have been reported among Afghan servicemen and civilians.
Regrettably, the situation in Kabul has not stabilised despite additional measures that have been taken to enhance security in the Afghan capital. On August 29, five people were killed and eight were wounded in a terrorist attack staged by the Taliban at a bank in central Kabul.
We have taken note of the continued attempts to spur religious strife in Afghanistan. On August 25, the Afghan wing of the terrorist group ISIS staged a terrorist attack on the Imam Zaman Shiite mosque in Kabul. Over 30 civilians were killed and some 80 were wounded in this attack. We send our condolences to the families and friends of the dead and wish all those who were wounded a speedy recovery. We again urge the Afghan authorities to protect the safety of their people and to prevent a split in society due to ethnic and religious differences.
Situation on the Korean Peninsula
We regret to say that North Korea yet again violated UN Security Council resolutions by launching a ballistic missile, which flew over the territory of Japan on August 28.
We urge the conflicting parties to show restraint, act responsibly and put an end to their militant rhetoric and actions. A competition on who is stronger, which we are witnessing, can only push the region towards a military conflict. Wouldn’t it be better to compete in something else, like who can prepare and possibly implement the best scenario for a peaceful settlement?
We have also noticed that only Russia and China have so far advanced a practicable initiative on a comprehensive political and diplomatic settlement of the Korean problems, including the nuclear one. We again urge all the sides involved to launch a dialogue on the basis of the Russian-Chinese roadmap without delay and without advancing any preconditions.
Polish authorities revise their previous decision on Russia’s participation in creating a new Sobibor Memorial Museum
Doubtless, the news from Poland about inviting Russia to take part in events marking the 75th anniversary of an uprising at the former Nazi concentration camp in Sobibor is positive. Russia sees this date as infinitely important; this is an inalienable part of the Russian nation’s history, accompanied by painful losses and pride for our common victory over Nazism.
However, one is dismayed over comments surrounding Warsaw’s invitation. These comments clearly show that the Polish side continues to justify its refusal to allow Russia to fully take part in a project to upgrade the Sobibor Museum. And all this is taking place against the backdrop of statements from other countries, members of the project’s International Management Committee, including Israel, that have supported Russia’s participation. Now that all countries have openly supported Russia’s participation in this project, it is obvious who exactly opposed Russia’s joining the project. Warsaw’s assurances that the decision to bar Russia from the project has no negative implications with regard to this country are simply ridiculous.
The public should not be misled by claims that the Russian side had allegedly and only recently, requested that it be included on the list of project participants. These statements are very strange. It is hard to imagine that people are deliberately making these statements because the facts and documents are available.
Here is a brief history of the issue. In 2013, the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage invited Russia to take part in upgrading the museum. Russia immediately expressed a willingness to participate and even to make a substantial financial contribution. Poland then deliberately delayed a final resolution of the issue, and is now saying that too much time has passed, and that the project is close to completion.
It should be noted that the Russian side is striving to take part in upgrading the museum not simply because of the personality of Alexander Pechersky, the Red Army officer who led the history-making uprising at the concentration camp. We must do this for the sake of perpetrating the memory of all of the victims of those terrible events and all inmates of Nazi concentration camps.
Just the other day, we were dismayed to read a statement by Jaroslaw Sellin, Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland. It was published August 30 by the Polish Press Agency. For example, the statement noted that Russia had allegedly delayed its response. I repeat, many people, including Polish officials, said that no one had invited Russia, and that the Russian side had made a last-minute decision to participate and thus upset the plans. All this is not so.
We realise the need for submitting the appropriate facts. In confirmation of my words, we will show you a copy of a letter by Piotr Zuchowski, First Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland and Chief Curator of Monuments, and Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, State Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister, Plenipotentiary Envoy of the Prime Minister for Inter-Ethnic Dialogue, to Alexander Alexeyev, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Poland. In this letter, the Polish side took the initiative and presented several arguments inviting Russia to take part in this project. This letter will be posted on official Foreign Ministry accounts and on social networks.
It seems to me that there is no need to comment on this document. I would like to note once again that this is not a Russian press release, but rather an authentic official document that was submitted to the Russian Embassy.
In addition, I would like to say that, in June 2015, the Polish side sent its standard request suggesting that Russia provide additional explanations regarding the modality of its participation in the project. That same year, Moscow sent a reply to the Polish side, by agreement with the Russian Ministry of Culture, setting forth detailed and specific data and information about Russia’s tentative financial contribution, as well as a list of Russian agencies and organisations, including the Ministry of Culture, the Defence Ministry, Foreign Ministry, the Russian Federal Archival Agency, the Russian Military Historical Society and the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War of 1941−1945.
Again, all this data was submitted to the Polish side in 2015. As you understand, when we are talking about very large sums and the involvement of state agencies, all this calls for intra-state coordination. All this was done. In 2015, all aspects of Russian participation were submitted to Warsaw in response to the Polish side’s invitation.
The peculiar interpretation of freedom of expression by the Ukrainian authorities
Yesterday, we were shocked by the Kiev regime’s actions with regard to Russian journalists that we promptly commented on. This can hardly be described as anything other than an abduction of a Russian journalist, in this case Anna Kurbatova, a Channel 1 reporter. How else can you describe a situation where people who do not introduce themselves seize a person’s mobile phones and documents in broad daylight and do not allow her to make a phone call to a diplomatic mission or to her family or relatives or her employer? Then that person disappears from the media field for several hours and it is only under enormous pressure from the public, media colleagues, journalists, including representatives of Russian executive government agencies, that meagre information is eventually provided to the effect that the correspondent has been detained by Ukrainian security services, and this is not the first time. We were also shocked by the fact that we have heard no assessment of these actions by Kiev from any high-ranking international official or representative of any other country.
We see the concern that is shown about everything that happens to civil society members in various situations in other countries. Why then has there been no reaction with regard to Russian journalists? Yesterday, we also heard the Ukrainian Security Service explain its actions, saying that it does not like the content and substance of Channel 1 reporting. Is that not censorship? A correspondent who openly works in the Ukrainian capital, in front of everybody, not underground, and who does not disseminate any illegal material but works openly is called a national security threat – you know, this is some new word in a sphere that is commonly known as freedom of the media and freedom of expression. To reiterate, this can cause nothing but shock. We have taken note of the comment on the issue made by an OSCE representative. However, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this is not the first such incident with Russian journalists in Ukraine.
In my opinion, it is necessary to draw systemic conclusions, not make careful, general comments that we see on social media.
One of the explanations given to Russia of what is going on with our journalists, in particular in Ukraine, but also in EU member countries, is that the authorities of those countries regard members of the Russian media as propagandists.
Continuing propaganda on Lithuanian social networks
I will give you an example of how Lithuanian propagandists work and for some reason nobody strips them of accreditation or puts them in an interrogation room or seizes their mobile phones and holds them incommunicado, as was the case with the Channel 1 reporter yesterday.
We have already drawn attention to the spam-like activity of Lithuanian Internet users. They continue to post stamped-from-the-mould, absolutely meaningless comments on social networks on a massive scale, in particular on the Foreign Ministry’s web pages. The reason I mention it in this context is that this activity is not self-motivated: it was caused and provoked by, among others, journalists who are official representatives of media outlets that have urged the people of their countries to take targeted efforts with regard to Russia in cyberspace.
Recently, such comments have been centred around the obsessive idea that Germany and the Soviet Union were equally responsible for unleashing World War II. We understand very well that this is a provocation; these are not real users who express their opinions but people who were co-opted by propagandists (there is no other way to describe them). Needless to say, we will keep track of this topic and provide extended commentaries that will be widely available (we will make no secret of them). First of all, we will send them to the relevant international bodies that deal with propaganda issues, protecting freedom of expression, in particular the OSCE, since this is a concrete example of how propagandists work and how cyber operations are initiated by propagandists-slash-journalists.
Has anybody seen anything of the kind, for example, a news and analysis show host on Channel 1 urge users to take not civil action with regard to particular issues but carry out targeted cyberattacks against official resources? I don’t think so. Meanwhile, our journalists are called propagandists and nobody even wants to remember the cases I have just mentioned.
Foreign Ministry launches Chinese-language website
Today we are launching a Chinese section of the official website of the Foreign Ministry. Our website will have yet another language version. It will not be as complete as the Russian version, however, we will select news stories for Chinese users, as well as Chinese speakers, that will be of priority interest to them. The Chinese-language version will also contain photos, current news and a variety of sections.
This is part of our effort to promote and expand the availability of the information posted on the Foreign Ministry’s official website.
I believe that this step is in line with the tasks of fostering bilateral relations, comprehensive strategic partnership and engagement that have already reached an unprecedentedly high level.
I would like to reiterate that the Chinese-language version of the website has gone online today but will only be available in a test mode. We are looking forward to comments and proposals from our users. We are prepared to respond to them promptly.
I invite our Chinese friends to the website. Huaning guan ling!
From answers to media questions:
Recently, Richard Hoagland, former co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, outlined what he described as principles for a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. I am sure you know about them. How should Mr Hoagland’s statement be treated – as only the US opinion on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process or as the co-chairs’ consensus position? Can you also comment on the appointment of a new US co-chair?
The statements that you’ve cited are nothing new. The Russian, US and French presidents have repeatedly referred to them in their joint statements on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process from 2009 through 2013. You can read them and find the relevant quotes.
As for the appointment of the new US co-chair, we welcome it. We act on the premise that in their new lineup the co-chairs will continue their efforts to facilitate a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We hope that the team spirit that has always been characteristic of the troika will be preserved.
This morning, a group of officers attached to the personal representative of the OSCE chairman came under fire as they monitored the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. According to preliminary reports, there were no casualties. Reports say the attack originated on the Azerbaijani side. Does Russia intend to initiate a meeting between the foreign ministers of the parties to the conflict to accelerate preparations for the next presidential summit that will consider this issue, among others? Firing on an OSCE officer is an unprecedented incident.
During conflicts, escalations and complications, we have always urged the sides involved to follow a balanced approach so as not to escalate tensions but move toward a political settlement. You know what our traditional assessment is.
As for the incident you mentioned, experts will have their say after they study the circumstances on the ground.
I have no information regarding plans to call a meeting of foreign ministers. As you know, dialogue is maintained with all parties at the expert level through the contact group. If and when it is necessary to call such a meeting you will be duly informed. As of right now I do not have such information.
Baku constantly raises the question about the need for opening substantive talks. Is it not time that Russia, as co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, initiate bringing Nagorno-Karabakh de facto back to the negotiating process? Otherwise it is impossible to ensure substantive talks.
You know our established position on the issue. I can refer you to our earlier comments.
Tension in North Korea-US relations have greatly escalated since the missile launch on August 28. Is there a possibility that Russia will act as a mediator between North Korea and other countries concerned, and hold bilateral talks with North Korea or a similar event?
As you know, we are in contact with the US, South Korea, North Korea, China and all those involved in the settlement process. We also maintain contacts on a bilateral basis. As for mediation, why not regard the Russian-Chinese initiative to bring the situation back on course peacefully and stop further escalation? The initiative is on the table. It is available, understandable and, in our view, absolutely viable.
As you know, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has had a series of meetings with his counterparts in Manila. Naturally, this topic was discussed via bilateral channels. It is important for all regional players. We reaffirmed the relevance of the Russian-Chinese initiative at the UN Security Council. We do so publicly. High-ranking Foreign Ministry representatives have talked about this. Our efforts along these lines can be described as proactive.
You’re absolutely right: What is going on in the region cannot but worry us. We talked about this today, as did Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya. Rhetoric coming from a number of capitals, as voiced by their official representatives and political circles, is cause for concern. All efforts should be aimed at resolving the situation by political and diplomatic means, not discussing the use of force, even in theory.
To reiterate, everything that is required for talks is on the table. Simply, political will is needed to act on these proposals.
What would Russia’s response be if the US used military force against North Korea?
The idea is not to allow this hypothetically, in theory or in practice.
Recently, a national reconciliation committee was created in the Kurdish city of Afrin on the initiative of the Russian Centre for Reconciliation in Syria. Does this mean that the Kurdish side will be included in the political settlement of the Syria crisis? This has not been done yet.
We have always believed that the Kurds should have a role in the political settlement process, since we regard them essentially as an inalienable part of a political settlement. We constantly make this position known to our colleagues and partners officially and during our contacts. In this situation, we see no chance for a comprehensive settlement without bringing on board the Kurdish forces that you’ve mentioned.
You said that following the agreements between Lebanon, Hezbollah and the Syrian Government, a group of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra militants was moved to the border with Iraq. The Iraqi Government and the Kurdish autonomy have expressed their concern. Do you think this can further escalate tension in these territories?
This question should not be addressed to me, since it belongs in the domain of political and military expert forecasts.
Can you comment on another aspect of the problem of the Korean Peninsula? As we know, Russia has strongly condemned North Korea’s recent missile launches but Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed in a conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Russia believes the further toughening of sanctions would be counterproductive and dangerous. Could you clarify Russia’s position, since it may appear contradictory?
There are no contradictions here. A lot of sanctions have been imposed on North Korea. This set of instruments is working but unfortunately, it is not bringing the desired results because it is necessary not to tighten the sanctions screws (especially unilaterally, pursuing one’s own line on top of UN Security Council decisions) but to follow the clear-cut path of a political-diplomatic settlement. This involves not only a sanctions policy but also talks, meetings, dialogues and multilateral and bilateral formats that are the first steps down this path. The point is that it is practically impossible to get the situation off the ground with pressure from sanctions alone. We are seeing this in practice. This is precisely what Russia is saying. There are international sanctions pressure tools (when they are legitimised by the UN Security Council). We have fully subscribed to the decisions that we helped draft. We are committed to them. However, without a political-diplomatic path and negotiating process, this pressure will not bring the result that we are seeking and that we have subscribed to. That is the point. There is no double dealing or double standards here. Our position is that sanctions are a tool, an addition to the main line, which is a political-diplomatic solution.
Two days ago, Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov had a meeting with US Ambassador to Moscow John Tefft devoted to the new US strategy in Afghanistan. In this context, what is your view of the prospects for international cooperation in bringing about peace in Afghanistan?
We addressed the new US strategy on Afghanistan in detail at our previous briefing. This assessment is available on the Foreign Ministry’s website. As for international cooperation, it has a variety of forms, including the UN role. Many have already forgotten that the UN Security Council has mandated US presence in Afghanistan, which involves giving an account to Security Council members and the international community on the work done and the steps planned. This should also involve bringing on board regional players and organisations, for example, the SCO with its anti-terrorist structures. They should be engaged in the settlement process – fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. These are just a few examples of how international cooperation in this area can and should proceed.
Unfortunately, we are seeing Washington’s unilateral policy in this sphere. The US has long been playing the leading role here. The results are plain to see. They are not encouraging and not inspiring. Now a new strategy has been made public. We observe a kind of seesaw in the way Washington formulates its Afghanistan strategy. It is constantly changing. Unfortunately, these changes are not backed up by positive results on the ground. If you are interested, I can prepare a more detailed analysis on this topic next time.
In an interview with the Dozhd television channel, you said that Russia did not make the decision to reduce the US diplomatic corps but only suggested that the US consider doing so. Would it be correct to say that in the language of diplomacy, this “suggestion” is a polite form of demand?
Diplomacy is all about finding various options for addressing problems. For more than half a year, we have proposed various solutions to the US on ways of dealing with the situation that has evolved. You remember very well how the events developed and you know about the amount of sanctions-related pressure and the decision to impose sanctions against Russia that the US made. We remember the last “gesture of ill will” on the part of the Barack Obama administration that declared [a number of] Russian diplomats personae non grata and expelled them. Nevertheless, as you remember, no tit-for-tat measures were taken. For half a year, there was no silent waiting for an opportunity to come up, but attempts were constantly made to invite the US to open dialogue and there were several rounds of expert-level talks on ways of overcoming the situation. It was stated during those talks, among other things, that unless the situation was resolved, unfortunately, response measures would have to be taken. And this is exactly what happened. Therefore, the US side received the suggestion that it received. The statement was made public both in Russian as well as in English and I don’t think there were any problems when it came to the translation of it. It was a suggestion. As you understand, Russia slammed the door but did not put a padlock on it. The padlock was put on by the US.
If the US had rejected the suggestion, what would have been the next steps?
Why don’t you put this question to the US? Or have you already done so?
We wrote to the US Embassy.
What did they say?
So far nothing.
This is exactly the answer to your question. We also asked what we should do but received no response for months.
We did not decide for the US what to do with its employees. That was done by the US by declaring Russian diplomats personae non grata. What’s more, as you know, unfortunately, declaring someone persona non grata is routine diplomatic practice. Much of what happens in the outside world does not become known in the public domain, is done behind closed doors. Something leaks into the media. When diplomats are expelled, new ones arrive, since the host country had specific complaints about the work of particular officers. Do you know that the US did not issue visas to the Russian diplomats who were to replace the 35 officers declared personae non grata? Visa applications were submitted so that those officers could work, replacing those who were expelled but the US did not grant them visas.
Just as you say you asked the US Embassy but got no response, likewise, we have been living more or less the same way for the past several months now. We often get no coherent explanation of what is going on or what the overall strategy could be. So Russia made the decision that was made public in the form of a suggestion. This statement was posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website. The US reaction was what it was.
To reiterate, we did all we could not to lock the door – it was Washington that turned the key in the lock.
Newly-appointed Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said in an interview with the newspaper Kommersant that he would do his best to convince the Americans that we are not enemies. This sounds positive. Do you believe that it is a positive sign and that our relations can improve? How will Antonov’s mission differ from that of his predecessor, Sergey Kislyak?
Much of what is said sounds positive until CNN distorts it.
I am glad that you have taken note of Mr Antonov’s interview with Kommersant, but unfortunately CNN does not take note of much of what is posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website or said during briefings and news conferences.
With your perfect Russian and knowledge of Russia, you should know that we have never relied on aggressive rhetoric in our relations with the United States. We have always left the door open even despite sanctions, pressure, attempts to drive Russia into isolation and all kinds of insidious information tricks. We could close the door partially, saying that our response was pending, but we also always said that we were set for positive relations and that our initial desire, which we never abandoned, was to have normal relations with the United States. We never said that these relations would be cloudless, because we take a realistic stand and know everything about matters where our points of view overlap and where they differ, including very serious divergence. But we also said that our differences can be left behind and that we can work together on issues of common concern. The President of Russia, the Foreign Minister and Russian ambassadors spoke about this in numerous interviews and at news conferences. You will not find a single example of our aggressive rhetoric. We have never said that the United States is an aggressor regarding Russia or that we view the United States as an enemy; quite to the contrary. Despite what Washington officials have said, our newly-appointed ambassador to the United States has expressed our present position during his interview.
I have a question for you. How do you present this information and our position to the American audiences? I don’t think that the Americans regularly monitor the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry. They receive their information from the American media, and their attitude to Russia largely depends on how CNN presents Moscow’s position.
I just want an honest answer to a simple question. Will something differ when Mr Antonov assumes his office in the United States?
Differ from what? It’s good that you have asked a clear question. Can you formulate it more clearly, though? You have asked if something will differ when Mr Antonov assumes office. Differ from what?
From what happened to Ambassador Kislyak.
What happened to him?
He was criticised. Do you hope for improvement or for change?
I want to give an absolutely clear answer to your very simple question. You said that something happened to Ambassador Kislyak. I asked what happened to him. You replied that he was criticised. My question is who criticised him?
You know the answer.
Of course I do. He was criticised by the American media and by representatives of the Democratic Party (if you can call this criticism) who lost the presidential election.
These Democrats and the American media are still there, in Washington. Now, a new Russian ambassador comes to the United States, and I have a question for you: Do you intend to objectively report what he says and does, or will you carry on the same old policy towards Russia?
Does this mean that you think the media are much more powerful than the US administration?
This is a good question. Which is more powerful, the US administration or the media? I will have to think about the answer to that.
The United States and Russia must work together.
I don’t believe I’m hearing this from CNN! Our efforts were not in vain then. It is said on August 31, during a briefing by the official spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry, that Russia and the United States must work together. Yes, they must, and who’s preventing this? Who has curtailed the work of the Bilateral Presidential Commission? Was it Russia? Who has suspended all forms of interaction between our special services and militaries? Was it Russia? No, it was the United States who did this.
It might be unwilling to work together with us in these very complicated areas. But there is also the grave issue of terrorism, which needs our cooperation. Is the United States promoting dialogue on this matter? No, it is setting up blocks instead; it has blocked every possible venue. If you understand that we need to lift these blocks, then we realised this a long time ago and we have been speaking about this. Can you cite any statements in support of this approach, which the American public approved through the media? Regrettably, I believe that CNN did the most to show that cooperation with Russia is impossible and that it must not develop.
I remember the interview Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave to your commentator. It was before the presidential election, when Russia was presented as a monster whose aircraft killed an innocent Syrian boy. Your political commentator showed a picture of that boy to Sergey Lavrov, alleging that Russia was responsible and asking the Minister what he would say to this. Russian warplanes are bombing civilians in Syria, she alleged. A CNN commentator said this. Several months later it transpired that the boy was alive, that he was not killed in a Russian air raid, and that Russian aircraft were not to blame after all. The boy’s father later made a statement to accuse those who had raised the ballyhoo over his child of bias. He also said that he did not approve of what the opposition was doing and that he could even be a supporter of Bashar al-Assad.
Do you know how many letters we wrote to CNN to request that it publish a refutation? All in vain. If you think that we should work together, we are all for it. But let’s see some practical action first.
So, there is no hope for an improvement in US-Russian relations?
Quite to the contrary. We pin great hopes on this. The interview given by Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov provides our understanding of how this work should develop. In this in-depth interview, he was not theoretising or offering political analysis. Instead, he provided factual data and examples of how we can develop fruitful, normal and mutually beneficial relations. We are all for it. There is hope and desire on our part. It depends on the US side, because, regrettably, everything we are doing is reciprocated with an aggressive and militant rhetoric, the extension of sanctions, strange media reports, and this never-ending story about the alleged Russian interference in US elections. Where is the evidence? Nobody has any evidence. On the contrary, there is understanding that something happened at the US election without any practical or hypothetical Russian interference. However, an opposition view is still being promoted [in the United States] every single day.
Yes, there is hope, as the newly-appointed Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said in his interview with Kommersant. I think he will be happy to talk about this with the US media as soon as he assumes office.
The so-called acoustic attack against American diplomats in Cuba has caused a furore in the US, and there are also reports of Canadian nationals being affected. Certain US agencies do not rule out that this attack could have been organised by a “third interested party” (Russia is mentioned among those) seeking to drive a wedge between the US and Cuba. What is Russia’s response to these suspicions? Have any Russian citizens been similarly affected?
You know, this is a very strange issue to comment on. We have seen media reports citing sources alleging that a group of US Embassy officers in Cuba was repatriated for health reasons and is undergoing medical checks. Most importantly, we have not seen clear-cut official commentaries on the US side about what actually happened (although this issue has no bearing on us, as you correctly said, it has caused a furore). That is to say, there are a lot of reports - leaks and planted stories – but we have seen no official conclusions regarding the causes or the nature of the health problems experienced by US diplomats. At least, there have been no reports containing solid official charges.
Even considering that there are no official statements to this effect, you have asked this question, and there are a lot of reports, so I would like to wish our counterparts at the State Department well in any case.
We also have no information regarding the essence of this impact. It is hardly possible to draw any parallels with the health of Russian personnel in Cuba, because, to reiterate, it is not clear what this is all about. According to the Russian Embassy in Cuba, Russian diplomats and Russian nationals feel well and we also have no evidence that they have been subjected to any impact.
As for the attempts to see Russia’s “interest,” its direct or indirect involvement in this incident (there is no official information on the issue, and so it is difficult to talk about an “incident”) – that is an absolutely absurd and bizarre insinuation. Of course, nobody on the Russian side has been involved in the sonic, acoustic or, as I read somewhere, even musical impact or attack on US diplomats in Havana. Generally speaking, this looks grotesque. Unfortunately, this grotesque, on the one hand, is ludicrous and on the other, it is yet another reason for talking about Russia and the US in a confrontational tone. Therefore, there can be no official position on the issue.
We have taken note of statements by the Cuban authorities, who said they had no intention to carry out any illegal actions against foreign diplomats, and show willingness to cooperate with the Americans in investigating the problem. I believe there is every reason for the US to take advantage of Havana’s offer and clear up the situation.
I would like to reiterate that this is yet another absurd round in the information campaign to shape public opinion in a certain way and none of this, of course, is in the interest of normalising Cuban-US relations.
Coming back to the number of US diplomats in Russia, have the Americans carried out what Russia asked? If so, how many of their Russian employees lost their jobs, and how many American employees have returned to the USA?
If you recall, the proposal published on the Foreign Ministry website gave concrete deadlines, which we have not reached yet. As for the number and category of those dismissed or returning home, this is something for the Americans to decide. The embassy or the US State Department will provide this information if they think it necessary. I remind you that we have not yet seen any official response to the question on the number of people working at the American embassy and their other offices on Russian soil, unfortunately, and so you should direct this question to the Americans.
Two days ago, the Polish Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian Ambassador in Warsaw and gave him a note regarding two issues: the Polish Foreign Ministry’s concerns over access to the crash site of the Polish president’s plane, and a proposal to continue dialogue on erecting a monument at the crash site. Could you comment on the substance of these issues and the idea of proposing dialogue through such a form – summoning the ambassador and handing him a note?
Each country has the absolute sovereign right to choose their form of communication. We have always advocated normal working dialogue on this matter. If this document has indeed been handed over, it will be examined, of course. I will clarify the matter with our experts and I think that, before the next briefing, I will be able to give an answer on how we obtained the document and what is our response to it.
I also draw your attention to the fact that the Russian ambassador in Warsaw has spoken to the media about this situation.
Iceland is not a EU member, but it participates in the sanctions against Russia along with the United States and other countries. Iceland’s fishing, agricultural and other industries are suffering a great deal because of this. These sanctions have been imposed by the Government of Iceland, but the people and the fishing and agricultural industries are against them. Is a full resumption of trade between our countries possible, if Iceland withdraws from the anti-Russian sanctions unilaterally?
You said everything yourself. You understand well that what the Russian side has adopted in this sphere was a reply to the introduction of sanctions. If countries don’t join or impose sanctions, there will be no reply. This is a very simple logic that we have repeatedly articulated.
If there are sanctions, there is a reply; no sanctions – no reply. Accordingly, there is a possibility to promote full-scale ties in the sphere that, regrettably, has been largely blocked at an initiative other than ours. If you have some concrete detailed questions, you can send them to us and we will check with relevant experts. But in global terms, we have provided a reply at all levels and it is unchanged.
You are absolutely right that these “sanctions wars” are directly affecting the producers, who are largely and basically far from politics and in this case do not quite understand what they are suffering for and why they are being punished. Several years on, there are a lot of facts that make it possible to look at the whole situation in retrospect. It is always difficult to do that when many decisions are motivated by emotion or based on unreliable information. Now we have a historical perspective: we can look back and see who played a role in events leading to the “sanctions wars” and what kind of role it was. We can also draw relevant conclusions as to who was behind these sanctions and who suffers from them.
Yesterday, US Senator Ron Johnson, speaking in Belgrade, called on the Serbian authorities not to grant diplomatic status to the Russian-Serbian humanitarian centre in Nis as a means of showing the world that, in the senator’s words, Serbia opposes the aggression Vladimir Putin’s Russia is demonstrating, otherwise this could affect the flow of Western capital into Serbia. How do you view this American proposal, which sounds more like an ultimatum? What do you hope for from the Serbian authorities?
I think it’s worth glancing at a map of the world to see where the United States and Serbia are located respectively. Why should the United States have the right to dictate to the Serbs their domestic and foreign policy?
Knowing the Serbs, I have the feeling that they will reach their own decisions on how to live. Regarding the issue of the centre in Nis in particular, they have every opportunity to make a sovereign decision without any prompting from American senators. We have explained in full our view of the situation and have ensured that the centre’s work is transparent. We have responded to all concerns that our American colleagues raised and invited them to come to the centre to see the situation for themselves.
I want to say, not in response to the senator’s statements, but in general, that this centre’s work and purposes in no way present a threat to either the US or European countries. Its work and functions are directly related to the local population’s life. You know what is written in the documents regulating the centre’s work. I say again that anyone can go and visit it. Its activity is completely transparent.
I think that the Serbs will decide for themselves how to proceed, without the Americans’ help.
Could you make one small clarification? If this is a civic aid centre and not some kind of espionage organisation, as Western media sometimes allege, then why does it need an official status and why do its workers need diplomatic immunity? Can they not provide assistance given their current status?
This is because centres of this sort have the corresponding status. This is the practice in place. What I want to ask is why is this of such concern for American senators? Does it threaten Washington or the particular state the senator represents? What has the US to do with any of this? What has this matter to do with the United States? This is about our relations with Serbia and its people. I think that Serbia itself should decide on the matter and assess for itself the centre’s work and activity, which is what it is doing.
How would you assess recent comments by US Ambassador John Tefft, who said, among other things, that the US sanctions were an alternative to war against Russia. Let me remind you that he said this in an interview with Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio station on August 28.
In fact, we have taken note of this comment concerning the fact that the previous US administration headed by Barack Obama well-nigh contemplated in those years the use of force as a method of solving problems in relations with Russia. At least it was said that this option was contemplated. But later allegedly a decision was made to use the sanctions instrument.
I just want to remind you that now we can turn back and look at what was happening then, doing that objectively, based on the available facts, unemotionally and with a cool head. I think there is no longer anyone who would doubt that it was Washington under the Obama administration that “helped” to stage a coup in Kiev. Later a story was invented about a “Russian aggression” and fed to the media. Still later a story about Russian “interference in US elections” was added.
As for the use-of-force scenario, even if it was in existence, as Ambassador Tefft says, they certainly came to their senses in time. The logic that it is inadmissible to play these games must have gained the upper hand. But we constantly see other attempts. A military option was implemented in Iraq, involving a direct intervention in disregard of international law. The same was done with Libya and prior to that a similar experiment was performed on Belgrade. They also had a go at Syria. The picture is there for all to see. The sanctions story, as a foreign media representative told us earlier today, has led to quite significant economic losses in the United States, and a strong sanctions blow has fallen on the European countries. Sanctions make no sense as a factor of pressure. John Tefft himself said as much in his interview. According to him, the sanctions policy is a “blunt instrument.”
US intelligence veterans recently sent a letter to US President Donald Trump, questioning the much-hyped allegations of Russian meddling in the US election. Does this point to a glimpse of common sense in US public opinion?
I won’t draw any global conclusions as to whether or not there is such a glimpse. We are working to ensure that there is. As for whether it actually exists or is lacking, that is a different question.
We have widely commented on this issue. As you well remember, Russia’s interference in the election was invented under the previous administration, by Democratic Party representatives, candidates, people who are on the same ideological wavelength. That planted story was picked up by all world media outlets not only as an excuse for causing an uproar but also as an opportunity to score extra points by those who have made Russophobia their professional stock in trade, those who lost but refused to concede defeat and were looking around for some explanation and justification in the public eye.
To reiterate, those statements were not substantiated with facts. Neither officially nor via diplomatic channels did we receive any conclusive evidence from the Americans as to how, in their opinion, such interference could have been carried out.
We reaffirm our position to that effect. It is immutable. Russia has not meddled and is not meddling in the affairs of other sovereign states in any way and it has nothing to do with the outcome of US elections.
It may be recalled that when Wikileaks threatened to publish Hillary Clinton’s emails, it became clear that there had been yet another leak of sensitive information. However, whereas prior to that, it was very difficult to find informers, at that moment the Democratic National Committee miraculously announced (and that was done within the shortest possible time frame) that unnamed intelligence agencies had provided evidence (again no facts, no names) showing that this time the leak clearly had a Russian trail. The subsequent allegations were built on that “evidence.”
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this is definitely a mainstream story. It’s gone viral. However, there are also other opinions. In particular, in late July, US intelligence service veterans from Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity published a memorandum addressed to President Trump regarding their investigation into the so-called Russian hacking. They conducted their own independent investigation. The results were just plain shocking for the mainstream media because they said Russia had nothing to do with it. Their forensic study provided what they regard as incontrovertible evidence that Russia had no role in the hack and even that the data had been copied, not hacked. Therefore, the leak could not have resulted from a hacking attack. Somebody apparently copied the information from the Democratic Party server. And it is clear who has direct access to Democratic Party computers at its headquarters or wherever. Certainly not Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. So, if this was about data copying, it could only have been done on US territory. As the intelligence veterans write, the Russians have become an ideal cover.
We hope that these data will help and provide an opportunity for an alternative look at the situation. We are not saying that this was in fact the case. We do not have such evidence. However, at least there should be a perception that the mainstream does not preclude the existence of alternative points of view.
Polish Deputy Minister of Culture Jaroslaw Sellin has said that Poland suffered the biggest human losses in WWII. He also said the world should be reminded that Poland was the biggest victim of WWII, a war unleashed by Germany and the Soviet Union. Will you comment on this?
Of course, such statements deserve political comments because they are made for political reasons and are politically charged. I would recommend people to start by reading documents and learning historical facts. We know very well why monuments are being torn down in Poland. We are told that these monuments are in a state of disrepair or that local people don’t want them to be there, but we know that this is not so, that it is a political put-up job. Was this job ordered by political forces inside Poland or by some external agents? It could be a hybrid contract whose idea was suggested by external agents but took its final shape in Poland. This remains unclear. I think history will eventually pass judgement on it. But we know that these are links in the same chain. They tear down the monuments that were put up with contribution from and in accordance with the wishes of Polish people, although certainly not all of them. But these monuments were put up and Polish people laid flowers to them.
Why was this campaign launched now? We never said that Poles were at one on the reasons for the war, its consequences and on what happened immediately after the war. But why is all this happening now, including the monuments, the Sobibor death camp, the statements you have mentioned, and other, even more appalling statements that it was not the Red or Soviet Army but Ukrainians who liberated the Auschwitz death camp? This reference to ethnicity is abominable. It’s terrible when people are classified by their ethnic origin. Why did none of this happen 10 or 20 years ago? This problem does not concern different social systems or even the side which Poland has taken. Regrettably, the number of those who witnessed those events is rapidly decreasing. It was dangerous to make such statements before, because they would have been refuted by the Polish war veterans who fought together with Soviet soldiers to liberate Poland and who laid flowers at these monuments. There are precious few of these witnesses left around the world; they are few and far between. The new generations that have come forward are ready to rewrite history to suit their political interests and to serve their purposes.
But we still have the decisions of the Nuremberg Trial. These documents cannot be rewritten. They provide a clear picture of the aggressor, the victims and the history of WWII. I think people should read these documents every now and then.
As for who suffered the biggest losses, I don’t think this issue should be debated. It can be said that humanity suffered colossal losses. This would be the right thing to say. It can also be said that we must not allow history to be played with and manipulated mindlessly if we want to prevent losses such as the world suffered in WWII.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2850802
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|2 Weeks Ago||#223|
Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
31 August 2017 - 19:33
On August 31, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the latter’s request.
The Secretary of State called to inform the Russian side that in the near future additional restrictions on the activities of Russian diplomatic missions in the United States will be announced and outlined their main points. In response, Mr Lavrov expressed regret at the escalation of tension in bilateral relations, which was not initiated by Russia, and said that Moscow will carefully review the new measures announced by the United States, and will inform about its reaction.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2850825
Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on the new hostile acts by the US against Russian diplomatic missions in the US
1 September 2017 - 21:26
On August 31, the US authorities announced unprecedented restrictive measures against Russian diplomatic and consular missions in the US, requiring us to close, in a matter of two days, the consulate general in San Francisco, one of the largest Russian consulates in the US that provides visa, notary and other consular services to Russian and US nationals from across a number of densely populated states. Russia is also required to close without delay its Trade Representation in Washington, D.C. and its annex in New York. The US also tightened requirements regarding the mobility of Russian diplomats and official delegations.
This move is yet another blatant violation of international law, including the commitments undertaken by the US under the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations. It goes far beyond Washington’s previous initiatives, which included the expropriation by the Barack Obama administration in December 2016 of countryside retreats of the Russian Embassy and Permanent Mission to the UN, despite their immunity status.
Following the illegal seizure of high-value Russian state property, we are being pushed to sell them. On top of that, the latest demands announced by the US pose a direct threat to the security and safety of Russian citizens. The US secret services intend to conduct a search of the Consulate General in San Francisco on September 2, including the apartments of its staff who live in the building and have immunity. In this connection, they were ordered to leave the premises for a period of 10 to 12 hours with their families, including small children and even infants. This is an intrusion into a consular office and the residence of diplomatic workers, who are forced outside so as not to stand in the way of the FBI agents.
With these defiant moves, the US continues to worsen an already complicated bilateral climate and undermines opportunities for working together, including on solutions to urgent international issues.
It is especially dismaying that these measures will hurt tens of thousands of ordinary people from both countries who are far from politics. By stopping issuing visas to Russian nationals at its consulates general in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, and now depriving US citizens of the possibility to obtain Russian visas in San Francisco, the US clearly shows that it has no interest in promoting people-to-people ties. In fact, this builds on the Barack Obama administration’s policy whereby back in 2013 the FBI tried to intimidate Americans wishing to take part in trips to Russia sponsored by Russia’s Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation, and in 2016 the US Department of State stripped of their credentials five Russian honorary consuls in various states, who were proactive in promoting social exchanges.
Russia strongly protests against Washington’s actions that defy international law, and reserves the possibility to take retaliatory action, as is customary in diplomatic affairs. This was not Russia’s choice. It was imposed on us.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2851688
Press release on summoning the Minister Counselor of the US Embassy to the Russian Foreign Ministry
2 September 2017 - 14:44
Minister Counselor of the US Embassy in Moscow Anthony Godfrey was summoned to appear at the Russian Foreign Ministry on September 2. He was handed a note of protest regarding the US authorities conducting a search of Russia’s Trade Representation office in Washington, access to which has been closed to us as of today, although this building is in Russia’s state ownership and has diplomatic immunity status.
It is underlined in the note that we consider the illegitimate search of the Russian premises without the presence of Russian officials and the expressed threat to break down the entrance door as an unprecedented, aggressive act, which could be used by US special services to stage an anti-Russian provocation by planting compromising items.
The US authorities must stop these crude breaches of international law and cease encroaching on the immunity of Russian diplomatic missions. Otherwise we reserve the right to take retaliatory measures based on the principle of reciprocity.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2851761
Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
3 September 2017 - 11:43
On September 2, US authorities seized the buildings of the General Consulate of the Russian Federation in San Francisco and the Trade Representation in Washington, D.C., which are the property of Russia and have a diplomatic immunity. Russian representatives are also being denied access to the rented premises of the Trade Representation in New York.
This outrageous move is in line with actual expropriation of Russia-owned countryside residences near Washington, D.C. and New York last December. At present, the US special services supported by armed police are in control of the seized buildings.
We treat these developments as a blatantly hostile act, a grave violation by Washington of international law, including the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations and the bilateral Convention on Consular Relations.
We urge the US authorities to come to their senses and to immediately return the Russian diplomatic facilities. Otherwise the USA will bear the total blame for the ongoing degradation of the relations between our countries, on which the current condition of the global stability and international security largely depends.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2851819
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|2 Weeks Ago||#224|
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the opening of the Primakov Regional School, Moscow Region, September 1, 2017
1 September 2017 - 10:35
Dear friends, primarily first graders and everyone else who has come to this wonderful school for the first time. You will be able to go in for sports here and also to study the history of your country and other subjects in two languages.
This is a marvellous project. I am sincerely grateful to Moscow Region Governor Andrey Vorobyov for joining this project at the very start. He also proposed that the school be named after Yevgeny Primakov. We are also grateful to Mr Primakov’s widow Irina and other members of his family for approving this proposal. It goes without saying that the Foreign Ministry has supported this initiative implicitly.
Naming this school after Yevgeny Primakov is one more contribution to perpetuating the memory of him as an outstanding politician, statesman, diplomat and scientist, as well as an example to emulate for all of us. One of his distinguishing features was the ability to keep learning right up until his dying day, to listen and work in a team, but also to think independently. I believe that your wonderful teachers, including Russian teachers and those who have come from foreign countries, will do their best to help you learn to think independently and also the ability to work in a team, to make friends and interact with each other so as to be able to develop as individuals who will use their thorough knowledge of Russia’s history and traditions and understanding of its place in international affairs to help the country deal with the problems it will come across.
I wish this project success. I am confident that it will energise you and that you will be able to study and acquire knowledge in a very comfortable way here, especially considering that you will do so in two languages, including in English. This will definitely help you increase your brain power and will broaden your horizons.
I wish you every success in your lives. And I hope that in many years to come, when new first graders come to this school for the first time in the year of the school’s round anniversary, which governors, ministers and teachers will come to celebrate, the person who opens the ceremony will tell the new pupils that this school graduated highly distinguished persons, and he or she will name your very names.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2851005
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at a meeting with the students and faculty of MGIMO University and the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Moscow, September 1, 2017
1 September 2017 - 13:59
I am happy to welcome all of you to our meeting, traditionally held at the beginning of the academic year, including the students, faculty and management of MGIMO University and the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but primarily the first-year students. A new stage has begun in their adult lives. They have joined those who will devote their lives to international relations as diplomats, journalists, business people or other international affairs professionals. There are many professions that depend on the international factor.
I have come here from the opening ceremony at the Primakov School, which has opened today in the Moscow Region. At the first day of the new academic year at the Primakov School, we talked about the importance of the rising generation in Russia. This subject is also of concern to you, because in a relatively short while you will assume responsibility for the further development of our Fatherland and for the protection of its interests on the international stage. Russia can only develop effectively under favourable external conditions, which can be created through the pursuit of a responsible and independent foreign policy aimed at upholding national interests. This has been our consistent policy.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin has said more than once that ongoing confrontation and attempts at isolating oneself or others are not Russia’s choice. We are open to cooperation with everyone who is ready for it but only on the basis of mutual respect, equality and consideration for the interests of each other, as well as compliance with international law in its entirety rather than in the parts that satisfy the short-term aspirations of any of our partners today.
Russia has a unique geostrategic position, substantial military-political and economic potential and the status of permanent member of the UN Security Council. Owing to these factors Russia is a key centre of human civilisation. We have repeatedly proved throughout history that we can successfully resolve the tasks of our domestic development, uphold our sovereignty and, if need be, to protect the rights of our compatriots abroad and support our allies. History has shown that nobody can subordinate us to foreign influence and try to resolve their problems at our expense. I am sure this will not happen in the future, either. Let me repeat that probably not all learn these lessons.
It is no secret that part of what is called the political elite of the West does not like our independent policy. They would like to deal with an obedient Russia that is ready to make concessions to its own detriment. And so they seek to punish us for upholding our lawful place in international affairs and the world. You certainly are familiar with these attempts to punish us. They are using various tools of deterrence, sanctions, and information warfare to distort our principled approach to various international issues and smear our foreign policy.
It is well-known who violated the basic principles of international law in the past few years – sovereign equality of states and commitments not to interfere in their internal affairs and to resolve all disputes by peaceful means. These principles are sealed in the UN Charter. We know who trampled on their obligations in the OSCE, resolutions of the UN Security Council, who bombed Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya and wreaked havoc in the Middle East and North Africa, and who allowed the emergence of the terrorist international that spawned al-Qaeda, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, which are now the main enemies of all humankind.
Russia has always opposed and will oppose lawlessness in the world arena. Quite recently, Russia and China signed a declaration on upgrading the role of international law in interstate relations and disseminated it as an official UN document. We invited other nations to discuss it but our Western partners are not enthusiastic. Be that as it may, we will continue actively working to stabilise the world order.
Importantly, in doing so we are not striving to restore empire or achieve geopolitical or some other form of expansion. All we want is to build our own lives ourselves, without foreign prompting and unwelcome advice, without attempts to incite against us friendly and kindred nations with whom we are bound by many centuries of shared history, culture, traditions and family ties. We are not imposing our views or advice on anyone, but as I have already said, we do not accept anyone’s claims of exceptionalism, or the logic of “Gods may do what cattle may not.”
We see that many Western politicians find it difficult to accept the obvious – the post-bipolar era is over. The hopes of replacing it with hegemony were not realised. Today we are witnessing the development of a new, more just and democratic polycentric arrangement based on the emergence and consolidation of new centres of economic power and related political influence. Guided by their own national interests, countries and emerging power centres are striving to play an active role in the formation of the international agenda to make it reflect their interests and are confidently assuming their share of responsibility for maintaining security and stability at different levels. In effect, a multi-polar system reflects the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world, the desire of nations to decide their destinies themselves and a natural striving for justice as envisioned by those who wrote the UN Charter. Having re-read it, we will understand that those who seek more justice in world affairs are not asking for anything extraordinary.
A small group of Western states, which strive to thwart the aspirations of peoples and stoop to diktat and the use of force in circumvention of the UN Security Council, is certainly standing in the way of forming a multipolar world order, but no one can stop this objective and relentless process.
We are convinced that there’s no alternative to reviving the culture of dialogue, searching for compromise solutions, and returning to creative diplomacy as a tool for coordinating generally acceptable solutions in politics, economy, finance, and environment. The countries of the world must join their efforts and maintain a balance of interests if they want to come up with effective solutions, and this must be done without delay.
Recent tensions have come at a cost for international stability. Of particular concern are persistent efforts by NATO to reshape the military-political situation in the Euro-Atlantic area, including the build-up of military presence and infrastructure in the regions bordering on Russia, and, of course, the creation of a European segment of US global missile defence. Probably, those who initiate such unconstructive actions realise that we can reliably ensure our sovereignty and security under any scenario that may come our way. However, being a responsible country, we are firmly committed to the declarations made by the OSCE and the Russia-NATO Council over the past 20 years. We all want to form a security space in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasia that is equal for all. None of us will try to improve one’s own security at the expense of the security of others. Unfortunately, these declarations remained on paper as political promises. Our attempts to make them legally binding were rejected by Western countries. I’m convinced that if it turned out the other way, and if equal and indivisible security was actually legally binding, then many current conflicts in Europe would have been settled a long time ago. I think this is true of the Transnistrian, Karabakh, and Kosovo conflicts. With legally binding equal security regulations, we could have agreed on the non-use of force in Transcaucasia, which we have long been trying to achieve. The most recent Ukraine crisis probably would not have taken place, if we all respected our OSCE commitments of equal and indivisible security.
Nonetheless, we will continue to seek to unite the efforts of all the countries in the Euro-Atlantic area and throughout the world to repel common terrible threats, primarily, the threat of international terrorism. We are helping the legitimate Syrian government to neutralise terrorists and are contributing to the general political process. We are working with all the parties involved and are not encouraging outside interference, based on the premise that the Syrians themselves should determine the future of their country. We are using the same principles in our dealings with all the parties to the crises in Libya, Iraq, and Yemen as we seek to overcome the challenges faced by these countries. We offer our assistance in resuming the Palestinian-Israeli talks, promote national reconciliation initiatives in Afghanistan and peaceful settlement of the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula.
The implementation of President Putin’s initiative to form the Greater Eurasian Partnership, which provides for establishing an open multilateral trade and economic cooperation between the countries participating in the EAEU, the SCO, ASEAN, and, possibly, other Asian and European countries, in the interest of forming a single economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, will take time to get implemented. This is a long-standing idea, but, given the lively interest in it on behalf of regional integration groups, it may well become a reality.
We hope that common sense and political wisdom will make it possible to restore our relations with the EU and its members based on genuine neighbourliness, predictability and openness.
With regard to our other neighbour, the United States, as President Putin put it, we are not looking for trouble with that country and have always been friendly with the American people. We are now open to constructive interaction inasmuch as it meets Russian interests. We sincerely want the bilateral political atmosphere to become normal. However, as you know, it takes two to tango. So far it seems like our American partners are more interested in solo break dancing.
We will continue to promote a positive agenda, mutually respectful approaches, and seek and find compromises. This is how we build our cooperation within the EAEU, the CSTO, the CIS, the SCO, BRICS, and, on a bilateral basis, without exaggeration, with the countries of all continents.
Thank you. I’m now ready to take your questions.
In July Russia, the United States and Jordan agreed to create a de-escalation zone in southwest Syria, but their initiative has met with harsh criticism from Israel. Can you explain the reason for that country’s reaction?
I would not say that this decision disregarded Israel’s security interests. When we considered this decision, we not only held discussions within the Russia-Jordan-USA group but we also informed our Israeli partners on the direction which our work was taking. When we completed the main part of our discussions (we are to coordinate yet the operation modalities of the given de-escalation zone, monitoring of developments within the zone and ceasefire violations, as well as humanitarian deliveries, although the zone has become operational), we were told, including during the Sochi meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin, that Israel was nevertheless bothered about its security. We can understand its concern. Our talks on the Middle Eastern questions, including Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian-Israeli questions, are held so as the agreements we reach – regrettably, they have been few so far – do not infringe on the security interests of Israel and any other country. We have assured our Israel colleagues that their worries, if any, about possible infringements on their security were unsubstantiated, because we are firmly committed to preventing such infringements. Evidence of this is the comment issued by Prime Minister Netanyahu after an Israeli newspaper alleged that his meeting with Vladimir Putin was not successful. Mr Netanyahu said that it was not true. I believe this fully answers your question.
Russian Emperor Nicholas I told the French Ambassador that he inherited extremely important tasks from his brother [Emperor Alexander I], and the most important of these was the [Middle] East. Henry Kissinger also pointed out that events in the East, primarily Syria, demonstrated a horrifying trend towards the disintegration of sovereignty, never-ending disputes and wars. The key role in this region is played by Middle Eastern powers, in particular, Qatar. How can the Syrian problem influence Russian-Qatari relations?
It is not surprising that such fire-breathing regions like the Middle East or the Balkans, which attract a variety of external actors (both neighbouring and distant ones), have been in the focus of global politics for centuries. You have connected this precept with Russian-Qatari relations. We have very good relations with all countries in this region, including the Gulf countries and also Arab countries, such as Iran, with which we are developing trust-based relations while trying to understand our partner’s practical interests in any situation. We do not agree with those who say that some countries in this region must be boxed in and kept within their national borders so that they would be unable to influence anyone or anything. This is impractical. Any country, be it big or small, has its own interests in the modern world, and these interests cannot be restricted to the national territory. There will always be a desire to work with compatriots or co-religionists.
We have recently visited Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. In a few days, we will go to Saudi Arabia and Jordan. We have good relations with all of these countries.
Regarding the Syrian crisis and its influence on our relations with Qatar, when the Obama administration proved unable to honour the agreements that we reached with [US Secretary of State] John Kerry in September 2016 (in other words, the US administration failed to implement its promise to separate the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists from the real opposition), we saw that we should look for other partners, who would be able to honour agreements. These partners are Turkey and Iran. We worked together to launch the Astana process, which Jordan and the United States (under the Trump administration) joined as observers. This process is underway, as evidenced by the concept of de-escalation zones, which has been approved and is being implemented within its framework. We have mentioned one of them, in southwest Syria. Other such zones have been created in Eastern Ghouta and near Homs. They are developing quite well and are dealing with the questions of patrols, monitoring and humanitarian aid. The Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry of Russia have urged international humanitarian organisations not to delay the delivery of humanitarian aid under the pretext of the alleged problems with the government of President al-Assad. There are no problems: humanitarian deliveries reach their destination safely if they are sent by the most effective routes. However, our partners have tried to use the cross-border routes from Turkey and Jordan, which are not monitored by the UN. It is physically impossible to do this there, yet we need to know what these humanitarian convoys are delivering. I am sure that the majority of commodities are of a humanitarian nature, but violations are possible because various groups that are operating in these countries are not controlled by anyone. We want to preclude such violations.
When we started working with Iran and Turkey in the Astana format, we asked our Arab colleagues in the region if they are satisfied with this format. Qatar and Saudi Arabia said that Turkey represented their approaches to a Syrian settlement, but we also maintained bilateral dialogues with Riyadh and Doha nevertheless. My recent visit to Qatar has shown that there are some minor differences in our approaches: we have closer relations with the pro-government forces, while they have close relations with the opposition. However, Qatar and Russia share the desire to stop the war and agree on the importance of using de-escalation zones for this purpose and developing direct dialogue between all non-terrorist armed groups and the Syrian government. Our Qatari colleagues have reaffirmed their focus on the secular nature of Syria where all ethnic and religious groups have equal rights and protection.
As I have said, easy partners are an almost impossible thing, but if you listen to and try to hear your interlocutor, and if he reciprocates, you will find solutions that will allow you to move forward. This is much more difficult but a million times more productive than demanding that everyone do as you say and slapping sanctions without any diplomatic discussions on everyone who disobeys your orders.
What were your impressions from your first foreign trip?
After graduating from the institute, I went to work as an assistant secretary to the Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. When our plane with several people, including on-duty superintendents, landed, we saw a minivan with an Embassy official and a driver. It was already dark as we drove off. The frogs were croaking, and the cicadas were making a lot of noise. About 20 minutes later, we asked how far the city was, and were told that we were already in the city.
I spent four years in that wonderful country where a civil war had just ended. Nature had lavished magnificent beaches on Sri Lanka which also has wonderful mountain areas. It takes just a few hours to travel from the mountains with a comfortable climate to a hot beach. Of course, the country has some interesting historical landmarks, including the old city of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Adam’s Peak where, according to legend, Adam and Eve went after being expelled from the Garden of Eden. A civil war had just ended in the country, and much was in disarray.
The second time I went to Sri Lanka was four years ago, and I immediately felt nostalgic. I liked the fact that the country was developing steadily and becoming more beautiful. We considered it most important that a new Russian Embassy building had been built there. They began to design the building in 1973 while I was still in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, delayed construction projects are also typical of our foreign partners; true, that project had encountered some bureaucratic difficulties. I am very happy to see that wonderful Embassy building.
Your first business trip is always about discovering a new world and new friends. Anyone who has travelled abroad as a tourist, before working there, is another story. While on assignment, you communicate, realising that this is part of your work, and that, ideally, you should feel happy when speaking with your foreign partners, and you should also understand how this will help you formulate various things in line with your official duties.
As we know, France has played an important role in the European Union since its foundation. Will the trajectory of this association’s development change now that a new French leader has assumed power?
French President Emmanuel Macron is promising exactly this and saying that he will soon come up with ideas on how to invigorate and revive Europe, how to restore active interest in addressing its problems and overcoming difficulties linked with Brexit and, let’s put it straight, with the predominance of bureaucracy in Brussels. This is causing discontent among open critics of the European Commission, including Poland, Hungary and some other countries, as well as among old-time members, including Germany and France. This latent process is being felt. Well, this is understandable: Germany is the most powerful country; and maybe, this should be reflected in the way the EU functions and also in the EU’s decision-making process. Those boasting greater economic, political and financial weight have the right to demand that their voice be heard louder and weightier. However, EU commissioners often consider themselves to be the most important people, and they therefore see to it that national governments can be ignored, as is now the case with the Nord Stream 2 project. The legal service of the European Commission itself has officially concluded that the project does not violate EU regulations in any way and does not require any further coordination, but certain EU commissioners are saying that this is what their legal service has said, but that they will think differently. This is an example of how Brussels’ actions are perceived as hampering the implementation of mutually beneficial projects.
In the past few years, France has really been more preoccupied with foreign policy initiatives and has paid little attention to Europe, apparently giving Berlin an opportunity to act as leader. President Emmanuel Macron has now said that he considers it important to preserve the German-French tandem and to make it better balanced. This is his decision. We will watch and reach conclusions because we are not indifferent to the way the EU develops. We would like to see it as an integral and powerful entity relying on the principles of interstate communication that have always been used in normal situations, including equality, mutual respect and the search for a balance of interests.
It appears that Washington perceives Russian diplomatic property in the United States as a “bargaining chip.” Is this true? If so, what do they want in return?
To be honest, I don’t even want to comment on this.
We are witnessing some paroxysms linked with the very same exceptionalism that President Barack Obama repeatedly emphasised, arrogantly showing a place that, in his opinion, all other countries must occupy.
Anti-Russia sanctions began back in 2013, long before the Ukrainian developments. Various pretexts were invented. The tragedy around lawyer Sergey Magnitsky was over-exaggerated. Many interesting facts are now coming to light; and those who incited this scandal and declared sanctions on its basis are trying to hush up these facts, to influence courts examining lawsuits against the very same Bill Browder who, as our investigators firmly believe, was directly linked with frauds that had led to the death of Sergey Magnitsky. Other sanctions followed. They were offended by the fact that Edward Snowden decided not to fly to a country where he would have faced the death penalty but requested asylum here for humanitarian reasons. In 2013, President Obama even cancelled his visit to Moscow that had been coordinated in the run-up to the G20 summit in St Petersburg.
An inability to perceive reality was very typical of the Obama administration. Edward Snowden had requested political asylum in Russia at a time when millions of people are requesting political asylum in the United States. They also abduct some people and bring any conceivable charges against them. Quite possibly, Edward Snowden did commit some actions that are seen as illegal by US legislation. But the United States never extradited any people to us, even those who had committed crimes in Russia. He did not violate anything in Russia and asked the Russian authorities to protect him from the US judiciary system that might well have sentenced him to be executed in the electric chair.
Here is another highly important fact: Snowden’s passport was cancelled, while he was flying from Hong Kong to Moscow where he wanted to board a flight to Latin America. Under all laws, including international laws, we had no right to let him out of the airport where the decision to grant him asylum was made.
Quite possibly, President Obama had experienced certain complexes, and this was manifested in his inability to fulfil an agreement on the Syrian settlement. The Americans simply proved unable to do what had been agreed upon and what unequivocally met their interests. Maybe, they did not want to separate the very same Jabhat al-Nusra and to stop cooperating with it, or, maybe, they proved unable to do this. Our suspicions always revolved around the fact that they wanted to eventually use this organisation for overthrowing the Bashar al-Assad regime. So far, these suspicions are backed by nothing except facts implying that they are not fighting against Jabhat al-Nusra, and that they have failed to keep their promise to isolate it.
It was possibly disappointment in foreign policy results and the Democrats’ defeat at the presidential election that compelled Barack Obama to make an absolutely uncivil decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats, or more than 100 people together with their families one day before the New Year and giving them two days to pack up and leave. As a result, they could not take the direct Moscow-Washington flight, which left in three days, and had to travel with their children and luggage over 500 kilometres to New York in difficult conditions. It was not an honourable thing to do, something we could hardly expect from a holder of the Nobel Peace Prize. Tough conditions were created for our people, so that they would have to deal with as many physical and household problems as possible because they had only been given two days to pack up and leave. Of course, we sent a plane there to evacuate our people.
In addition, the Americans seized, or you can say nationalised, Russian property. We hoped that the incumbent US administration would show good sense on this matter, but Russia haters in Congress have prevented this. They have adopted a law under which we cannot regain our property without congressional approval. With the current Congress and anti-Russia hysterics [in the United States], this is virtually impossible. What happened has also violated American laws, because this is Russian property, and property in the United States can only be seized by a court decision. But this has not stopped them, which shows that they have an idiosyncratic understanding of a state ruled by law.
As you know, we have provided a commensurate reply. We did not go to extremes but only asked the United States to adjust the number of Russian and American diplomats in our countries. We even generously included the Russian Permanent Mission to the UN in this number, although this mission, which includes over 150 persons, is not connected in any way to Russian-US relations and is accredited at the UN Secretary-General and not at the White House. In other words, we gave the Americans a chance to have 150 more people dealing with bilateral relations in Russia than the number of Russian personnel dealing with these matters in the United States. We believed that this would be fair. We also asked the Americans to stop using the property in Russia, which is not in the same league with the [seized] Russian facilities near Washington and New York. The Russian property in the United States includes facilities for recreation and sports and for receiving foreign guests, whereas the Americans only had a small facility in Serebryanny Bor and a small warehouse for storing things.
Regarding what US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told me yesterday and what the subsequent American note said, I have mixed feelings about this. They clearly decided to act in accordance with our logic, according to which 455 diplomats is a parity figure, and so have cut the number of Russian general consulates in the United States by one. We had general consulates in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Houston. The story goes a long way back to the Soviet era, when the United States had four general consulates, one each in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Vladivostok and Kiev. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Kiev ceased to be a part of Russia, and so we suggested that the United States open a fourth general consulate in Russia. They declined the offer, saying that three consulates were enough. Of course, one can talk about parity in this case, but this is a highly specific parity, because, as I have said, we included the personnel of the Russian Mission to the UN in the overall count. I am telling you this but there is no need to go into all the details now.
I will only say that the order to close the Russian consulate general in San Francisco also included the order to vacate it within 48 hours. We gave the Americans a month to adjust the number of their personnel, whereas they had given the 35 Russian diplomats and their families two days to leave the United States. And now they set the same deadline in San Francisco. Of course, they have told us that those who worked at the consulate general and two other offices in Washington and new York, which dealt mostly with economic matters, are not obliged to leave the country if they do not want to, but can be transferred to our other offices, for example, the Embassy in Washington or the general consulates in Seattle or New York.
We received this note last night. We are analysing it now and will respond as soon as we can. I also want to say that this story with the exchange of sanctions did not originate in Russia. It was initiated by the Obama administration with the intention of damaging Russian-US relations, to prevent Donald Trump from beginning his term with constructive actions and to hinder his efforts to implement his election promises to normalise relations with Russia as much as possible. President Trump keeps talking about the need to normalise relations with Russia. President Putin has said repeatedly that we are interested in this as well, but movement towards each other must be based on mutual respect. We are ready for this. Discussions of this possibility will go on regardless of when and how we respond to the latest US action.
In the fifth year of Russia’s membership in the WTO, a bill to denounce Russia’s accession protocol was introduced in the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of Russia. How, in your opinion, does the current political situation influence the economic aspect of Russia’s membership in the WTO?
It is completely clear that this influence is not positive. We have said many times that the sectoral trade and economic sanctions imposed on us undermine the principles and the spirit of the WTO and the agreements reached in its framework. We have also spoken repeatedly about how the plans to create closed regional economic blocs, hatched by the Obama administration, also pose risks for the global open trade system represented by the WTO.
Now that we have been forced to take measures in response to the completely illegitimate EU and US sanctions, there are many trade disputes that are not easy to solve in the current situation. We are always in favour of settling all disputes based on mutually acceptable agreements outside arbitration procedures. It cannot be done always. The short answer is “yes.” It doesn’t help Russia effectively use all the advantages that it definitely has, provided all the WTO mechanisms function in the regular way.
I am a Belarusian citizen. Recently Poland adopted a law to dismantle statues of the Soviet period, including several hundred monuments dedicated to Red Army soldiers who liberated Poland and all Europe from Nazism at the cost of their lives. This outrageous decision is insulting to Russia and other countries that participated in the struggle against Nazism. What, in your opinion, is the reason for Poland’s behaviour? How could we prevent the negative consequences of these activities?
I believe that the reason is the people who stir up nationalist sentiment in Polish society, zealously rewrite history, try to revive Polish nationalism rooted in exceptionalism, and seek to lay the blame for all Poland’s woes at Russia’s door. All this involves activities held now with the aim of presenting the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact as the beginning and true cause of World War II, forgetting that, when Czechoslovakia was divided as a result of the Munich Agreement, Poland silently grabbed a very tasty morsel. Polish authorities prefer to keep silent about how this was a serious impetus behind the growing potential for conflict in Europe. They do not mention either that long before the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the UK and France signed similar agreements with Nazi Germany. I will not refer to more ancient history, the time when Poland promoted Three Seas ideas seeking to consolidate its influence along Russian borders, or when Poland attempted to consolidate its position inside Russia at the expense of our land.
Russia and Poland have a Joint Group to address complicated issues. Both countries have the right to their own opinions on history, their neighbours’ history and the history of relations with other countries. This Commission worked well enough. At certain stages we published joint articles and we even had an idea to publish a joint textbook dedicated to a considerable period of relations between Russia/USSR and Poland. Poland is currently blocking absolutely all types of interaction between us: commissions that operated under the auspices of our foreign ministers with the participation of other departments and a wide range of other channels. Poland is trying to take advantage of the declared existence of this Group to impose its understanding of the situation. When the situation involves facts that you mentioned in your question, all this is absolutely unacceptable.
You know that Poles have many problems with interpreting the events of World War II, and not only with Russia. Recently they had trouble with Ukrainians when vandals desecrated graves at a cemetery in Lvov. Ukraine could not find anything better than to blame Russians again, alleging that it was done by Russian bandits.
I believe that bringing these historical fancies into modern politics is very dangerous. We can see that Poland “brainwashes” its population to be anti-Russian. Simultaneous statements that they are ready to communicate and invitations to meetings only underscore that it is impossible currently.
Poland is constantly fanning lies about the tragedy that happened in April 2010 when the plane of Polish President Lech Kaczynski with many Polish politicians on board crashed near Smolensk after hitting a birch-tree in poor visibility when everyone advised against coming in to land.
All the facts were established a long time ago. Now they are trying to make absurd claims that some explosives have been discovered on the wings of the plane. Everything was agreed upon with our Polish colleagues long ago and they signed off on everything.
It is difficult to add anything to this. I can see the obsession to create an atmosphere of complete antagonism to everything Russian in Poland. This is bad and absolutely against the principles under which Poland put its signature when joining the UN and when the OSCE was created. The OSCE is taking notice of this and gradually starting to criticise Poland. I hope that if this situation persists, these ultra-nationalist sentiments will draw more serious criticism.
Speaking about the future of Russian diplomacy, could you tell us what should it have as its basis for translating our foreign policy into action? Are there any ineffective methods that should be excluded, in other words, those that have already been exhausted?
If we speak in terms of policy regarding political methods, I have already said that the methods of dictating, ultimatums and sanctions are becoming obsolete. In my view, they should already be seen as exhausted. Why did I mention sanctions as part of diplomacy? As the discussion is unfolding about the DPRK and what should be done about it, we and the Chinese assert that all possible sanctions have been exhausted and will not prevent the DPRK from using external ties to develop missile and nuclear programmes prohibited by the UN Security Council. All imaginable and even unimaginable sanctions, which are barely related directly to those activities of the DPRK, have already been adopted by the UNSC. In addition, unilateral sanctions have been imposed which we consider absolutely illegitimate. If there are agreed UNSC sanctions on a certain issue, I think a participant of the agreement has neither the moral nor legal right to do anything more about it. Collective sanctions like a UNSC decision are mandatory for everyone. My conviction is that nothing can be omitted in such a decision (failing to do what was agreed on), and nothing should be added to that. We and China are saying now that pressure methods have been exhausted, we are calling for conditions to be created to sit down at the negotiating table, and in response we hear that nobody wants a military solution (Russia and China, of course, also reject any military solution). But “diplomacy must go on” for this not to happen. When we ask about the method, we are offered a proposal to impose additional sanctions. Our Western partners with their mentality view sanctions as a diplomatic instrument. They should be dropped, and so should ultimatums.
The Americans have been pursuing this for a fairly long time, and Europeans are now getting used to it, too. As soon as they make a proposal which is worded in a lop-sided way and does not factor in the interests of the addressee, and we in response urge them to sit down, talk and discuss, they refuse to do so, citing the lack of time and referring to sanctions as a tool for “speeding things up.” This is what they are now trying to do in regard with South Sudan, which was deliberately cultivated and split off from Sudan by the Obama administration. Now the US seems to dislike something in South Sudan, and it wants to impose sanctions on that republic following the “my way or the highway” principle. It is formally a diplomatic stance but it should have no place in diplomacy.
Diplomacy has a consensus culture, a culture of searching for dialogue. Just like in any family, when you feel down but you want something from a friend or relative, you can shout (depending on whether the person is scared of you or not, he may agree or refuse), but it is always better to suppress all your nervous outbreaks and start looking for agreement. Let me emphasise it again, it takes longer than shouting with hope that someone will yield, yet it is the only way in the majority of cases.
If we consider the issue you asked about from the point of view of modern technologies, they should certainly be employed: social media, email as a means of delivering information, and many other things. As the new technological paradigm is developing, these opportunities will be expanding continuously, yet they will never replace direct human diplomacy via interaction for two reasons. Firstly, there are many hackers and leaks now, and they exist exactly in electronic media rather than in traditional forms of media. Many people will be too cautious to trust new technologies too much, at least for the most sensitive matters. Secondly, you cannot replace looking straight into another person’s eyes and understanding if they are answering you honestly rather than pondering how to word their reaction to your tweet. I think, that’s the way it is.
As to mistakes, they should be considered case by case. Someone made a mistake in the UN Security Council and US troops turned up on the Korean Peninsula in early 1950 as “UN troops.” This is a concrete example. The history of diplomacy should be considered in each particular case.
This year, we have been hearing alarming reports about the sentiments in the new US Administration regarding the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. It is obviously happening because this agreement does not meet the interests of the American elite. Considering that you have mentioned this in your address and that we have been witnessing for decades that international norms or the UN Charter rarely constrain its powers, what levers can be created? What methods can be employed to influence, including the US, to address important global issues that concern the whole of humanity?
I am convinced that this can be done only through dialogue and openness to dialogue based on equality, readiness to hear real concerns that have caused the US to quit the Paris Agreement and also the readiness and need to hear real concerns of any country that changes its position on any international document. This is not the first time.
In his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to do several specific things: to close the illegal base in Guantanamo (which he failed to do) and ratify, among other things, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He stopped even mentioning the latter a few years later, failing to act on this promise either. This is serious stuff, perhaps, even more serious than the climate agreement. In essence, it is up to each country. Hence the power of international agreements and conventions – they are joined on a voluntary basis. A country that has seen that the text does not meet its interests has the right to refuse to join it. Likewise, many countries refuse to join the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Russia signed it but watched cautiously how it was starting to work. Eventually, we pulled out of the agreement after the court’s prosecutor acted absolutely improperly, refusing to consider complaints of South Ossetian residents regarding the Georgian army’s attacks. Instead, the prosecutor announced that he would be considering the South Ossetians’ actions against the Georgian attackers.
As for the Paris Agreement, it is a framework document and is not directly applicable. When we signed it, we clearly said that we will consider its ratification depending on the mechanism of its implementation. Under the agreement, after the framework agreement has been approved, the signatory countries have to start negotiations on what the agreement actually means, including the shares of emission cuts and how and who will be monitoring them. This is the most important thing because the agreement is essentially nothing but a concretised slogan. There is no mechanism for its implementation. We will wait for it to be coordinated, and see how clear it can be made and whether it will meet our interests and interests of other countries, and how viable it is going to be. Any country has this undisputed right to suspend its accession to an international convention. But whatever the circumstances, talking and persuasion are important. During his campaign, US President Donald Trump promised to review many foreign policy areas in the military, political, economic, trade and environmental spheres. The US Administration is working on its position, but somebody is interfering with its work and trying to do everything to keep it in this broken down condition. Several hundred second-tier officials – deputy heads and lower-ranking officials – have not been appointed, and even more so, they have not even been nominated for Congressional consideration. There are attempts to tie [President Trump’s] hands, to invent stories of Russian meddling and Donald Trump and his family’s ties to Russia. It will soon be ten months since this topic started being discussed in the US. It was first mentioned on the eve of the presidential vote, but not a single fact has been put on the table so far. I think these adults who hold top positions in the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of the US government should be ashamed of themselves.
The meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump was one of the main intrigues of the G20 summit. Earlier you mentioned that it would bring clarity to future relations between these two countries. Have these expectations been met? What will change in Russia-US relations?
I believe no one can ever make things 100 percent clear, even if you meet a million times. However, it became clear that Donald Trump, as he himself repeatedly stated after the meeting (including most recently), is interested in normalising relations with the Russian Federation. This is a reciprocal desire. We have exactly the same position. We are ready to move at the speed and to the extent that is comfortable for the Trump Administration. We understand that they are grilled every time an opportunity presents itself, sorry for the lingo. We do not consider it necessary to be particularly active with regard to the United States, but we understand that they want to undermine the administration. It is in this context that we consider the sanctions that the US Congress is imposing upon President Trump (this no longer causes any doubt), the adoption of a law that is not so much directed against Russia as it is directed to achieve the same goal, to tie Donald Trump’s hands, and not to let him fully execute his constitutional powers in foreign policy.
Life is never monochrome, it always has much more to offer. Dialectics teaches us to take note of what is unacceptable and take into account hostile things that are being done with regard to you, to draw conclusions about your reaction, but it should be such that you don’t do harm to yourself in addition to the damage that someone has caused to you. Of course, we will provide tough responses to the things that harm us absolutely for nothing, and which are dictated only by the desire to spoil our relations with the United States.
What is Russia’s current position and role in international environmental cooperation?
I have just addressed that. We are part of the Paris climate accord, we want it to take shape so that we can judge how effectively it will be implemented. By circumstance, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the whole of our industry was “sitting on its hands” (and its subsequent recovery was not easy at all but with the use of modern environmentally friendly technologies), we now have a level of carbon dioxide emissions that will let us hit our target by 2030 without any problem. In fact, our carbon dioxide emissions will be way below the quota. Regarding the problems of climate change, our position is very stable and honest. But let me reiterate, we were helped by the deep crisis following the disintegration of the USSR. In principle, we would like to see the intensification and expansion of economic cooperation on the basis of a scientific analysis, not on the basis of panicky unequivocal claims and demands. A great number of in-depth scientific articles have been published lately on climate change which review the planet’s climate throughout several millennia. I am not an expert, but apparently, the decision-makers must be aware of that research. Someone told me that there are sceptical schools of thought who think that all those demands to introduce new expensive technologies (otherwise, they claim, the planet will “overheat” and face collapse) are very reminiscent of the Y2K scare. You might have forgotten, the Y2K scare was on the eve of the new millennium, and a huge number of people stressed the need to urgently buy new computers because those three zeros would just shut down old models. Someone sold a hefty batch of those computers around the world. Then, when old computers survived New Year’s Eve, we forgot about it. But it was considered a problem.
I don’t mean to say that the same is happening with climate change, far from it. Now we see emerging a body of scientific analysis of millennia-long observations. When frozen water of an underground lake was discovered in Antarctica, it was also instrumental in making conclusions concerning the analysis of climate change across many millennia. This is why we stand for a scientific approach. Russian President Vladimir Putin is now taking this approach in countering dumpsites, which is also an environmental issue. It is much more important to us, I think, than figuring out how important it will be to cut our carbon dioxide emissions. This is why we take an integrated approach to environment. I assure you that our position is met with great respect at international environmental conferences, we have a number of ideas and proposals which ultimately become a subject of international agreements.
Mr Lavrov, many students look up to you and measure themselves by you. Who was your idol when you were a student?
This is not quite accurate, since I had many idols. This word was not commonly used back then, and was reserved mostly for fiction writing. However, there were people that we considered an example to follow and wanted to be like. For example, Evgeny Primakov is undoubtedly one such role model. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Idol is like someone higher, and the people we thought of as role models - you will probably not know their names, so I will not give them, so as not to miss someone and hurt their feelings. These are the people who showed me the ropes when I graduated from Moscow State Institute of International Relations and joined the Foreign Ministry for a couple of months before leaving for Sri Lanka. I am very grateful to all of them. I still get together with many of them and talk. Here, you also have teachers who will surely stay in your memory long after you successfully graduate from this excellent educational institution.
As recently reported, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova sent a request to the United Nations to withdraw Russian peacekeepers from Transnistria, to which President of Transnistria Vadim Krasnoselsky said that in this case there will most likely be a war. How do you assess this situation? What are the risks of this conflict continuing to worsen?
I do not think that we should be the doomsayers and predict war. Nobody wants it, except those who were behind the Moldovan government when it wrote a note about the need to withdraw our troops from Transnistria. Those who suggested that the Moldovan government should do so want a war between us and Ukraine, and between us and Moldova. This is a policy designed to restrain Russia. As they say, that’s all there is to it. The sanctions and everything else come from there. Our military stays in Transnistria based on agreements signed shortly after the hot phase of the conflict in the early 1990s was stopped thanks to the Russian army, following which the relevant unit of the Russian army was transformed into a joint group of Russian forces of Transnistria with the sole purpose of protecting the huge stocks of ammunition in the warehouses of Kolbasna. At the same time, peacekeeping forces were created, which also included our service personnel who engage in maintaining stability in the Dniester region.
Since the time these decisions were made, there has not been a single instance of hostilities in Transnistria. There were instances where tensions ran high, but no one ever fired a shot at anybody. Everyone realised that the withdrawal of our troops which protected the warehouses with ammunition depended on the success of the political settlement. That’s because the population of Transnistria - after they sensed the possibility of a hot war with Moldova, which was stopped - said that they won’t let the servicemen go or allow them to take away the weapons until they were granted the rights that had been agreed upon earlier. Civilians were literally throwing themselves down on the rails.
The process of planned settlement, under which Transnistria received a special status within the territorially intact Moldova, began in 2003. During the period when this agreement was being prepared, half of what was stored in these warehouses was taken away, and everything was fine. The rest of it would have been taken away a long time ago, if then President of Moldova Vladimir Voronin had not refused to sign the initialed text of the agreement, because he had received a phone call from Brussels. Everyone knows this.
That is why our servicemen are there. They will leave after proper conditions for removing these lethal supplies have been created. The people who prompt Moldova to perform such confrontational moves are the ones that impede the work of the 5+2 group, which was created under the auspices of the OSCE and engages in settlement. They do not need a settlement. They need to do something unpleasant for the Russian Federation in order to plunge us into another crisis.
Presidential elections in Russia will be held in 2018. There are not many outstanding, strong, and charismatic personalities like you who could assume responsibility for our country and lead the people. Do you consider yourself a presidential candidate?
No, I do not. Frankly, it’s not flattery, but a sincere statement, I find working with President Putin pleasant and comfortable. I’m aware that we still have a number of foreign policy goals that need to be achieved, and I consider the fact that the Foreign Ministry is actively engaged in this the most important cause of my life.
We know that the World Festival of Youth and Students will take place in Sochi in October, and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) is actively involved in the preparations. Do you plan to attend the festival?
Yes, I intend to visit the festival. We are now dealing with the logistics because there will be Valdai Discussion Club sessions there too, which will gather foreign guests and involve negotiations. We are trying to plan things so that we can see everything and meet with the festival participants.
In one of your answers, you described Iran as a partner of Russia. Some time ago, RBC Daily reported on a Russian-Iranian project to build a ship canal from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf. Can you comment on any information about this project? How would Russia benefit from this canal project? Is this project going to face opposition from the international community?
It is easier for me to comment on the first question: whether I can confirm this information. I do not know. The other questions are probably no longer relevant. But some people might indeed be flirting with this idea. Canals are currently a popular subject. Our friends in Nicaragua want to dig a canal across their territory parallel to the Panama Canal, they are seriously discussing it.
I have not heard anything about the canal you mentioned. All I know is that at some stage there were ideas to build a canal between the Black and the Caspian seas but scientific research proved it to be risky. But today I read that Ukrainian internet users are now voting on a project to dig a canal that would physically separate Crimea from Ukraine. Such ideas do pop up.
What international policy steps should Russia take to strengthen its national currency?
This is completely beyond my competence. I do not want to give any unprofessional advice. I believe our currency has now stabilised after its notorious plunge. What I have been reading in various publications, including in the West, is universally acknowledged. I cannot tell you how things are going to develop further. Follow specialist commentary.
You are well known not only as the Russian Foreign Minister but also as a versatile personality who writes verses and whose speeches are widely quoted for catchy phrases, because you have the individual style of a masterful and witty speaker. As a student, I keep wondering how someone can do his favourite job professionally, alertly and with such enthusiasm, but avoid being completely absorbed in it and still retain the inner world’s individual variety? How can a person seek perfection but remain professional and keep his or her identity? Can you give me and my colleagues some advice based on your personal experience?
It is hard to do self-analysis. For me, work has always been a priority, but do not follow this in your life. I never engage in leisure activities until I finish my work. I work so hard and fiercely to complete my work sooner, sometimes, perhaps at the expense of quality.
The situation on the Korean Peninsula has deteriorated dramatically over the past six months because of the growing number of North Korean missile launches and the harsh response from the United States. Russia is making every effort to preserve the peace. Do you think that Russia can prevent a US military interference in the affairs of the two Korean states?
Russia certainly cannot do this if it acts alone. This matter calls for common sense to be used by many countries. Russia and People’s Republic of China have developed common approaches and a common initiative, which the foreign ministers of Russia and China put forth in a statement issued on July 4, when President of China Xi Jinping visited Russia. This initiative has been made public at the UN – the UN Security Council and General Assembly, as well as in all resolutions. We would like to point out that all the resolutions that introduced UN Security Council sanctions include provisions on a peaceful solution, the resumption of talks and the like.
We warned that the world would find itself in such a situation: the spiral of confrontation has taken a very dangerous turn. The general procedure has not changed. Missile launches and nuclear tests in any country are followed by resolutions that approve sanctions against the given country. The next stage includes US military exercises and more launches in response to these exercises, followed by more resolutions and new sanctions. We proposed adopting a consistent approach to defusing tension. In this context, we supported China’s ‘double freeze’ initiative, under which North Korea ceases its nuclear missile tests, while the United States and South Korea cut the scale of their military drills. We discussed this idea back when John Kerry was US Secretary of State. The Americans’ reply then and under the Trump administration is that this is an unequal proposal because North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear tests have been prohibited by the UN Security Council, whereas military exercises are absolutely legitimate. We say in return that sticking to this legal logic will not do any good. Of course, nobody is accusing the Americans of violating international law, but when the world is sliding into a war, and the Americans have admitted that they are seriously considering a military scenario, the first step should be taken by the party that is smarter and stronger, if we want to prevent a war. There should be no doubt as to who is smarter and stronger in this case, but who knows?
US Secretary of Defence James Mattis has said several times that a military option in this situation entails a catastrophic number of casualties. The Americans have told us the same. We ask if US allies, that is, Japan and South Korea, would sustain the majority of casualties, but the Americans say that in a certain situation they would have no other alternative. This is a horrifying scenario. We will continue to urge for the resumption of talks. We know that the Americans are talking with Pyongyang via a semi-secret, or semi-official, or semi-academic channel. We have nothing against this. On the contrary, we will be happy if they come to an agreement on de-escalation, so that all sides calm down and sit down at the negotiating table.
We have a common goal: the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, so that there would be no nuclear weapons either in the north or in the south, neither their own or American nuclear weapons. However, it must be said that any country, including North Korea, has a right to security guarantees. Many regime change threats and promises to reunite the two Korean states forcefully have been made. In this context, I was happy when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a four-point statement, saying that the United States does not seek a regime change, the collapse of the regime, an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, or an excuse to send the US military north of the 38th parallel. These are good words. Regrettably, they have not been translated into practical actions that could be used to launch the talks. We are using our channels for communications with all those involved in the six-party talks in an attempt to find something that would help all of us formulate a practical solution and lead the situation away from mutual military threats. Of course, such a solution will include North Korea’s firm pledge to stop [nuclear] tests and missile launches.
Famous British statesman William Gladstone said his first principle of foreign policy was good government at home. What do you make of this statement? Do you think he was right?
The stronger the country is economically, socially and in terms of security, the more efficient is its foreign policy. There is no doubt about it. The fact that our foreign policy has gained good momentum and reached the heights where nobody can afford to disregard Russia any more is a far cry from the 1990s when our economy was non-existent and the social sphere was in tatters. Certainly, we do have difficulties now due to the well-known circumstances, but our economy is effectively functioning. It has been universally acknowledged. We feel it on the foreign policy front; it is easier for us to work with this economy rather than the one we had in the 1990s.
It is common knowledge that you have an eventful and interesting biography. You have been to many countries and met many outstanding people, heads of state. What event in your diplomatic career became the most noteworthy and memorable, was a good lesson for you and, possibly, will become a lesson for us?
The most noteworthy moments of my life were not only related to my diplomatic service. I do not want to leave anything out. There were many episodes that made me feel satisfied with the work I have done, including a series of bilateral agreements that we concluded with neighbouring countries, namely the final settlement of the borders problem. It was crucial after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Another example is the agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme that took many years to reach. I hope we will not allow it to be undermined, though many in Washington are in favour of that. This is a bad idea as it does not fit into the nuclear non-proliferation regime but rather into the controlled chaos regime. As soon as something starts taking shape in a constructive way, those who like to fish in troubled waters deem it necessary to insert a new splinter. I also remember the Syria agreement with ex-US Secretary of State John Kerry a year ago, shortly after the meeting between Russian and US presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama in China where they finally came to terms on the remaining problem on the basis of a compromise in a conceptual way. We were supposed to put it on paper which took some time. The document was ready. It was a real breakthrough. I think if the Americans had not been so helpless in putting down Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Syrian crisis would be going through a political settlement without any aggravations. There are a lot of things. I have not given it much thought though. I have no plans to write memoirs, which is why I have not analysed the pleasant things of my life.
As numerous experts, including you, have already mentioned, a number of Western countries have developed, over the past several decades, a system for destabilising and violating the sovereignty of weaker, defenceless states. Over the past 20 or 30 years, this system has been successfully used in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Iraq, Libya and a number of other countries have fallen prey to it. However, in the case of Syria, when its President al-Assad, together with Russia, began to defend the sovereignty of his nation, many thought that this evil and unjust system may eventually collapse. Do you believe that victory in Syria will be a fundamental factor for changing the established system in the Middle East? If so, how will it change?
There’s no doubt that the Syrian settlement will certainly be a positive factor not only for the Middle East, but international relations in their entirety. At the very least, this will stop the string of the most brutal interventions that occurred in Iraq without any discussion in the UN Security Council, and in Libya, where the limited mandate issued by the UN Security Council was violated. Precisely the fact that Syria has opted for a different path, thanks, in part, to our assistance, is annoying for our Western partners. In an effort to preserve and maintain the dominance that they have enjoyed for many centuries, they are making such abrupt moves and committing rash acts.
By the way, they themselves are discussing the time for lifting their sanctions on us. We have been saying from day one that this is not our issue. Those who imposed them should be concerned about lifting them. We are not going to discuss any pre-conditions for lifting the sanctions. However, while talking between themselves and to the international community, the print press and the media, they keep mentioning that Russia must comply with the Minsk Agreements, although the Kiev regime is mentioned there 10 times, and Russia is not mentioned at all. Now many people are beginning to understand the absurdity of this prerequisite. In particular, German politicians are already publicly speaking about this. Nonetheless, they are saying that they want to lift sanctions and understand that it is important to interact with Russia, since dealing with many issues without Russia is difficult, but first it must comply with the Minsk Agreements. Then, the Syrian issue suddenly came to the forefront: if only Russia began to cooperate with us on Ukraine and ceased to support al-Assad in Syria, then we would be willing to lift the sanctions. Like in a Freudian slip, they are saying the truth that they don’t like anything where Russia has even the slightest positive role. Unfortunately, people like that are out there, but, on the plus side, their numbers are declining. However, those who hold such positions are going to stay in power for a long time. We need to work with those who hold such positions.
More broadly, this will be a signal that one can no longer dictate decisions unilaterally, without taking into account the opinion of the country in question, or other stakeholders. This will not reverse the trend. General trends, as I said at the very beginning, gravitate towards a multipolar world, but there will be a transitional era before that, if we are right about what we are seeing now in international relations. However, as part of this era, we still have not reached peak resistance to this trend. This peak is not far off. An increasing number of our Western partners realise that what they need to do is not just accept objective reality, but understand the actual trends of our time, and that joining this trend, rather than going against it, is a much easier and more efficient way to secure their national interests.
As you know, history evolves in a spiral fashion. Can you think of any periods in the history of the Russian State and its diplomacy that, in your opinion, are comparable to today?
Nothing is ever identical, but history repeats itself more than once. There have been many periods when we have been deterred. There is no need whatsoever to enumerate them. If you are versed in history, you know them all. Our land has seen troubled times and invasions. But this never led to our people getting ruined or reconciled to its lot. Always, sooner or later, we found the inner strength to rise. During “hot wars,” as in the case of the Great Patriotic War and the Patriotic War of 1812, this was a resolute and tough fight for national freedom. Other situations required more time and probably some other type of courage that has more to do with patience and with creating conditions for something that will give you the upper hand. And even now, we do not lack patience. No one wants a “hot war” and we do not intend to get involved in any, but being aware of what is happening around us, we must have the weapons, the army, the navy and the aerospace forces that meet modern realities.
I read many Western publications. They now openly write analytical items about this in all sorts of military magazines, acknowledging that we have a super-modern army and air force. What particularly strikes them is that we also have a very strong navy. We are saying this not for the sake of provoking anyone towards an arms race or testing anyone’s might. Simply, there are many situations when a weak-armed country risks being absorbed, not in the legal sense, but in terms of independence.
Let me repeat that there were many periods when they attempted to deter us, using various means, including military means. We have been deterred by sanctions, too. This is not the first time that sanctions have been used against us to such an extent. Suffice it to recall Soviet times, if you read anything about that period. Back then, there were also a lot of sanctions. The main thing is that we have an enormous and the richest territory, the army, the navy and the aerospace forces; we have the Russian people, who have our civilizational culture in their genes, who are open to the world and at the same time aware that we are ready to talk to and be friends with those who want to reciprocate on an equal basis and will not just do as the Romans do. I am convinced that these features are well familiar to all those with whom our people communicate when they travel abroad or welcome guests at home. I do hope that your colleagues from foreign countries, studying shoulder to shoulder with our citizens, will feel this great feature of the Russian people in all its fullness.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2851134
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|2 Weeks Ago||#225|
Comment by the Information and Press Department on Ukrainian-Croatian contacts on the “return of occupied territories”
1 September 2017 - 17:13
We have noted the contacts between Ukrainian authorities and former Croatian Minister of Justice Vesna Skare-Ozbolt, former Deputy Interior Minister Josko Moric and former Head of the Directorate for Expellees, Returnees, and Refugees Lovre Pejkovic who arrived from Zagreb, at the end of August in Kiev. Judging by the information available from the media, the issues discussed at the meetings included the “return of occupied territories” based on Croatia’s experience of the 1990s. That experience is more than controversial, it is negative, to put it bluntly. Suffice it to recall the approximately 250,000 Serbian refugees, forced out of Croatia by the military operations carried out by Zagreb in 1995, and the numerous civilian casualties.
Regretfully, their assurances of “good intentions” and “the need to restore mutual trust” in the conflict areas were used as a guise to make dangerous statements about “compulsion” and the “acceptability” of certain “methods of peaceful reintegration.” Of considerable concern is the fact that Kiev seems eager to pick up on such signals, demonstratively ignoring its own clearly stated obligations under the Minsk Package of Measures. Therefore, any mention of scenarios for Donbass involving force would be especially damaging and immoral now, in the first days of the “school truce” confirmed in the Normandy format.
Guided by our desire to develop friendly relations with Croatia, we urge Zagreb to use every opportunity to encourage Kiev to consistently and unswervingly implement the Minsk Agreements in the interests of expediting the peaceful settlement of the domestic Ukrainian crisis, and the durable stabilisation of southeastern Ukraine.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2851626
Comment by the Information and Press Department on the aggravated humanitarian situation in Rakhine State in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
3 September 2017 - 10:18
We are closely following the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. We are concerned with the reports of continued fighting that has killed civilians and members of the Myanmar Government’s law enforcement agencies, as well as the drastic aggravation of the humanitarian situation in this region of the country.
We are urging all the involved parties to launch constructive dialogue as soon as possible for the purpose of normalising the situation in line with recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State headed by Kofi Annan.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2851795
Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
3 September 2017 - 11:34
We express our deep concern at test of a “thermonuclear explosive device for an intercontinental ballistic missile” announced by the DPRK on September 3.
This yet another example of Pyongyang’s outright disregard of the demands of respective UN Security Council resolutions and international law deserves absolute condemnation.
We cannot but regret the fact the DPRK leadership is creating grave threats to peace and security on the Korean Peninsular and the whole region by its actions, which are aimed at undermining the global non-proliferation regime. The continuation of this line is fraught with grave consequences for the DPRK itself.
Under the unfolding conditions it is essential to keep calm and to restrain from any acts, which may lead to further escalation of tensions.
We urge all interested parties to promptly return to dialogue and negotiations, the only possible way for a comprehensive settlement of the Korean Peninsula problems, including the nuclear problem. We confirm our readiness to joint efforts in this direction, including in the context of implementing the Russia-China roadmap.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2851809
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|2 Weeks Ago||#226|
Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov’s interview with Tokyo Shimbun, published September 4, 2017
4 September 2017 - 09:43
According to Japanese reports, on August 17 the deputy foreign ministers of Russia and Japan discussed a package of documents and the legal framework for joint economic activity in the South Kurils.
Overall, we are satisfied with the discussions on the joint economic operation. Our consultations are based on the statement that was adopted by the President of Russia and the Prime Minister of Japan on December 16, 2016. It includes a roadmap for the gradual movement towards mutually beneficial cooperation on the islands. Under this roadmap, we should start by determining cooperation projects and only then discuss the conditions, including the legal framework, for their implementation. We are acting in strict compliance with the algorithm that has been coordinated at the top level.
During the first round of talks with my Japanese colleague, Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba, which were held in Tokyo on March 18 this year, we exchanged proposals on practical areas of cooperation for consideration in the interdepartmental format. The second round of talks, which was held in Moscow on August 17, was attended by delegates from the concerned agencies. We held a practical discussion, which demonstrated mutual interest in launching pilot projects as soon as possible. We outlined the range of such projects and will update our leaders on this at their meeting on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Summit, which will be held in Vladivostok in September this year.
The leaders of our countries view joint economic activity as a big step forward on the road to signing a peace treaty. What special legal framework should be created for this, provided that it “does not contradict Russian laws and is also acceptable to Japan”? At the same time, Russia’s position on the peace treaty and the disputed territories is that Japan must recognise the results of World War II. Will Russia insist on its position of principle regarding sovereignty during consultations on the legal framework? Or will it not discuss this matter so as to be able to create a trust-based atmosphere? We would like to know how you are approaching this.
As I have said, at this stage we are focused on discussing the practical commercial projects that can be implemented in the South Kurils within the framework of our joint economic operation, which must be mutually beneficial, of course. Our business structures must choose the most effective investment formats, develop marketing channels and coordinate financing. These factors will be subsequently taken into account when we coordinate the legal framework for each given project, because the main goal of these factors is to create the most favourable economic conditions possible for Russian and Japanese companies.
Of course, these conditions must be acceptable for both sides. The fact is that Russian legislation is fully effective on these islands. The future agreements on joint economic activities must not contradict it.
Our position on the peace treaty is well known and has not changed. We will work consistently for the Japanese side to recognise the results of WWII. We believe that closer economic cooperation and the implementation of joint projects will greatly help strengthen mutual trust, the atmosphere of friendship and neighbourly relations between our nations and would bring us closer to signing a peace treaty.
Will Japan enjoy any priority conditions within the framework of the priority socioeconomic development zone in Russia?
The main goal of any priority development zone is to create favourable economic conditions for companies in the given territory. In this context, the establishment of a priority development zone in the Kurils is no exception. This measure, which will complement the ongoing Federal Targeted Programme for the Socioeconomic Development of the Kuril Islands, is designed to boost the investment activity of Russian companies. They have indicated their high interest in the creation of new industrial facilities on the islands. We will continue to support them, including in the context of the further development of the Russian Far Eastern regions’ ties with foreign partners, primarily partners from the Asian-Pacific region.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2853084
Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich’s remarks at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk Agreements, Vienna, August 31, 2017
4 September 2017 - 11:00
The representatives of Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk in the Trilateral Contact Group have agreed on a school armistice, which was to begin on August 25, a week before the new academic year. This decision was approved by the leaders of the Normandy four countries at their meeting.
Despite the agreement, the Ukrainian forces have not stopped the shelling of populated areas that are located on the contact line in Donbass.
We urge Kiev to ensure that all units involved in hostilities against the Donbass people strictly comply with the ceasefire regime in accordance with the obligations that have been taken within the framework of the Contact Group.
We are especially concerned about shooting at fire and rescue units, the increased mining of roads and other important facilities by Kiev special forces, as well as the increased activity by snipers on the contact line (they wounded a man in the Petrovsky District of Donetsk).
We urge the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to more carefully analyse the consequences of shooting attacks, to register such attacks and identify whether the targets were civilian or military, as well as try to identify the side from which the fire came.
We have to say that the vital process of disengagement has skidded to a halt. Kiev has refused to comply with its commitments in the coordinated disengagement area near Stanitsa Luganskaya. The implementation of this agreement would allow the sides to start coordinating new disengagement areas on the contact line. We believe that the withdrawal of the sides’ weapons and forces from the contact line is a crucial condition for a lasting ceasefire.
Kiev appears to be reluctant to launch practical work on the political aspects of the Minsk Package. These include giving a special status to Donbass and formalising it in the Ukrainian Constitution, coordinating local election modalities with Donetsk and Lugansk and monitoring these elections by observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Furthermore, Clause 5 of the Minsk Package says that pardon and amnesty must be ensured by enacting the law prohibiting the prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with the conflict. Clause 6 stipulates the release and exchange of all hostages and unlawfully detained persons based on the “all for all” principle.
It should be remembered that the issue of a special status for Donbass and its formalisation in the Ukrainian Constitution and law is the fundamental condition for a comprehensive settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.
The law on local self-government order in certain areas of Donbass, which incorporates some provisions of the Minsk Package, has not been implemented and is an interim rather than permanent piece of legislation. But even this interim law will expire in October 2017. A law on reintegration is being unofficially discussed in the Verkhovna Rada. If this reintegration law contradicts the Minsk Agreements, it would deliver a fatal blow to the settlement process.
At the same time, the Kiev representatives in the Contact Group have refused to formalise the Steinmeier Formula, which has been coordinated in the Normandy format. Likewise, it does not look as if Kiev will lift the economic blockade of Donbass.
Taken together, the above confirms Kiev’s resolve to continue to sabotage the Minsk Agreements and hence its interest in carrying on the military conflict.
The mandate of the OSCE SMM includes the monitoring and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of ethnic minorities, as well as promoting respect for these in other regions of Ukraine. Given the mission’s resources, it is unjustifiable how little attention is paid to this task.
Double standards are unacceptable when the point at issue concerns elements of neo-Nazism, intolerance and discrimination. We have seen torch marches, corresponding symbols and slogans, the advocacy of hatred, and the rehabilitation or glorification of Nazism and its henchmen in many countries. In some countries, these actions met with public censure, while other societies look on in silence and tolerate it. The practice of extremism and the advocacy of hatred by Svoboda, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the Azov Battalion, the Right Sector and other similar organisations in Ukraine must be condemned firmly, openly and unambiguously. If our colleagues are committed to their principles, as they claim to be, they will do so without delay.
It is unacceptable that problems with the freedom and safety of journalists are hushed up in Ukraine, where European values are only upheld in word while in practice we see the worst examples of double standards in regard to the media.
It is regrettable that media personnel often become the targets and victims of harsh treatment. The latest example of this was reported on August 30, when a group of journalists who went to Yasinovataya to shoot a report about the school armistice came under fire in a shooting attack by Ukrainian servicemen. Journalists have been persecuted for doing their professional duty, and their lives have been put at risk. The notorious Mirotvorets website, which is monitored by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, posts the personal data of persons who the Ukrainian extremists view as undesirable. Russian journalist Maxim Dodonov, who is involved in the Russian-Ukrainian dialogue association for members of the media that is sponsored by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, has been recently put on the Mirotvorets list.
Problems persist with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. A Ukrainian Orthodox church was recently seized in the village of Divichki, the Kiev Region.
In conclusion, I would like to say again that there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements for settling the crisis. They must be implemented in full with the aim of reaching a comprehensive political settlement.
Until the Kiev government shows the political will to move towards this goal, prospects for a settlement will remain remote. For our part, we are ready to provide the necessary assistance towards a productive direct dialogue between the Ukrainian sides in the Contact Group, as well as to work together to expedite the settlement of the crisis within the framework of the Normandy format. We hope that the other parties involved will do everything necessary to encourage the sides in the conflict to show restraint and to comply with the school armistice.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2853176
Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich’s remarks at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, Vienna, August 31, 2017
4 September 2017 - 12:29
In response to report by the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo
We are grateful to distinguished Ambassador Jan Braathu for his report on the field presence activities. Again, we note that the presented analysis of the situation in this Serbian province represents an effort to portray the existing state of affairs without distortions that are intended to serve fleeting considerations. We welcome this approach.
Kosovo remains in a state of confusion. In the two and a half months since the June 11 elections, the local parties have been unable to form government institutions, illustrating the complete paralysis of the artificial Kosovo model of so-called "statehood".
The Kosovo authorities are deliberately cultivating nationalistic sentiments. Bellicose attacks on the central authorities of Serbia continue unabated, even reaching the level of direct threats by Kosovo politicians to resume ethnic cleansing of the Serbian population in that region. Considering the past of such people, who are predominately descendants of the infamous Kosovo Liberation Army, we should take them seriously as a real threat to regional security. We urge the leadership of the OSCE Mission to respond in a prompt and principled manner to all such examples.
We hope that the recent belligerent statements by Kosovar Albanian politicians will not render less effective the recently resumed dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina with the mediation of the EU. Once again, we urge Brussels, which assumed the mediation role in accordance with the UNGA resolution of September 9, 2010, to actively ensure that Pristina follows the agreements, in particular the one to create the Community of Serbian Municipalities of Kosovo (CSMK). We hope that the meeting, on August 31, in Brussels, of the President of Serbia Alexander Vucic with the so-called President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, organised by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, will help unlock the situation around the CSMK, the formation of which is being sabotaged by the Pristina authorities.
A gray zone is taking root in Kosovo, where multilateral commitments in the sphere of human rights are not actually working. Oppression of the non-Albanian population, including the Serbs who are the most vulnerable in this respect, remains normal for Kosovo. The guarantees of their political, language, cultural, and religious rights remain empty declarations. In reality, discrimination persists in education, medicine, employment, and the media. Freedom of movement is limited. The Kosovo administration is unable and likely unwilling to ensure equal rights for the population of the province. Unfortunately, successive multilevel efforts of the OSCE Mission to strengthen the guarantees of observance of the legitimate rights and interests of the non-Albanian population are not producing the desired result. Nonetheless, we are convinced that this area should remain central to the activities of the field presence. It is important to realise that ensuring equal, without exemptions, legal protection of the Kosovo population is the main prerequisite for the effectiveness of all the multi-year comprehensive efforts by the OSCE Mission to promote ethnic and religious stability in this province.
The irresponsible behaviour of the Kosovo Albanian political elite only exacerbates the atmosphere of militant intolerance towards the non-Albanian population at everyday level. It is not a secret for anyone that even the few accusatory verdicts against Kosovar Albanians convicted of crimes against Serbs are being increasingly revised by new Kosovo judges. Murderers and rapists are leaving prisons with a sense of superiority. Is it any wonder, in this context, that the report cites almost daily ethnically motivated incidents in Kosovo.
The unbiased work of the Special Court in The Hague is the only way to reverse the situation. Legal obstacles to this institution beginning its work are eliminated. We are expecting concrete results in the very near future. Those guilty of high-profile crimes should be punished regardless of their status and place in the current hierarchy of the Kosovo government.
We hope for improvements in security on the ground and with the OSCE Mission's project to fortify local public security committees. Continued work to promote the capacity of the Kosovo police, including in connection with the growing terrorist threat in the province, is very welcome.
The atmosphere of intolerance and impunity is the main obstacle to the return of IDPs. The statistics presented by the OSCE Mission at our urgent request indicates that the situation in this area is deplorable. We expect that the Mission will provide regular updates on this account. One cannot turn a blind eye to such inconvenient facts.
We are grateful to distinguished Ambassador Jan Braathu, for his personal assistance in obtaining identity documents for a family of Serbian IDPs in the village of Ljuboje. We believe that such an example of concern for IDPs who have been deprived of their rights can serve as a concrete evidence of the need for the OSCE's work in the field. Especially in a situation where the OSCE Mission remains, in fact, the only working international instrument capable of providing practical assistance to the most vulnerable ethnic groups.
The policy of the Kosovo administration is at variance with the declared goals of strengthening inter-confessional tolerance. The Pristina authorities are hindering the activities of the Serbian Orthodox Church in that province. The decision of the Kosovo court, which confirmed the ownership of the Visoki Decani monastery, is not being implemented. The renovation of religious facilities of the Serbian Orthodox Church, in particular the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Pristina, is being blocked. Turning off water supply in a convent in Pec, condoning arson, acts of vandalism, and intimidation of pilgrims - all this sends the message that they want to erase Serbian heritage from that region. We hope that the OSCE Mission will actively participate in the protection of the Serbian Orthodox Church shrines from illegal encroachment. Mediation mentioned in the report regarding the settlement of an imminent conflict around the Serbian Orthodox Church in Lipljan is a positive example.
The OSCE Mission’s observations once again confirm the increasingly obvious gap between the Kosovo reality and the purported goals of creating a safe and democratic society in that province. In these conditions, it is indisputably necessary to continue large-scale external assistance and close monitoring of the situation in the province. Clearly, it’s time to change the paradigm of blind and undemanding patronage by certain Western countries, which is perceived by the Kosovo Albanian political elite as a kind of an indulgency to preserve the existing intolerable situation in that area.
In this context, the decision of the Austrian OSCE chairmanship to invite Pristina representatives to an informal meeting with the head of the Mission in Kosovo in Vienna on August 30 is particularly disappointing. We see this as an attempt to move away from a status neutral position, which runs counter to the decision of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Porto (2002) on the role of the OSCE chair-in-office and undermines the reputation of the Austrian chair as an honest broker. In addition, such a step openly contradicts UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which remains the basis of the Kosovo settlement.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2854410
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|2 Weeks Ago||#227|
Press release on signing a cooperation agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of South Africa on maintaining international information security
4 September 2017 - 12:44
On September 4, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, signed an intergovernmental cooperation agreement on maintaining international information security. They signed it on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Xiamen, the People’s Republic of China.
The signing of this document once again proves the high level of trust between our states. It reflects the spirit of genuine strategic partnership that is typical of Russian-South African relations. The agreement shows the striving of Russia and South Africa to expand bilateral cooperation on one of the most important aspects of maintaining international and national security.
Another key stage in the history of Russian-South African cooperation has been completed in Xiamen: both countries have formalised their identical approaches to maintaining international information security, and they have laid an international legal framework for implementing specific joint initiatives in this area.
Russia and the Republic of South Africa come from a common position on evaluating the threats in international information security, including the use of information-communications technologies for perpetrating acts of aggression, violating the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of states, for interfering in their domestic affairs, damaging their economies and also for terrorist and other criminal purposes.
The agreement will allow our countries to conduct practical cooperation on a range of issues to maintain international information security at a new level. This implies the creation of a joint system for responding to threats in this sphere, for investigating cases of the use of information-communication technologies for terrorist and other criminal purposes, for jointly drafting and advancing the relevant norms of international law, implementing joint research and development projects and training experts in this field.
The signing of the agreement allows the concerned agencies of our countries to launch a direct dialogue regarding the main cooperation aspects of maintaining international information security.
In addition, this document allows Russia and South Africa to more closely coordinate their approaches to issues of international information security on the international scene, including such venues as the UN, BRICS and the International Telecommunication Union.
For implementing this agreement, Russia and South Africa will hold regular interdepartmental consultations to discuss the entire range of issues for maintaining international information security.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2854430
Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
5 September 2017 - 17:49
On September 5, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the US initiative.
The ministers shared their assessments of the situation on the Korean peninsula in the context of Pyongyang's new nuclear and missile tests. Mr Lavrov strongly condemned the escalation of military tensions in Northeast Asia. He said that the choice should be made to use political and diplomatic tools to find ways of achieving a peaceful settlement. He called on all sides not to give in to emotion and to show restraint.
In connection with Secretary Tillerson’s statement about introducing a US draft resolution to the UN Security Council condemning the DPRK’s steps, Mr Lavrov stressed that Russia is prepared to consider it based on the position stated above. Also, the reaction of the international community should include the idea that there is no military solution to this problem. Mr Lavrov also spoke in favour of enlisting the positive services of the UN Secretary General in the search for solutions.
When discussing bilateral relations, Mr Lavrov pointed out that the seizure of Russian diplomatic property in the United States by US authorities represents a gross violation of international law. The Minister drew Secretary Tillerson’s attention to President Putin’s statement at a news conference following the BRICS summit in Xiamen about our country’s plans to initiate court proceedings in response to Washington’s unlawful actions.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2855379
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|1 Week Ago||#228|
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, Vladivostok, September 6, 2017
6 September 2017 - 15:38
If the UN Security Council introduces a new resolution against the DPRK, will Russia block it?
As far as I understand, the United States has already prepared such a resolution. To say, without seeing the text, that we will block or support it, is not correct. We need to see it, and this work is now starting at the expert level. We will proceed based on the assessments and approaches outlined by President Putin at his news conference in Xiamen. They are rooted in the fact that the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula has been addressed using pressure for many years, while proclaiming the need for a dialogue, but doing nothing to renew and establish such a dialogue. This will be the touchstone that will determine our position.
As was already mentioned, during the most recent session of the UN Security Council following the end of nuclear tests in North Korea, together with our Chinese colleagues, we drew attention to the joint Russian-Chinese initiative to carry out the road map proposed by Beijing and Moscow in order to pull the situation out of this deep tailspin and steer it back toward negotiations.
To reiterate, let's see what’s written in the draft resolution. We will by all means focus on the need to underscore the lack of alternative to talks, the lack of a military solution, and, given that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres publicly expressed grave concern with the current state of affairs, we will also ask him to join the mediation efforts. I think it will be useful.
Do you plan any contacts on the sidelines of the EEF with DPRK representatives? According to some sources, they are present here.
As far as I understand, the DPRK delegation at this forum consists of representatives of the economic bloc of the North Korean government. We also have representatives of economic ministries and departments here. I believe contacts between the corresponding departments of the two countries will take place.
Will Russia support Ukraine’s proposals to deploy UN peacekeepers on the Russian-Ukrainian border?
This question should be framed the other way around. This proposal came from the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, and was underpinned by the fact that for many months the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has been experiencing issues with security of its monitors.
The agreement on the disengagement of forces and weapons along the line of contact is not being observed for many months now. Let me remind you that this agreement was reached by the Normandy Four leaders: the presidents of Russia, France and Ukraine, and Germany’s Federal Chancellor. This provision was stipulated in the first sections of the Minsk Agreements that were signed in February 2015 and was later confirmed by all four leaders during their meetings in Paris in 2015 and in Berlin in 2016. Nothing has been done. The creation of the first three pilot zones for implementing the disengagement arrangement has yet to be completed. The last of the three pilot areas, Stanitsa Luganskaya, cannot be accounted for as an area where the disengagement took hold, since our Ukrainian colleagues, representatives of the Ukrainian Government and Armed Forces, demand that the disengagement be preceded by seven days of complete silence. In think that the OSCE monitors have already reported and confirmed eight times a week-long suspension of hostilities. They proposed proceeding immediately with the disengagement in Stanitsa Luganskaya. However, every time the Kiev authorities said that the OSCE statistics were at odds with their own data, and that according to their data someone somewhere did fire a shot. They are boycotting and seeking to undermine the implementation of the roadmap approved by the Normandy Four. There are constant complaints that OSCE monitors face risks, and are prevented from patrolling specific regions. The statistics are there to show that incidents when OSCE monitors are prevented from accessing certain areas mostly happen on the Ukrainian side. There are in fact twice as many incidents of this kind on the side controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine compared to the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. If the security of monitors is an issue, we are ready, just as the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin said in Xiamen, to support the idea that has been voiced on a number of occasions to create a UN peacekeeping mission that would be called the UN Mission to Protect OSCE SMM Monitors. The disengagement was designated as the main priority in all the agreements reached as part of the Minsk process and the subsequent Normandy Format summits in Paris and Berlin in 2015 and 2016. It was Russia’s proposals to have the UN Security Council adopt a decision to send OSCE monitors to areas were the disengagement takes place and to deploy UN forces and means at the same time to these regions in order to protect the monitors.
Of course, the specific parameters of these forces and means of the UN Mission to Protect OSCE SMM Monitors, including the national contingents, and what countries the participants in the Mission will represent should be agreed upon by the parties to the conflict, which means that DPR and LPR should be directly involved. That is all that can be said about it.
When our Ukrainian colleagues say that they are ready for the deployment of a peacekeeping mission to Donbas, but the deployment should start with the border between Russia and Ukraine, not the line of separation, this is not only an outright distortion, but a direct perversion of the Minsk Agreements, which stipulate that Ukraine will be able to assume full control over its border once everything its President Petr Poroshenko subscribed to is implemented, including the resolution of all political issues related to the crisis in Ukraine. This includes permanently stating in the Ukrainian Constitution that these Donbass regions benefit from a special status, as well as an amnesty for all participants in the events that followed the government coup and the so-called counter-terrorist operation announced by Kiev against its own citizens, and holding elections in DPR and LPR territories.
Russia’s proposal regarding a UN Mission deals with the key priority that was designated as such in the Minsk Agreements and confirmed on a number of occasions by the Normandy Four leaders: the disengagement of troops and weapons along the actual line of contact in order to enable OSCE monitors to enter the disengagement areas under the protection of UN peacekeepers.
Will you please comment on the lifting of the siege of Deir ez-Zor? Many people in the Syrian Army have appealed to Russia to help the Syrians liberate the Idlib Province. Will this affect the plans to establish de-escalation zones in Deir ez-Zor?
I do not think that Russia should be urged to help the Syrians liberate their own country. The lifting of the ISIS siege of Deir ez-Zor, where Syrian Army units and civilians were trapped for several years, is a major victory in the fight against terrorism. Now that the siege has been lifted, it will be possible to achieve another crucial goal: the liberation of Deir ez-Zor from the terrorists. This mission is being fulfilled by the Syrian Army with support from the Russian Aerospace Forces.
The guarantor countries and initiators of the Astana process – Russia, Iran and Turkey – maintain discussions of the developments in Idlib. They have moved forward in coordinating the parameters and security methods for the Idlib de-escalation zone. I hope we will soon hear more detailed news regarding this.
Do you plan to meet with Foreign Minister of Japan Taro Kono on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum?
President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet tomorrow. Foreign Minister Taro Kono and I will also attend this meeting.
The Russian Consulate General in San Francisco and Trade Representation in Washington were shut down on September 2. How should we respond?
The Trade Representation has not been shut down. We were told to vacate the buildings in Washington, which are our sovereign property, just as the two buildings in San Francisco. President Vladimir Putin said what response we could take at the news conference following the BRICS summit in Xiamen. Our firm decision to go to court has provoked a reaction in the United States. It is my understanding that the US Department of State has said that Russia could not take them to court because the United State was fully in its rights to shut down our Consulate General in San Francisco. Indeed, any country has the right, as President Putin said yesterday, to revoke the permission for the operation of any country’s diplomatic mission. We are considering a legal procedure because they have taken, seized and expropriated our property. The fact that the Russian Federation owns the buildings that have been seized is in no way connected to the United States’ right to issue or withdraw permission to open a diplomatic mission in its territory.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2855708
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s comment on the seizure of Russian diplomatic buildings by US authorities
6 September 2017 - 19:49
We have taken note of the awkward attempts by US representatives to justify the unceremonious decision to seize Russian diplomatic property on September 2 in an attempt to give them the appearance of "legitimacy." However, there can be no justification for such outrageous actions.
What the US State Department calls "inspections" were in fact an illegal invasion of Russian diplomatic premises accompanied by what was in effect a search from basement to attic. In particular, desk drawers and closets were thoroughly checked. FBI agents searched every nook and cranny, even opening up the ceiling. Some of these actions were videotaped and made public.
Importantly, the buildings, which constitute the property of our state, were not sealed but seized. The Americans "in civilian clothes" remain there. Armed police stand guard along the perimeter of the adjoining grounds.
The Americans are doing some obscure kind of work inside the Consulate General in San Francisco – sawing, planing, all of which we understand is causing major damage to the historical interior. US agents are walking on the roof. In other words, they are behaving like occupiers.
To reiterate, these actions are a flagrant violation of the fundamental norms of international law, including those specified in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, and the bilateral Consular Convention of 1964.
The US officials resort to blatant lies without batting an eye, claiming that we "allowed them to enter the premises." Let's get the facts straight. We were directly threatened that special tools would be used to break down the entrance doors. This was also the case at our trade mission in Washington, where the Americans broke the gate mechanism in order to let in vehicles bearing agents who searched the house and large boxes with unknown contents that were brought into the building. All of that happened without our representatives, who were allowed to stay only during the initial stage of the search.
Another important fact is that there were small children of the families of our employees in the residential part of the Consulate General in San Francisco, whose safety would have been in jeopardy in the event that the building was taken by force. We could not take that risk.
If the State Department wishes to use the term “inspection” to describe such outrageous actions, where uninvited guests drive the hosts out onto the street, they should consider what this word means in the sphere of arms control. Inspectors are sent in to monitor compliance with various agreements on a reciprocal and parity basis. This begs the question: Does Washington believe that we also have the right to similarly "inspect" the buildings of US diplomatic and consular missions in Russia?
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2855818
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|1 Week Ago||#229|
Comment by the Information and Press Department on a press release by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
8 September 2017 - 15:22
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reviewed the press release put out by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concerning the situation in Raqqa.
In this document, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein calls on the participants in the armed conflict to take maximum care of civilians, condemns the terrorists’ practice of using civilians as a human shield, and cites the sad statistics of casualties among the population.
However, there are details that attract attention. Below the information on the air strikes of the US-led coalition, the press release contains statistics on the Russian Aerospace Forces’ operation in Syria, unrelated to the coalition’s activities, followed by a report on civilian casualties in Raqqa. This gives the impression that the Russian Aerospace Forces were involved in the deaths of civilians there. The cynicism of this juggling with facts has exceeded all of the OHCHR’s previous politically biased moves.
We hope that the Office, which claims to be an objective and impartial unit of the UN Secretariat, will henceforth avoid manipulating facts and take a more responsible approach to producing such documents.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2856655
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, Moscow, September 8, 2017
8 September 2017 - 16:46
Ladies and gentlemen,
We had substantive talks, which were held at the initiative of my colleague, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France Jean-Yves Le Drian. This is our third meeting this year.
Today, we have reviewed important bilateral issues on our agenda and key international issues as part of international settlement efforts, primarily as they apply to various conflicts.
We focused particularly on implementing initiatives which were agreed upon at a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron in Versailles on May 29 in the interest of building up bilateral cooperation.
We have just signed a statement on launching the Trianon Dialogue in accordance with the agreement reached by our respective presidents at Versailles. It will be a permanent forum for our civil societies, and will contribute to strengthening trust and mutual understanding between our peoples.
Candidates for positions of co-chairs and executive secretaries of this forum from both sides have been identified. We hope that they will meet in the near future to finalise the coordination of practical issues related to the Trianon Dialogue.
The Russia-France Council on Economic, Financial, Industrial and Trade Issues with the participation of Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire will meet in Moscow before the year is out. We expect that this meeting will open the path for convening the Russian-French Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) at the level of the heads of government.
Of course, we couldn’t overlook our rich cultural cooperation. A week from now, Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky will be in Paris to meet with his French counterpart, Francoise Nyssen, as well as to open two more Russian exhibitions dedicated to the treasures of the Moscow tsars and diplomatic presents from Peter the Great to this day. Preparations for new cultural exchange seasons are in full swing. The Year of Russian and French Language and Literature (2018-2019) will come to replace Year of Cultural Tourism (2016-2017) which is about to end this autumn.
We discussed key international issues focusing on the situation in Syria. We believe there are signs of tangible progress. Three de-escalation zones are operational in southwestern Syria, Eastern Ghouta and northern Homs province. The sixth international meeting on Syrian settlement will take place in Astana on September 13-15, which we hope will lead to the creation of the fourth de-escalation zone in Idlib. It is the most complex one, that’s why its coordination has taken so long. After that, we will be in an even better position to improve the humanitarian situation there.
Humanitarian aid is delivered to the three existing zones without hindrance. All this allows the government troops and the armed groups which signed ceasefire agreements in connection with the creation of de-escalation zones to focus on addressing the main task which is neutralising the remaining international terrorist groups in Syria, primarily, ISIS, Jabhat an-Nusra, and other organisations designated as terrorist by the UN Security Council.
We share our French partners’ concerns that terrorists might try to flee Syria to other countries, including Europe, Central Asia, or Russia, and create new threats there. Our approach is absolutely unambiguous – the terrorists must be defeated. They cannot be allowed to flee.
We are at one regarding the need to promote the political settlement process. We operate on the premise that another round of Geneva talks will be held soon after the 6th Astana meeting, which is what UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura is actively working on now. There are also signs of progress there, primarily in areas related to constitutional and legal matters, and counter-terrorist activities. Most importantly, proper conditions are being created, as was done in Astana for an unambiguous, specific and direct dialogue between the government delegation and the opposition delegation.
We discussed the functioning of two subgroups of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), one focusing on humanitarian issues, and the other in charge of security and compliance with ceasefire. Like our French colleagues, we are interested in making all these mechanisms more effective. We discussed better ways to use the resources available to the UN Security Council permanent members to promote this agenda in conjunction with other states.
We appreciate the role played by France and President Emmanuel Macron in the efforts to unblock the impasse in the Libyan settlement. A meeting between Head of the Presidential Council in Tripoli, Fayez al-Sarraj, and Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan National Army, Marshal Khalifa Haftar, sponsored by President Macron, took place in France recently. It was more than an exchange of opinions, and led to signing a critical document laying the foundation for a settlement in Libya. We will support further moves in this direction, and we are doing our best to facilitate such moves, including in our contacts with Fayez al-Sarraj, Khalifa Haftar, and all other key figures on the Libyan stage.
We have another common issue with France, which our leaders are working on. I’m referring to the Ukraine crisis. The Normandy format was created upon France’s initiative. Despite it occasionally treading water, it remains, nonetheless, the main tool for promoting the efforts undertaken by the Contact Group with the participation of Kiev, Donetsk, Lugansk, and the OSCE.
We reiterate our commitment to the Minsk agreements and the Package of Measures, which was approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2202. We expect all the countries that have influence on the Kiev authorities to try to persuade them to stop hampering the implementation of this agreement. In turn, we will use our influence with the proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic to make sure that they also participate constructively in the same vein.
As you are aware, Russia takes seriously the concerns that occasionally emerge in connection with security risks for the OSCE special monitoring mission members. As President Putin recently mentioned at the BRICS summit in Xiamen, we submitted a resolution to the UN Security Council that envisages the creation of a UN mission to protect the OSCE SMM members as they perform their duties.
We expect that if this initiative is implemented, the safety of the OSCE observers will improve and, probably, those who do not want to ensure the disengagement of the forces and facilities of the sides to a safe distance will have fewer reasons to use the risks faced by the OSCE observers to promote their own agenda. I expect that, just like our leaders agreed during telephone conversations in the Normandy format, appropriate efforts will be undertaken to develop concrete and concurrent steps to improve security and promote political reforms.
Like France, Russia – and President Putin also mentioned this during his recent news conferences – condemns the DPRK leadership’s provocations when it launches ballistic missiles, or explodes nuclear bombs in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions. A new UN Security Council resolution is in the works. It is too early to talk about the form it will take. One thing is important for Russia (and, I hope, for France, too): along with pressure exerted on the North Korean regime in order to make it stop the provocations associated with its nuclear and missile programmes, it is imperative to emphasise and increase the priority status of the efforts to resume the political process. There is no alternative to these efforts if we want to settle the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem in a reliable and lasting manner.
Question (addressed to both ministers):
President Vladimir Putin has put forward proposals on using UN forces in Donbass. What do you think about these proposals? It seems to me that there are some disagreements between Russia and Ukraine over the number of these forces. Do you think these forces should be deployed only along the border line or across Donbass’s entire territory? And do you think there are forces in Russia that could join this contingent?
President Putin described his initiative in detail at a news conference in China on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, but I will clarify some details.
This initiative is solely aimed at ensuring the strict implementation of the Minsk agreements. As French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, the strict implementation of these agreements is our common goal. The Minsk agreements have provided and continue to provide for comprehensive measures to ensure security and the withdrawal of the sides’ heavy military equipment and then other forces and assets from the line of contact. They provide for organising humanitarian aid supplies, restoring economic ties between Donbass and the rest of Ukraine and of course, implementing political reforms, primarily granting these territories a special status on a permanent basis, enshrining this status in the Constitution, granting an amnesty and holding general elections. The Minsk agreements state in no uncertain terms that as soon as this is done, the Ukrainian government’s control over the entire Russian-Ukrainian border will be fully reinstated. This is written in black and white; there can be no confusion.
When we began to work in the Normandy format and in the format of the Contact Group to ensure the practical implementation of these agreements, the Ukrainian government put forward a precondition to the effect that until the entire array of security issues were addressed there could be no question about political reforms. Our colleagues from France and Germany have been working hard to break this impasse. Work is under way at the level of Normandy-format experts, primarily aides to the heads of state and government, to coordinate the so-called roadmap that will provide for both steps to strengthen security and alternate steps to advance political reforms in keeping with the Minsk package of measures. This roadmap has been under discussion for a long time and within the next few days there will be another meeting at the level of aides to the Normandy-format leaders. I hope progress will be made. Soon, it will be a year since the Normandy format leaders coordinated concrete measures in Berlin that are very easy to put into practice, specifically the creation of “pilot” security zones along the line of contact, subsequently extending this regime to the entire line of contact and the disengagement of forces and assets. Three pilot zones were designated. In two of these pilot zones, disengagement took place. In the third zone (Luganskaya), it has been impossible for months to carry out what the leaders agreed on. The reason is that the Ukrainian side insists that before forces and assets are disengaged there should be at least seven days of complete silence in this particular area along the contact line. I had an opportunity to talk to the OSCE SMM, which, I believe, has on eight occasions recorded the lack of any ceasefire violations in the space of a week. Every time the Ukrainian side refused to go ahead with the disengagement of forces and assets under various pretexts. I believe the conclusion is very simple: The Ukrainian side does not want any progress in the security sphere because this will require it to take steps with regard to political reforms, which is not part of our Ukrainian colleagues’ plans.
Since it has been constantly claimed that OSCE observers cannot work when their lives are in danger, we have long been raising the question of arming them but there is no such practice at the OSCE, no experience in armed missions. By contrast, the UN does have such experience. Therefore, our proposal is as follows: To ensure that OSCE observers monitor the implementation of the Minsk agreements in good faith, efficiently and effectively, let us provide them with armed security details, whose composition will naturally be determined by the parties to the conflict: Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. These are not UN forces but an OSCE observer protection mission. It is fully in keeping with the logic of the Minsk agreements. When the Ukrainian side responded to this initiative of ours, they said it was not good enough because we should begin by deploying UN peacekeepers not on the line of contact but along the border with Russia. I have just cited the Minsk agreements whereby the Ukrainian government gets control over the entire border with Russia after it implements everything that Ukrainian President Poroshenko has subscribed to. Therefore, with regard to the issue of getting the UN involved in ensuring the implementation of the Minsk agreements, I can see no discrepancy between Russia and Ukraine – I see a discrepancy between Ukraine and the Minsk agreements.
The impression is that the Syrian government forces are gaining the upper hand. Do you think that now we and our allies have more room to manoeuvre and more opportunities to shape the political process insofar as concerns Syrian President Assad? Do you think that he will also be involved in the political process and will have a role in Syria’s future?
We have discussed this in detail. I believe it is important to speed up all the mechanisms that are in place and should work efficiently. We see the Astana process working effectively – not without difficulties, because we have to search for a balance between sometimes very conflicting interests with the participation of our colleagues from Iran and Turkey, as well as observers from the United States and Jordan, and of course, our colleagues from Staffan de Mistura’s team. This is working slowly but surely because all those involved in these efforts are concerned primarily about bringing the civil war in Syria to an end, as well as about the need to free up available forces and assets and concentrate them on the main priority: suppressing terrorism.
The Geneva process is also functioning (also not without problems). However, within the framework of the Geneva process, a critical mass has already been created that should make it possible in the foreseeable future – based on the agreement to establish de-escalation zones – to open a direct, concrete dialogue, a negotiating process between the government and the opposition. These efforts are being significantly facilitated by our partners in the region, primarily Saudi Arabia, which has put forward an initiative to unite all the opposition groups that were mentioned in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (the so-called High Negotiations Committee, the Moscow and Cairo groups). We actively support these efforts, believing that it is necessary to unite on a platform in keeping with the criteria of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 to the effect that the Syrians themselves, and they alone, can determine their country’s fate. This requires a constructive dialogue between the government and the opposition without any preconditions and ultimatums, of course.
There is the mechanism of two subgroups that have been working in Geneva for many months, meeting every week: a subgroup on humanitarian issues and a subgroup on the ceasefire. Regarding chemical weapons, I agree with French Foreign Minister Le Drian that their use anywhere, including of course Syria, is totally unacceptable. There is a joint investigative mechanism created by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has received the results of lab tests made in France, among others – analyses of the samples taken in particular in Khan Sheikhoun. Even though in keeping with its mandate, this joint investigative mechanism is directly obligated to investigate concrete episodes, we have still been unable to send them to the site of the incident and to the airfield from which Syrian aircraft with chemical bombs on board allegedly took off. This mechanism has just been to Damascus and again it is putting forward some conditions. We are convinced that objective conclusions can be drawn only by inspecting Khan Sheikhoun (the site of the incident) and the airfield from which Syrian aircraft with chemical ammunition allegedly took off. I entirely agree with Mr Le Drian: The chemical weapons problem is one of our priorities in both Syria and Iraq, especially since there is sufficient evidence that ISIS militants have access to homemade chemical agent production technology and even to some enterprises that can be used for this purpose. I am confident that if we ensure the efficient and effective work of all mechanisms that are in place and at our disposal, where all regional and extraregional players without exception, who can influence the parties to the Syria conflict, are represented, we will achieve results. To reiterate, permanent members of the UN Security Council should be aware of their full responsibility for the implementation of Resolution 2254 and we consider it necessary to effectively use this asset.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2856870
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|1 Week Ago||#230|
Excepts from Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, September 8, 2017
8 September 2017 - 17:02
Developments in Syria
The development of the military-political situation in Syria in the past two weeks was distinguished by the consolidation of the positive trends towards further normalisation, favourable conditions for the political settlement of the Syrian crisis, restoration of the economy and return to normal life.
The Syrian Government Army has achieved serious success with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces. ISIS units have sustained a crushing defeat in the eastern and central parts of Syria. According to the Russian Defence Ministry, in all during this time the Syrian armed forces freed from terrorists 4,800 sq km of land and thrown militants out of 59 cities and villages. They have won the battle with ISIS for Deir ez-Zor. As a result, about 200,000 people have received access to food and medicines and an opportunity to freely travel in the country.
A column with humanitarian relief entered Deir ez-Zor following the advancing units of the Syrian army.
We are urging our international partners to join Russia’s efforts to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, primarily in the regions that were controlled by terrorists for a long time and in the de-escalation zones. The scale of destruction left behind by terrorists is appalling. Retreating, they mine residential areas to impede civilians from returning home.
The sixth international meeting on Syria is scheduled to take place in Astana on September 14-15. During this event, the guarantors of the ceasefire – Russia, Turkey and Iran, and the observers of the Astana process – the UN, Jordan and the United States are planning to discuss the formation and functioning of de-escalation zones in Syria. They will focus on consolidating the ceasefire, boosting humanitarian aid and facilitating mine clearing.
The situation in the de-escalation zones operating in southwestern Syria, northern Homs and Eastern Ghouta is stable. Armed clashes occur from time to time on the border of the southwestern de-escalation zone between units affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, on the one hand, and the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, on the other.
In Idlib, Jabhat al-Nusra’s alliance of Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham continues its attempts to consolidate its monopoly on power by force. Extremists captured a number of administrative institutions, including city offices in charge of electricity, water supply and transport. They are trying to gain legitimacy by declaring their readiness to cooperate with other “revolutionaries.” We would like to emphasise that all manoeuvres of militants from Jabhat al-Nusra and their unscrupulous collaborators are doomed to fail. Coordinating its actions with the legitimate Syrian Government, Russia will continue its uncompromising struggle against the terrorists that are still operating in that country.
Russian efforts to increase humanitarian aid to the population in de-escalation zones in Syria
The strengthening of the ceasefire regime and successes in the struggle against criminal terrorist units are creating a new reality in Syria. After six years of fratricidal conflict and the constant threat of terrorism, the people in the country are being given a chance to lead a peaceful life. But it has to be done on the ruins left behind by the terrorists when schools, hospitals and critical facilities were destroyed or looted. The task of rectifying the humanitarian situation in Syria takes on particular significance in terms of supporting the positive trends and as a result of successful implementation of the de-escalation zone concept worked out in the framework of the “Astana process.”
We are convinced that today the most vigorous efforts are needed to assist the Syrian people, humanitarian demining, restoration of vital civil and economic infrastructure facilities. Broad opportunities for this are opening up. Most importantly, the level of violence has dropped dramatically. Russian military police are ready to help secure access of humanitarian cargoes to the functioning de-escalation zones. In the course of the work of the local ceasefire committees, the needs of specific communities for food, medicines, school and medical equipment and instructional materials are being determined.
Russia delivers regular and significant amounts of humanitarian aid to the Syrians: food, medical supplies, blankets and basic necessities. The Russian military take part in mine-clearing of the territories liberated from terrorists, training local combat engineers, but the amount of work to be done is such that these efforts are not sufficient.
We expect that our regional and international partners genuinely interested in creating favourable conditions for a political settlement in Syria on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, and the UN specialised agencies will decide to send additional humanitarian aid to the Syrian population. We call on the international organisations to make the most energetic efforts possible to rapidly improve the humanitarian situation in the de-escalation zones and on the whole territory of Syria.
On clearing up the circumstances of the disappearance of 220 tons of toxic substances from the Libyan Ruvaga chemical weapons storage facility
Against the background of extreme politicization of the “chemical dossier” by the Western countries we note their utter indifference to clearing up the situation around the leakage of 220 tons of toxic chemicals from the Libyan chemical weapons storage facility Ruvaga.
We are consistently in favour of an early fulfilment by the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of the instruction of the OPCW Executive Council on an immediate and full-fledged inspection of Ruvaga in order to finally clear up the issue and to help that country to plan further work of assessing and clearing up the ecological damage due to possible spillage of chemicals.
The security situation in Libya has by now improved compared to the military-political situation at the time last year when chemical weapons were removed from that facility because in June the adjacent territories came under the control of the Libyan National Army. Its command has expressed readiness to ensure the safety of OPCW inspectors. We believe the OPCW Technical Secretariat, together with the Libyan authorities in Tobruk, must fulfil the instruction of the Organisation's Executive Council in the shortest possible time.
An OPCW inspection of the Ruvaga facility will rule out any chance of speculations on the topic of alleged disappearance of combat toxic agents and finally close the issue.
Ethical and legal aspects of the searches of Russian diplomatic premises on US territory
We have taken note of comments that came from the US State Department’s press service on bilateral relations and responses to what were, let’s face it, hostile actions by the US with regard to diplomatic property and Russian diplomats. I would like to quote from this statement. During the course of a briefing the US State Department explained the reason for the mayhem taking place on the territory of Russian properties, including San Francisco and other cities.
“The whole reason why it happened is that the Russian Government has demanded parity. They asked many of our staff to vacate our facilities in Russia, and we are trying to achieve parity here.”
I have a simple question to the US State Department: from what moment do you count the response measures as having begun?
We have also taken note that the press service of the US State Department has repeatedly said that the only aim the US really seeks is to establish normal relations with Russia and, of course normalisation of the whole range of bilateral ties and contacts. How does everything that is happening on the territory of the Russian Federation building, which used to house the Russian General Consulate in San Francisco, contribute to normalising the situation? Why are people whom we do not know and whom no one has invited there engaged in who knows what? Do they also “contribute to the normalisation of bilateral relations”? Who sent them there? For what purpose? What are they doing there? Why do they feel like they can make themselves at home there? It is the property of the Russian Federation. What are US citizens doing there?
This week a good deal has been said about the searches which, we understand, were instigated by the FBI. Incidentally, perhaps this is the core of the problem. Perhaps the US State Department really seeks normalisation of relations with the Russian Federation and what we hear at the US State Department briefings are quite sincere statements. Perhaps it is the case that the Unite States simply does not have a single and comprehensive agenda with regard to the Russian Federation. Because from our information and, as we understand it, everything that is taking place with regard to Russian diplomats, perhaps behind it all are, among others, members of the American special services and specifically the FBI. In effect, the property of our diplomatic agency has been raided and seized.
I would like to touch upon the legal and moral aspect of the issue.
Diplomatic immunity and inviolability of diplomatic premises are, of course, the rules of the game, enshrined in international law, which enable states, even at a time of very acute crises, to be able to interact in a civilised manner. The key phrase is, even at the time of the most acute crises, wars and ruptures in diplomatic relations. This was the whole point of creating and introducing the concept of “diplomatic immunity.”
But how does one conduct a dialogue and build relations if the partner violates the agreements it has recognised as a subject of international law? This phrase should also be pondered, not passed over but looked into more deeply.
The United States felt it could afford to ignore the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 – two fundamental documents of diplomatic law.
The United States as the host state is obliged to respect and protect the consular premises and consular archive and not try to use these documents for its own purposes. Even to just enter the territory of the General Consulate the US authorities had to get the consent of the head of the Mission. The FBI did not bother to do this, and what’s more, the agents said in so many words that they would force their way through the entrance door. What was their aim? Was it not an attempt of the American special services to stage an anti-Russian provocation and perhaps plant compromising materials in the building and then find them? Because we haven't the faintest idea of what they are doing now. Special equipment and technology have been brought in, some kind of work is going on and, of course, nobody informs anybody about it.
In September 2012, Islamist extremists attacked the US Consulate in Libya. They broke into the building and set it on fire. This caused the death of four US citizens, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Ten Libyan policemen also died. At that time, in 2012, US President Obama described the illegal intrusion into the territory of the country's Consulate as a violation of the very ideals on which the UN was founded in its time. Why is it that today it is not representatives of rebels, revolutionaries or some mercenaries, but the representatives of the US law-enforcement bodies that are violating the same international legal norms as were violated by the Libyan militants? When did the US establishment cross that “red line” not only from the legal, but also moral point of view? Perhaps when it first blocked the condemnation by the UN Security Council of another in a series of mortar attacks on the Russian diplomatic mission in Damascus or perhaps when out Embassy in Kiev was attacked? Perhaps these are links in the same chain? When no measures of political protection through the reaction of states and international organisations were taken with regard to Russian diplomatic property and the facilities covered by diplomatic immunity? At the time all this was blocked. Earlier we said that the blocking was done by Western colleagues, today we say openly that the US was behind it.
Some Western media say that Russia and the US are exchanging tough diplomatic measures on a tit-for-tat basis. It is important to remember who kicked off this string of events. It was not Russia but the United States.
Commenting on the forcible closure of Russian diplomatic institutions, the press service of the US State Department declared that these are “symmetrical actions in response to the cut of the American mission in the Russian Federation.” True, the US State Department press service chose to ignore the fact that it was the US that initially expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the country and deprived our country of two facilities that were under diplomatic immunity.
Still earlier, in 2016, the US State Department cancelled the accreditation of five of our honorary consuls in various states. You forgot? It never happened? Yes, it did happen. I am a hundred per cent sure that those who work today at the US State Department have no idea what happened a year ago. I am sure no one knows about the honorary consuls. But I would like to remind you that their accreditation was cancelled by the US. And yet at the time Russia refrained from retaliatory measures – talking about parity which the US State Department press service is playing up. It was only a new round of sanctions and Washington's decision to refer Russia to the world “axis of evil” that prompted the Russian side to revise the size of the American diplomatic mission in the country. And again, speaking about parity, I would like to remind you that the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN is functioning on the US territory. How about parity? They didn't count it either?
A new tonality of relations is being imposed on us, this is being done now, practically every day – going backwards, rejecting cooperation, including at the level of contacts between our peoples.
The search incident is not the first instance when the US crudely violated international law. Such behaviour does not behoove a subject of international law, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which was among the founders of the modern system of international relations. Unfortunately, it threatens to become not just a precedent, but a new American tradition. We believe that in this way the United States is not only destabilising the Russian-American relations, but the whole of global international order.
Latest information on Russian citizen Viktor Ageyev, detained in Ukraine
We have taken note of a Novaya Gazeta story citing the mother of Viktor Ageyev, a Russian citizen who was taken prisoner in Ukraine. We have repeatedly commented on this situation. In particular, Ageyev’s mother says a representative of the consular service has not met with her son yet. An email was sent to the consular services in Kharkov but there was no response. I would like to publicly clarify the situation and give a complete account to the media, the general public and, of course, Ageyev’s mother, of what is going on.
Since Mr Ageyev was detained by the relevant Ukrainian agencies, the Russian Consulate General in Kharkov has been doing all it can to help him.
Because of the Ukrainian authorities, who are violating norms of international law and the bilateral consular convention between Russia and Ukraine of January 15, 1993, Russian representatives have so far been unable to meet with Russian citizen Viktor Ageyev.
I would like to restate the facts and say what action has been taken and what has been done.
On June 6, right after receiving the relevant notification from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, the consular agency sent a request to the Ukrainian Security Service Directorate for the Lugansk region (the Russian citizen is being held at a pretrial detention centre in the town of Starobelsk) for a meeting with Mr Ageyev. On July 14, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service Directorate denied the Consulate General’s request for a meeting with the detainee, explaining that it could only take place after the investigation process was completed. Since July, the Consulate General has submitted follow-up requests three times, citing the relevant provisions of the Consular Convention between Russia and Ukraine of January 15, 1993. Applications in writing were followed up with applications by phone.
The Consulate General has established contact with the detainee’s lawyer in order to organise the prompt and effective protection of his rights and interests.
However, the lawyer, who was hired by Mr Ageyev’s mother, stated that he had been denied access to his client on the grounds that the detainee had purportedly turned down his services and preferred to stay with the state defence counsel who had been earlier appointed for him by the investigation.
For his part, the public counsel said in a telephone conversation that he had last met with Mr Ageyev during an investigative procedure on August 21. He assessed his client’s health as satisfactory. At the same time, he denied a Consulate General officer’s request to help provide certain items [of clothing] and food to the detainee. In addition, he said that he could not help organise a meeting between consular officials and his client. According to the public defence counsel, in September the investigating team intends to send the Russian citizen’s case to court.
We have checked this information and will continue doing so in the future. The Consulate General keeps Mr Ageyev’s mother informed about the steps that are being taken. If this information is not sufficient or if this is being done in a form that she finds unsatisfactory, we will work on this and ensure that she receives exhaustive information and that this is done promptly.
We hope that the Ukrainian side will honour its obligations.
For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry is doing its best to defend Russian citizen Ageyev’s rights and interests.
Finnish authorities ban Kruzenshtern ship from calling at Mariehamn
We regret the decision of the Finnish authorities to refuse the Kruzenshtern sailing training ship permission to call at the port of Mariehamn on the Aland Islands (September 18-20) despite an invitation from the city administration. This totally unsubstantiated decision looks more than strange considering that just a few weeks before, this ship called at the Finnish ports of Kotka and Turku as part of the international Tall Ships Race.
The residents of the Aland Islands have been denied an opportunity to see for themselves the legendary four-mast bark that invariably draws a large number of people at sea ports all over world, who wish to see it, and that has a really big public response.
Situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine province
We are closely watching the developments in Myanmar’ Rakhine province. We are concerned by reports of casualties among civilians and government law enforcement and security personnel, as well as the sharp deterioration of the situation in the region.
At the same time, in our assessments of the events in Rakhine, we seek not to rely on report in foreign media outlets and on social media, which are clearly being used in an effort to disseminate information that does not correspond to reality. We pass judgment and draw our conclusions on the basis of objective reports from reliable international sources and, of course, from our embassy in Yangon.
Once again, we urge all parties to the conflict to refrain now and in the future from any actions that can lead to the further deterioration of the situation and begin a constructive dialogue as the only possible way of achieving a comprehensive settlement of the multi-dimensional and challenging problem of the Muslim minority in Myanmar. We act on the premise that official Naypyidaw will take all possible measures, without delay, to prevent the escalation of violence, restore law and order in this territory, ensure normal socioeconomic conditions and resolve the refugee problem. In the present situation, considering the Myanmar authorities’ evident readiness to follow the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, any pressure on Naypyidaw alongside unsubstantiated accusations of violence made against Muslims can only aggravate the situation in and around the country.
We will keep watching the situation. Corresponding statements were posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website regarding planted and fake news stories on this topic. Please use only verified information.
Situation on the Korean Peninsula
The situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula sharply escalated after a “thermonuclear explosive device” test was announced by Pyongyang on September 3. The apparent neglect of the global non-proliferation regime and respective UNSC resolutions by the PDRK is disappointing.
We consider the ongoing speedy militarisation of the region by both the sides, under the pretext of ensuring their own security, extremely dangerous. This regional “arms race” will inevitably result in a full-scale military conflict, which the years-long “endless circle” of reciprocal threats, military drills and missile and nuclear tests is leading to.
We are actively working on different levels with all sides in search of a peaceful solution for this set of problems on the Korean Peninsula. We are confident that the policy of “maximum pressure” on the DPRK, including sanctions, has exhausted itself and we have said that a number of times. Apparently, its end result will be either a military disaster in the North East Asia, or a humanitarian disaster in the DPRK.
It is crucial to prevent further development of either of these unacceptable scenarios. We call on the world community to use maximum efforts in order to encourage the sides involved in the conflict to start the process of dialogue. In this respect, we welcome any peace initiatives by the interested countries, their readiness to render mediating services or provide a venue for holding such negotiations.
We stress that the joint Russia-China initiative – the Korean settlement roadmap – is open to new proposals and amendments. At present, no other alternatives to it are within view.
Afghan civilian deaths in consequence of US airstrikes
Increasingly frequent reports of civilian deaths resulting from US airstrikes in Afghanistan have drawn our attention. Three US bombing attacks were registered, which led to civilian casualties in Afghanistan, within several days after US President Donald Trump’s “new policy” was made public.
On August 28, US Air Force planes bombed Bakhtabad, Shindand District in Herat Province, where there were no hostilities. Apart from the 16 killed and four wounded Taliban members, according to some reports, houses next to the target were also damaged, with 13 civilians dead and eight, including women and children, wounded.
On August 30, US Air Force attacked the city of Puli Alam in Logar Province, killing 28 people, 13 of them civilians and 11 more people were wounded. Media reports indicate that there were no rebels and no military activity in the region.
On September 6, US aircraft fired at a wedding ceremony in Qarabagh District, Kabul Province. According to some reports, two people were killed and three wounded.
Attempts by the command of the US forces to hush up the facts of civilian casualties resulting from these bombings cause concern. It should be noted that in the follow-up to the Pentagon’s investigations of some earlier incidents, including the bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz in October 2015, when over 70 people were killed or wounded, nobody was brought to criminal justice, while the perpetrators were only disciplined.
We call on the Afghan authorities to thoroughly investigate each incident and give a public evaluation of actions that cause civilian deaths.
Investigation of Australian service persons’ crimes in Afghanistan
Since 2016, the investigative service of the Australian Armed Forces has been conducting an investigation in connection with the information on the alleged murder of Afghan civilians, including children, by its service personnel from 2005 to 2016. Some cases involve cover-ups or fabrication to appear that soldiers acted in self-defense.
Up until present, the Australian military have refused to provide any information about the events, arguing that reporting the data may “impede current operations.”
We shall follow up on the investigation. This topic is of relevance, particularly in a situation where strikes by the US-led coalition in Syria are accompanied by mass civilian casualties. Meanwhile, Russia is still being reproached for its “indiscriminate use of weapons.”
Investigation into the desecration of the monument to Red Army soldiers in Kosice
We are closely following the Slovak authorities’ investigation into the desecration of the monument to Red Army soldiers in Kosice, which we already mentioned during the briefing on August 24. We were surprised to learn that the vandal, who was detained by the police on August 30 during an attempt to repeat the unlawful actions, had been released. This happened after the personal intervention of Slovak President Andrej Kiska, who believed his placement in custody to be an “excessively strict” measure. Such actions, despite how obvious the criminal act is, are puzzling. Actually, this is an encouragement for the offender, who insulted the memory of the Red Army heroes who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Slovakia from Nazism.
We hope that the Slovak law enforcement and judicial authorities will investigate this crime and fulfil their duties in an objective and impartial manner and that the culprit will be duly and fairly punished.
Denying Russian citizens entry into Georgia
We have learned about new cases of denying entry into Georgia to Russian citizens of Ossetian descent – those from the Kazbegi district, specifically the village of Kobi. Through Switzerland, which represents the interests of Russia in Georgia, we are trying to get an intelligible explanation from the Georgian authorities in regard of this prohibitive practice that prevents people from visiting their homes and landed properties, visiting their ancestors’ graves and performing religious rites.
Facebook statement on fighting fake accounts
We were pleased to hear about the statement by Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos made on 6 September. It states that an investigation conducted by the website’s administration identified a group of 470 fake accounts, which spent about $100,000 to promote their Facebook posts in 2015-2016.
We are glad that Facebook is at last beginning to take the issue of fake accounts seriously. They should have done it long ago. We could not get the attention of this social network’s administration when fake accounts appeared, and not just some incognito structures but those that presented themselves as official agencies and claimed to be the only official accounts of, for instance, a Russian embassy in some country. We tried everything – publishing our Ministry’s comments, drawing attention to this in social media, making official statements during briefings – but there was no reaction. And, finally, a breakthrough! We hope that now when we publicly mention fake accounts posing as Russian foreign missions, these accounts will be promptly blocked.
Moreover, I have mentioned this many times during briefings, interviews and media comments, let alone in social media, we tried to draw attention to attacks by Lithuanian fake accounts and bots on the social media accounts of Russian foreign missions and the Foreign Ministry. Unfortunately, once again, no reaction from the Facebook administration followed.
We see that this discovery by Facebook security experts has expectedly turned once again into an element of the anti-Russia information campaign. Allegedly, these accounts were managed from Russia and, again, were directly connected with the US elections. I have just one recommendation or a proposal to the administration, the management team, the owners: let us coordinate the efforts of the social network’s administration and the relevant Russian government authorities (law enforcement agencies, oversight bodies), and all other agencies that should be involved in this matter. Provide us with your information, and we will make our information readily available to you too. Why should we always operate through third parties? Why should these things always turn into information campaigns? We have a great opportunity here to launch a constructive dialogue. You will hear us and we will hear you, and this will turn into a normal exchange of information as it should be. If we encounter any issues or problems on this path, we can share these problems with the media. Today, in order to block a fake account of a Russian embassy, we have to come to a briefing and speak from the rostrum in a conference room. Unfortunately, there is no normal communication between us and Facebook administrators. This is a problem not just for us, but also for many Russian government agencies that cannot get the attention of Facebook and other social media in their attempts to get the fake accounts blocked. Now the social network itself has faced the same problem. To reiterate: Russia is open to cooperation at the level of relevant agencies.
From answers to media questions:
Protests against the deployment of the new US missile defence systems took place in South Korea. Protesters say that by doing this Washington has put their country at risk. Why is Russia against the deployment of these systems in South Korea?
Because this decision impairs the strategic stability in the region, without giving it the long-awaited tranquility or any prospects for a politico-diplomatic settlement of the issues at hand. It, in fact, aggravates them. Our position is widely known. We have stated it many times and provided the relevant facts.
I would like to repeat my question from last week regarding the note delivered by the Polish Foreign Ministry to the Russian Ambassador in Warsaw regarding the fact that access to the crash site of the Polish president’s plane near Smolensk is being limited. Could you comment on this topic?
We do confirm the receipt of such a note. Now experts are examining it, and, probably, a response will follow. Every country has the absolute sovereign right to choose its form of communication. We have always advocated normal working dialogue on this matter. The information in the note is now being double-checked to prepare a response to the Polish side.
Recently, the Russian-Turkish Business Forum took place in the Turkish city of Izmir. It was attended by ministers and representatives from Russia and Turkey. Could you comment on that?
I think you mean Russia’s participation in the 86th International Fair that took place in Izmir on August 18-27 and the bilateral contacts made in its framework.
This year, Russia participated in the Izmir International Fair as a partner, at the invitation of the Turkish side. Our delegation, which included representatives from several Russian regions, for example, the Republic of Tatarstan, as well as the Vladimir, Lipetsk, and Tula regions, was led by Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak, who is the Chairman of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation.
The Russian display featured samples of products produced in our country and in line with the main topic of the exhibition, which was dedicated to energy and innovations. Russian special economic zones were presented to Turkish investors.
The Russian delegation held a number of bilateral Russian-Turkish events on the sidelines of the Fair, including a meeting of the co-chairs of the Intergovernmental Commission, a business forum entitled “New Stage of the Russian-Turkish Partnership in the Trade and Economic Area,” as well as consultations on the reciprocal lifting of the remaining restraints in bilateral trade.
I would recommend that you apply to the relevant ministries for more detailed information (Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Economic Development, and Ministry of Industry and Trade). I have given you the Foreign Ministry’s assessment.
Some European countries are against the anti-Russia sanctions. Despite this, the EU has decided to extend them for another six months. How resistant is Europe to US pressure? What is your opinion?
I believe your question contains part of the answer. The United States put pressure not only on the EU but also on others to adopt sanctions against Russia. These sanctions are damaging European producers and the European economy. These sanctions are not doing any good to anyone. In the Long-term they won’t benefit the mutually beneficial partnership between Russia and the EU or Europe as a whole. Europe has shown that partnership is not just possible but can also produce very good results.
You have commented on the wrangle with the US Department of State on the [Russian] consulates. You said that the United States has a new tradition, which is aimed at undermining international order. US President Donald Trump speaks positively about Russia. How does Russia interpret US foreign policy, considering what the US State Department says and what President Trump says?
This is what I have said. I asked whether the United States has a general line, or whether different agencies take different stands. We have questions about this. Various statements are made. There are the lawmakers, the US State Department, the security services and the Trump administration, and all of them make widely different statements and take different actions. Sometimes we see a more streamlined variant, when they say and do one and the same thing. But this only concerns negative words and actions regarding Russia. We asked the question you have asked, that is, whether the United States has a general agenda regarding Russia. The State Department, its senior officials and official statements, including those made by the US Embassy staff in Moscow, all say that the United States wants to normalise relations with Russia. Good and fine; we want this too. However, in practice we see the adoption of new sanctions, the extension of old sanctions and actions that are incompatible with normal relations and are also evidence of degradation in Russian-US relations. Worse still, all of this looks as if we are in the active phase of a conflict.
I have provided concrete examples. Diplomatic property and diplomatic agencies have always been left alone even at the acute phase of a conflict. Property and infringement on property have never been an issue in the context of normal relations – not at the stage of normalising, which means improving, relations. Property is seized by bandits. This is it. We proceed from the assumption that we are dealing with a law-bound state, or this is what we have always thought. I believe that the United States should begin by deciding on the concept of relations with Russia and also on compliance (or non-compliance) with the law.
Actually, I don’t understand how unidentified persons can enter the property of others without court rulings or without any other documents, or if they have why they have not shown them to Russia or the US public? Is this possible in the United States? I have always thought this impossible. But now we can see that this is possible. It was not a drug cartel or a child porno studio that were raided. But even in that case you need a decision or a court ruling – some kind of a document. What we are talking about here is that one wonderful day unidentified people entered the premises of the Russian Consulate General – the Russian Federation is the rightful owner of the building and the land on which it stands. And these people remained there, doing something, walking on the roof, moving equipment around, bringing and removing items, and controlling the building’s entrance and exit. What kind of parity is this? But the US State Department officials are talking about parity. Have you ever seen this happen to US diplomats or US diplomatic or any other property? Have you seen this happen anywhere in the world? I haven’t.
Does this affect, among other things, Russian-US relations on the North Korean issue?
An interesting parallel. This affects the bilateral agenda as a whole at the international interaction level. We have repeatedly said as much.
What strikes you most of all is that words and statements are at odds with concrete actions. I do not believe that educated adults do not understand that the statements about normalising relations come into conflict with the seizing of property owned by the country, with which you want to normalise relations.
When parity is mentioned, one would like to hear an example of Russia’s identical treatment of the US side anytime anywhere. I can’t remember anything like this. Where is the parity? Has it been up till now? Has anyone walked on roofs with special equipment (I am not sure about weapons, this needs to be double-checked), or pried anything open, or cut into wiring? Have you seen a similar treatment of the US here? I know you haven’t.
When our colleagues say they want to achieve parity, it’s basically unclear what they are talking about. What parity? If they want to achieve this, then, “be careful what you ask for,” as the saying goes.
Director of the Second Asian Department Zamir Kabulov reported that his meeting with a US representative for Afghanistan was being planned in New York before the end of September. Is there any information about topics and issues to be discussed at the meeting? What does Russia expect from this?
We have responded promptly to the US side’s interest in a bilateral expert dialogue in this area. After several months, when the matter was handed down to the executive level, the US side began dragging its feet. Today, regrettably, this is normal.
I know the intention is to hold a meeting of this kind on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. We, for our part, are ready for it. If the Americans confirm it, it will take place. To reiterate: it was the US side that was interested, and the parties will be able to discuss the entire range of issues related to both the situation in Afghanistan and regional security in the context of developments in that country.
Earlier this week, the US submitted a UN Security Council draft resolution on tightening sanctions against the DPRK. The new document provides for a ban on the supply of oil and oil products, the import of North Korean textiles, and employment of North Korean workers. The United States plans a vote on this document on Monday, September 11. How will Russia vote and how does it assess this document as a whole?
Russia will vote on the draft document that is currently in the works. I mentioned today the principles that underlie the Russian approach.
Channel Zvezda journalist Alexey Yegorov has been denied accreditation at the Defence and Security Equipment International Exhibition, similar to Russia’s Army Forum, in the United Kingdom. Russian forums receive foreign journalists, but the British side has turned down a Russian journalist’s accreditation request without any explanation. Can you comment on this?
This trend is about the Zvezda television channel and other Russian news agencies, television companies and publications. We are talking about a purposeful policy of pressuring Russian media outlets. The main reason journalists are not accredited, are expelled or detained is formulated in the format of accusations dealing with propaganda and even national security risks, depending on various situations. All this directly contradicts the norms of international law that have been signed by the states now displaying this attitude towards Russian media outlets.
First, we are recording these cases, and we send them to the appropriate OSCE institution that deals with freedom of the press and journalist rights.
I would like to recall what I have noted several times over the past two years. Regarding the EU countries, we sent a diplomatic note to the Delegation of the European Union in Moscow and requested explanations for the procedure for accrediting foreign journalists in EU countries. We requested a comprehensive document so we could gain insight into the accreditation procedure, including specific recommendations that we can issue to Russian journalists.
Quite often, Russian media representatives have faced the following attitude: they have been told that they have violated national law and have failed to comply with it. We sent a note to the Delegation of the European Union in Moscow, and then we sent another one after failing to receive a reply to the first and, later second, notes. We heard an interesting phrase that different norms for accrediting foreign journalists are effective on EU territory. Actually, each country stipulates its own norms and procedures for accrediting foreign correspondents. It appears that we will act in the following way. Now that the EU has no standard procedure for accrediting foreign correspondents, we will send the appropriate notes to all EU and European country embassies where we have had problems with Russian correspondents. We will request official explanations as to how foreign correspondents should be accredited in these countries, how journalist visas are obtained and for how long, and whether journalists can be denied accreditation on the basis of any media outlet’s news contents or journalists’ reports.
I repeat, we have been maintaining a dialogue with the Delegation of the European Union on this issue, and nothing is happening.
A Polish media outlet has published an item claiming that Russia illegally holds several properties in Poland, including the trade representation and the buildings where embassy staff lived. The publication claims that Polish authorities have been trying in vain to receive the right to use comparable properties in Russia. Will you comment on this, please?
We’ve seen this and also several other publications on this subject. Regrettably, the matter concerning Russian diplomatic property in Poland is one of the irritants in bilateral relations.
At this point, only three out of the nearly two dozen facilities that belonged to the Soviet Union have been officially re-registered. Our right to use the other facilities has been contested under various pretexts.
It is regrettable that the Polish side has gone to court in an attempt to tip the balance in its favour, insisting that this property must be returned to the Polish Ministry of Treasury, or that we owe Poland money for using this property without a contract, and the like. We cannot recognise the legality of these verdicts because they disregard the diplomatic status of this property and the fact that they were acquired in a perfectly legal manner. It is a fact that we own this property on the basis of bilateral agreements between the Soviet Union and Poland, under which Poland could request to have commensurate property in the Soviet Union. However, Poland has not made use of this right.
Contrary to what the media write, we continue holding consultations with Warsaw on this question, even though they are proceeding slowly and painfully due to the differences in the sides’ approaches to the matter. We also analyse this complicated subject within the national interdepartmental framework, trying to find a mutually acceptable solution, including by satisfying Poland’s realistic property requirements in Russia.
We would like to point out again that certain complications, such as the problem of diplomatic property, can be only settled through talks and that unilateral decisions are absolutely unacceptable. In this context, I would like to remind you that compensation for the abuse of Russian property will be an integral part of the final settlement.
This week The Guardian published a fake story about Azerbaijan’s “secret” payments to Rosoboronexport allegedly for Russian weapon deliveries to Baku. Both Azerbaijan and Rosoboronexport have denied these allegations. What does the Russian Foreign Ministry think about the growing anti-Russia campaign and Western media attacks on Azerbaijan and Russian-Azerbaijani trade? Can this mean that the West is increasing pressure on Russia’s allies?
It can and it does. Powerful information pressure has been mounted through several channels. They are putting pressure on Russian journalists, trying to squeeze them out of the information space. This pressure can take different forms, such as denial of accreditation or access, shutdown threats, termination of broadcasting licences, including for cable and satellite networks. Of course, this is being done through the publication of a great deal of fake news. We try to promptly react to this.
Can you comment on Canadian media reports about a programme under which gay Chechen men and women are being brought from Russia to Canada?
I have seen these reports, but I have not seen any official Canadian statements that would confirm these reports. Have there been any? I think that you should ask the Canadian authorities, possibly the Canadian Embassy in Moscow, or maybe Canada’s Foreign Ministry will react to these publications in one way or another, that it will either confirm or deny them. This is what you should start with.
There were interviews with gay people from Chechnya who moved to Canada. They said they came under this programme.
So it will be no problem for Canada to confirm this officially. We need an official confirmation from the Canadian side to be able to work with this information. As I said, at first we must understand whether there are official confirmations of these facts by Canadian government bodies. I believe we should first send an inquiry to Canada and then start working with this information to make sure it is not fake. After all, it is very easy to send a relevant inquiry to the Canadian side. As soon as they say whether this information is true or not, we will be able to comment on it. This is logical.
There are organisations that declared they helped Chechens to come to Canada.
All the more so Canada has every reason to confirm or deny this.
Are you waiting for government confirmation?
What we suggest is that we should receive Canada’s official comment on this matter. And once this is done we will be able to understand whether this is true or not. Doesn’t that make sense? Do you have any certainty as to whether this is a fake or not?
Our correspondents talked with Chechens who came recently.
Did you talk with the Canadian side?
I think so but I’m here in Moscow, so I cannot say.
There is the Canadian Embassy in Moscow. You can ask them to specify this. How come you do not check your facts? I can’t believe this.
But we have already talked to Chechens…
But have you talked with Canadians? Talk with officials. This is a strange story. You have to start by checking the facts. Talk to the Canadians. They should either confirm that such a programme exists or deny it.
What is Russia’s response to the planned referendum on independence in Catalonia? The Spanish authorities are trying to stop this process. What is Russia’s attitude to this?
We have already commented on this issue. Our position remains unchanged.
Let’s suppose that Mark Zuckerberg has heard your appeal. Whom should he address to establish cooperation? Should he call the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco? Or should he write a letter to you?
This question should be addressed to him. We said we have relevant government agencies that are ready to answer Facebook’s questions but we also have many questions regarding the fake accounts – not mythical ones but those that exist today. We discovered recently that there are two fake Facebook accounts just in the context of Eastern Europe and Russian foreign offices there. These ostensibly “Russian embassies” were very active. They attracted users and conducted dialogues “on behalf” of Russian diplomatic missions. We spent weeks on trying to convey this to the company.
As for the Foreign Ministry, you are fully aware of our quick response. There are telephones, email and chats. We are ready to meet and start acting promptly. But we are not the only agency that is facing such problems in Russia. My colleagues from many other agencies tell me how they counter fake accounts that are duplicating the work of their departments or subordinate organisations. It is up to the company to decide on the best course of action. We are open to cooperation.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2856885
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|1 Week Ago||#231|
Press release on the commemorative event “Your Feat is Immortal, Your Memory Eternal”
8 September 2017 - 20:25
Seventy six years ago, in July 1941, employees of the USSR People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs voluntarily joined citizen militia to prevent Nazis from entering Moscow. To commemorate this event, a plaque was unveiled on the former building of the commissariat (21/5 Kuznetsky Most Street) on February 10, 2014.
On September 8, 2017, on the eve of Moscow Day, a delegation of Foreign Ministry employees and veterans, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, laid a commemorative wreath and flowers at the plaque. There were many young diplomats in attendance.
Mr Ryabkov, Chairman of the Foreign Ministry Veteran Council V.I. Morozov, Chairman of the Association of Russian Diplomats Council I.V. Khalevinsky, and Deputy Chairman of the Young Diplomats Council S.D. Kovalevsky, spoke during the event. They expressed words of gratitude to the commissariat employees who perished during the Great Patriotic War. The memory of their exploits is cherished by the Foreign Ministry.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2857035
Comment by the Information and Press Department on the demolition of a mausoleum on the common grave of Red Army soldiers in Trzcianka, Poland
9 September 2017 - 14:06
We have taken note of the outrageous news concerning the demolition of a mausoleum on the common grave of Red Army soldiers in the Polish town of Trzcianka. Preparations for this sacrilege began long ago, and the Polish side was notified of our substantiated and unambiguous position against the monument’s demolition.
The Polish authorities’ arbitrary actions with regard to Soviet/Russian memorials are unacceptable from the viewpoint of effective interstate and intergovernmental documents.
We express our resolute protest against the Polish authorities’ vandalism. We view this glaring act as a direct consequence and an illustration of the Polish authorities’ anti-Russia policy, including in the memorial sphere. Warsaw should know that this demonstration of neglect for the memory of the war and war heroes is similar to barbarity. We do not intend to accept this situation.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2857106
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|1 Week Ago||#232|
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Adel Al-Jubeir, Jeddah, September 10, 2017
10 September 2017 - 15:19
Many say there can only be a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Have the Russian and Saudi positions moved closer on the issue? The discussion concerned an agreement on uniting representatives of the opposition into a single delegation at the upcoming negotiations. Is it realistic to expect this delegation to sit at the negotiating table without any preconditions?
We have no disagreements with the KSA on the political commitment to settle crises politically. It so happened that bloody conflicts broke out in many parts of the region. They are being used primarily by extremists and terrorists that are trying to expand their influence there. This evil can be only countered by armed force. The KSA leaders and President Vladimir Putin have repeatedly spoken about being uncompromising on this front. For achieving a definitive settlement of these conflicts, when the terrorist threat recedes and the terrorists are defeated, which is already happening in Iraq and Syria, it will certainly be necessary to look at the political settlement processes that, I believe, should by all means involve all ethnic and religious groups in inclusive dialogue and a search for solutions to create a structure for a functioning government that will allow all citizens of a certain country to co-exist in peace and security.
As I have already said, we are actively supporting Saudi Arabia’s efforts to unite all opposition representatives into one group. The platform for their unification is largely determined by UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which mentions the Riyadh, Moscow and Cairo groups as a mandatory component of talks on the opposition side, and says that only Syrians themselves can decide the destiny of their country.
I share the position of my Saudi colleague. We believe that once this unification takes place, we should encourage all members of the delegation to elaborate a platform designed to achieve this goal so that Syrians themselves agree on a settlement path. Naturally, UN Security Council Resolution 2254 does not contain any preconditions for the start of the talks or any ultimatums or unilateral demands.
I am convinced that when the opposition unites (I think this will take place by all means), we will advise the participants of this united delegation to elaborate a constructive position that will make it possible to move forward in Geneva.
The situation in the Persian Gulf remains complicated. The sides are exchanging accusations. What possible ways of resolving this issue do Russia and Saudi Arabia see?
As for the crisis in the Gulf, I have already said we have an interest in the outcome of the ongoing mediation and in restoring unity in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Russia and KSA understand each other on the oil issue. On what issues do they disagree?
As for our oil cooperation, this is a responsibility of energy ministries rather than foreign ministers. As I said, at the meeting with His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, His Majesty expressed satisfaction with our cooperation in this area. This assessment fully coincides with the opinion of the Russian leadership.
How do you envision Syria’s future?
There is never unity in each individual step on the way to a common goal. If you look at all players involved that influence the situation on the ground, including Russia, Turkey, Iran and the members of the US-led coalition, you will have to admit that their methods of reaching the goals set by the UN Security Council do not always coincide, far from it. This is exactly why the Astana process emerged, with Russia, Turkey and Iran as guarantors, the United States and Jordan as observers, the team of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, as well as representatives of the Syrian Government and armed opposition all trying to find a common denominator among views on how to solve this problem. Currently they are making progress towards this goal. Three de-escalation zones have been established. The first one was the southern zone set up with the help of Russia, the US and Jordan, and the other two zones were established in Homs and Eastern Ghouta.
Next week Astana will host another meeting. I hope its participants will reach agreements on all parameters of the fourth zone in Idlib.
The parties involved should not focus on current issues that are not always easy to agree on. The bottom line is to understand that we are all moving towards the goal that was formulated by consensus on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 with full respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the principle of non-interference in the efforts of the Syrians to decide the future of their own country. As my Saudi colleague said, we and the KSA are fully committed to these goals.
Question (for both ministers):
It has been a long time since positive advances were made in the Arab-Israeli peace process. Is there going to be a meeting of the Middle East Quartet in the near future, maybe on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly? Hasn’t this format outlived itself yet? Is it possible that new approaches and platforms are required?
Because the Middle East Quartet was mentioned, I will answer that Russia, as a member of the Quartet, is interested in keeping this mechanism going. The Quartet’s activity is based on the universally recognised decisions of the United Nations. It is also based on the principles of the Arab Peace Initiative that we have already mentioned today. It all reflects the consensus of the international community. I believe it would be counterproductive and a mistake to depart from this consensus.
It is true that the settlement process is, to put it mildly, stalled. There is still a virtual deadlock and we cannot find ways out, although attempts are being made.
For the first time since the change of administration in the US, the Quartet’s envoys met in Jerusalem this July. They released a modest and perhaps not high-profile statement (without any breakthrough or revelations). But at least it confirmed the need to follow the plans that had been agreed upon. It may be important to prove the “relevance” of the Quartet. Still, we always spoke out against the Quartet operating in a vacuum, in favour of the Quartet closely coordinating its actions with the Arab League. We also spoke in favour of not just inviting representatives of the Arab League for briefings after the Quartet’s meetings, but to actively participate in developing pathways that can lead to a settlement. This is especially important, because, as I’ve already said, the Arab Peace Initiative is the cornerstone of the common effort. Consequently, the participation of the Arab countries would be more than appropriate.
One of the fundamental reasons we are unable to move forward faster is the absence of Palestinian unity. The Palestinians are divided; the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has deteriorated. The Gaza Strip no longer receives many essential goods for everyday life, to meet the daily needs of the population. We are trying to reconcile those who live and work in the Gaza Strip with those in the West Bank and Mahmoud Abbas’ administration. We are in contact with Hamas and Fatah to get them to resume implementation of the agreements reached not long ago, to unite under the single roof of the Ramallah administration and to hold general presidential and parliamentary elections.
I repeat, this rift is currently one of the main reasons the efforts to resume talks have not been effective. We know that many Arab countries work to help restore Palestinian unity. We are ready to coordinate our approaches with them.
Another reason warrants mention. Despite the appointment of a special envoy, who has visited the region 20 times already, the US has not clearly expressed a position on the Israeli-Palestinian settlement. We communicate with all the sides, including the special envoy appointed by Washington. Of course, we talk with Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently visited Russia. He held talks with President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Although the bulk of the talks was dedicated to other issues (Syria and everything around it), we also reiterated how important it is not to let the Israeli-Palestinian settlement process drop out of view. It is discussed as one of the most ancient, if not the most ancient, conflict on the planet. I share the belief that the absence of a settlement and a Palestinian state for almost 70 years after the corresponding decision was made is one of the main reasons the extremists are able to recruit young people under the pretext of discrimination against the Palestinian people and the inability of the international community to implement the decision of the UN General Assembly to establish a Palestinian state living side by side with the Israeli state in peace, harmony and safety, as the rest of their neighbours.
What is the purpose of creating de-escalation zones in Syria? Who exactly works there?
The purpose of creating de-escalation zones in Syria is to stop the violence. It is not a permanent measure. No one who agreed to form them intends to keep them forever, essentially establishing something like enclaves on the Syrian territory. There is an agreement that they will function for six months. The results are already clear. The ceasefire is generally respected. There are observation posts and checkpoints located along the perimeters of these zones, so that the humanitarian aid can pass without obstacle, so that civilians can walk both ways without any difficulties. There is also, for instance, Russian military police working along the perimeter of these zones. It proved to be acceptable for all parties of the conflict: government forces and opposition inside the de-escalation zones who signed the ceasefire agreement.
Of course, the purpose of these zones is to begin expanding the space where the cessation of hostilities is respected and peaceful life can return throughout Syria. Another important element of the concept of forming de-escalation zones is to establish a dialogue through national reconciliation committees. Inside these zones, there is interest in establishing such committees to begin talking to the government. This will be a very important addition to the efforts taken in Geneva to ensure a direct dialogue at the negotiating table under the auspices of the United Nations. If we establish the same reconciliation process at the local level, then, I believe, the general process will go faster and be more effective, and the area where the ceasefire is respected and the national dialogue is established will grow. Ultimately, it should cover the entire Syrian Arab Republic.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2857224
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi, Amman, September 11, 2017
11 September 2017 - 17:18
Question (for both ministers):
You spoke about cooperation between Russia and Jordan on the de-escalation zone in southern Syria. As is known, the US plays an active role in this process. Speaking about the role of the United States in Syria as a whole, today Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that Americans should leave Syria, as they kill civilians and destabilise the situation in the region. At the same time, there are positive results in the trilateral process. How would you describe cooperation with the US on Syria?
We have consistently put forward very clear positions. All those, who enter Syrian territory or airspace without the consent or invitation of the Syrian Government, violate international law. Russia is working at the direct invitation of the legitimate authorities of Syria, as well as representatives of Iran and Hezbollah. In this format, we interact with the Syrian armed forces solely to suppress terrorism and create conditions for ending the civil war and beginning to address humanitarian problems and promoting a political settlement.
At the same time, it is an objective fact that there are "uninvited guests" in Syria, including those with arms in their hands. Since we saw the opportunity to cooperate with them in the antiterrorist struggle in the interests of the all Syrians, such contacts were established. Ever since the contacts under the Obama administration, we worked out (and were met with understanding by the Syrian leadership, explaining the motives of our actions) a scheme that, if it had entered into force and been implemented, today we would be in a much better position on a settlement in Syria. But they lacked the spirit, capabilities or opportunities to dissociate Jabhat al-Nusra from those opposition forces with whom the US side cooperated.
Today we talked about the still very ambiguous situation with Jabhat al- Nusra, which for some reason a number of participants of the US-led coalition try to protect and shield it from blows. This is absolutely unacceptable. Jabhat al-Nusra, like ISIS, has been designated a terrorist organisation by the UN Security Council.
If we talk about who we interact with, as you know, when the Obama administration acknowledged its impotence in disassociating the opposition from terrorists, we began to work with Iran and Turkey. This is also a format that met with understanding on the Syrian side. Moreover, the Syrian Government, within the framework of the Astana process, participates in the discussion of the concept of de-escalation zones and the steps that must be taken to translate this concept into reality. There are three guarantor countries (Russia, Turkey and Iran), the Syrian side, the armed opposition, UN representatives and observers from Jordan and the United States.
In conclusion, I will say the following thing. The principles of international law have not been abolished, they must be respected, including non-interference in internal affairs, such as sending in armed contingents without the consent of the legitimate government. At the same time, if there is a pragmatic opportunity to use the situation in order to help the Syrian people get rid of terrorists and restore peaceful life, these opportunities must be used.
Speaking about your visit to Saudi Arabia, do you believe the country is really ready to resolve the Syrian crisis? Does it have a real idea of how to resolve it?
Yes, I believe Saudi Arabia is ready to resolve the Syrian crisis. This was confirmed at the very beginning of the Astana process when Russia, Turkey and Iran created this format. When this process got underway, we received confirmation from Saudi Arabia of its support for this format and its readiness to cooperate in establishing de-escalation zones and implementing other initiatives that are being elaborated in Astana. Since the Astana process as we now see is the most efficient mechanism for stopping bloodshed, creating the conditions for resolving humanitarian issues and launching political dialogue and since Astana is the current venue for direct dialogue between the Government and the armed opposition, I think that all those who support this format are interested not only in the success of the Astana process but also in settling the Syrian crisis in line with international law and UN Security Council resolutions.
President Vladimir Putin said the other day that Russia will file a lawsuit against the US authorities for seizing diplomatic property. Has this process been launched, and what other countermeasures can the Russian authorities take in response to the US sanctions. And, if you let me, I would like to ask you a question on North Korea if you deem it possible to comment on it: does Moscow support the new UN Security Council resolution?
We are currently studying this resolution. Our experts are analysing the text in its current version. So you will soon learn about our attitude to this document.
As for Russian property in the United States, as we have already said Russia displayed goodwill and asked Washington to match its diplomatic presence in Russia with the Russian personnel at foreign missions in the US. Importantly, we included all those who work at the Russian Mission to the UN in this total number, which is a separate issue and does not concern bilateral relations. Nonetheless we made a gesture of goodwill. The United States “pocketed” this gesture and said if the Russians want parity, let them shut down one out of its four consulates general because the US only has three in Russia. Since they took parity as a criterion, we are now analysing the conditions of US foreign missions in Russia and of Russian foreign missions in the US, and will bring these conditions into full conformity with what is called “parity.”
What do you think about Jordan’s role in Syria and the Astana process?
I can only repeat what I have already said. We highly appreciate Jordan’s participation in the Astana process. Jordan got involved in it when the Astana process reached discussion of the concept of de-escalation zones. We appreciate that our Jordanian friends are sending their representative from Amman to a regular meeting in Astana this week. We highly value the fact that Jordan is an observer in the Astana process and that it was not an observer but a direct participant in the agreement on a de-escalation zone in southern Syria.
What could you say about the peace process between Israel and Palestine and the protection of Islamic and Christian shrines in Jerusalem?
Speaking about the Palestinian-Israeli settlement, we pay special attention to the Jerusalem issue. We stand for preserving the status quo of the Holy Sites, including the role of the Jordanian waqf as regards procedures of visiting al Aqsa. This is a very important aspect that should be respected by everyone without exception.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2857950
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|6 Days Ago||#233|
Comment by the Information and Press Department on the adoption of a new Law on Education in Ukraine
12 September 2017 - 10:24
We have taken note that the other day the Verkhovna Rada adopted a new law On Education, which stipulates stiff restrictions on the use of minority languages and envisages a transition to schooling only using the Ukrainian language by 2020. Although Russian is not mentioned in the law, it is obvious that the main goal of the current Ukrainian lawmakers is to trample the interests of millions of Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine and to enforce a mono-ethnic language regime in the multi-ethnic state.
We view this as an attempt by the Kiev authorities, which came to power via a Maidan revolt, to bring about a complete Ukrainisation of the country’s education system in direct violation of the Ukrainian Constitution and Kiev’s international commitments in the sphere of culture.
Moscow is not alone in this interpretation of the latest Ukrainian action. The foreign ministries of Hungary, Poland and Romania, as well as the President of Moldova, have sharply criticised the above-mentioned Ukrainian law.
Russia believes in the importance of collective efforts, including those taken at international organisations, against the policy of the Ukrainian authorities who are trampling over the universal standards of human rights.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2858373
Comment by the Information and Press Department on the adoption of UNSC Resolution 2375 regarding the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem
12 September 2017 - 17:23
On September 11, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2375 that reflected the global community’s disapproval of North Korea’s September 3 nuclear tests and was a natural response to Pyongyang’s serious violation of previous UNSC resolutions.
In the course of intense work to agree the text of the resolution, together with our Chinese partners, we managed to significantly correct the United States’ extremely harsh draft that essentially sought to strangle North Korea’s economy and could have had catastrophic humanitarian consequences for people in North Korea. As a result, we ensured the continuation of the major Russian-North Korean Khasan−Rajin coal transit project, and direct flights between the two countries. We also eliminated the demands to impose sanctions on North Korea’s top leadership, the government and the Workers’ Party of Korea, as well as to introduce a full embargo on oil and oil product supplies to North Korea. The provisions concerning inspections of suspicious vessels at sea were relaxed and brought in compliance with international law. The demand for the forced deportation of North Korean migrant workers was also excluded. An important political component was included, stating that it would be unacceptable to instigate a conflict and that it is imperative to reach a political and diplomatic settlement of the Korean Peninsula’s issues.
We proceed from the premise that the sole purpose of the sanctions regime against North Korea is to urge its leadership to abandon their nuclear missile activity prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions.
We call on all UN member-states to strictly follow Resolution 2375 in full, in the interests of normalising the situation around the Korean Peninsula. Primarily, this concerns the intention, enshrined in the document, to reach a peaceful political and diplomatic resolution of the situation through dialogue, and the importance of intensifying efforts to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula and associated tensions.
The Russian Federation has consistently supported the immediate start of the negotiation process and is engaged in proactive coordination with stakeholders to find a mutually acceptable and comprehensive solution to the issues of the Korean Peninsula, including on the basis of the settlement roadmap proposed by Russia and China.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2860498
Comment by the Information and Press Department on the latest report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine
12 September 2017 - 18:24
We have read the nineteenth report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine for the period from May 16 to August 15, 2017.
We express our deep concern about the high level of violence in Donbass. We support the UN Mission’s appeal to the parties to the conflict to strictly observe the ceasefire agreement.
We regret that the so-called grain truce, announced on June 24, has repeatedly been violated by Kiev and the armed groups it controls.
The UN Mission’s information about civilian infrastructure facilities still suffering shelling attacks is alarming and contrary to Ukraine’s international obligations to protect civilians. In this regard, we once again wholeheartedly support the UN Mission’s strong recommendations to abide by the Minsk Agreements.
Against the background of widespread illegal imprisonment and enforced disappearances by the Ukrainian Security Service, we are concerned by new instances of systemic violations by Ukrainian law enforcement: arrests and terrorism charges against Ukrainians who do business in Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic.
Reports of brutal torture used by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies and the Security Service to extort confessions are outrageous and warrant the strongest condemnation. There has been widespread use of mock executions and electric shocks. Crimes are not properly investigated, the report says, which contributes to the growing atmosphere of impunity in the country. Against this background, the lack of progress in the investigation of the May 2014 Odessa tragedy is also perfectly clear.
We are troubled by the UN Mission’s conclusions about Kiev’s inhuman discriminatory policy against Ukrainian citizens living in Donbass. The authorities’ refusal to pay pensions and social benefits has put about 4 million people on the brink of poverty.
We share the concerns of the UN mission regarding the latest round of legislative restrictions on civil and political freedoms in the country. We agree with international experts that the hunt for journalists and persecution of media representatives and opposition activists who face criminal punishment for exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression, closure of companies out of favour with the authorities, including media groups, the government’s unwillingness to ensure the rights of minorities to peaceful assembly are incompatible with the fundamental principles of a democratic state. At the same time, we must reiterate that the mandate of the UN Mission in Ukraine does not include monitoring third countries. We emphasize in this connection that the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city of federal significance, are part of the Russian Federation, and the attempt to include these regions in the UN report on human rights in Ukraine are improper.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2860616
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|6 Days Ago||#234|
Remarks by Head of the Russian delegation Anatoly Viktorov, Director of the Foreign Ministry Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights and Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, at the opening session of the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), Warsaw, September 11, 2017
12 September 2017 - 13:02
This year we have seen major personnel reshuffles in the top echelons of the OSCE executive agencies, thanks to the agreements we reached at Mauerbach. I would like to again congratulate Ms Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir on her appointment as the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and to wish her success in her new capacity. Our congratulations also go to Mr Thomas Greminger on his appointment as the OSCE Secretary General, to Mr Harlem Desir, who has been appointed as the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and to Mr Lamberto Zannier, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. We hope that while working within the framework of their mandates they will search for a reasonable compromise so as to be able to maintain the geographical balance in their agencies’ operation.
We are convinced that we should start with revising some OSCE institutions’ approach to the events in Ukraine, as we pointed out at our previous meeting. It is absolutely unacceptable that the OSCE refrains from making an objective analysis of the situation in Ukraine, where an internal armed conflict has been raging for several years. This conflict was launched by the forces that had seized power in Kiev in a military coup that was sponsored and supported by the leadership of several OSCE countries. These same countries have claimed the right to teach us respect for human rights. The OSCE and its concerned agencies seldom provide appropriate assessments of the numerous infringements on human rights and freedoms, which have been committed by the Kiev government, including infringements on the right to life, freedom of speech, conscience, religion and convictions, as well as language and other minority rights. We are gravely concerned about the situation with media freedom in Ukraine. We must not turn a blind eye to the numerous violations of Kiev’s international commitments to eliminate all forms of racism and racial discrimination. Nationalist, racist and neo-Nazi ideas and ideology are spreading throughout Ukraine unchallenged.
There are serious complaints against the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which focused on several countries “east of Vienna” instead of comprehensively assessing the situation in Ukraine as well as throughout the OSCE area as a whole.
This imbalance stuck out like a sore thumb against the backdrop of the electoral monitoring campaign, which has pointed to the increasing number of questions to the standards of the ODIHR activities. We monitored the elections as part of international observer missions, including the ODIHR ones, and have come to the conclusion that the operations carried out by the Office must be adjusted to modern realities and that the methods of election monitoring should be coordinated with the OSCE member states. Otherwise we will be unable to maintain the necessary level of trust for the ODIHR or ensure compliance with the principles of professionalism and objectivity in its work. We hope that the new ODIHR leadership will make every effort so as to be able to find solutions to these problems.
We pointed out more than once over the past years that the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities neglected to take a serious look at the situation of the Russian minorities both in Latvia and Estonia or at the humiliating and downright disgraceful status of non-citizens, which is a shameful element of life in modern Europe. We hope that the new High Commissioner will give the necessary attention to these matters.
Regarding the numerous statements on the “independence” and “autonomous nature” of the OSCE’s executive agencies that have been made in some countries, we have to say that these allegations are completely groundless. These agencies must operate in strict compliance with the decisions of the OSCE’s collective agencies and the approved mandates. Neither the budget-financed nor the extra-budgetary projects can exceed the limits of the OSCE obligations, consensus decisions or mandates. We consider it crucial to increase the transparency in the work of these agencies and their accountability to the member states.
There are still distortions in the approaches of some OSCE states to humanitarian issues. Double standards, mentoring and, the phenomenon of the past few years – attempts to railroad into the OSCE agenda dubious items with the express purpose of inciting anti-Russian sentiment, do not promote dialogue on issues that are important for all of us.
This is being done despite the accumulation of many problems to the west of Vienna. This primarily applies to the migration issues in Europe, which were triggered by the interference of some Western powers in the domestic affairs of some countries in the Middle East and North Africa with a view to their destabilization and removal of objectionable regimes. A bad situation is made worse by the EU’s lack of a clear-cut common policy and substantial differences in the positions of its members on migration issues, which vary from radically liberal to excessively tough.
Regrettably, there are many examples of abusive treatment or even violence directed toward migrants and refugees. This contributes to the aggravation of migration issues and growing demand for “the services” of human trafficking networks, whose number is on the rise. Our Western colleagues are virtually ignoring the extremist and terrorist threats posed by the sharp increase in migration to Europe, which is a source of special concern.
Freedom of expression and the media has turned into an instrument of unscrupulous political manipulation. The accuracy of information is no longer important. The United States and EU countries are trying to separate the international information space into two camps – the proper (their own) media and propaganda mouthpieces that reflect alternative views on global events, especially as regards Russia and its interests. Steamrolled by Washington and Brussels, ostensibly “independent” publications, TV and radio channels are following the pattern of overt double standards. As a result, journalists are the hardest hit – they are threatened, extradited, tortured and even killed for dissent. They are labelled propagandists and liars while objectionable media unwelcome in the West are subjected to defamation and growing pressure by the authorities.
We hope the new OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media will deal with these issues, guided by an unbiased assessment of the situation in OSCE states.
Russia has repeatedly emphasised the need to pay close attention to growing manifestations of aggressive nationalism and neo-Nazism in OSCE states. We have received no response to our appeals to give a principled assessment to Neo-Nazi manifestations and marches, “the war” against monuments to the liberators of Europe, historical revision of WWII and glorification of Waffen-SS veterans and their accomplices. Moreover, our Western colleagues are cynically justifying such actions by citing freedom of expression and the right to “one’s own interpretation of historical events.”
Driven by their desire to belittle the Soviet Union’s decisive role in the victory in WWII, the United States, Canada and the EU are shutting their eyes to these appalling facts and are flirting with true radicals. It is enough to recall the recent clip on the NATO website glorifying the Latvian “forest brothers.” One of the most graphic manifestations of this was a campaign to glorify Nazi accomplices in Ukraine, information on which is largely being hushed up in the West. Only the tragic events in Charlottesville last August stirred the emotions of the world public and demonstrated that it is extremely dangerous to indulge radical views. We hope our colleagues will draw the proper conclusions at long last.
We are concerned about the situation of Christians and Muslims in the OSCE countries and neighbouring regions. Christians are facing huge challenges. They are subjected to discriminatory laws. Believers and the clergy have been attacked, persecuted and even killed. The Western media suppress their problems. Many Christian shrines have been violated and destroyed. There is also increasing intolerance of Muslims and growing anti-Muslim sentiment and rhetoric, including from officials, as well as violence, vandalised mosques and religious symbols and incitement of hatred in the social media. At the same time, the decision adopted at the OSCE Ministerial Meeting in Basel in 2014 to adopt two ministerial declarations on countering intolerance against Christians and Muslims has not been implemented. We are perplexed by the position of those countries that have blocked work on these vital documents under far-fetched pretexts.
Regarding the idea of adopting a working definition of anti-Semitism, Russia is willing to contribute to this process, provided it is based on broad consensus and involves all the concerned parties. We are also ready to consider the possibility of adopting similar definitions of intolerance against Christians and Muslims.
The OSCE must definitely pay more attention to the rights of children. Regrettably, the current problems include growing violence against and sexual abuse of children, trafficking of children, including online, child labour and juvenile delinquency. Another issue of major concern is the introduction of obligatory sex education in some countries, which often has a negative effect on the children’s mental development and runs contrary to the cultural and religious beliefs of their parents.
Neither should we overlook the abusive practices of governmental and para-governmental organisations that have the right to forcibly take children away from their parents based on anonymous reports. Juvenile justice must not tolerate the grossly arbitrary behaviour of some institutions that endangers not just the mental health of children but also their future.
We cannot accept certain upbringing methods that have been approved in some European countries, such as freedom from gender identity, the abolition of gender as a category and other outrageous experiments that are designed to erode children’s self-identification. We hope to be able to hold a substantive discussion of the entire range of child protection issues at the upcoming seminar in Warsaw on October 11-12.
Regarding gender equality, we believe that the 2004 OSCE Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality and related decisions cover a major part of the questions in this sphere and that there is no dire need to expand it. The draft amendments to the Action Plan, which have not been adopted so far, should be updated. In particular, the notion of “gender equality” should be defined as “equality between men and women”, and more attention must be given to the economic, social and cultural aspects of women’s rights. We must comply with the principle of equal attention to all categories of rights.
We have pointed out on many occasions that the excessive attention given in the United States and the EU to the external elements of democracy is a means of manipulating public opinion and pressuring sovereign states. The instruments that have been used most actively of late are the enforcement of neoliberal values and complete disregard for the cultural and historical traditions of other societies. The enforcement of one’s values as the only true values will not promote constructive dialogue and understanding among nations.
In order to achieve positive results in the Third Basket and at the OSCE Ministerial Meeting in Vienna, all of us must abandon double standards and opportunistic approaches and resume constructive and equitable dialogue and cooperation.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2858721
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
|6 Days Ago||#235|
Director of the Foreign Ministry Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Mikhail Ulyanov’s interview with the newspaper Kommersant, published on September 13, 2017
13 September 2017 - 14:26
A nuclear weapons ban seems like a good and moral idea. Why is Russia against a nuclear ban treaty?
It is at variance with Russia’s national interests and our vision of movement towards nuclear disarmament. We have always reaffirmed our support for the idea of a nuclear-free world and joined many politically binding declarations to this effect. At the same time, we pointed out that this is a strategic goal and that any movement towards it must proceed in stages, that it must be accompanied by the strengthening of strategic stability as well as it must respect the national security interests of all countries, including Russia, of course.
In fact, the key questions concern the timeframe and the methods of destroying nuclear arsenals plus the timeframe and methods of banning nuclear weapons. This prohibition will likely become more expedient at some stage, but it will be one of the last stages of the nuclear disarmament process when we will need to ensure its irreversibility. Raising the topic of a nuclear weapons ban today would be untimely.
However, it should be said that when a decision was taken at the UN General Assembly last year to hold talks on this matter, it sounded as if the idea was to ban nuclear weapons on a global scale. However, the final draft of the proposed treaty has shown that this is not what it aims for. The negotiating parties have tamed their ambitions and the prohibitions they have coordinated include exclusively the signatories to the new treaty. Russia is not bound by this treaty in any way.
Not even when it comes into force?
No, not even then. The obligations will only concern those who sign and ratify this treaty. This does not concern us.
Political pressure will be most likely put on nuclear powers to join the treaty, but as I have already said, none of its provisions will bind Russia to anything. The treaty does not outlaw nuclear weapons on a global scale.
In other words, it is believed in Russia that the treaty is not as bad as it first seemed?
Yes, possibly. However, you cannot describe it as something good either, if only because it will deepen and cement the divide between the nuclear and the so-called nuclear umbrella countries on the one hand, and the rest of the signatories to the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Russia joined, on the other hand. This can have extremely negative consequences for the integrity of the non-proliferation regime.
Furthermore, if Russia or any other nuclear power decides to get rid of its nuclear arsenals and join the nuclear ban treaty, it will have to take a specified set of actions as per this treaty, such as disclose the composition of its nuclear arsenals, remove its nuclear weapons from duty and sign an agreement on an action plan for their destruction with a competent international agency, which has not been created as of yet. This provides for regular reporting on the work done, almost inevitable complaints about missed deadlines, and the like.
Do you like this? I don’t. Assuming that at some stage Moscow may consider it expedient to reduce its nuclear arsenals over and above the limits stipulated in the Russian-US New START treaty, this should be done, in practical terms, through national decisions or, better still, through an agreement with other nuclear powers. As for accepting strict control from an unidentified competent international authority, this does not seem reasonable to me.
Those who were behind the initiative to adopt a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons say that the leading nuclear powers are doing too little to bring about disarmament, and some nuclear states, including unofficial ones, are expanding their arsenals. Under the NPT countries are expected to reduce and liquidate their nuclear stockpiles. Maybe the proponents of more radical measures are right, and actually NPT fails to deliver?
The notion that too little is being done regarding disarmament is totally misleading, at least in the case of Russia and the US, our key partner in reducing nuclear arsenals. In fact, a lot has been done in this area.
Over the last 30 years, since 1987 when the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was signed, Russia and the US got rid of about 85 percent of their nuclear stockpiles, or reduced them more than four times. In addition to this, Russia eliminated three thirds of its stockpiles of non-strategic nuclear weapons unilaterally under the initiatives undertaken by the president in the early 1990s.
Finally, let me refer to two numbers. At the NPT Review Conferences, nuclear states usually report on their disarmament efforts. At the 2010 Review Conference we reported that Russia had 3,900 deployed nuclear warheads, and by the next conference in 2015 this figure went down to 1,582. In just five years we reduced our arsenals two and a half times. Can this be referred as “too slow” or “not enough”? After all, efforts of this kind take a lot of work and are very costly.
For this reason, when someone says that Russia is seeking to just derail the implementation of Article 6 of the NPT, this is very discouraging, and seems unfair and insolent, to say the least. There is no way we can agree with this point of view. After all, Russia is fulfilling its commitments.
Understanding what obligations we are talking about is essential. Our opponents are trying to spread the message that NPT’s Article 6 is about pursuing complete and general nuclear disarmament as part of a propaganda campaign to stoke anti-nuclear sentiment across the world. However, this is misleading. If you take a look at Article 6 it says, and I quote: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
Let us see. Not only the nuclear arms race has ceased, as per Article 6, but has even been reversed. Nuclear arsenals maintained by Russia and the US are at the level of 1950s and early 1960s, which was the level before the non-proliferation treaty was signed. So this provision from Article 6 has been fulfilled.
As for pursuing negotiations in good faith, there were a number of talks of this kind with the US that brought about the INF Treaty and the START. In fact, a lot has been done in a true spirit of good faith, and the measures that were undertaken were effective. These are not just declarations of intent, but binding agreements that have been or are about to be fulfilled.
That said, Article 6 does not say a word about scrapping nuclear arsenals completely. This is pure fantasy and a frivolous interpretation. By the way, it runs counter to the penultimate clause in the preamble to the NPT which clearly stipulates that doing away with all their existing stockpiles should take place pursuant to a treaty on general and complete disarmament. However, this is something that advocates of the immediate advent of a world free from nuclear weapons do not like to recall, and the same goes for their commitment to engage in negotiations on general and complete disarmament. As a matter of fact, the second part of Article 6 has fallen into oblivion.
Are you referring to a treaty on general and complete disarmament?
Yes, this is exactly how the task is formulated alongside nuclear disarmament in the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Before criticising nuclear powers for infringing on their treaty obligations, even though this accusation contradicts the facts, our opponents should consider implementing their own commitments. Instead, we see an increase of conventional weapons around the world as well as modernisation of them.
Furthermore, the reduction of nuclear arsenals is not proceeding in a vacuum but in conditions of a world that is far from perfect. The world is becoming increasingly turbulent, conflict-prone and unpredictable. This is why we urge a more sensible and realistic approach to nuclear disarmament. No country will disarm to its own detriment. Proposing complete liquidation of nuclear arsenals in modern conditions is not something serious and it’s even irresponsible. Nuclear weapons are an objective bond of international security. Some may dislike this, but this is a fact of life. There were two world wars in the first half of the 20th century but none after 1945. All the conflicts, even the bloodiest ones, were local, not global wars. I believe there are many reasons for this, including the establishment of the UN, which is playing a crucial part in the maintenance of international peace and security, even though it is harshly criticised sometimes. Another factor that has prevented a new world war is nuclear weapons. If we destroy this bond overnight, the entire structure of international security will be shattered, if not worse, with unpredictable consequences.
Do nuclear weapons remain a deterrent force if North Korea and other countries are trying to acquire them and there is also the risk of accidents and terrorist attacks [involving nuclear weapons]? Wouldn’t it be better not to have these weapons at all?
I have already answered this question to a certain point. To complete the picture, I can add that, by and large, nuclear weapons are not designed for use but for deterrence, and they have played this role quite well over a period of the past decades.
Regarding accidents and terrorist attacks, these are separate subjects and must be addressed apart. This pattern is being applied in practice. Suffice it to recall the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, which Russia and the United States have co-chaired for over 11 years, or the large-scale IAEA efforts in the area of physical nuclear safety.
As for the latter part of your question, I can tell you that no, it is not better to give up nuclear weapons now. This goes not only for Russia and the other four official nuclear countries, but also, as we can see, for the de facto nuclear weapons states. A case in point is North Korea.
We firmly condemn Pyongyang’s policy, but it should be remembered that North Korea has opted for creating nuclear missiles, which it regards primarily as a deterrence force, because there are no other fully reliable international legal safeguards of its national security. Many Western countries do not understand or refuse to understand this. Likewise, they do not understand that the problems the international community is facing in North Korea were largely created by their policy regarding Libya before the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, a policy that has seriously damaged the efforts to strengthen the global regime of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
I am not saying this to justify Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, but so as to demonstrate the complex nature of the current situation. This problem can be only resolved if North Korea accepts denuclearisation in return for reliable and effective guarantees of its security.
Some experts suggest that North Korea should be recognised as a nuclear power since it has acquired such weapons. Is Russia ready to do this?
No. We stand for making universal the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) by involving in it three countries that have not yet signed it - namely, Israel, India and Pakistan. I would like to emphasise they should join it as non-nuclear countries. The NPT makes it clear that the only nuclear powers are those that produced and exploded nuclear weapons or other nuclear devices before January 1, 1967. This applies to five official nuclear powers which are Russia, the United States, France, Britain, and China. An increase in their number would contradict the NTP and seriously undermine the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Many NPT participants reluctantly recognise the nuclear status of the five, speaking of discrimination. I am afraid the NPT will not survive if exceptions are made for some other country. So, taking into account all these circumstances, we are certainly not going to recognise the DPRK as a nuclear power.
But doesn’t this mean that the NPT is discriminative?
Nobody compelled any country to join the NPT. This was a conscious choice of almost 190 countries that ratified this treaty, who were fully aware of what its contents were. Let me repeat that this was their voluntary and responsible decision. So it is improper to speak retrospectively about its discriminatory character.
What is North Korea’s status in the NPT? It is unclear whether it quit it or not.
We continue regarding North Korea as a participant in the NPT because in announcing its withdrawal, Pyongyang violated the procedures which are stipulated in the treaty.
Some allies of the Russian Federation, for instance Kazakhstan, supported the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). So it appears that unlike the United States, Russia did not pressure its partners into refusing to join the treaty?
Well, in principle persuasion rather than pressure is more typical when it comes to Russian foreign policy. We have many good friends, not just Kazakhstan but also South Africa, Brazil, Cuba and Egypt, among the states that initiated the elaboration of this treaty. They are our close partners with whom we maintain close relations. Moreover, these countries were pacesetters of the talks rather than simply participants. Such is the reality.
As for Kazakhstan, it has long been positioning itself as a global leader of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. This is Astana’s principle position. We have disagreements on nuclear matters and they are obvious if you compare how our countries vote on UN General Assembly resolutions, but this does not prevent us from remaining allies and friends. We maintain regular dialogue on this subject with our colleagues from Kazakhstan.
I would like to clarify something. Replying to the question about efficient and inefficient disarmament, you mentioned two key agreements, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Experts are warning that the first one is falling to pieces and the extension of the second one is questionable. Is Russia preparing any initiatives to rescue INF and prolong START?
What is happening with the INF is unpleasant and, I would say, abnormal. We stand for overcoming this predicament. This can be done through dialogue but there is no such thing for the time being.
We had several meetings during the Barack Obama Administration, in particular, a session of the special monitoring commission on the INF with its other participants (Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine) took place last November. There was no substantive discussion after that.
However, US diplomats continue hurling groundless accusations at us. However, this is not the way to settle problems. It is as useless as the sanctions that Capitol Hill discusses. It is necessary to sit down at the negotiating table and come to terms. We also have serious grievances concerning the Americans and they have not replied to them seriously. They are dissatisfied with our position as well but once again the only way out is to sit down at the negotiating table and go over together what can be done. We stand for this. We proceed from the point of view that this is indeed an important treaty that meets our interests.
Regrettably, there is nobody in the Department of State to discuss this matter. Almost all former high-ranking people have been dismissed and new ones have not yet been appointed. Nevertheless, when the Department of State begins to function again we will do this and, I hope, we will find a common language with our American colleagues.
As for START, by February 5, 2018 we should reach target figures in carriers and warheads, and this requires a lot of work. In principle, the treaty that is valid until 2021 may be extended for five years. We have not made an unequivocal decision on this but we are ready to consider this opportunity, or at least to discuss it with the Americans. As the Americans say, “it takes two to tango.” To begin the conversation, it is important to know that Washington also considers it possible to extend the treaty for five years. We do not see this so far but there is still time because the treaty will be in force for more than three years.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2862117
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln
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Press release on Alaska delegation’s visit to Russia
14 September 2017 - 19:39
On September 4-10, Russia was visited by a group of public figures from Alaska, including representatives of the academic community and non-governmental organisations, members of the Alaska Historical Society and prominent figures of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America.
The delegation took part in an international conference, The Echo of Russian America: Historical and Cultural Heritage, held at the Yesenin Ryazan State University and organised with the participation of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of the Ryazan Region, the Ryazan branch of the Russian Geographical Society and the St Herman Orthodox Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska.
The forum participants were greeted by Vice Governor, First Deputy Chair of the Government of the Ryazan Region Sergey Filimonov; Deputy Chair of the Government of the Ryazan Region Yelena Bunyashina; Chair of the Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan of Kaluga and Borovsk Kliment; Director of the Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, academician Valery Tishkov (Chairman of the Organising Committee); and Rector of the Yesenin Ryazan State University Andrey Minayev. Honorary guests of the conference were members of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s interdepartmental working group (IWG) on the preservation of Russian historical and cultural heritage in the United States, including Director of the Russian State Archive Larisa Rogovaya.
The programme also included visits to memorial sites in the Kadomsky, Pronsky, Starozhilovsky and other districts of the Ryazan Region, closely related to the fate of Russian travellers and religious figures who made a great contribution to the development of Alaska and the establishment of secular and Orthodox culture there.
After the conference, some of its American participants arrived in Moscow and were received in the Foreign Ministry. Among the issues discussed was strengthening Russian-US cultural ties, particularly the need to step up cooperation between academic, educational and archival institutions of the two countries.
An agreement was reached to continue contacts, including the participation of IWG representatives and Russian experts in events held by the Alaska Historical Society.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2862879
Comment by the Information and Press Department on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s attendance of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly
15 September 2017 - 15:07
The 72nd session of the UN General Assembly opened in New York on September 12. UN member states have convened at this crucial international forum to discuss a wide range of current global and regional topics.
The Russian delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. On September 21, he will speak at the general debate.
Sergey Lavrov’s agenda in New York includes a score of high-level events and bilateral meetings. He will take part in the traditional multilateral and regional meetings of foreign ministers, including within the framework of the CSTO, SCO, BRICS, BSEC, NTBT, CICA, CELAC and other organisations, as well as high-level side events on current subjects. There are plans for meetings with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and President of the 72nd General Assembly session Miroslav Lajcak.
The 72nd session of the UN General Assembly is expected to reaffirm the central position and leadership of the UN in global politics. The UN has no equals as an organisation in terms of membership and universal nature. It is uniquely positioned for holding an equal dialogue aimed at finding or formulating effective solutions based on respect for the diverse opinions and interests of its member states, as well as the fundamental goals and principles of the UN Charter. We believe that any attempt to erode the prestige and legitimacy of the UN, or to divert its prerogatives are extremely dangerous and even fraught with the collapse of the entire structure of international relations.
Aware of the deterioration of the global situation, the numerous conflicts plus the proliferation of terrorism, we have been trying to rally the efforts of the international community towards resolving arising problems on the basis of international law. The key task of the UN is to protect peace as well as regional and global stability.
We have been consistently advocating a polycentric world order and equal indivisible security for all countries based on unconditional respect for sovereignty and the right of nations to a free choice.
In this context, we will argue for compliance with the principle of supremacy of international law and the UN Charter, as well as the Charter prerogatives of the UN Security Council, which bears the brunt of responsibility for international peace and security.
In accordance with our national interests we will firmly oppose in the UN the distortion of history and revision of the results of World War II. In the context of these efforts and struggle against any forms and manifestations of racism, discrimination and xenophobia Russia will again submit to the UN General Assembly draft resolution entitled “Glorification of Nazism: Inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” Traditionally, the document enjoys support of the impressive majority of the UN member states. However, not every delegation has enough political will to oppose the glorification of the Nazis and their accomplices in some countries. We hope that the delegations that opposed this draft or abstained from voting on it back in 2016 will revise their position on this matter.
We are consistently advocating the formation of a broad anti-terrorist front with the participation of all countries to the measure of their abilities and with the consent of the states that are a venue of the anti-terrorist struggle. It is important to maintain the central coordinating role of the United Nations and to ensure the observance of the principles and norms of international law. We believe that the recent establishment of the position and office of a coordinator for counterterrorism in the UN Secretariat will help to reach this goal.
We stand for a comprehensive approach to the anti-terrorist struggle and efficient implementation of relevant universal conventions and resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. We are paying special attention to the comprehensive implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
We are urging all UN members to enhance joint efforts so as to be able to prevent the dissemination of terrorist ideology as well as propaganda by adopting counter-narrative measures and carrying out UN Security Council Resolution 2354. We consider it very important to fight against foreign terrorists and militants.
We will support the UN reform initiated by the new Secretary-General. Most importantly the reform should adapt the UN to modern reality. In the process it is essential to preserve the UN intergovernmental character and strictly observe its Charter’s principle on the division of power between the major UN bodies. This applies to the maintenance of peace and security, and the organisation and development of management.
We are ready to be largely involved in the UNSC reform to increase its representation without loss of its efficient and prompt performance. The search for the reform model should be continued without setting any artificial deadlines, with a compulsory reliance on the ultimate support of the member states. Otherwise calculations alone will not achieve the declared transformation goals. Permanent members’ prerogatives, including the right of veto, are not subject to revision.
We support the realistic initiatives to optimise the activities of the UN General Assembly. The major task is to improve the working methods and to streamline the overloaded agenda. Any innovation must be rational and strictly correspond with the existing distribution of prerogatives among the UN’s main bodies. We support the expansion and improvement of the UN’s cooperation with regional and subregional associations on the basis of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. In this context, we support the boosting of the UN’s constructive interaction with such organisations as the CSTO, the SCO and BRICS.
Russia’s priorities include the prevention of the deployment of weapons in near Earth space. This priority is supported by the Russia-China draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space, the threat or use of force against outer space objects, as well as the globalisation of Russia’s initiative on the adoption by all states of the obligation not to be the first to deploy weapons in outer space as a preliminary measure to enhance security and trust. By tradition, we will submit the draft of the respective resolution to the First Committee of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly.
We are ready for constructive collaboration with other delegations in enforcing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – without shifting and deleting selected priorities. We will contribute to strengthening and enhancing the effectiveness of the UN’s peacekeeping missions, promoting rule of international law through the efforts of the United Nations, adopting effective joint measures against drug trafficking, crime and corruption.
Overall, we see our common task in ensuring the viability and effective performance of the United Nations, and in promoting the unifying agenda that will help scale down confrontation and tension in the world.
The source of information - http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/...ent/id/2863439
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on. (c) Alan Alexander Miln