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Speech by Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, and his answers to the questions of the media during the joint press conference with Leonid Kozhara

13-01-2013, 18:04


Dear Leonid,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased with the results of today's meeting. It comes at a time when Ukrainian–Russian relations are on the rise and are marked by an intensive political dialogue at all levels, especially at the highest one, where the agreement in principle on future directions of bilateral cooperation is reached. Surely, as Leonid has said, economy is the basis for this interaction, partly because the results of cooperation in trade, economic and investment spheres are directly linked to the interests of particular enterprises and people working there.

At the Subcommittee, we do not deal with economic issues, as they come under the responsibility of our colleagues in the relevant departments and coordinated by the Committee on Economic Cooperation chaired by the Prime Ministers. However, today we are talking about new Ukrainian and Russian prospects in this field, including in relation to the CISFTA entry into force. I believe that it provides further opportunities for more intensive integration processes with mutually beneficial participation of Russia and Ukraine.

The Subcommittee agenda includes a number of issues of direct impact on safety and security of our citizens. First of all, in this context, I wish to commend the active efforts of the Group on New Challenges and Threats, which operates within the Subcommittee. The ministries of foreign affairs and special services of our countries interact effectively to prevent terrorist attacks, as well as to counter drug trafficking, organized crime, money laundering and terrorist financing.

Border cooperation is another area of our joint work, which is directly linked to the interests of Russians and Ukrainians. We are continuously seeking to ensure that the border issues are resolved in such a way as to facilitate communication between Russians and Ukrainians, enabling them to cross the border in the most comfortable way and at the convenient time. Concrete decisions to this effect have been already taken and they are being implemented. Today, we have discussed the prospects in this area. We have specific plans that will also be implemented.

I believe that an important topic of cooperation between consular services also belongs here. Through our diplomatic missions, we are engaged in active cooperation with our Ukrainian friends to protect the rights of citizens of both countries who get into trouble abroad.

Among other topics, I wish to put special emphasis on the Azov-Kerch settlement. In July 2012, the presidents of our countries issued a joint statement in which they instructed to intensify preparation of the treaty, and today we have agreed to speed it up.

As for international issues, I would like to note that we are pleased with the level of cooperation and coordination between our delegations at international organizations such as the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and other institutions, including BSEC. We have actively supported election of Ukraine for the OSCE Chairmanship this year. We anticipate that this year will be marked by an intensive work in all areas covered by this Organization aimed at strengthening its founding principles, which dictate the need for all to unite on the basis of consensus. I am convinced that Ukraine, a country with a most experienced diplomatic corps, will be able to play a unifying role while fulfilling its chairmanship duties.

I invited Leonid to visit Moscow, and we have agreed that during the visit special attention will be given to the matters of the OSCE.

I would like to thank our hosts for their hospitality and excellent organization of the work in this beautiful building.

Question (addressed to Leonid Kozhara): What efforts will Ukraine make as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office to settle the Transdniestrian conflict?

Sergey Lavrov (adds to the answer of Leonid Kozhara): I would like to actively support what Leonid has said and add a few things to it. It is true that our countries are not simply mediators, it is our special responsibility to ensure the success of the "5 + 2" talks which were resumed last year, that is why I believe our agreement to coordinate our actions in the context of facilitating these talks is quite natural. The next round of "5 + 2" talks will be held in Lviv in mid-February. We hope that we will be able to come up with the ideas that will help to promote necessary conditions for the transition of the discussion to the political aspects of the settlement.

Referring to necessary conditions, I mean the agreement to solve the problems that are still interfering with the establishment of trust between Chisinau and Tiraspol and to ensure a more comfortable life for the citizens on both banks of the Dniester. This includes economic, transit, transportation and other issues of every-day life. Once they are addressed more effectively, it will gradually create conditions necessary to discuss the political status of Transdniestria.

Question: Sergey Viktorovich, how would you comment on the outcome of the Geneva meeting with participation of Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and League of Arab States for the crisis in Syria, Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, and William Burns, Deputy Secretary of State of the United States ? Has there been a breakthrough or some new initiatives, has an agreement been reached to continue consultations in this format in the near future?

Sergey Lavrov: In general, we are eager to participate in any format, be it discussions, consultations or negotiations, on the Syrian settlement. The format you mentioned has been proposed by Lakhdar Brahimi himself, as he believes it to be a proper one to find concrete ways that could lead to reaching consensus on how to implement the provisions of the Final Communiqué of the Action Group for Syria of June 30, 2012. We are ready to such a discussion should there be an understanding that it is exactly what we need to discuss.

And the Communiqué should be implemented without any preconditions. There is no agreement on this issue among both Syrian parties and external players. Our partners are convinced that the removal of President Bashar al-Assad from the political process must be a precondition for that. The Geneva document does not contain this precondition, moreover, it can not be implemented because there is no one who has the right to do it.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has put forward an initiative to invite the opposition to start a dialogue. We agree that, perhaps, these steps are not far-reaching enough and some may not perceive them as serious, but the offer has been made. I believe that the opposition should put forward their ideas on how to start this dialogue. We deal with all opposition groups and if we hear them stating that they have already decided to fight to the bitter end, then how can the Geneva communique be implemented? I would like to recall that, according to the document, foreign players are to urge all Syrian parties to end the bloodshed and start negotiations between delegations appointed by the government and the opposition. There are no other conditions there. The delegations are to reach a consensus on the conditions, content and duration of a transition period, during which new general elections in Syria should be prepared.

I consider this approach to be a fair and honest one, given, of course, that our major common interest is to save as many lives of ordinary Syrians as possible, as they are dying every day in the continuing bloodshed. As I said before, an approach which focuses on the removal of the President of Syria as a precondition will only lead to more victims. Those who support such an approach must be held accountable for it.

It was exactly what we were discussing at our meeting in Geneva. My deputy Mikhail Bogdanov, William Burns and Lakhdar Brahimi exchanged their views on the situation. We share an understanding that the crisis is starting to threaten not only Syria, but the whole region, while the only winning side in this situation is radical extremists, including those linked to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. And here we share a common ground.

But we are convinced that the situation is to be resolved through the implementation of Geneva Communiqué, I say again that there should be no preconditions, as they make it impossible to start the dialogue. We need to make everyone, including the opposition, which categorically rejects any dialogue, sit down at the negotiating table.



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