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Speech by the Russian Foreign Minister and his answers to questions from the mass media summarizing the results of the Committee for the Russian-Polish Cooperation Strategy, Warsaw, 19 December 2013

26-12-2013, 15:34

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have held a session of the Committee for the Russian-Polish Cooperation Strategy, where we reviewed main areas of our bilateral interaction. Representatives of ministries and agencies of the two countries dealing with issues of trade, economic and investment cooperation, development of cultural, humanitarian and educational ties participated in the session.

We consider this format to be rather effective, and we are delighted to report that our work resulted in the signature (in front of your eyes) of the Programme 2020 in Russian-Polish relations. This is the first such document and I think that it will let us achieve more impressive results in our interaction to attach new quality to the relations between our countries, peoples, which we have always viewed as friendly and neighbourly. We wish to further reinforce these feelings between our people.

Programme 2020 consists of three large sections – all are related to our interaction on the international stage. We agreed to further develop and strengthen cooperation in the UN, including the reinforcement of the role of this Organisation in international affairs, to interact within the OSCE, the Council of Europe, within the ambit of the relations between Russia and the European Union, as well as to build up efficiency and trust within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council.

Another large section of Programme 2020 is to rise the significance of cooperation and deepening of economic partnership. The extension of cooperation in this area corresponds to interests of our countries and people, it will directly positively affect the situation of participants of reciprocal economic exchanges. We agreed to contribute to the favourable business climate for the operation of Russian companies in Poland and Polish companies in the Russian Federation, to increase and improve the structure of the trade union, to stimulate the creation of mutual manufactures, especially on the basis of state-of-the-art technologies, to develop interaction between small and medium enterprises. This was reflected in the goals set in Programme 2020.

Moreover, during our negotiations today our colleagues from economic agencies agreed on specific steps, which should be undertaken in the near future to start putting into effect, what we have conceived and signed.

We are satisfied with the development of cultural and humanitarian ties. During the session we discussed in detail the preparation to the forthcoming Bilateral Year of Russia and Poland in 2015. The programme is being agreed – its main outline is already clear. There is an intent to include events in various areas into it – not only in humanitarian, cultural and educational exchanges – but also to use possibilities of the Bilateral Year for the advancement of economic ties.

We agreed to coordinate a privileged visa regime for participants of events within the framework of the Bilateral Year, though it would be simpler, of course, to resolve the long overdue issues about transfer to a visa-free regime in general between the Russian Federation and the EU at this stage. We value the consistent position of Poland in favour of such decision. The effective functioning of the visa-free regime between the Kaliningrad region and northern voivodeships of Poland is a good example. As my colleague Radoslaw Sikorski has said, the regime has been functioning for almost half a year without any disruptions. Single cases of violations do not come within miles of those large benefits of this regime. We hope that the European Union will make a positive decision as a result of the work, which has been conducted for a long time to prepare conditions for the transfer to a visa-free regime.

We also noted the effective operation of mechanisms, which, beside the Strategic Committee, are created for the advancement of Russian-Polish interaction: this is a Group on issues of common history, the Community Forum and the Forum of Regions, operating under the aegis of supreme houses of parliament of Russia and Poland.

Today we also talked that serious anniversary memorable dates are expected in the nearest years – 100 years from the beginning of the First World War, 70 years of Victory in the Second World War, 70 years of liberation of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops. We deem it important and agreed to celebrate these memorable dates together at respective level, including to draw lessons from our sometimes quite tragic common history in the interests of trust building in the European continent, rearing of our young generation in the spirit of friendship, cooperation, humanity, as it was advised by Ivan Vyrypaev (Russian director, scriptwriter and dramatist) – to reinforce human ties and do everything to make our memories serve our friendship rather than politicised the past. From the point of view of such approach we are delighted that our Polish colleagues have expressed their readiness to review our joint address to implement (in the Polish land) several projects for decent perpetuation of the memory of our compatriots, who have found eternal rest in the Polish land. I primarily mean war burials of First World War times, which we would like to duly arrange, as well as burial places of Red Army soldiers, who were captured in the war of 1920, and which need to be put in order.

Our motives are evident. We assume that the history of the Russian state is continuous and we wish to give credit (although it will happen later than we would like to) to all those, who fell in the battlefield in different times. It seems to me that these projects devoted to the perpetuation of the memory of our fallen warriors will be very important for rearing of the young generation in the spirit of mutual tolerance, mutual understanding, friendship, like good neighbours should do.

I would like to thank our hosts for good organisation of our work and traditional hospitality once again. I am convinced that the activity of the Strategic Committee helps to actually implement projects, which are very important for our nationals, to “measure” the state of Russian-Polish relations not by artificial ratings, which are so popular today, but using criteria, which are the basis of the today’s address of Ivan Vyrypaev to us.

Question: What are the chances that Ukraine will sign the European Union Association Agreement after respective agreements have been reached in Moscow? Will such agreement be favourable for Ukraine, and what is its economic benefit for Russia? There is an opinion that this is a purely political decision, which will only lead to the situation that Kiev will not sign the European Union Association document.

Last year at the session of the Committee for the Russian-Polish Cooperation Strategy you have told that another package of documents on Katyn investigation to be transferred to Poles is being prepared. When will these documents be transferred? To continue the topic touched by the Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, when will aircraft wreckage (after the tragedy near Smolensk) be transferred to Poland?

Sergey Lavrov: The question, what Ukraine will sign, may be addressed to Ukraine only. I can only comment what was signed as a result of the session of the Russian-Ukrainian intergovernmental Commission, which was held two days ago in Moscow.

As it was told many times, we reached mutually beneficial agreements. First of all, from the point of view of our close ties of production cooperation, which exist between hundreds and thousands of Russian and Ukrainian companies producing joint products. Of course, we are not interested to break these ties, because it will negatively affect the situation of Russian companies. This is only one example explaining our mutual benefit.

There is also another ageless Christian truth, which tells us to help our neighbours, and this help will return. Ukraine is our close neighbour and fraternal people. We sincerely wish to contribute that the situation in this country is stable and remains in the constitutional field. We wish Ukrainians, all the parties and all political powers agree among themselves how to overcome one or another crisis moment, how to respect the constitution and the laws adopted by the Verkhovna Rada. This must take place without visitors, who come without invitation, which is not polite in itself.

As to your question about aircraft wreckage, which was left in Russia after the tragic disaster, in which Polish leaders died, it will be transferred to the Polish party as soon as investigation ends. We expect it to end very soon. Now its final stage has been postponed to April 2014. This is related to the need to make all necessary actions extremely carefully to avoid any understatements, which is extremely important in conditions of the continuing escalation of the atmosphere around this investigation. We do not want to have any issues, which will not be thoroughly investigated. While we wait for the end of this case in the near future, we had contacts between competent structures of Russia and Poland, discussed technical and logistic aspects of transportation of the aircraft wreckage.

As to Katyn, I can say that: All the documents required for the establishment of truth have been declassified. The only exclusion is the data falling under the law, which is in force in many countries, which protects personal data. After the resolution of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, this issue has been closed at the legal and political plane.

Question (addressed to Radoslaw Sikorski): You have said that you discussed the issues about recent agreements in Iran’s Nuclear Programme at the meeting today. Russia thinks that if the threat disappears, then NATO should reconsider its position regarding the deployment of the ABM in Europe. If the Iranian threat is actually removed, is there any chance that Poland will reconsider its intent to deploy part of ABM infrastructure in its territory?

Sergey Lavrov (adds after the answer of Radoslaw Sikorski): We discussed this topic indeed. As to the issue of changing the United States’ approach to the global ABM, namely its “fourth phase”, it has been postponed rather than cancelled. However, this fact hardly changes anything, because Americans compensate the postponement of the introduction of the “fourth phase” by significant increase in the number of interceptors on their Eastern Coast. ABM sites will also be created in Alaska and in the Northeast Asia. Our analysis still shows that this system creates serious risks for the global stability, including for Russian nuclear deterrence forces.

As to Iran’s Nuclear Programme, we assume that full implementation of Geneva agreements (taking into account that they will be implemented, though all the parties agreed to do this within one year) will remove the cause, which is used as a pretext for the creation of the European segment of the US anti-missile defence. We did not invest this interconnection. Making a speech in Prague in 2009, the US President Barack Obama said directly that if Iran’s nuclear threat disappears, the European anti-missile defence will not be required.

Now, American experts are of a different opinion. But I repeat that we share the understanding with the United States, Europe and China within the framework of the P5+1, and we intend to end what we have started in Geneva, remove all the concerns, which the global community has in connection with the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. We want the removal of these concerns help strengthen stability, trust and security of all the states in this region, including Israel, which was unambiguously and clearly stated by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin in his recent Address to the Federal Assembly.

As to Iskanders mentioned by Radoslaw Sikorski, the President Vladimir Putin provided an exhaustive explanation of this situation at the large press conference today. I hope that nobody will discharge emotions or attempt to create a confrontation around this issue.

Question: What do you mean when you say that all parties in Ukraine should have the possibility to talk without foreign visitors, who come without invitation? Whom do you mean?

Sergey Lavrov: What did I mean, when I expressed a hope that Ukrainian forces would be able to agree among themselves on the basis of their laws and the constitution, without those, who come to Ukraine without invitation imposing their unilateral choice? I do not know how to explain it to you. I mean exactly what I have told.

Sergey Lavrov (adds after the words of Radoslaw Sikorski): We have indeed different philosophy in approaches, but I would like to draw attention to two things. We, including through Russian leaders, say that we will accept any choice of Ukraine, it just need to make it. At the same time, we explain that if it will violate Ukraine’s obligations on the free trade zone, in the creation of which it active participated in the CIS, then the most-favoured-nation principle will be introduced in respect of Ukrainian goods, and nothing more. However, the benefits envisaged by the free trade zone will be automatically removed.

We constantly say that Ukraine must make its choice independently. Regardless of whether the European Union Association Agreement is signed or not, we will respect the choice of this country.

At the same time, we heard absolutely other words from Brussels. They appealed to the Ukraine to make “free choice” in favour of signature of the agreement with the European Union. This is a dictate rather than a choice.

The second remark. Have you ever thought, what would happen, if government buildings were illegally occupied in one of European Union countries? Such situation is ongoing in Ukraine. At the same time, we cannot say that all the demonstrators are peaceful. The people participating in these actions have been occupying buildings for a long time and consciously refuse to leave them to provoke escalation of tensions.

They waited for the travel of the President of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, thought that a conspiracy, etc. is being prepared. There is no conspiracy. They waited for the travel of the President of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, thought that a conspiracy, etc. is being prepared. When these forces saw that there is no conspiracy, they started to invent some new fears. As if there is some “clandestine collusion”.

Every country must determine its future on the basis of its sovereignty, and politicians from other countries must respect this. In any case, when outside political figures participate in demonstrations against legitimate powers (I remind that the Minister Radoslaw Sikorski emphasised on public that we deal with lawfully elected and legitimate authorities in Ukraine) – this is at least not polite.

Question: Just recently there had been a statement that Polish authorities are ready to compensate damage inflicted to the Russian Embassy during recent disorders. Does Moscow consider that this incident has ended?

Sergey Lavrov: Today we expressed gratitude to the Minister and the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their position. It fully corresponds to international legal norms, which regulate functioning of diplomatic representations. We expect that this compensation will be paid soon after all the required formalities are settled according to the Polish laws.


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