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Remarks and responses to reporters’ questions by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a news conference following the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting, Basel, 5 December 2014

5-12-2014, 16:44

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This ministerial meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is drawing to an end. First of all, I would like to praise the Swiss Chairmanship, and personally the President of the Swiss Confederation, Head of the Federal Department (Minister) of Foreign Affairs and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter and his entire team, who have worked hard the entire year to ensure balance in their work and in the activities of the entire organisation, including its secretary, in full accordance with the underlying OSCE principles.

Without doubt, the topics discussed over the past two days are critically important. The first one concerns security in Europe. Clearly, it was chosen largely because of the Ukraine crisis. The discussion revolved around the need to comply with all the OSCE commitments. Unfortunately, some of our partners suggested following these commitments selectively. We stand and we will continue to stand for the entire set of commitments adopted by the OSCE to be followed scrupulously, including the commitments of non-interference in internal affairs and the indivisibility of security in the Euro-Atlantic area.

You are aware of our proposals in this regard to the effect that the existing commitment, whereby no one shall strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others, should be translated from the language of political declarations into the language of binding legal agreements, and practical mechanisms be developed to comply with the principle of indivisibility of security.

We have looked into the economic problems, because dividing lines do remain in the military, political and economic spheres. The recent initiative by President Putin proposes gradual and consistent formation of a common economic humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Notably, today, interest in this proposal is growing and was expressed by many delegations during the meeting.

In particular, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and many others from among my colleagues mentioned their willingness to open a dialogue on cooperation between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, and to work towards forming such a space where members of these unions and non-member states would enjoy the same rights and benefit from economic cooperation, newly opened markets and fewer barriers.

We have discussed the Ukraine crisis, especially in the context of the role played by the OSCE. We think highly of this role. The OSCE special monitoring mission is working in Ukraine in difficult conditions, but is doing so fairly cleanly and confidently. In connection with the adoption of the Minsk agreements and the need for their comprehensive implementation, the role of the OSCE special monitoring mission in Ukraine is increasing, especially as related to monitoring the ceasefire. I hope that the events unfolding in the conflict zone as we speak will allow us to declare a ceasefire as an agreed-upon decision, including the line of separation. The special monitoring mission will observe the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line and general compliance with the ceasefire between the Kiev armed forces and self-defence fighters. The second important task, which is also part of the mandate of the OSCE special monitoring mission, is to resolve the problem of hostages. We want the parties to agree on exchanging "all for all." Of course, the mission must be involved in investigating crimes that were committed during the armed conflict in Ukraine, starting with the Maidan protests, Odessa, Mariupol, Kramatorsk and other cities, including reports of mass graves.

The second major topic discussed during another plenary session of the OSCE Ministerial Council is combating terrorism with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa. The OSCE has many partners in the Mediterranean, who were present at the ministerial meeting in that capacity. The discussion was quite productive. The decision was made to mobilise our efforts in order to more effectively be able to combat the terrorist threat. Importantly, the decisions taken following the anti-terrorism debate noted the problem of Christianophobia. The OSCE opposes any kind of intolerance. It has taken a decision aimed at combating anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Today, we can say that the problem of Christianophobia has been noted as a major concern. Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, in war-torn countries, are being persecuted and discriminated against. They are forced to leave their homes. Their shrines are being destroyed. I think that today's decision will be instrumental in combating these threats more effectively.

Other notable decisions include useful documents that will enhance our cooperation in fighting against corruption, reducing emergency risks and others.

In collaboration with our partners, the Russian delegation submitted several draft decisions, including a particularly important document in the current situation about maintaining vigilance in preventing neo-Nazism from rearing its head, and putting up a more determined fight against such a shameful phenomenon as statelessness in Europe. Unfortunately, our partners were not willing to discuss these documents outside politics and adopted quite biased positions. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that we have been heard and our arguments have been taken under advisement, although for political reasons and because of bloc solidarity, our colleagues are unable to discuss these issues in an impartial and unbiased manner.

The CSTO countries distributed a joint statement dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Victory in World War II. We look forward to the OSCE Ministerial Council adopting such a decision. The decision on this issue is being taken as I speak. In any case, everyone agrees that the anniversary of Great Victory must be celebrated properly. I’m sure that by 8-9 May 2015, we will have coordinated the celebratory events at the OSCE headquarters and other international institutions.

One of the session’s most important decisions was an agreement to continue the Helsinki + 40 process. This agreement is of a more organisational than substantive nature. Its goal is to make sure that a comprehensive document analysing existing problems and confirming the Helsinki principles, and also spelling out specific measures that will make it possible to more effectively implement them, are drafted by the 40th anniversary of the OSCE and the next ministerial meeting. A panel of prominent individuals – wise men – to be formed by the current chairmanship will serve as an intergovernmental contribution to this work. We hope that someone from our civil society or academia will be included in this group. We'll think about who would be a suitable candidate.

In general, I believe that in many ways this meeting was successful and useful thanks to our Swiss hosts.

Question: Several deputies of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada have come out in support of the terrorist attack in Grozny. Igor Mosiychuk of the Radical Party said: “Ukraine, being in a state of war, must stimulate the opening of a second, a third front in Transcaucasia and Central Asia.” Another Ukrainian deputy referred to the Chechen militants as allies of Ukraine. Could you comment on these remarks? Have you tried to draw the attention of your Western colleagues to the growing radical sentiments in Ukraine?

Sergey Lavrov: I only learned about this after I delivered my speech at the meeting. This is blasphemous, this is cynical, and there even may be cause for law enforcement bodies to consider the situation in terms of initiating criminal proceedings.

Question: 9 December has been proclaimed a day of silence. Could this mark the beginning of a ceasefire that would hold? Will Russia contribute to compliance with the ceasefire in its contacts with the self-defence forces? The French, who are the main organisers of the Normandy format, are calling on the leaders of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine to exert efforts to ease the tensions. Do you see a Normandy format meeting, in one form of another, before this year is out?

Sergey Lavrov: Regarding the “regime of silence,” which hopefully will be fully introduced on 9 December, an agreement has been reached between the Kiev troops and the self-defence forces. Russian military experts who had been invited by Ukrainian President Poroshenko to take part in this work contributed to the agreement, above all to marking out the separation line.

Through contacts with the self-defence forces and the Ukrainian troops, we will work to ensure that the agreements reached between them, like all other agreements reached in Minsk, are complied with. We expect that our Western partners who took part in the Geneva, and more recently, the Normandy formats, in their contacts with the Ukrainian leadership, on which they have decisive influence, will induce it to comply with everything that has been agreed upon, and not only with the ceasefire agreements and the problems of here-and-now that pose risks and threats to people every day. One should remember that we will be confronted with these problems constantly until the issue of constitutional reform in Ukraine is solved in a systemic manner. This is the commitment that the current authorities (who were then in opposition) undertook under the 21 February agreement. This was the commitment that the Kiev authorities undertook after the coup (d’etat in Kiev) in a Geneva statement of 17 April which stipulates an immediate start of constitutional reform involving all the regions. This commitment is set down in the Minsk accords, with one clause in the Minsk Protocol referring to the start of a nationwide dialogue. Nothing has been done since 21 February. Based on information we are receiving, attempts continue either to sweep the issue under the rug, or confine constitutional reform to another round of behind-the-scenes talks and the preparation of some kind of amendments. It is no accident that the Venice Commission, where the document was sent without any discussion by anyone, noted in its conclusion that the introduction of any amendments to the constitution must be preceded by a broad discussion. This was what the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Mr Thorbjørn Jagland told here while addressing the meeting of the Ministerial Council, stressing that the constitution should be aimed at genuine decentralisation.

As for the Normandy format, I would use it to induce our Ukrainian colleagues to solve the systemic problem, i.e. organising life in the country with full respect for the traditions and culture of all the regions. It makes no sense to discuss the decisions based on the Minsk accords without the representatives of the self-defence forces.

Our Western colleagues, some Europeans and especially the Americans very much want this to happen, they want Russia to speak on behalf of the self-defence forces in one form or another. But that is a purely ideologised approach. If they want to represent us as the main culprits (which they are constantly doing), if they want to call some kind of forum at which we would be present in this capacity, this is wrong. One should think not about indulging one’s ideological leanings and opinions, but about the fate of the Ukrainian people. The Normandy format is (or at least was) very useful in solving the gas problem. An agreement was reached, but the Western participants in this mechanism cannot find the money to help Ukraine get by for a month and a half or two months. You know the story of course.

Question: The Georgian authorities see the signing of a treaty between Russia and occupied Abkhazia as a step towards annexation. Tbilisi meanwhile claims that in spite of the efforts of the new authorities in Georgia to normalise relations, with Russia your country is sticking to its aggressive policy. A similar treaty with occupied South Ossetia is in the pipeline. Does this mean that Russia will continue to renege on its obligations and will sign such a treaty?

Sergey Lavrov: Could you specify what obligations you have in mind?

Question: The six-point Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement.

Sergey Lavrov: I see. The relations between Russia and Abkhazia and between Russia and the Republic of South Ossetia are relations between sovereign states that comply with international law and do not infringe upon anyone’s interests. You should consider them as such. The treaties that Russia is concluding with Abkhazia and South Ossetia (we have signed dozens if not about a hundred agreements with these republics) make up the essence of building fully-fledged inter-state relations with independent subjects under international law.

As regards the obligation of the Russian Federation. – unfortunately, when facts are distorted it becomes very difficult to work with those with whom agreements were made. The six-point statement was referred to and was adopted as the Medvedev-Sarkozy Plan. It had a preamble that read that the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the French Republic were calling upon the conflicting parties in Georgia for an immediate ceasefire. Then followed all the other points. The text of the preamble, in my opinion, is unambiguous. It was an initiative on the part of Russia and France calling on the conflicting sides in Georgia to immediately stop the bloodshed and to sit down at the negotiating table. When French President Sarkozy, after agreeing on the document in Moscow, took it to Georgia, Saakashvili crossed out the preamble which our French colleagues, for some reason, did not tell anyone about. So, there is a document that had been signed in Moscow and which emerged with some kind of squiggle and without the preamble after Tbilisi. That’s all there is to it.

All the states have an obligation to respect the agreements, including those achieved earlier as part of the settlement of the Georgia-Abkhazia and Georgia-South Ossetia conflicts. These agreements included Georgia’s obligation to ensure the safety of the peacekeepers and not to use force. These agreements were trampled underfoot by your Then-President. I regret this fact.

Question: President Putin of Russia has said that Russia was ready to take part in the Russia-Georgia-Armenia railway project. The Georgian authorities say no negotiations are being conducted on the project with Russia. Will Russia go ahead with the project without Georgia’s participation?

Sergey Lavrov: The railway passes through Abkhazia then Georgia, and on to Armenia. So the project should involve all the parties. We are prepared for that.

Question: There was some apprehension among the Swiss hosts of the OSCE foreign ministerial meeting that Russia would find itself in isolation at this summit. How did you feel: like one against almost all, or did your position meet with some support on the part of your colleagues?

Sergey Lavrov: I felt great, no sense of isolation. As always everyone greeted me in a friendly way, we joked, recalled the business that we are in together. Yesterday, unfortunately, I was in the meeting for just about an hour, because I spent the remaining seven hours of the day in bilateral meetings, of which I had about twenty. So, far from feeling isolated, I had an excess of contact.

Question: You and your Western colleagues probably discussed the Syrian question. How did they and Mr de Mistura react to the Russian offer of Moscow as the venue for inter-Syrian dialogue?

Sergey Lavrov: We have discussed Syria with US Secretary of State John Kerry, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, the UN Special Envoy for Syria Mr Staffan de Mistura and other colleagues from OSCE countries. Everyone I’ve mentioned take a positive view of our efforts to try to gather in Moscow – if Moscow suits everybody – the representatives of the main Syrian opposition groups and the Syrian government. We will go on working on this. At the same time, we support the efforts of Mr de Mistura to promote the idea of “freezing” hostilities or making peace locally, starting with Aleppo. I think that would lay the groundwork for a comprehensive ceasefire and a transition to the political process.

Question: It is blasphemous that, as was mentioned by my colleague, some marginal deputies at the Verkhovna Rada support what is happening in Grozny. But what Russia is doing in Ukraine is even more blasphemous.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Budapest Memorandum. You spoke about what Russia needs to do, and about the obligations of the international and European communities. What has Russia done for the Budapest Memorandum to remain a document under international law?

Sergey Lavrov: Ukraine, like the other new countries from the territories of which nuclear weapons have been removed, had asked for “negative” security safeguards. The Budapest Memorandum is all about “negative” security safeguards. These safeguards envisage, first, the obligation of nuclear powers not to use nuclear weapons against the states to which such safeguards have been given. Second, it also of course contains political obligations that are exactly the same as the OSCE obligations: to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine. But it does not contain an obligation to recognise the results of armed coups d’etat.

Question: What are your expectations with regard to the Nogorny Karabkh conflict for next year? One of the Azeri hostages in Karabakh is a citizen of the Russian Federation. His relatives have appealed to Putin several times, but so far there has been no response. What is your take on the issue?

Sergey Lavrov: Nagorny Karabakh settlement is a long-lasting and complicated issue. It has seen various approaches. For several years now, together with the French and US co-chairs, we have been trying to find a common denominator to these approaches so that we could begin talks on the implementation of the recognised principles of respect for territorial integrity, non-use of force and respect for the right of people to self-determination. It is a very complicated process, but it is an ongoing process. I am sure that we and our partners from the US and France will continue to help Azerbaijan and Armenia in finding mutually acceptable arrangements.

Incidentally, on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting, the co-chairs distributed a joint statement reaffirming their resolve to help the parties to look for solutions.

As regards the problem of hostages, we take it seriously. I am not in a position to give you information on specific cases, I simply do not have the information handy. But we are in favour of all the hostages being released and exchanged. The summit of the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in Astrakhan in 2010 issued a statement on this issue. The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan pledged to set up a mechanism for exchanging hostages or – if an incident claimed lives – exchanging bodies. I hope that this statement will be taken into account in the practical actions of the parties on the line of contact in this region.

Question: Do you think 9 December will be a turning point on the path toward a ceasefire? Is the withdrawal of heavy weapons and equipment a precondition for that? Does a timetable of the process exist?

Sergey Lavrov: It is true that this is not the first time a ceasefire has been announced. It has noticeably reduced violence, but has not led to a situation of calm. Now the negotiations that were conducted “on the ground” are being called upon to create an agreement on a dividing line that the parties would actually respect. This is not easy. But I think they are within reach of an agreement and perhaps even as we speak they may have concluded and signed one. Under the earlier Minsk accords, it was agreed that heavy weapons would be pulled back 15 km on both sides of the separation line, and the multiple rocket launchers to within 30 km from the line separating the Kiev troops from the self-defence forces.

Question: The theme of human rights was a kind of red line, not only at the Basel meeting today, but in the recent statements by human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch and others. But the problem of human rights in eastern Ukraine in the zone of the anti-terrorist operation is not among the points of the Minsk accords. Were human rights and human rights guarantees discussed in Basel? And, in this connection, is any next Minsk meeting or any similar format of it possible and when?

Sergey Lavrov: First, ensuring human rights and freedoms on all the territory of Ukraine, including in the southeast, is an obligation for Ukraine and all those who backed the decision to set up an OSCE special monitoring mission in Ukraine, the mandate of which includes this aspect as well.

As for the actual situation, a complete ceasefire and pullback of heavy weapons would be the best way to ensure the main right, the right to life. But there are also social and economic rights that have been seriously undermined, and the restoration of which is generally envisaged under the Minsk accords. They contain a provision on rehabilitation of the economy and on addressing social and humanitarian problems. I would like to make some observations in this connection. President Poroshenko has issued a decree which in actual fact cut off these territories from Ukraine’s economic and financial system, forbade paying pensions and other benefits and removed these southeastern regions from the hryvnia zone. Thus, while upholding its territorial integrity, Kiev for some reason cuts off these regions from its economic and financial organism. We would like our Ukrainian partners to take note of this. We believe that, on the contrary, economic bonds should be cemented in every way possible. The territory controlled by the self-defence forces needs electricity and gas. They have coal, which the rest of Ukraine needs. I think the mutual benefits are obvious. We hope that good will shall prevail. I would hate to suspect anyone, but some information suggest that the aggressive behaviour with regard to these territories is being egged on from abroad. I don’t know what purpose this serves. There is only one explanation: there are some who want this wound to continue to fester.

As for diminishing the hardship people are suffering right now, we call on everyone to take part in delivering humanitarian aid. From the very beginning when we were sending this aid, we sought the cooperation of the OSCE and the Ukrainian side. Ukrainian border guards arrived at our border crossing points shortly after the first convoy. But each time a convoy was passing they turned down the invitation to inspect the vehicles. The last convoy that crossed the border several days ago marked a tipping point, because the Ukrainian border guards at last got the go-ahead from Kiev to inspect this cargo. They saw for themselves that these vehicles had nothing that did not have to do with meeting the needs of civilians in the southeast. We are ready to coordinate our humanitarian efforts with Ukraine, with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the EU and with everyone who is genuinely willing to help the suffering population.

Question: You said that you got a friendly reception, but yesterday just about every speaker who touched upon the Ukrainian crisis called on Russia to “get out” of Ukraine, pull back its troops, take back the self-defenders and weapons. Did you feel just as comfortable at such moments?

The Minsk Protocol envisages control of the Russian-Ukrainian border. However, OSCE representatives are allowed at only two border-crossing points. Why do you deny total control? Are you afraid that you will be unable to bring supplies to self-defence forces?

Sergey Lavrov: First about my impressions. I felt comfortable because I had already taken part in the UN General Assembly session and other international events. I know very well what my colleagues say, in compliance with the bloc discipline, so nothing of what they said came as a surprise to me. I would not like to let down any of my colleagues, but during the many talks that I had yesterday I asked them a very simple question: “Are the actions of the Ukrainian authorities ideal?” “Of course not,” they replied. “The law on screening is horrible; the order to cut off the southeast from the economic and financial system is ill-considered, harmful and inhumane.” “Then why?” I ask. They reply, “We have agreed that we cannot criticise.” Okay, I say, “but do you discuss it privately or in contacts that are not publicised?” The answer was vague, but I gathered that they do not. So, I know what is happening in reality, and I think Ukrainian journalists understand the meaning of the law on screening, and the meaning of other laws that are not aimed at calming down the situation and at national reconciliation. As I see it, national harmony is the task not only for the southeast, but for the entire Ukrainian land. But I think all this will spill out into the open some day.

Regarding your second question, the Minsk agreements envisage a series of actions. This was above all because they had to hold elections. There was a squabble over what to call these elections: local or national. Our position was that terminology should be set aside and the task was to elect people whom the citizens living on these territories trust, in order to then resolve the issues with Kiev. I have to remind you that after the elections these people reaffirmed the Joint Communique of the DPR and LPR of September 1 when they came to Minsk for the start of the talks.

It said that based on the results of the talks they would be ready to discuss the restoration of the common economic, humanitarian and political space of Ukraine. I repeat, they reaffirmed this after the election. This is an invitation to dialogue.

Instead the Ukrainian authorities refuse to recognise the elections, although the timing (2 November) was within the period agreed upon in Minsk. Next, in accordance with the Minsk agreements, after the elections the Ukrainian authorities had to pass an act that would guarantee the security of the elected bodies, whatever they were called. An amnesty act was to be passed, but it was never passed. On 16 September the Verkhovna Rada passed a resolution “On preventing persecution and punishment of participants of events on the territories of Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, but since then a motion has been tabled to revoke the decision.

In short, this should be the sequence of steps: elections, the central government’s guarantees of the security of the elected bodies, amnesty and no persecution. After that, the monitoring of other parts of the Russian-Ukrainian border may begin. But at the current stage, if this, and not the political process that was promised but never started, is put at the top of the agenda, it is necessary to talk with those who proclaimed the DPR and the NPR.

Question: What is the outlook for the Geneva discussions on Transcaucasia after the signing of the so-called arrangement between Abkhazia and Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: The bilateral relations between Russia and Abkhazia have nothing to do with the Geneva discussions on Transcaucasia. They are discussing two groups of issues: security in the Caucasus region and humanitarian issues, including the situation with displaced persons, refugees, humanitarian cross-border links, etc. The arrangements we signed with Abkhazia, including the Treaty on the Joint Protection of the Borders, the Treaty on the Russian Military Base, etc., enhance Abkhazia’s security, and thus contributing to security in the Caucasus region, which is one of the topics of the Geneva discussions on Transcaucasia.

Humanitarian discussions in Geneva have been curtailed because an agreement was previously reached to discuss the problem of refugees and displaced persons within the framework of the Geneva discussions. The negotiations started and the parties even asked the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to review the issue, but then Georgia tried to put the refugee issue before the UN General Assembly. The Abkhazians and the South Ossetians then said that they too wanted to take part in the discussion because it was about the refugees who had fled from their territories, and claims were being presented to them. They were turned down. The US even refused to issue visas to them, although the representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, who of course could not expect to be invited to the General Assembly hall and to take part in negotiations, were ready to come and informally review the decisions affecting them that others wanted to make without them. This did not happen, and they said, “If you want to discuss it at the UN as a propaganda exercise without us, go ahead, but if you want to do business, come back to the Geneva discussions, but stop your propaganda at the UN.” I think that is a very fair position.

Question: Russia has said it was ready to restore the railway between Moscow and Tbilisi. Have any signals come from Georgia that it is ready for talks?

Sergey Lavrov: I have heard various declarations from Tbilisi, including the view that it is an interesting project. The authorities in charge of transport problems should present their views and the decision should be taken by political leaders.

Question: Do you think a meeting of the Russian and Georgian presidents is a realistic proposition?

Sergey Lavrov: Nothing is impossible in this world. I think President Putin has already answered this question. He said that Russia can always find a possibility if there is a need and an interest in such a meeting.

Question: Analysts and the Russian leaders agree that any crises and conflicts in the post-Soviet space strike at the interests of the Russian Federation and that it has a vital stake in these being resolved. Apart from the Ukrainian crisis, does Russia have specific plans with respect to the frozen conflicts in the former territory of the USSR, including Nagorny Karabakh, which could be brought before the international community to find a solution?

Sergey Lavrov: The Russian Federation can have only one plan, and that is to stimulate the parties to the conflict to come to terms. Only those involved in the conflicts can solve them, while external players can only help. This is true of the Karabakh and the Transnistria settlement, as well as of the Ukrainian crisis.

The main thing is that once the parties have agreed upon something, external support should gently keep them at the negotiating table rather than trying to throw in some provocation, as happened in the case of Transnistria settlement in 2003. At the time the settlement plan – every page of which had already been initialed by the head of Transnistria and the President of the Republic of Moldova – was not signed, because late in the evening before the signing, the European Union political structures demanded that President of Moldova not sign the document. The issue has been a constant headache ever since.

In 1997 Tiraspol and Chișinău signed a memorandum on the rights of Transnistria to engage in foreign policy activities. It was in force for a while, but now it is not being complied with. Another attempt is being made to get an economic “stranglehold” and thus force Transnistria to give up its rightful position. Agreements must be honoured.

The Karabakh settlement process has had its ups and downs, even the concept of settlement has changed, but it always happened by mutual agreement. The co-chairs – Russia, the US and France – are doing all they can to help. I could say that the troika of co-chairs on the Nagorny Karabakh settlement is a model of international mediation. While the 5 plus 2 format on Transnistria has many snags, with the mediators and observers promoting their ideas, on the issue of a settlement in Karabakh there is friendly cooperation, which helps to keep the process within the negotiation framework. I hope the time is not far off when results will be achieved.

Question: Has Russia set any deadline for the delivery of Mistral helicopter carriers, one of which has been built and is ready to be delivered?

Sergey Lavrov: The topic is a bit cloying. This is not our problem, it is a question of the reputation of France. The contract must be strictly fulfilled.

Question: You have said that there is no point in launching an international discussion of the Ukrainian crisis in the absence of the self-defence forces’ leaders. Do you believe that to end the conflict in Ukraine it is important to officially include them in all the negotiation formats?

Sergey Lavrov: There is no such need, because there already exists the Minsk format. It has delivered agreements, the Minsk Protocol has been signed followed by the Minsk Memorandum between the representatives of the Ukrainian President and those of the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR with the participation of the OSCE and the Russian Federation. This format must be preserved because the contracting parties should comply with what has been agreed upon. 

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