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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions following the Normandy format ministerial meeting, Paris, March 3, 2016

4-03-2016, 21:01

The Normandy format ministerial meeting has come to an end. Of course, we discussed the implementation of the Minsk Agreements in keeping with the understanding on the sequence of steps that was reached on October 2, 2015, when the four leaders of the Normandy format countries – the presidents of Russia, France and Ukraine and the Federal Chancellor of Germany – met in Paris.
Today we spent much time discussing security issues, namely the implementation of decisions that were adopted on the back of the Minsk Agreements calling for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry and weapons of less than 100mm calibre. We discussed the reports of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (OSCE SMM) that recorded violations by both sides and noted that the Ukrainian Army was guilty of many more violations regarding weapons withdrawal and registration than the self-defence forces. As I said, the OSCE SMM registered violations by both sides. We discussed the overall situation and who could possibly stand to gain from these violations. Of course, we mentioned the ongoing internal political fighting in Kiev. We didn’t make any sagacious conclusions but pointed out the importance of  strict implementation of the agreements, avoiding provocations and keeping the withdrawn weapons, which were registered by the OSCE observers, in their designated places.
We also welcomed those who work on the ground, notably the cooperation efforts undertaken within the Joint Coordination and Control Centre (JCCC). Working jointly with the OSCE SMM,  a mine clearing agreement between the Ukrainian Army and Donbass was reached that stipulates practical measures for launching demining operations in 12 priority areas. Another document concerned a pledge to stop military exercises and any other operations that involve target firing in an area of about 30 kilometres from both sides of the contact line. This will reduce the risk of provocations and unforeseen and unintended incidents. It is a good agreement that must be implemented. We urged the conflicting sides to implement all other aspects of the Minsk Agreements related to ensuring safety in the contact area. We also urged the OSCE, acting in accordance with its mission, to monitor and verify the implementation of the above provisions.
We talked at length about the political aspects of the Minsk Agreements, primarily in light of the importance of making the first move in an interconnected chain of moves. This includes the special status law,  constitutional reform, amnesty and local elections. Speaking about the next step, we discussed [local] elections in the context of making the necessary preparations. The implementation of this provision calls for honestly reading the Minsk Agreements, adopting the special status law, announcing the amnesty and letting people elect and be elected, not under the threat of total persecution, but as free citizens. This can only be guaranteed by constitutional reform. Our leaders agreed on this package of measures during their meeting in Paris on October 2 of last year, but unfortunately, no progress has been made in the main part of the process – the preparation of elections.
The Ukrainian authorities’ commitment to coordinate the elections with Donbass has not materialised. The OSCE has been trying to negotiate a compromise solution through its special representative in the Contact Group and representatives in the working group on the political process. We believe that many proposals that have been made since last summer are reasonable, and the OSCE has attempted to implement many of them, but none of them have suited Kiev. We are willing to try to influence our colleagues in Donbass to cooperate with the OSCE on this basis. They seem to be ready to do this, but this cannot be said about the Ukrainian authorities. We have been urging progress in this sphere. The Minsk Agreements clearly say that all issues pertaining to elections must be coordinated with Donbass representatives.
I’d like to make the following conclusion: During our talks today we pointed out that a direct dialogue between Kiev and Donbass on military aspects, security or the political process is the key to and the backbone of the Minsk process. Unfortunately, this dialogue has not been launched primarily due to Kiev’s unwillingness. Another attempt has been made today to reject the fact that the Minsk Agreements have been also signed by Donbass representatives. It has been suggested that these representatives should be considered illegitimate and that the special status issues should be addressed when some other representatives are nominated. There is nothing new in this. This has been suggested more than once by Ukrainian representatives, including officials such as the president and members and leaders of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada). They say they would only discuss the special status law and constitutional reform after a change of power in Donbass, when a government that would suit Kiev comes to power there. Some Ukrainian representatives went as far as to say that there is no need for constitutional reform and that they would never implement it. Unfortunately, this has had a negative effect on our work at the Normandy format ministerial meetings.
The way I see it, Germany and France agree on the inviolability of the sequence of actions that has been sealed in the Minsk Agreements and confirmed by the Normandy format leaders at their Paris meeting on October 2, 2015. This sequence implies moving in an interactive mode, from elections to the special status law, to sealing this status in the Constitution and, finally, to amnesty based on the law that has been adopted by the Verkhovna Rada but not yet signed by President Poroshenko.
The discussions we held have been summarised in a statement that the French Foreign Minister, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault will make today as the host of this meeting. It will express support for the joint efforts of OSCE SMM and JCCC to strengthen security and to find a compromise solution that will open the door to elections and, on the whole, the implementation of the Minsk process based on the Minsk Agreements. It will also encourage the conflicting sides to implement their humanitarian commitments under the Minsk Package of Measures by ensuring the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid and free access for the International Committee of the Red Cross group in Donbass.
This is what we have agreed today. Overall, the meeting was productive. The Normandy format leaders are monitoring the implementation of the Minsk Agreements and the understandings they reached in Paris on October 2 of last year. The ministers have been issued relevant instructions. We will report to our leaders that the meeting has been held. As far as I know, plans will be made subsequently to organise a telephone conversation of the four Normandy format leaders.
Question: Do you believe that elections can be held in Donbass in June of this year, as some Western media report?
Sergey Lavrov: Our German and French colleagues proposed today that the sides should be encouraged to coordinate the holding of local elections in Donbass in the first half of the year (by June or July) on the basis of the Minsk Agreements.. We were willing to support it, but Ukraine asked us not to insist on it. As a result, we failed to reach a consensus decision.
Question: Will the results of the upcoming Syria talks in Geneva be seen as a crucial factor for continuing the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities? What will happen to ceasefire if the talks fail?
Sergey Lavrov: The cessation of hostilities that was approved by the UN Security Council, and based on the Russian-US initiative, in keeping with the agreement reached by President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama, has no time limit. Attempts have been made, which the Russian Foreign Ministry has denounced as unscrupulous, to encourage the belief that this regime was introduced for only several weeks, with new plans to be made later. This is an unacceptable distortion of facts. The regime has no time limits. On the contrary, all members of the International Syria Support Group supported the Russian-US initiative on the sustainable nature of cessation of hostilities. Moreover, it is only the first step towards a comprehensive ceasefire regime. There is a legal difference between the cessation of hostilities and a ceasefire. Ceasefire is a more sustainable and binding regime.
First, in this situation there are no time limits, and second, no linkage to anything else. The ceasefire and cessation of hostilities, humanitarian deliveries and the continued political process that must include all parties, including the Syrian Government and all opposition groups, are elements of the strategy that has been approved by the UN Security Council. And all these elements must be implemented concurrently. There and no, and cannot be, any preconditions. We are acting on this premise and also on what UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura told us the other day in Geneva. He reaffirmed his plans to convene a meeting of the Syrian sides on March 9 to launch the negotiations marathon. Several Syrian opposition groups are expected to participate. First the UN negotiators will hold separate meetings with the opposition groups and with the Syrian Government. And then I hope they will come together in the same room. This will take time. But as I said, there is no connection between the cessation of hostilities and the beginning of these talks. These processes should begin and proceed in parallel, in a sustainable manner and at an increasing pace.
 
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    лучшие комедии. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions following the Normandy format ministerial meeting, Paris, March 3, 2016.
    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions following the Normandy format ministerial meeting, Paris, March 3, 2016