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23 Jan, 2008 18:27

Foreign Minister hits out at Baltic "Nazism"

The Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, has summed up Russia's diplomatic efforts for 2007. He said the country remained committed to maintaining stability in Serbia, and accused some Baltic states of attempting to re-write history by glorifying Nazism. Lavr

A slew of issues from the fallout with the UK to the status of Kosovo and NATO’s expansion have sparked heated debates around the world about Russia’s position in the international community.

Russia has long said it will support Kosovo’s independence, but only if both Belgrade and Pristina agree. Lavrov says this has led many to believe Russia has hidden motives.

“Many have misinterpreted Russia's warning that independence for Kosovo would set a precedent. They say Moscow is eager to see an independent Kosovo so it can start granting independence to other disputed regions. Nothing could be further from the truth about Russia’s position,” Lavrov said.

“We realise perfectly well the destabilising process of any separatist processes. We’ve felt it on our own skin. It’s in our interests to preserve stability and prevent violation of international rights,” Lavrov added. 

British spin

Lavrov also underlined that international rights and laws are the most important guidelines for dialogue, adding Russia is ready to co-operate with anyone who is ready, including the UK. The country has had its fair share of misunderstandings with Moscow and the latest tiff over the legal status of the British Councils in Russia's regions is a clear example.

“I’d like to remind you that the work of the British Council in Russia is not regulated by any bilateral agreements and therefore it contradicts the laws of the country. Our British colleagues understand the problem perfectly well. However they present it in a perverse way trying to turn this bilateral matter into an issue which concerns the whole of European Union. And it seems to me they are succeeding,” Lavrov stressed.

Baltic bother

2007 also saw its share of trouble with the Batlic states, especially with Estonia, which removed a Soviet war memorial from the centre of its capital. This led to clashes in April between Estonian and Russian nationals.

Lavrov made a connection between NATO expansion and some of its new members using the alliance as a cover for its actions.

“A number of new NATO members are actively glorifying Nazism. They are trying to re-write history and talk about the need for a historical revenge. And they get away with it because they are now members of the elite club and therefore they are untouchable. If you are part of NATO you can do anything you want without being criticised. We see similar things happening in other organisations as well, such as the OSCE for example,” Lavrov said.

NATO expansion into former Soviet states will be on the table in 2008 and might be a sticking point between NATO and Russia.

The road ahead

However, the Foreign Minister seems to think foreign policy won’t change.

“As far as our foreign policy is concerned, I am convinced that just like the results of the State Duma elections, the results of the presidential election will demonstrate the continuity of our foreign policy course. The public opinion indicates that on the whole people in Russia approve this course,” Lavrov noted.  

Perhaps the Foreign Minister's summary will help prevent further misunderstandings in 2008. But he made it clear the challenge will be co-operation and dialogue while protecting Russia's interests.

To watch the full version of Sergey Lavrov's news conference, please follow the link