No quick solution to Libyan conflict – Lavrov
Lavrov said NATO put itself in a difficult situation because it has already been bombing Libya longer than it bombed what was Yugoslavia. “Libya has been bombed for more than three months, and there is no end to the bombings," added Lavrov.
The minister called NATO’s actions in Libya cynical, because the alliance continues bombings, claiming they are aimed at ending Gaddafi’s regime and ignoring the fact that they have already taken many civilian lives.
"Certainly, politics is a cynical thing. The Western capitals say that the bombings must go on till the end, until Gaddafi stops being a threat to the civilian population and retracts his forces to barracks, but the cost of this political statement is very high from the point of view of human lives," Lavrov told Rossiya-24 state television channel on Thursday.
As for the situation in Syria, the Russian foreign minister said that it is unacceptable that the West is putting pressure only on the Syrian authorities and not the opposition.
”It is unacceptable that the opposition should resort to violence, provoking peaceful protesters to join acts of violence and therefore making them a target for police or security forces,” Lavrov said.
“Russia-NATO joint missile defense in Europe would be breakthrough”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reiterated the country’s position on NATO plans to build an anti-missile defense shield in Europe. He said that Russia does not want the US-backed project to become confrontational.
"We believe that the proposals made by Russia repeatedly, on how we see our joint cooperation in this area, fully deserve to be considered. They are good enough to be looking for compromises," he said.
The foreign minister added that Russia-NATO cooperation in building the missile defense system could mark a breakthrough in the sides’ relations.
"If we could accomplish such a joint project, a breakthrough into the future would be accomplished without an exaggeration," he said.
“Issues of strategic stability would then lose their confrontational aspect, which remains since the Cold War times by inertia,” Lavrov added.
The minister stressed that the Russian side views the US as its main partner in negotiations about the anti-missile defense project, adding that this is mostly “American design”.
He said that the current AMD shield project, if implemented, would cause problems for Russian strategic potential.
“That is why we suggest agreeing on guarantees that the future AMD system is not directed against Russia,” the minister said.
NATO insists that such legally binding guarantees cannot be given to Russia. Sergey Lavrov said that he intends to discuss the issue in Washington next week.
UK not ready for simpler visa regime with Russia
Sergey Lavrov also talked in the interview about the complex relations between Russia and the UK. He announced that the discussion over a simpler visa regime has not been successful so far, as the UK is not ready for such an agreement.
“We have been having talks with the British, and we have a long time ago proposed to them not even a visa-free regime, but a scheme that we agreed upon with the EU several years ago – a simpler visa regime,” said Lavrov.
This follows Wednesday’s statement by David Lidington, Minister for Europe at the British Foreign Office, who said that Britain would be ready to get back to restarting cooperation with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSS) and simplifying the visa regime with Russia only after Andrey Lugovoy – the Russian accused of killing former FSS agent and British citizen Aleksandr Litvinenko in London – appears before a British court.
“A British citizen was murdered in the middle of London in a way that put a significant number of other lives at risk,” Lidington told reporters at a press conference in Moscow. “We cannot simply ignore that.”
He added that Britain believes there is enough evidence of Lugovoy’s guilt to convict him. The right place for the litigation is Britain, because the killing took place in Britain and the victim was a citizen of the United Kingdom, he said. According to Lidington, the UK is still waiting for a response on that matter from Russian officials.
The British authorities have already demanded Lugovoy’s extradition to the UK, but the Russian side refused, claiming the extradition of a Russian citizen to a foreign state contradicts the state Constitution. Lugovoy says he is not guilty.
Regarding Lugovoy’s case, Lavrov said on Thursday that British demands for Lugovoy’s extradition for court proceedings are incorrect.
"If their demand aims at the recognition of Lugovoy's culpability, it is at least incorrect to make such demands, to say guilty or not-guilty, before the court completes its deliberations," said the Russian foreign minister.
Aleksandr Litvinenko died in a London hospital on November 24, 2006 as a result of poisoning with radioactive polonium. The British prosecution accused Lugovoy, who had met with Litvinenko in a London hotel three weeks before his death, of poisoning Litvinenko’s tea during the meeting.
You can watch the full version of Lavrov’s interview here.