“A firm commitment to deepen strategic partnership”

In his latest regular media briefing, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko discussed the meeting between the Russian President and the German Chancellor, and other international issues concerning Russia.

RT brings you the full version of the briefing.

Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I’m glad to welcome all of you to the latest meeting in the series of Russian Foreign Ministry press briefings. I’d like to share with you information about key international events which took place since the last briefing.

I’d like to start with a statement on the 11th round of Russian-German International Consultations which took place on July 16 in Munich and was attended by 15 government members representing the two countries. The Russian Foreign Ministry sees it as the central event in Russian-German relations this year.

During the talks between the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, a plenary meeting for delegations, as well as individual meetings of Russian and German heads of ministries within the framework of the ministerial section of the summit, the two sides have summed up the results of interaction between Russia and Germany during the time since the previous one, the 10th round of International Consultations which took place last year in St. Petersburg. Both sides have expressed their firm commitment to further deepen their strategic partnership.

The two sides have also done inventories for the key bilateral projects and outlined the measures to further develop the key directions of cooperation with a stress on preserving the dynamics of contacts in the spheres of foreign economy, investment and research and development in the time of the global financial and economic crisis. Special attention has been paid to the practical steps in minimizing the consequences of the crisis in bilateral trade, namely, by diversifying the structure of sales turnover, providing credit support for commercially viable contracts which are being realized in the new market conditions, the creation of a new economically and socially important infrastructure, promoting strategic alliances in manufacturing and investment cooperation projects – most importantly, in the sphere of cutting-edge technologies, scientific cooperation and innovation. This is the aim of the nine bilateral agreements and documents signed within the framework of International Consultations. Among them is an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the fields of science and technology, a joint declaration on cooperation in the field of energy, statutory and registration documents for the new Russian-German Energy Agency (RUDEA), a series of agreements between Russian and German banks and companies on re-building the airport in Pulkovo, on intentions to create in Russia a joint venture producing new-generation locomotives, on creating a centre of international logistics and chain management, on supporting small and medium businesses, as well as on financing equipment supplies to Russia.

Another important topic of the negotiations was the discussion on attracting Russian capital to German companies experiencing difficulties due to the global crisis. An example of this is the deal on the acquisition of assets of the German car maker Opel by the international consortium comprised of the Canadian-Austrian company Magna, Russia’s Sberbank and the GAZ Group, as an industrial partner.

Other priority issues included political support for promoting key ‘lighthouse’ projects in energy, including the construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which is aimed at strengthening the guarantees of reliable energy supply to Europe in the long-term.

Both the Russian president and the German chancellor have noted a close and constructive interaction between the two countries on the international arena, which is based on the high potential of mutual trust, general tasks in promoting strategic stability, building a new architecture of European security based on trust and cooperation, as well as a wide range of matching interests in a number of current international problems.

As for additional guarantees of stability and widening the Russian-German partnership potential, they can be found in the cultural and humanitarian dimension of the two countries’ cooperation. It also includes the intense dialogue between civil institutions, extended contacts in the sphere of NGOs, parties and social organizations; the developing exchange programmes for youth and students, personal contacts. The summit has noted that here, the important ‘ideas generator’ function belongs to the Russian-German social forum ‘St. Petersburg Dialogue’. Traditionally, it held its own session on the sidelines of the International Consultations summit. It discussed the issues of ‘Ways of tackling the recession in the eyes of Russian and German social organizations’. Its final plenary meeting was attended by the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and the German chancellor Angela Merkel.

On the eve of the 65th anniversary of the victory over Nazism and the 20th anniversary of the unification of Germany in 2010, it has been decided to mark these ‘special dates’ in the common history of the two countries during the coming bilateral and international events.

I was asked to comment on the Russian-German Energy Agency (RUDEA) which I’ve mentioned above.

I’d like to point out that energy saving and energy efficiency, which are among the issues of activating the strategic Russian-German cooperation within the ‘partnership for modernization’ concept, are regularly discussed by President Medvedev and the German chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany’s rich experience in the field of energy saving and the state-of-the-art German technologies are known worldwide and are very much in demand in Russia.

Following a decree by the two leaders, an Agreement on creating the RUDEA LLC has been developed and was signed in Munich, on July 16, on the sidelines of the Russian-German International Consultations.

The aim of RUDEA is to coordinate the promotion of energy efficient projects across various spheres of the economy, the transfer of leading German ‘know-how’ to Russia and the development of financial mechanisms using the credit line provided by the German government.

The first projects where the agency will take part will be carried out by major German industrial and energy corporations, such as Siemens AG and E.ON AG, in a number of Russian regions, such as Tatarstan, Nizhny Novgorod, Sverdlovsk and Kaliningrad regions. The work on implementing the ‘energy-efficient city’ concept in Yekaterinburg is already underway.

Outcome of the visit of Russia’s President to South Ossetia

I was asked to comment on the outcome of Russia’s President to South Ossetia.

On July 13, invited by South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoyty Russian President Dmitry Medvedev paid his first visit to South Ossetia. It could really be characterized as a historic event, as the Russian leader has never before visited this region.

Two presidents held a meeting and discussed the issues of further development of bilateral relations, re-construction of South Ossetia after the armed Georgian aggression and prospects of intergovernmental co-operation in different fields, first of all, in the realization of mutual projects on the reconstruction of economy and a social life in the Republic and maintaining active bilateral cooperation in the area of defense. Currently, about 30 projects are planned to be signed between the two countries.

Dmitry Medvedev visited the memorial cemetery in Tskhinval where he honored the memory of those who perished during the Georgian – South Ossetian Conflict as well as the 4th military base of the Russian Armed forces, deployed in the republic.

During the visit Mr Medvedev re-confirmed Russia’s position, which was defined in August 2008, and the strategy for further co-operation in compliance with those international legal documents, which had been earlier signed between the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Ossetia.

On July 14, a meeting on implementing the incident prevention mechanisms in the Georgian – Abkhazian conflict zone was held in the Gali district of Abkhazia.

The first consultative meeting took place in the Gali district in the framework of Geneva Discussions on Security and Stability in Transcaucasia on February 17-18 and July 1 based of statements for Prevention and Response mechanisms approved by all sides. The meeting was held in a constructive and working ambience.

We should mention that Abkhazia and Georgia demonstrated a businesslike approach in disputing the existing issues and agreed on the procedure and organization of future meetings under the auspices of the UN, installing a “hot line” between the representatives of all countries. It was good to notice that the participants paid most attention to the incidents prevention issue instead of responding to them as a post-factum.

We believe it’s vital not to politicize such meetings, solving all the issues in the interests of security for the population of Abkhazia and Georgia, especially in the border areas. We stand for their constructive continuation with a practical result.

A forthcoming official visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the Kingdom of Thailand and the Socialistic Republic of Vietnam

On July 22-23 in 2009 on the island of Phuket (Thailand) Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in annual events held by ASEAN: a regular meeting of Russia-ASEAN and the 16th session of the ASEAN Regional Forum on security between the Foreign Ministers.

The agenda of the Foreign Ministers’ meeting Russia – ASEAN scheduled for July 22 foresees discussing a wide range of issues on the development of a dialogue partnership between Russia and ASEAN, first of all, focusing on its economy and pressing international and regional issues.

During the meeting special attention will be paid to the preparation of the second Russia- ASEAN summit (the first Russia-ASEAN summit was held in December of 2005 in Kuala-Lumpur). It means it’s necessary to make agreements on the preparation of the second summit and provide its substantial contents.

We believe that priorities in co-operation between Russia and ASEAN should be in the field of energy, science and technologies, response to emergences, tourism alongside with mutual resistance to new challenges and threats.

In the framework of the Foreign Ministers’ meeting between Russia and ASEAN it’s planned to sign the Memorandum on establishing the Center of ASEAN at the MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations) University. The Center is expected to be a research and cultural institution for establishing scientific ties between universities and research centres of Russia and the ASEAN countries, and providing more information concerning the state and future development of partnership between Russia and ASEAN.

The participants of the 16th ARF session, due on July 23, will have to evaluate the Forum’s activity last year and exchange opinions on current issues of international and regional agenda. Apparently, special attention will be paid to the situation on the Korean peninsula. According to the session’s outcomes the ARF Chair’s Statement should be adopted.

After the end of the ASEAN events, on July 24, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay an official visit to the Kingdom of Thailand.

On his agenda there is an audience with the King of Thailand Phumiphon Adunyadet, a protocol meeting with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, talks with Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on the issues of bilateral relations and international issues.

In the course of the visit it is planned to sign the Plan for consultations between the Foreign Ministries of the Russian Federation and the Kingdom of Thailand in the years of 2009-2011.

In the framework of the official visit to Vietnam, scheduled for July 24 – 26, the leader of the Russian Foreign Ministry will hold negotiations with its Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the SRV Pham Gia Khiem. He will also meet with President of the SRV Nguyen Minh Triet's and Prime Minister of Vietnam’s Government Nguyen Tan Dung. The sides will analyze agreements achieved on the high level in Moscow in the October of 2008 and will plan the routes for future strengthening of strategic partnership between Russia and the SRV.

Meeting of Russia’s Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov with the U.S. State Secretary in the ASEAN fields.

I was asked if Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to meet with the U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton in the fields of ASEAN.

Yes, such a meeting is scheduled for July 22. It will be the first contact of our Foreign Ministries after a bilateral summit held on July 6-8 in Moscow. It’s understood that it will be directed at solving the tasks put forward during the summit. These tasks are quite numerous. We have a substantial package of agreements which covers the current agenda of the Russian-American relations, which should be transferred into a different quality – resetting relations towards a course of a stable long-term development. The tasks are aspiring and the terms are tough. Having some positive results at hand, we need to plan and work hard together. The meeting of Sergey Lavrov and Hillary Clinton as coordinators of the bilateral Presidential Commission, formed at the summit, will become an important phase on this way.

Considering the events foreseen in Thailand, the sides will also discuss the issues concerning the situation in the countries of the Pacific Rim and Basin, security and cooperation in the region. Even a wider range of topics can be viewed during a traditional “synchronization of watches” between our countries on the most pressing issues for the development of the current international situation.

Possible negotiations on the issue of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula

I was asked to comment on the recent media reports of possible Five-Party talks with the participation of the representatives of Russia, the USA, China, South Korea and Japan on the nuclear issues in the Korean Peninsula in line with the ASEAN events, scheduled for July in the Phuket island.

Given to a current crisis in the Five-Party talks on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula the sides kept thinking over different variants for “resetting” the negotiations. It was also discussed to hold the meeting between the above-mentioned countries. However, this idea has not been put into practice yet.

I’d like to underline that the negotiations which were held till the end of 2008, were the Six-Party talks instead of “5+1”, leaving alone “Five against One”. In fact, Russia doesn’t mind working in other formats in the framework of the Six-Party talks, assuming that it will be transparent for other participants of negotiations and would naturally supplement the Six-Party talks.

Joe Biden’s visit to Ukraine and Georgia

For more than a month the “Russia Today” TV channel has been broadcasting our briefings in English on its Internet site. Internet users can ask questions regarding Russian Foreign policy in a special column “Russian Foreign Policy: Ministry Briefings”.

So, we’ve got a question with a request to comment on the visit of the US Vice-President Joe Biden to Ukraine and Georgia. We’ve been asked: “Taking into account the recent “restart” of relations with Russia and the approaching anniversary of the South Ossetian conflict, the move seems inappropriate. This visit can be viewed as a demonstration of support for Georgian aggression. What does Moscow think about Mr Biden’s tour?”

Yes, we are aware of this trip and paid attention to the fact that the countries and timing were not chosen at random. We’ve also heard the recent widespread comments saying that it’s a so called balanced post-scriptum to the recent Russian-American summit. Is it really so and is there a certain “ulterior motive”? I believe such question is not for us. It would be more logical to address it to those who are responsible for the architecture of American foreign policy.

No doubt, we will be closely following the current situation, moreover, the thing is about the countries which border us. The point of our foreign policy is that we don’t usurp and monopolize somebody’s rights. The choice of partners for international interaction is a sovereign will of the subjects participating in international relations. And it should be done openly without “games under the carpet” and not at the expense of others’ interests. It’s vital to take into consideration the regional context of the relations, civilized and historic specifics and existing cultural and integrated traditions. In other words, these are the same principles of “open doors” which are always put forward by our western partners, but without geopolitical exclusions, and serving to mutual interests. We call them the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefits, and we don’t mind if neighboring countries and regions build their relations on a similar ground.

Next round of Russia-US talks on START

The media have shown interest in another round of Russia-US talks on the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty to be held in Geneva 22-24 July. I have been asked about the dates and place of the next talks.

We are expecting further specification of the stances concerning the parameters of the future treaty and hope for rapprochement of our approaches to the quantity of strategic carriers and warheads as well as other aspects of the Treaty: interactions between the strategic offensive and defensive weapons, non-deployment of strategic weapons abroad and the question of strategic weapons without nuclear components.

The dates and place for continuing the talks will be discussed during in July. We assume the meeting will be in Geneva again in late August or early September.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura’s visit to Moscow

These days, 20-23 July, we have a visit by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura to Moscow.

As for the goals of Matsuura’s visit to Moscow, I can say the following. Two years ago Russia initiated creating a dialogue forum for regular meetings of representatives from major world faiths on issues of intercultural agenda. As a first step towards implementing this idea, it has been agreed that a High-Level Group On Interreligious Dialogue will be created with the UNESCO Director-General. The Russian Orthodox Church has a leading role in promoting this idea, that in its turn, has been voiced and generally co-ordinated during the meeting between Matsuura and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill in June last year. The first of this group was planned for January this year, but was adjourned because of the death of Patriarch Alexy II. The meeting is due to be held in Svyato-Danilovskiy Monastery on 22 July, with Matsuura, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill and other authoritative representatives from traditional faiths.

Russia attaches much significance to UNESCO’s efforts in intercultural and interfaith dialogue. This issue is believed to be very important in the world. Various formats exist. And the format of the High-Level Group on Interfaith Dialogue created now is no doubt unique as it will allow the exchange of ideas within a UNESCO forum on such issues as religious conflicts, defamation of religions, preserving of sanctuaries in conflict zones, etc.

Due to the significance of the forthcoming meeting, the Group is going to be received by Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev.

Today’s presentation of Matsuura’s book “UNESCO – Towards New Challenges”, in the Russian language, published on the initiative of the UN Goodwill Ambassador, ITAR-TASS Director-General Vitaliy Ignatenko, has been an important element of Matsuuro’s stay in Moscow.

Matsuura has visited our country several times, and each and every visit of his was very eventful. This time, besides the items I mentioned, he is scheduled to meet Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov, the President of the Board of the Peace Fund, Mr. Slutskiy, as well as Russia’s Goodwill Ambassadors Zurab Tsereteli and A. Abramyan. Matsuura will also deliver a lecture, within the Golden Collection of Lectures Project of the Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn’ [International Life] magazine.

Concerning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu

I have been asked to comment on recent statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about intentions to continue construction in Eastern Jerusalem and that Jerusalem is the indivisible capital of Israel, and that Israeli sovereignty over it is indisputable.

Russia’s stance about this issue is well known. As before we proceed from the idea that neither Palestinians nor Israelites should undertake steps that would contradict their obligations, create new realities in the region or predetermine the outcome of talks. Israel’s policy of creating new settlements on the West Bank of the River Jordan and in Eastern Jerusalem can be definitely called this.

The policy of creating new settlements must immediately stop as it is fixed in the Road Map and statements of the Middle East Quartet, including the latest one in Trieste, as well as at the Summit meeting in L’Aquila. To a great extent this will create conditions for the quick resumption of Palestinian-Israeli talks. Russia will take active steps in helping the resumption of negotiation contacts. Let me remind you that the Russian President’s Special Envoy for the Middle East, Deputy Foreign Minister Saltanov is now in the region.

Iran

I was asked to comment on the unrest in Teheran, where last Friday the Iranian opposition staged meetings, and protesters, in particular, cried out anti-Russian slogans, and even burned the Russian flag.

We know occasional anti-Russian moves take place. Some people inside and outside of Iran get irritated because we are convinced that it’s counter-productive to interfere with the home affairs of this country. However, you can count with one hand our ill-wishers. The public opinion of the Islamic Republic of Iran stands, on the whole, for good neighbourly relations and development of a wide-range of co-operation with Russia.

Presidential elections in Mauritania

On the 18th of July presidential elections took place in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. According to preliminary estimates, about 65% of voters took part in the ballot. The leader of the “Union for the Republic” retired general Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz won the elections. More than 52% cast their ballots in support of him. These figures and results are being contested by other candidates.

According to the election law of the IRM the final official results should be announced within ten days after they are approved by the Constitutional Council of the country. The Monitoring Committee of the International Contact Group is now summarising the conclusions of the international observers, presented at the elections. Russia’s representatives were also among them.

Moscow believes that the democratic elections under international monitoring with the results accepted by political and social forces of Mauritania will reinforce the return of an internal political life and a normal constitutional route in the country.

Outcomes of the Meeting between the Prime Minister of India M. Singh and Prime Minister of Pakistan Y.Gilani

Question about the outcome of the meeting between Indian Prime Minister M. Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Y.Gilani on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit which took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on July 16, 2009.

The November 2008 events in Mumbai had a negative effect on relations between India and Pakistan. It is obvious that both countries realise the importance of stabilizing these relations. A serious step in this direction was taken in Ekaterinburg on June 16, 2009 at the meeting between the Indian Prime Minister M.Singh with Pakistani President A.A.Zardari on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. The Prime ministers of the two countries met In Sharm el-Sheikh. According to the official resolution, M.Singh and Y.Gilanin were able to reach a mutual understanding and agreed on further contacts. This is definitely good news.

The Russian Federation supports the resolution of all conflicts in relations between India and Pakistan through constructive bi-lateral dialogue. Today the burning issue is the terrorist groups using Pakistani territory, they target India in their activities. Considering that, we are hopeful after what Islamabad officially stated – they plan to prosecute 5 leaders of extremist groups, who organised the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

We expect the Pakistani leaders to continue this course of action in dealings with terrorism.

About the Moscow meeting between Presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia on the Nagorno-karabakh settlement

I was asked to comment on the Moscow meeting between the Presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia on the Nagorno-karabakgh settlement, the meeting took place last week, July 18.

This meeting continued a serious and thorough discussion of basic conflict settlement principles, developed by the OSCE Minsk group. Certain progress has been made. The parties are closer on the issues. New topics are being discussed as well.

In the Autumn the heads of the OSCE Minsk group will conduct a new round of preliminary work, and after that we can expect another meeting between the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Iceland – EU

There have been Media reports that the Parliament of Iceland voted to start talks with the EU over the country’s membership of the Union. Will the potential EU membership effect bi-lateral relations between Russian and Iceland?

Russia and Iceland have good, dynamic relations. We are positive that we will continue in this friendly and constructive manner in the future, including the time when Iceland’s membership in EU is settled. But the official request has not been submitted yet.

The important thing is that EU expansion does not create new dividing lines on the European territory that we share. That’s why it is to our mutual benefit to synchronize EU expansion with a deepening strategic Russia-EU partnership, including canceling visas and establishing a free trade zone in the future.

About US Deputy Secretary of State K.Campbell’s statements, quoted by South Korean Korea Gerald, when he expressed concerns about nuclear co-operation between Russia and Myanmar

This is not the first time an American representative has expressed such concerns. We would like to explain once more that our co-operation with Myanmar is absolutely legitimate and meets all the requirements of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA. Myanmar is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and it also signed the guarantee agreement with the IAEA. And the Agency has not had any complaints about the country not following the NNPT requirements. Therefore, there are no reasons to limit our co-operation in the area of peaceful use of nuclear energy by the country.

In 2007 Russia signed an agreement on co-operation in the area of equipping a nuclear research center in Myanmar and will follow through on this agreement. It includes construction of a light water research reactor. But considering the fact that Myanmar is just now starting to explore the peaceful atom and there is no infrastructure in place yet, the agreement between Russia and Myanmar at this point regulates only training of technical professionals.

On the so called “Russian Card” issue

On July 9 the “Russkie” (Russians) fund held a press-conference in Moscow, where it was announced that they would begin to issue so called “Russian cards” to Russian nationals in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Baltic States. According to the Fund’s President (Mr. Shershnev), so far the document only has a “moral” effect, certifying that the card holder belongs to the Russian nation and shares the Russian worldview (Orthodoxy). Russian nationals living in other countries will have certain obligations towards Russia (the obligations were not specified). In exchange, in the future Russian authorities will grant them free multi-entry visas, opportunities to study and work in Russia on the same terms as Russian citizens, childcare payments, and the chance to participate in the social and political life of the Russian Federation.

This provocation organized by the “Russkie” fund separates Russian nationals, using national and religious criteria, gives false hopes for certain benefits, and also allows some circles in the potential “card” countries to accuse Russia of establishing a “fifth column”.

As we all know, on July 1, the government Commission on Russian Nationals Abroad approved suggested amendments to the Federal Law “About Russian Federation state policies towards Russian nationals abroad”. At this point the draft is being discussed in federal bodies of executive power, concerned with the matter, and then it will be presented to the government of the Russian Federation. The final decision about providing certain documents and benefits to Russian nationals (by the way, in the current draft, benefits are not mentioned) will be made within the framework of further constitutional procedures. No social organizations have the right to determine the status of relations between the Russian state and Russian nationals abroad.

About Russia’s ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

I was asked to comment on Russia’s position on the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Is Russia planning to ratify it in the future?

The Russian Federation sees it as high priority to establish an effective system of international criminal justice. And the International Criminal Court (ICC) should be one of the key elements in the system.

We all know that the Court has jurisdiction over the most serious crimes the whole international community is concerned with – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

Currently the ICC is looking into its first cases – the situation in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic. The situation in the Sudanese Darfur province and issuing an arrest warrant for the current President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir.

I would like to note that Russia submitted materials relating to the 2008 Georgia-South Ossetia conflict to the ICC in order to determine if crimes committed during the conflict qualify for the Court. Russia works together with ICC in this area.

As far as our country’s position on the ratification of the Rome statute, we have to note the following:

The Statute of the International Criminal Court was accepted on July 17, 1998 and came into force on July 1, 2002. It was signed by 139 states. As of June 2009, 109 countries have ratified it. At the same time, some large countries have not joined the Statute yet – USA, China, India, Pakistan and others.

Russia voted for the Statute at the Diplomatic conference in 1998 and signed it on September 13, 2000.

Strategically, Russia is interested in becoming a full member of the Rome Statute. Now we need to determine the terms that would work best for us, and the timeline for joining this international treaty. The President of Russia commissioned a study into ways to match Russian legislation with the Statute’s norms. We know already that we will need to make certain adjustments in national legislation, so that it doesn’t contradict the Rome Statute requirements. This kind of work requires Russian ministries and organisations to find balanced and integrated solutions in order to ensure efficient participation of our country in the international criminal justice system in the future. Besides that, we are monitoring the results of the first hearings at the ICC. It is extremely important to us to see this Court act as a universal court mechanism without any political agenda and bias. Based on all these factors, we will make a decision about Russia’s participation in the Rome Statute.

Questions from journalists:

My first question is – what’s Russia’s stand on Denmark’s plans to establish the Arctic military Command, considering the fact that melting ice gives access to the Arctic’s resources? And the second question – how would you comment on the situation with two Russian sailors, the members of the "CICHEM PEACE" crew?

The Foreign Ministry is following the internal political discussions in Denmark, focused on the recently published joint party agreement on military construction in 2010-2014, including the Arctic plans. Russia strongly opposes an arms race in the Arctic region and, as an alternative, proposes expansion of international cooperation in the North in order to develop safety of navigation, search and rescue operations and prevention of environmental catastrophes. It is in our national interest to make sure that the Arctic is a peace and cooperation zone.

As far as your second question goes – before this meeting I was studying the issue, and here is what I can tell you. The situation with the Russian sailors, members of the "CICHEM PEACE" crew, captured on July 4th on the Niger River, is unfolding like most cases in this scenario. In accordance with customary practice, the ship owners from Singapore conduct all negotiations with the captors over the setting free of all the crew members, including two Russians.

According to our sources, the sailors’ health conditions are satisfactory. The captors are not violent towards them, they have a phone connection with their relatives and the company crisis center.

We have reasons to hope everything will turn out fine.

The Russian Foreign ministry is monitoring the situation daily and is in contact with the embassy. In turn, the Russian Embassy in Nigeria is in constant contact with the Nigerian police. Understandably, we can’t give you any detailed information. We need to be patient and wait for the positive resolution of the situation and the deliverance of all crew members, including the 2 Russian sailors.

I also have two questions. First, the Chinese Foreign Ministry made a few statements about the situation with the Cherkizovo market. How would you comment on this? And second – six leaders of CIS countries ignored the informal meeting in Moscow which took place at the President’s Award horse race. What is your comment on that? Does it mean that there is a cooling in relations between Russia and CIS countries?

Russia’s foreign ministry is in constant contact with our Chinese partners, who are carefully following the situation with the Cherkizovo market, which has been closed under directives from Russian authorities. There have been many different reports on the issues, but all information needs to be verified. Both parties (Russia and China) have a clear understanding that Russian authorities are trying to establish order on the market’s territory, they act in the framework of the Law and are not against any national businessmen, including citizens of China.

Since our Chinese partners are concerned about their citizens effected by the situation, and their property, I would like to emphasize that Russian legislation guarantees consideration of rights and interests of all people, including foreign citizens, as well as security of their legitimate property. At this point Russian law enforcers are monitoring the export of personal belongings by owners from the market in an organised order, in accordance with stipulated procedures.

I also need to note that business laws, applied to people of all origins, regulate not only their rights, but also their obligations. I would like to remind you, that the Cherkizovo market was closed after a customs inspection that discovered many goods that had not been declared, so they had been smuggled into Russia. We call on all parties concerned to help the investigation conducted by Russian authorities.

As far as your second question goes, about CIS leaders not showing up at the race, I can tell you that we had sent invitations to everyone. Those CIS leaders who could make it, came to this event and used it to establish bi-lateral contacts with each other, with the Russian President, and they also had a chance to have a group meeting. Some CIS leaders could not make it for different reasons – tight schedules or other things. We don’t see it as a problem. We of course considered the explanations, which had been politely given to us. So I would not draw any conclusions here about certain processes within the CIS.

According to media reports, the President of Kyrgyzstan said that there are talks between his country and Russia about a new military base. But he emphasized that this would not be a typical military base, but a training centre for anti-terrorist activities. What do you think about this information?

I don’t have the right to comment on statements by the highest authorities of Kyrgyzstan. But the things that you mentioned are not new to us. We have discussed these issues with our Kyrgyz partners. We do it both bi-laterally and with the many parties involved, discussing different things. So all these issues are discussed when necessary, and we make joint decisions.

I have two questions, the first one – please comment on the incident with the Black Sea Fleet sailors, which happened on July 8. Ukrainian police detained a Russian convoy transporting missiles through the city. On July 10 the Ukrainian foreign ministry published a note of protest, saying that the Russian side had broken the fleet dislocation agreement between the two states. How would you comment on this? And secondly, could you confirm or refute the reports that President Yushchenko refused to come to the race, because his request to meet with President Medvedev had been denied?

Answering the first question. As far as I know, the relocation of some weapons belonging to the Russian fleet, stationed in Sevastopol, was a common operation. I mean transporting these weapons from one base to another, both being in jurisdiction of the Black Sea Fleet. They did not do anything new. That’s why we were surprised by the Ukrainian reaction. I don’t think I can give you any more details on this story.

I just know about this official note from the Ukrainian side. But as I already said, these actions had taken place before and they are in full accordance with the agreements we have on fleet bases in the region.

As far as your second question goes, I can’t tell you anything, besides the fact that Mr. Yushchenko informed the Russian side that he would not be able to arrive in Moscow for reasons I don’t have the right to disclose. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry should be able to give more details on this.

Thank you for your attention.