“Georgian provocations against Russian citizens are systematic”

Georgian authorities are systematically harassing Russian citizens of Georgian origin who come to Georgia to visit their relatives, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko.

An example is the case of retired Russian officer Pavel Bliadze, who was arrested in Georgia on false grounds and who was pressurized into falsely confessing to being a Russian spy, the diplomat told the media during a weekly conference on Thursday.

Nesterenko touched upon a number of other international issues, such as the series of large-scale terror attacks in the Middle East, Moscow’s strengthening of ties with Latin American countries, and the search for an extreme sportsman from Russia who went missing in India.

RT presents the full transcript of the event.

A.N.: Dear colleagues and friends, we are happy to see you at the Russian Foreign Ministry and we would like to share information on the most-pressing issues that took place during last week in the international arena.

South American agenda

I would like to start by telling you about the first two-day official visit of Ecuador’s President Correa to the Russian Federation. It marks a new level in the relationship between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Ecuador. As a result of this visit, a declaration on the strategic partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Ecuador has been adopted. A press conference on the results of this visit has just taken place.

The top-level Russia-Ecuador talks put special emphasis on trade and economic issues and on mutually-beneficial co-operation in different areas, specifically, in the energy sphere. Please check our website for further information.

Russia’s co-operation with Latin American countries is based on an equal and pragmatic footing and on similar views on key international problems. It is mutually beneficial and is not aimed against other countries. We have recently seen a completely new level of dialogue with the most-influential Latin American states.

Top-level contacts within the BRIC framework (Yekaterinburg, June 2009), during the G20 meetings and during the visits to Moscow by the Head of State and the government of Cuba (R. Castro), the presidents of Bolivia (Morales), Chile (Bachelet), Venezuela (Chavez) and Ecuador (Correa) enabled us to compare our approaches to key international issues, including the multi-polar world, and to achieve concrete trade and economic agreements.

Special emphasis is being put on the economic aspect of our co-operation with Latin America. Major economic projects are being implemented; the Russian export of cutting-edge technologies to the region is stepping up, including space exploration equipment and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Cultural, scientific and educational ties are also being developed.

The Russian Foreign Ministry is to co-ordinate foreign policy and, together with other Russian ministries and agencies, is actively participating in developing co-operation with the countries of the region. The Ministry’s week at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly saw the meetings of Mr. Lavrov with the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR). During the visit of Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Falkoni to Russia in June, and during the first official visit of the Dominican Republic’s Foreign Minister Morales, concrete agreements were reached regarding the further development of our multi-aspect co-operation with these countries. We will continue to consult with foreign ministries.

In October this year, a high-ranking Russian delegation visited South America, headed by the Secretary of the Russian Security Council. Mr. Patrushev visited Chile and participated in the 7th summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas – People’s Trade Agreement (ALBA) which took place in the Bolivian city of Kochabamba. The participants of the meeting received a greeting from the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, which emphasized that Russia is interested in strengthening different aspects of the relationship with the ALBA countries.

The summit saw bilateral meetings between Mr. Patrushev and the heads of the ALBA states (the presidents of Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador) and with the First Deputy Chairman of the State Council and Cuba’s Council of Ministers. During the talks, all sides exchanged opinions on further co-operation in different areas. Mr. Patrushev held a joint meeting with the representatives of the Caribbean states (Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic and Grenada). Mr. Patrushev also held a short phone conversation with Mr. Castro. These meetings and visits demonstrate the strengthening and deepening of our partnership with Latin American and Caribbean countries, which is based on long-term strategic objectives.

Russia-Belarus union state

Yesterday, the regular meeting of the Union State’s Council of Ministers took place with the Russian and Belarusian heads of government. Prior to the meeting, the head of the Russian government, Prime Minister Putin, and Belarusian Prime Minister Sidorsky, held separate talks during which they discussed topical issues between Russia and Belarus.

The current issues of trade and economic co-operation, the results of fulfilling the Joint Action Plan on minimizing the consequences of the world financial crisis and the basic parameters of the draft budget of the Union State for 2010 were considered within the Council of Ministers’ agenda. A special emphasis was given to the issues of further strengthening interaction in areas of foreign policy and maintaining defense capacity and the security of the Union State.

Preparations for the celebration of an important date for our brotherly nations, the 10th anniversary of signing the Union State Treaty (which is celebrated on 8th December this year) was also discussed.

The meeting of the Union State’s Council of Ministers held a very important and practical meaning, enabling the further development and expansion of relations between Russia and Belarus.

Lithuanian cultural exchange

On October 29th, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Vigaudas Ushatskas, was in Moscow. Mr. Ushatskas arrived to attend a charity concert in the Bolshoi Theatre, featuring Russian and Lithuanian performers, with revenues going to help children with oncology diseases. His visit also included a short meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov and a working breakfast with top officials from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Co-operation with Sri Lanka

Now a few words about the Results of the working visit of Foreign Minister Lavrov to Sri Lanka that took place of October 26th.

It’s known that, on October 26th, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a working visit to Colombo. It’s the first visit of a Russian foreign minister to the country in the history of Russian-Sri Lankan relations.

The Foreign Minister had meetings with Sri Lankan President Radzhapaks, Foreign Minister Bogollagama and other officials and social activists. A wide range of issues on bilateral co-operation was discussed. The meetings re-affirmed the similarity of the Russian and Sri Lankan approaches to the burning international and regional problems. Special emphasis was put on fighting terrorism and extremism. Sri Lanka expressed its gratitude to Russia for its constant support of the Sri Lankan government in fighting terrorism on the island.

Both sides said they were set to comprehensively strengthen trade and economic ties. They discussed the joint implementation of a number of projects in the energy, infrastructure and transport sectors.

The foreign ministers signed an Agreement on Co-operation in Fighting Drugs Smuggling and Consumption. In addition, a Memorandum of Mutual Understanding between the two countries’ Emergency Ministers was signed.

Both sides confirmed their readiness to further improve the legal basis for bilateral relations, to step up their actions in approving agreements on air traffic, legal assistance in dealing with criminal cases, co-operation in tourism, trade and economics, and agreements on re-admission.

Also, increasing the number of Russian tourists to Sri Lanka, government scholarships for Sri Lankan students to attend Russian universities and cultural exchange programs were discussed in a friendly atmosphere.

On the whole, we consider the results of the visit to be positive. It has become a milestone in Russian-Sri Lankan co-operation.

Asian trilateral meeting

Russia is satisfied with the results of the 9th meeting between the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China, which took place on October 27th in Bangalore, India, in which Foreign Minister Lavrov took part.

The ministers exchanged opinions on a wide range of international issues and defined the paths for further co-operation within the RIC framework.

The issue of a new multi-polar international system was discussed. The ministers talked about strengthening the central role of the United Nations and its restructuring, about building security architecture and co-operation in the Asia-Pacific Region, fighting international terrorism and countering the global economic crisis. They also tackled energy security and climate change.

As for regional issues, special emphasis was put on Afghanistan. Russia, India and China’s foreign ministers expressed concern about the aggravating situation there. They confirmed their determination to restore peace and stability in Afghanistan, its social and economic system and to co-ordinate their efforts.

The ministers discussed their co-operation within RIC in three pilot areas – the prevention of natural disasters and tackling their consequences, health care and agriculture. Further steps to develop co-operation here and in other areas were defined.
As a result, a Joint Communique has been adopted.

The 10th meeting of Russia, India and China’s foreign minister is scheduled for next year in China.

Liberation of Ukraine from Nazis

Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov laid wreaths at the memorials of the Kremlin Wall in the Alexandrovsky Garden to honor the 65th anniversary of liberating Ukraine from Fascist occupiers.

US-Russian security meeting in Moscow

I’ve been asked the following question: What are our comments regarding the U.S. presidential aide on national security’s visit to Moscow and his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Mr. Jones’ visit Moscow was quite eventful. He also held meetings with Russia Security Council Secretary Nikolai P. Patrushev and Russian presidential aide Sergey Prikhodko. They discussed a wide range of issues related to Russian-American strategic dialogue, primarily the current Geneva Russian-American negotiations on a new strategic offensive arms limitation treaty. We are sure that Mr. Jones’ visit will help a successful accomplishment of the Geneva negotiations within the timeframe set by the Presidents of Russia and the USA (before December 5th) when the current SALT Treaty expires. Other strategic agenda issues were discussed, such as the Iranian nuclear program and the situation in Afghanistan. On the whole, we regard Mr. Jones’ visit as successful and entirely in line with efforts to impart a new dynamic to Russian-U.S. relations.

David Miliband’s upcoming visit to Russia

I was asked about Russia’s expectations regarding the forthcoming visit of British Foreign Minister David Miliband's visit to Moscow? I would like to point out that Great Britain remains an important international partner of Russia.

Our countries have established constructive dialogue on a wide range of global issues in various multi-lateral formats, including the UN Security Council, the G20, the G8, and so on. Great Britain is one of our key trade and economic partners and a major investor in the Russian economy. Our cultural ties are also developing well.

It’s with great satisfaction that we observe certain positive dynamics in Russian-British relations and the activation of bilateral contacts. We hope Mr. Miliband's visit will confirm these trends. Contact with the British Foreign Office is a good opportunity to highlight key points in our approaches to our co-operation and co-ordinate our positions on pressing international issues.

Cyprus talks

A day after the negotiations with his British colleague, Foreign Minister Lavrov will visit Cyprus (4th November) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (5th November). Information on these negotiations will be posted on the Ministry’s website soon.

ASEAN agenda

On 23rd and 24th October, the 15th ASEAN summit took place in Hua Hin, Thailand. It was one of the year’s key foreign policy activities for ASEAN. Developing practical measures for further consolidation of the Association, with the purpose of forming a highly-integrated ASEAN Community by 2015, as well matching the approaches of the South-East Asian Nations towards ways of tackling the world financial crisis were the main objectives. Also discussed were building interaction in providing food and energy security to the region, diminishing the consequences of natural disasters, fighting pandemics and reducing the gap between levels of development between member states.

The leaders passed a declaration on inaugurating the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the first structure of its kind in the Association’s history. It was a milestone event. A declaration on co-operation in education and a joint statement on tackling the consequences of climate change were also approved.

The ASEAN+3 (China, Japan, Korean Republic) and ASEAN+6 (China, Japan, Korean Republic, India, New Zealand, Australia – Eastern Asian Summit) summits also took place on 24-25 October. A wide range of strategic development issues for Eastern Asia were discussed. A special emphasis was given to forming an Asian support fund for national currencies based on the so-called ‘expanded’ Chiang Mai initiative. Also discussed were developing a ‘rice reserve’ with the purpose of providing food security, as well as plans to make region-wide agreements on the freedom of trade within ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6.

ASEAN is an important partner for Russia in the Asian-Pacific Region. We welcome the gradual strengthening of the structure-making role of ASEAN in the integration processes in the region. We’re aiming at a further development of dialogue between Russia and ASEAN. We believe that the second Russia-ASEAN summit, which is planned for the second part on 2010 in Vietnam, will act a serious boost for our co-operation in all the areas.

Afghani election

On Afghanistan, the situation remains complicated. Despite the anti-terrorist efforts undertaken by the Afghan authorities with support from the International Security Assistance Force, Taliban detachments and other extremist groups operate in a considerable strip of Afghanistan’s territory, including in some previously calm northern provinces. Obviously, the militants persist with their attempts to disrupt the presidential elections in Afghanistan, whose second round is scheduled for November 7th, to intimidate the electorate, and to defy the international community. Recent cases in point are yesterday’s rocket attack on the Afghan capital and the Taliban’s brazen assault on a UN hotel in Kabul, which killed a number of UN Mission staff and some Afghan servicemen. We express our condolences to the families of the victims.

We are sure that the extremists’ actions must not be allowed to reach their aim; the efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan should certainly go on. The key components are: building up self-reliance and the combat capability of the Afghan armed forces, assisting the country’s socio-economic revival and fighting drug crime, where revenues are, to this day, one of the main sources of funding for the terrorist activities in Afghanistan.

October 17 bombing in Pakistan

The situation in Pakistan is exacerbating. Extremists have actually declared war on the state and its’ population. On October 28th in the city of Peshawar (North-Western Border Province), another large-scale terrorist attack occurred in one of the shopping areas when a car bomb went off. In terms of casualties and destruction, the terrorist attack has been called the biggest terrorist act in Pakistan since the launch of the counter-terrorist operation in South Waziristan on October 17th. According to estimates, around 100 people have been killed, more than 200 have been wounded, 6 buildings have been leveled to the ground and women and children have been killed. A state of emergency has been imposed in Peshawar.

We express our condolences to the families of those killed and wounded. We condemn the inhuman actions of the extremists, who have no moral values. We are sure that the terror unleashed by these monsters to plunge the country into turmoil will be counteracted by the consistent and effective actions by the Pakistani authorities, who will be successful in eradicating terrorism on their territory.

Russia’s President Medvedev has expressed his condolence to the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, following the large terrorist attack on Peshawar. The telegram says in particular: ‘I strongly condemn this inhuman action. The co-ordinated effort of terrorists has once again confirmed the necessity of activating the international community’s efforts in opposition to this threat. Russia is ready for this full-scale co-operation’.

The crimes in Peshawar almost coincided with the terrorist attack carried out by militants in Kabul, which points to co-ordinated actions of the Taliban. This challenge to the authorities of both countries is aimed at civilians and we should react to it together. We cannot act separately any longer. The world community should unite its action in fighting this global evil.

Iraqi suicide bombing

I have been asked about the prospects of settling the situation in Iraq in light of the recent terrorist attacks. We have already expressed our total condemnation and non-acceptance of barbarian terrorist attacks in Iraq.

Telegrams of condolence on behalf of Russia’s President Medvedev and Chairman of the Russian Government, Vladimir Putin were sent to the President and Prime Minister of Iraq. Moscow strongly condemns these bloody crimes, the organizers and executors of which must suffer their deserved punishment. We express our sincere condolences to the friends and families of the deceased. We’d like to express our sympathy to those who have been injured in the attack.

We firmly insist on our principle position that such criminal actions, which cause death and suffering to peaceful citizens, are not – and can not – be justified. We declare our strong support for the efforts of the Iraqi government on eliminating terrorism, on recovery based on gaining national consent, order and normal life in the country, and on strengthening Iraq’s sovereignty.

We have also been worried by the significant material damage caused to the Baghdad office of the Russian TV channel, Rusiya al-Yaum, for the Arab-language audience. None of the journalists were injured.

The fact that numerous innocent Iraqi citizens had been hurt cannot be changed. Obviously it was the terrorists’ attempt to intimidate the population, to destabilize the situation in the country in upcoming parliamentary election planned for mid-January 2010, to create an atmosphere of panic and uncertainty, and to undermine people’s faith in the authorities to provide proper security conditions.

I’m convinced this cannot be allowed to happen. The situation in the country certainly still remains complicated. A number of difficult issues on the national agenda haven’t been resolved yet – in particular, the status of Kirkuk city, the distribution of power between central government and the regions, and so on. The social and economic situations also require improvement.

There is only one solution. We don’t just have to eliminate terrorism. We also have to strengthen the turning towards using political methods and reaching nationwide consent, which would result in a strong political settlement in Iraq. The nearest concrete goal is to hold an honest, free and transparent parliamentary election, the result of which would be accepted by all the Iraqis.

Telegrams of condolence on behalf of Russian President Medvedev and Chairman of the Russian Government Putin were sent to President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister of Iraq Nuri Al-Maliki.

Freedom of religion report

I’d like you to note a comment form the Russian Foreign Ministry’s information department on 28th October in connection with the US State Department’s annual report on religious freedom around the world. The full text is on our website.

Consultations with Japan

I’d like to inform you that on 27th October, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Borodavkin and Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Sasae held their regular Russian-Japanese inter foreign offices consultations in Tokyo. Bilateral relations, as well as topical regional and global problems were discussed.

Considering the recent change of Japanese government as a result of the Democratic Party coming to power, Japan emphasized further expanding relations with Russia, including starting interaction between the two states in the Asian-Pacific Region.

Russia declared its intention to continue building partnerships with Japan. A positive assessment was expressed towards the statements made by the country’s new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on developing closer ties with Russia. More detailed information on this is on the Foreign Ministry website.

Trial of Viktor Bout in Thailand

On the Bout Case: The Russian Foreign Ministry continues to watch closely the situation surrounding the Russian citizen Mr. Bout arrested in Bangkok in March 2008. On August 11, Thailand’s Criminal Court decided not to extradite our compatriot to the United States and his case has been handed over to the court of appeal.

In this context, we paid attention to media reports in Thailand and other countries on the continuous attempts by the United States to influence the executive and court authorities of Thailand to make them extradite Mr. Bout to the United States. We consider these actions, which contradict the legal norms, to be unacceptable and we do not think they contribute to a fair and impartial trial.

For our part, we take action to protect the rights of our compatriots and see our primary goal in his earliest return to Russia. And we strictly adhere to the principle of non-interference with the court hearing. We expect that the final decision on the ‘Bout case’ will be strictly in line with the legislation of Thailand and with international legislative norms.

Georgia “fabricated” case against alleged Russian spy

Now to the situation with Bliadze case.

Tbilisi has made systematic provocations towards Russians of Georgian origin who come to Georgia to visit their relatives and solve family problems.

Retired Russian Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Bliadze made such a visit in May this year. As he crossed the border, Georgian special forces told him to say on camera that he was a ‘Moscow agent’ and was involved in the so-called mutiny at the Mukhrovani military base. Naturally, he refused to do so. A month later, a gun was planted on him and he was arrested. While the investigation was underway, Bliadzay was promised several times – and through his attorney as well – that he would be released immediately as soon as he admitted his “co-operation with Russian special forces and participating in anti-Georgian activity” on camera.

The Georgian authorities violated universal international norms by refusing our consulate to chance to talk to the arrested Russian citizen for several months. And only after persistent efforts were made – and thanks to the assistance of the Swiss Embassy – representatives of the Russian Interests Section in Tbilisi were allowed to visit him.

Russia demands closing the fabricated Bliadze case and expects the International Red Cross and human rights organizations to pay attention to the Georgian authorities’ illegal actions.

Lumbermen detention incident in South Ossetia

On October 25th, near the South Ossetia-Georgia border, Russian border guards, deployed according to a bilateral agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Ossetia, seized 16 individuals who were illegally felling valuable trees such as beech and hornbeam. The timber was further transported to furniture factories in Georgia. According to the Russian Border Guards Service, this group was using with special equipment for forest felling. They have no relation whatsoever to timber logging, as the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims.

The individuals were arrested within the territory of South Ossetia, in accordance with current administrative-territorial maps. The individuals were delivered to the regional prosecutor's office in South Ossetia, and a criminal investigation was begun.

Yesterday, representatives of Georgia's Home Affairs Ministry and the European Council observing mission checked the co-ordinates of the place with the help of satellite communication and confirmed that the arrest had taken place in South Ossetia. Note that this has been the second such group conducting illegal activities at the frontier between South Ossetia and Georgia.

Talks with Georgian opposition

And yet another issue concerning Georgia. On 27th October, Russian State Secretary and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Karasin held a meeting with former Georgian Prime Minister Nogaideli, the leader of the party ‘Movement for Fair Georgia’. During the talks they exchanged opinions on the current complicated situation in Russia-Georgia relations. Problems of the Transcaucasian Region were also discussed.

Stranded freighter off-coast Panama

Regarding the Piruit cargo vessel: We’ve been observing the situation regarding the crew of the Piruit cargo vessel that has been stranded near Panama’s coast for several months. According to the information confirmed by Aeroflot Airlines’ administration, 4 Russian citizens that had previously left the vessel, are flying to Vladivostok on 7th November. Seven crewmen including the captain are still on board. The embassy’s workers are planning to visit the vessel in the coming days. Considering persistent requests by the Russian crewmen, a meeting will be organized for them with an orthodox priest, a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Panama.

We believe it’s worthwhile mentioning the unhelpful position of the vessel’s owner and his representative who practically withdrew from participating in resolving the arising problems. We will keep you informed of any further developments.

Search for Russian parafoiler in India

And now a few words about the disappearance in India of Russian parafoil pilot A.V. Ashurov

In the evening of October 25 of this year, the Russian Embassy in India received reports from a number of Russian citizens, about the disappearance of parafoil pilot Alexei Vladimirovich Ashurov, born on December 2, 1967, from the city of Togliatti in the Samara Region. According to one of his colleagues, V.G. Olshak, a group of 7 Russian parafoil pilots came to India with tourist visas as holidaymakers with no advance booking of accommodation. Mr. Ashurov began his flight at 10am on October 23, near the village of Bir Billing in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Soon after, radio and mobile contact with him was lost. He had no specialized emergency equipment on him; nor did he have an insurance policy.

The news was immediately sent by the embassy to India’s Foreign Ministry, which, in turn, sent letters to the relevant agencies in Himachal Pradesh who were urged to give all possible assistance in searching for the Russian citizen who disappeared. Attempts are being made to find Mr. Ashurov by his parafoil colleagues, but so far there are no positive results.

Since other types of search operations are ineffective in the mountains, a helicopter-aided search is necessary, which is an expensive affair costing anywhere between 20,000 and 30,000 U.S. dollars. In light of this, the Embassy is making efforts to have the Indian Air Force join the search.

Our comment on what has happened is that Russian tourists have once again displayed irresponsibility with regards to their own security. The Embassy was notified about the incident two and a half days after it occurred. Besides, engaging in extreme tourism requires the necessary equipment, a receiving organization in India, and an insurance policy that would pay for a costly search operation.

With a view to establishing Mr. Ashurov’s whereabouts, the embassy is in constant contact with the Indian Foreign Ministry, the local authorities in Himachal Pradesh, and other organizations and persons concerned.

Thank you for your attention, I am ready to answer your questions.

Questions from the media

Q: I have two questions for you. The European Council of Heads of State and Governments of the EU Member-States is beginning in Brussels. What issues are on the agenda and how is the issue of making the new framework agreement between Russia and the EU progressing?

And my second question: Several hours ago there was a message about a vessel having been seized by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Do you have any information about it, and what are your comments?

A.N: Thank you for your questions – both are very important. First, the meeting in Brussels is coming to an end. Today the Prime Minister of Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeld, is presiding over the European Union opening a regular autumn meeting of the European Council of Heads of State and Governments of the EU member states.

The agenda of this meeting usually shows the priorities of the presiding country. These include fighting climate change and, namely, discussing the EU mandate to finance the measures taken by the European Union on this subject.

Institutional issues on the future of the EU will also be discussed, specifically – the Lisbon Agreement and possible ways to co-operate in fighting the global economic crisis, illegal immigration and the co-operation development in the Baltic region. The meeting will also tackle the current issues of EU co-operation with other countries.

As for the new agreement of strategic Russia-EU partnership, I would like to point out that the negotiations are moving forward, but there are still some difficulties. This is normal for such an important document. The most important thing is that we see the constructive attitude of our EU partners.

We expect that the new agreement will promote our partnership with the European Union in all key areas of our co-operation and will include practical decisions on the most relevant ones. At the same time the new document should be well-balanced reflecting long-term goals and priorities of our co-operation.

Now to your second question: Yes, indeed, information agencies have been reporting for several hours that another fishing vessel has been seized. According to a press release from Operation Atlanta, the EU naval operation to combat piracy, this is a Thailand-flagged vessel. According to the press release, this morning it was seized, allegedly by Somali pirates. The message states that seizure of the vessel had been located by Atlanta’s plane, 200 nautical miles off the Seychelles Islands, and approximately 650 nautical miles off Somalia.

The EU message also notes that the vessel has been moving towards Somalia and that, according to unverified data, the crew includes 25 Russian-speaking sailors. Having received this message, we immediately contacted the Russian Permanent Representation at the EU and received confirmation of this press release. So far we’re only talking about assumptions. The information about the Russian citizens among the crewmen hasn’t been confirmed yet either. At the moment it is our task to find out whether there are Russian citizens on board the seized vessel. We’ve already send an inquiry to a number of states adjoining Somalia. We’ve sent enquiries to the Russian embassies in Kenya, Yemen, Eritrea and Seychelles Islands. It’s impossible to tell exactly who has seized the vessel, as this had happened rather remotely from Somalia and the Seychelles’ coasts.

I’d like to remind you that there is no Russian embassy in Somalia. Thus, if the vessel gets anchored near the Somalia coast, it would be objectively difficult to hold negotiations with Somalia authorities. We hope to clarify the situation soon. We will then inform you of the circumstances. The situation has been taken under control, and we’re watching its development.

Q: Have you received any information on the answer given by Iran to IAEA regarding nuclear fuel?

A.N.: Thank you for your question. This issue is also very important. There has been information about Iran having sent its reply to the G6 countries. I believe the official reply will be forwarded to the IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei for studying. Iran’s response has been a reply to the draft framework agreement on the scheme of withdrawing the low-enriched uranium that Iran had built up for producing fuel for Tehran’s research reactor. This agreement had been developed by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. The text had been distributed by the Director General upon the results of consultations of representatives of Iran, Russia, the United States, France and the IAEA on 19th-21st October in Vienna. I haven’t seen the reply so far. First we have to receive and to study it; then we’ll be able to comment on it.

Q: We have seen a lot of reports on occasional aggravation of the situation in Jerusalem lately, and specifically of the situation around the Temple Mount. Could you comment on it please?

A.N.: You are absolutely right saying that the situation is escalating. We openly say that we are closely watching the situation and are seriously concerned about it. We call on all parties to stay cool because of the sensitivity of the situation around Eastern Jerusalem, which is to be tackled in negotiations on the final status of the Palestinian territories. Some time ago we commented on this. What I can add, is that today is the last day of the International Conference on Jerusalem in Rabat attended by the Russian President’s special representative in the Middle East, Deputy Foreign Minister Saltanov. We are going to issue a press release and the full text of Saltanov’s address to the forum, which gives detailed coverage of the Russian position regarding this issue. You will be able to find detailed information on this issue on our website.

Q: The United States declared a new strategy on Sudan. What does the Russian Foreign Ministry think of this change?

A.N.: Thank you. Last time I promised to comment on it. I believe that detailed explanations regarding the U.S.’ further intentions regarding Sudan are to be requested in Washington. But generally, and without going into detail, I can say that, as far as we know, having reviewed the history of relations with Sudan, the Obama administration confirmed its commitment to the U.S.’ previous policy, including extending U.S.-imposed sanctions on Sudan, as well as an active mediation role in the political settlement of conflicts in the country. We think that the last aspect is important in the light of the growing need in concerted international actions to resolve conflicts in Darfur in southern Sudan. We think that the special representatives’ meeting at the G5 that took place on October 6th in Moscow as part of the International Scientific Conference on Sudan is a positive development.

And our position is that the crisis in Sudan should be considered and resolved through dialogue and co-operation at the United Nations, the African Union and other mediators with the Sudanese government with due respect to its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

Q: We’ve heard information that the crew of the Island of Luck vessel, including four Russians and 6 Ukrainians had been detained by Congolese authorities. The crew had allegedly thrown four illegal foreigners overboard. Did this really happen? And, if so, what is the Russian Foreign Ministry going to do about it?

A.N.: I’ve seen messages about it. We’ve sent our enquiries to the appropriate agencies. We’ve been following developments. If necessary, we will contact our Ukrainian partners to resolve this issue according to international law and the national legislations of the two states.

Q: Could you please comment on the statement made by the leader of Crimean Tatars’ Majlis, Mustafa Djemilev, that Russian Special Forces have been plotting to murder him?

A.N.: I haven’t seen such information. However I will keep this in mind. Thus I cannot comment on this, unfortunately.

Thank you for your attention. I’ll see you in a week’s time.