Israeli actions run counter to the internationally recognized legal basis

The plans of Israel’s Interior Ministry to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem are unacceptable, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Andrey Nesterenko.

RT presents the full transcript of Russian MFA Spokesman Andrey Nesterenko’s briefing, which took place on March 11, 2010.

Visit to Moscow by King Abdullah II of Jordan

Talks are currently being held in the Kremlin between Dmitry Medvedev and visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan. Detailed information will be posted on the Russian President’s website.

Outcome of the visit to Moscow by Viktor Yanukovich

As you know, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich paid an official visit to Moscow on March 5. He held talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on a wide range of topics. At their conclusion, the presidents of the two countries signed a Joint Statement setting forth the basic approaches of the parties to topical issues in Russian-Ukrainian co-operation.

In our view, the visit of the President of Ukraine opens up the possibility for a qualitative shift in our relationship after the phase of mutual alienation and distrust.

First of all, we note the positive mindset of Viktor Yanukovich towards solving the backlog of acute bilateral issues.

Moscow stands ready for full-blown, comprehensive co-operation with Ukraine on the principles of pragmatism and mutual benefit, the revitalization of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission led by the presidents of the two countries and its working bodies in various areas of co-operation, and a detailed discussion of the entire range of issues.

A detailed account of the Russian-Ukrainian summit talks in the Kremlin, the contents of the press conference of Medvedev and Yanukovich, as well as the Joint Statement adopted at the end of the talks, can be found on the websites of the Russian President and Foreign Ministry.

Outcome of Fredrik Reinfeldt’s visit to Moscow

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt visited Moscow on March 9. During his visit, he held talks with President Dmitry Medvedev. At the end of the meeting, in the presence of the Russian President and the Swedish Prime Minister, a number of bilateral documents were signed, in particular, in the energy sector and to combat organized crime, as well as intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in health and social welfare, in culture and the arts and in the exploration and utilization of outer space for peaceful purposes.

Detailed information on the visit has been placed on the Russian President’s website.

In connection with the talks I was asked what most promising areas of co-operation between Russia and Sweden could be called after the meeting of President Medvedev with Prime Minister Reinfeldt.

In these talks, they substantively discussed the basic guidelines for creating an active partnership with Sweden in the task of modernizing the Russian economy and of transferring it to an innovative path of development.

The following were identified as the most promising areas of cooperation between Russia and Sweden:

- Energy, in particular, energy efficiency, energy conservation technology, renewable energy sources, ecologically sound waste treatment technology;

- Space, information, telecommunications, medical, pharmaceutical and environmental protection technology, machine building, infrastructure;

- Law enforcement.

Vladimir Putin’s upcoming visit to India

At Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will pay a working visit to India from March 11-13.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Putin will hold talks with Manmohan Singh, as well as meet with Indian President Pratibha Patil and President of the Indian National Congress Sonia Gandhi.

The talks are expected to focus on a wide range of questions pertaining to the further development of the strategic partnership between Russia and India, giving priority attention to bilateral collaboration in fields like nuclear energy, telecommunications, military-technical cooperation, and trade ties. It is planned to sign a package of important Russian-Indian documents.

Sergey Lavrov's meeting with Edward Nalbandian

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov met in Moscow with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, Edward Nalbandian, on March 8.

During the conversation, held in a businesslike and constructive atmosphere, a number of topical issues in the Russian-Armenian partner relationship were discussed, along with international and regional problems. The parties devoted special attention to the theme of continuing the process of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement.

Outcome of Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Alexander Stubb

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov on March 9 held talks in Moscow with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Finland, Alexander Stubb, who was on a working visit to Russia.

The heads of the foreign affairs agencies discussed the course of the implementation of the agreements reached between the leaderships of our countries, and a number of topical issues in Russian-Finnish cooperation, including a schedule of upcoming political contacts.

Themes relating to the constructive interaction of Russia and Finland in the framework of international and regional entities in the Baltic area, northern Europe and the Arctic were thoroughly examined.

Considerable attention was paid to discussing international issues with an emphasis on security problems in the Euro-Atlantic space and on the Russian initiative for a European Security Treaty, on Russian relations with the EU, including work on a new framework agreement and advancement towards visa-free travel for citizens, as well as on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation themes.

An exchange of views was held on a number of regional questions, including the situations in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Turkmenistan

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay a working visit upon invitation to Turkmenistan on March 15-16.

Russia highly values its relationship with Turkmenistan and attaches great importance to the further strengthening and development of mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation and interaction in political, trade, economic, cultural, educational, and other fields.

Minister Lavrov is expected to meet with President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and to hold talks with Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov.

It is borne in mind to discuss prospects for expanding mutually beneficial economic ties, augmenting trade and reinvigorating cooperation between Russia’s regions and Turkmenistan.

Due attention will be paid to the development of interaction in education and culture and to the implementation of existing bilateral agreements in this field.

There will be an exchange of views on topical international problems, the situation in Central Asia and the deepening of cooperation between the foreign policy agencies of Russia and Turkmenistan.

Russia believes that the visit will serve to further strengthen the traditional friendly Turkmen-Russian relations and to develop fruitful cooperation.

Upcoming meeting of Sergey Lavrov and Ban Ki-moon

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be in Moscow on March 17-19 to attend a Middle East Quartet ministerial meeting. This will be his third official visit to Moscow: he carried out the previous two on April 9-11, 2008 and March 26-28, 2009.

President Dmitry Medvedev will receive the UN Secretary-General.

Sergey Lavrov and Ban Ki-moon, in their meeting, will discuss – from the perspective of the need to strengthen the central co-ordinating role of the world Organization in the quest for effective solutions to the problems facing the world community – a wide range of issues on its agenda. In addition to the situation in the Middle East, they are also expected to touch upon such topical themes as conditions in Afghanistan, the Iraq peace settlement, the situation in and around Sudan, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, UN humanitarian assistance and other matters.

Upcoming meeting of Sergey Lavrov and Hillary Clinton

On March 18-19, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Moscow to attend a Middle East Quartet ministerial meeting. There will also be a bilateral part to the program of her visit, including a scheduled meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The ministers will take stock of the efforts to strengthen bilateral practical collaboration, particularly within the Russian-American Presidential Commission, and identify priority thrust areas for near-term Russian-US cooperation.

In the cluster of politico-military issues, they will pay close attention to the advancement of the negotiation process in Geneva to craft a new SOA treaty, as well as discuss co-ordination of Russian-American efforts on the non-proliferation track in the context of the Global Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Washington on April 12-13, in which President Dmitry Medvedev will take part.

In the international agenda the emphasis will be laid on reinvigorating the Middle East peace process, on a politico-diplomatic settlement to the Iran nuclear problem and on strengthening Russian-American cooperation in Afghan stabilization efforts.

Several other bilateral topics of mutual interest will also, presumably, be touched upon.

Israel's plans to build new homes in East Jerusalem

Moscow views the announcement on March 9 by Israel’s Interior Ministry of plans to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood with great concern.

We believe that such Israeli actions are unacceptable. They run counter to the generally recognized international legal basis for a settlement, and prejudge the outcome of the negotiation process, during which a solution must be found to the final status issues, including Jerusalem.

We call on the Israeli authorities to refrain from such negative unilateral steps. This is particularly important at such a sensitive moment, when the international community has intensified efforts to bring a lasting and just peace to the Middle East, and the parties – the Palestinians and Israelis – after a long hiatus show a desire to resume talks, albeit still indirect. The nascent opportunity to advance towards settlement cannot be allowed to fail.

The text is available on the Russian MFA website information tape.

Participation by Russia's delegation in the 10th round of Russian-US START follow-on negotiations

The tenth round of Russian-US negotiations to craft a new full-blown agreement on further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms opened in Geneva on March 9. Overall, we believe the negotiations have reached the final stage – most of the text of the document has been agreed.

During the round that has begun, the delegations continue working intensively on finalizing all provisions of the draft new SOA treaty so as to submit it for signing by the Russian and US Presidents. A thorough legal and linguistic collation of the text is being conducted in parallel.

The mindset on both sides is to ensure the possibility of signing a new treaty in the nearest future.

Adoption by UN General Assembly of a resolution "On cooperation between the UN and the CSTO”

On March 2, the UN General Assembly adopted, by consensus, a resolution on “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.”

The adoption of the resolution lays the legal foundation to further strengthen practical engagement between the UN and the CSTO, which has held observer status at the UN General Assembly since 2004.

We are convinced that expanding cooperation by the UN and other bodies of its system with the Collective Security Treaty Organization on a regular and orderly basis will help implement the goals and objectives of the world community in its quest for effective solutions to international problems in the domain of security and counteraction against new challenges and threats, enhance the potential of both organizations, particularly in the field of peace-keeping, and promote global and regional peace and stability.

About Angela Merkel’s remarks on the European security architecture

Before the briefing I was asked the following question. How can the Foreign Ministry comment on the statement of Angela Merkel that the proposal of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for a new European security architecture should be considered in the trilateral France-Germany-Russia format?

I will answer. We note the important contribution of our French and German partners to the discussion of the problems of the formation of a new European security architecture.

We believe it is important to employ all multilateral dialogue formats available in our space. Optimally, the Treaty should be negotiated at an independent venue with the participation of states and international organizations (EU, NATO, OSCE, CSTO, CIS) which are also actors of international relations.

We advocate further advancing discussions on the specific content of the Draft European Security Treaty in all relevant multilateral venues like Russia-EU dialogue on a common security space, the Russia-NATO Council and the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation.

We are looking forward to substantive discussion on the Treaty also in other forums, both bilateral and trilateral. The initiative of Angela Merkel is fully in keeping with this logic, and Russia is ready to discuss European architecture questions with the participation of our French and German partners.

Parliamentary elections in Iraq

A parliamentary general election was held in Iraq on March 7. Its results will be announced in the coming days.

The election reportedly took place in difficult conditions. Before and on Election Day, terrorist acts, including bombings and mortar attacks in Baghdad and other cities, killed dozens of people and injured more than a hundred others. But in general, as prevalently acknowledged, the election may be declared valid. This is confirmed by the conclusions of international representatives, including the Russian observers stationed in the Kurdish Autonomous Region, and the Russian embassy staff in Baghdad, involved in monitoring the voting in the capital.

Moscow welcomes the successful holding of the elections to the Iraqi parliament, in which for the first time since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the representatives of all political forces and ethno-confessional communities in the country took part. This gives an opportunity to continue the real inclusive political process so necessary for achieving national reconciliation in Iraq, strengthening its independence and realizing by the Iraqis their right to dispose of their own destiny and natural resources.

That is the line Moscow has consistently pursued. We express the hope that the formation of a new cabinet and organs of government without delay will help to speed efforts to improve the economic and social conditions of life for the Iraqis, to strengthen Baghdad’s relations with its neighbors and to facilitate the enhancement of its role in regional and international affairs.

International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy in Paris

At French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s initiative, Paris hosted the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy on March 8-9, attended by top nuclear officials from 60 countries. Director General of the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation Sergey Kiriyenko represented the Russian Federation.

The discussions have shown the growing interest of many states to develop national nuclear energy and to ensure their access to the world market for nuclear energy services.

In his speech, Sergey Kiriyenko focused participants’ attention on the advanced experience and capabilities of Russia in the international nuclear market, including the construction of nuclear power plants on a turnkey basis, readiness to apply flexible financing schemes, fuel supply for the entire period of the operation of nuclear power plants, and spent nuclear fuel reprocessing services. He especially highlighted Russia's initiatives to establish the International Uranium Enrichment Center in Angarsk and to set up a guaranteed IAEA-supervised reserve of low-enriched uranium at this Center. Kiriyenko stressed that these initiatives were aimed at realizing states’ lawful right of access to peaceful nuclear technologies on condition that they comply with their nonproliferation obligations.

Negotiation process on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement

We received a request from RIA Novosti to comment on the current level of the negotiation process on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement. What steps are the mediators now undertaking to assist the parties in the rapprochement of their positions around the unagreed points of the Madrid Document?

We regard progress in the negotiations as normal. There is a discussion underway on the working proposals of the mediators, the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, regarding the basic principles of Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, which were handed to the parties about two months ago and have received the appellation of the “Renewed Madrid Document.” Now the mediators are studying the parties’ reaction to these proposals. Last week they met with Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister, and next week will meet with the Foreign Minister of Armenia, who was in Moscow the other day and discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh issue with Sergey Lavrov. As far as I know, the same problem is to be considered in these days also during the visit to France by President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan. As a result of all these meetings, discussions and negotiations, the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group plan to visit Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan in late March-early April to try to bring the parties’ positions closer together around the unagreed basic principles for conflict settlement.

13th session of the UN Human Rights Council

The 13th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), the main UN rights body, began work in Geneva on March 1.

The agenda of the session will be rich and varied. A high-level segment is over, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights presented her annual report. During the session, the following thematic debates are planned:

● Impact of the global financial and economic crisis on human rights

● Structure and role of national mechanisms for implementation and monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

● Sexual violence against children

The session will consider a wide spectrum of other priority issues regarding the promotion and protection of human rights in the coming weeks: observance of human rights in the fight against terrorism, enforced or involuntary disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, human rights defenders, religious freedom, the right to housing and the right to food. Interactive dialogues with HRC special rapporteurs and independent experts will traditionally be held on these themes. The results of the work of the HRC mechanisms – the Advisory Committee, the Forum on Minority Issues, and the Social Forum – will be discussed.

The Russian Federation, as a member of the Council, is making every effort to ensure that human rights become a real factor in bringing different states and groups closer together and in building a climate of trust and mutual respect in international relations. In this regard, we have consistently opposed the use of human rights as an instrument of pressure on individual countries, politicization and the application of “double standards” in the human rights sphere.

Of course, this does not exclude a principled discussion about shortcomings in individual countries. We know that there are questions regarding Russia too. We will be ready to answer them. And we also have questions about discrimination against Russian-language education and the Russian language in individual countries and about counteracting xenophobia.

The Russian Federation has consistently and actively promoted respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people without distinction as to race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion and language. The introduction of discriminatory restrictions on rights on these grounds is unacceptable: phenomena like Nazism, segregation and apartheid are still fresh in our memory. This is especially true today, as we prepare to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the historic victory over fascism. At the current session of the Council, Russia is initiating its traditional draft resolution condemning one of the most odious forms of discrimination and human rights violations – the arbitrary deprivation of citizenship. We hope that, as before, our initiative will receive broad support.

HRC special procedures on secret prisons

We have received questions regarding the investigation of a number of HRC special procedures on secret prisons. This theme has also found reflection in the Russian and foreign media. In this regard, I can say the following.

A number of special procedures (the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; special rapporteur on torture; the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances) have conducted a joint study on the existing world practice regarding the secret detention of persons in the context of combating terrorism.

At a February 18 organizational meeting in preparation for the 13th HRC session, the representatives of a number of countries, including Russia, declared that there were procedural irregularities in the preparation of the document. In particular, this concerned the working rules of the Council and the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures.

The special rapporteurs are not “free artists”" who create by obeying only their own inspiration. Their activities are directed by the UN intergovernmental human rights bodies in the form of the HRC and the General Assembly Third Committee to be precise, which commission the special rapporteurs to prepare specific reports and studies for submission to the Council and/or the General Assembly. In other words, the “freedom of action” of those experts is rather limited.

In addition, the investigation did not include information and opinions received by the authors from states, which, of course, would have made the report more objective and balanced.

Concerning the report of the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kalin, at the 13th UN Human Rights Council session following his visit to South Ossetia

On March 8, in Geneva, during the 13th session of UN Human Rights Council (HRC), Walter Kalin, the special representative of the UN Secretary General on the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, presented a report on the outcome of his visit to South Ossetia in November 2009.

We find the report’s one-sidedness deplorable. The author proved unable to avoid a politically-charged approach, betraying incomprehension of the new geopolitical realities in the region.

We would like to emphasize that the trip of Kalin occurred precisely because the South Ossetian authorities themselves had invited him to visit the country and provided the special representative with all the necessary information in the hope that the UN expert, following his promises, would carefully study the facts and draw objective conclusions about the situation in the region. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

Thus, the report of Mr. Kalin has no mention of the suffering endured by the Ossetian people. He is also silent on the causes of the forced displacements of Ossetians in August 2008, which, as already acknowledged by all, were the aggressive actions of the Saakashvili regime. Nothing is said of the shelling of civilian targets by Georgian troops in South Ossetia, including kindergartens, schools and hospitals. There is no mention of the documented facts of the shootings by Georgian troops of civilians, deliberate destruction and desecration of monuments of Ossetian culture and places of burial. Finally, the document contains not a single word about the tens of thousands of men and women, old people and children of Ossetian nationality driven by Georgians from their native places in the early 90s.

Also not true is the assertion of Mr. Kalin about certain restrictions on humanitarian access to South Ossetia. Practice shows that for those entities that actually want to help that country, access is open to the republic.

Unfortunately, the delegation of South Ossetia was unable to participate in an interactive dialogue with Walter Kalin as the “country concerned” to express its opinion about the “value” of the report.

Russia considers it important to respect the right of all displaced persons to voluntary return in safety and dignity to their places of permanent residence. Here we fully concur with Kalin. In line with international practice of implementation of return programs, the key elements of this process are normalizing the situation, creating conditions and providing explicit guarantees of non-resumption of hostilities. As we have repeatedly said, this calls for concluding an agreement on the non-use of force between South Ossetia and Georgia, which, however, keeps avoiding the issue in every way.

Recent Russian-Georgian contacts

I have been asked how the Foreign Ministry can comment on the recent contacts of Russian officials with representatives of the Georgian opposition in light of a possible improvement of bilateral relations.

In this regard, I will note that the line on destroying the traditional good neighborliness with Russia that the Saakashvili regime is pursuing with maniacal persistence has become a source of increasing worry for sensible politicians in Georgia who really care about the welfare of their people. We are ready to have a dialogue with them and all who are aware that this line is perilous for the long-term national interests of Georgia. Today they include such opposition figures as ex-Premier Zurab Nogaideli and former Georgian Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze.

At the same time, we do not intend to interfere in the internal affairs of Georgia. A way out of the impasse into which the current regime has led the country is to be found by Georgian society itself and by the responsible and sane part of its political class.

Plans for a US-established antiterrorism training center in southern Kyrgyzstan

We have noted the information about the plans for the creation by the United States at the request of the Government of Kyrgyzstan, of an antiterrorism training center in the south of the republic.

The development of Kyrgyz-American cooperation in the realm of security is, of course, a sovereign matter of both parties.

At the same time we believe that the multifaceted, time-proven cooperation in counter-terrorism between Russia and the Kyrgyz Republic, our ally and strategic partner, will continue to grow both on a bilateral basis and within the CSTO and the SCO for reliable stability and security in Central Asia, as well as help build the counter-terrorism capacity of Kyrgyzstan.

The events in Nigeria

I was asked to comment on the recent developments in Nigeria, where the ethnic clashes resulted in considerable loss of life.

According to information from Nigeria, massive religious-ethnic violence again occurred on the environs of Jos, capital of the country’s North-central Plateau state, on the night of March 6-7, killing several hundred civilians, including women and children.

According to a report from the Embassy of Russia in Nigeria, there are no Russian citizens among the victims there.

The sectarian bloodbath in friendly Nigeria evokes profound concern and regret in Moscow. We hope that the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will be able to bring the situation under control and stop the violence, prevent further loss of life and take all necessary measures for a quick return to stability.

On the domestic political situation in Pakistan

I have been asked about the current domestic political situation in Pakistan in connection with the terrorist attack in Lahore.

The attack in Lahore on March 8, killing 14 people, was another in a series of bloody terrorist attacks that have swept the country since October last year.

The Pakistani Taliban, acting violently and delivering blows to civilian targets among others, are attempting to force the government to stop its large-scale counter-terrorist operation in the tribal zone, involving a group of armed forces and special units numbering more than 125,000 men.

Overall, despite some successes in suppressing the Taliban with force, the situation remains difficult in the country and will require additional efforts on the part of the Pakistani authorities to stabilize the situation.

Results of Russia-US talks on poultry imports

On March 1-4, the second round of Russia-US consultations on the export of poultry from the United States and the requirements of Russian legislation banning the use of chlorine-containing solutions in its treatment took place at Rospotrebnadzor in Moscow.

The US delegation was headed by Under Secretary of Agriculture Jim Miller and Assistant Trade Representative Jim Murphy. Chief Sanitary Inspector Gennady Onishchenko conducted the talks from the Russian side.

The participants discussed technical aspects of the organization of meat processing plants in the US and the use of various disinfectants not containing active chlorine, along with a draft document aimed at resolving the question of US.