Japanese politicians may admire the beauty of Kuril Islands – FM spokesman

Russia has no objection to Japanese politicians admiring the beauty of the amazing landscapes of Russia’s Kuril Islands, said the deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department.

The statement was made in reference to the stated intention of the prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Japan to visit an area in the northeast of Hokkaido and view the South Kuril Islands from there.

­Speaking at a regular media briefing on December 2, Aleksey Sazonov touched on President Dmitry Medvedev’s State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly, international cooperation in combating piracy and many other issues.

RT presents the full transcript of Aleksey Sazonov’s briefing.

Events attended by Russian President Medvedev

­Among the notable foreign policy events of the last few days of direct relevance to our country, we would like, first of all, to identify those attended by President Dmitry Medvedev.

The fourth meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission took place on November 26.

On December 1-2, the capital of Kazakhstan is hosting the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, with President Medvedev in attendance. On December 1 he spoke at a plenary meeting of the heads of state and government of OSCE participating states.

Details about these events are posted on the official website of the president of Russia.

On November 30, the president delivered an annual state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly setting out his position on the main focus areas for the development of the economy, the social sector and the political system of the country, as well as on security and defense issues.

­On President Medvedev’s State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly

­The foreign policy section of the state-of-the union address sets concrete objectives for the Russian diplomatic service. In this regard, it is a kind of extension of the conversation that President Medvedev held with Russian ambassadors and permanent representatives at their meeting in July this year.

The president of Russia confirmed that the activities of Russian diplomacy should find expression in practical results understandable to our citizens and be geared to achieving concrete progress in helping realize the long-term goals of modernizing the country, diversifying and technologically advancing its economy. In this regard, he stressed the importance of continuing efforts to forge modernization partnerships with interested countries and integration associations.

This is, first and foremost, about developing cooperation between Russia and the European Union based on the relevant agreements, and with leading EU member states. Clarification of the priorities in expanding cooperation between Russia and the EU will be discussed at an upcoming summit in Brussels in the first 10-day period in December. Obviously, a considerable potential for developing the innovative component is contained in Russian-American relations.

The president also touched upon other areas of Russia’s multi-pronged foreign policy. He underlined the high relevance of the task of integrating Russia into the economic space of the Asia-Pacific region, and the strategic character of the expansion of ties with China and other Asian Pacific countries.

Of course, the top priority of Russian foreign policy is cooperation with our partners in the CIS space. In this case President Medvedev stressed that in an era of globalization and growing interdependence among countries and regions, we should not speak about creating new dividing lines, but about the creation of a “Single Economic Space” across Eurasia over the long haul.

The president gave particular emphasis to bolstering international security. Medvedev highlighted the positive aspects in the development of the situation in the Euro-Atlantic area, including in the context of the decisions of the recent Russia-NATO Council summit in Lisbon. These decisions aim to nurture a modern partnership with the North Atlantic alliance on the basis of commitment to indivisible security, mutual trust, transparency and predictability.

It is these principles, as is known, along with pragmatism, multi-vectorness and the non-confrontational advancement of national interest, that lie at the base of the foreign policy posture of our country, as embodied in the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation approved by the president in 2008. Of the importance of the task of establishing a common space of peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic area, the president of Russia also spoke in his speech at the OSCE summit in Astana on December 1.

The president’s address stressed the high price that decisions have in the field of the construction of a new European security architecture. Confrontation and especially a costly arms race are not our choice. It is obvious that such a scenario would divert our energies and resources from carrying out an ambitious program of modernizing the country in a comprehensive way and putting our economy on the innovation track. As shown by the experience of recent years, the reinforcement of the military component of economic and technological development, leading inevitably to the militarization of foreign policy and international relations, should not be considered in modern conditions as a means for overcoming the consequences of the financial and economic crisis. Rather on the contrary. We hope that all our partners understand this, and common sense will prevail.

Today, at the base of Russia’s foreign policy – and the president of the Russian Federation has clearly confirmed this – lies the philosophy of collaboration, including the search for joint responses to common challenges. One important aspect of these efforts is to create conditions for joint disaster management.

In general, the State of the Union address provides clear guidelines for the work of Russian diplomacy in the coming period. The Foreign Ministry and its overseas agencies make every effort to ensure their worthy fulfillment and to achieve significant results on all these fronts.

­International cooperation in combating piracy

In the context of the president’s State of the Union address, the Russian Foreign Ministry was asked: “What progress has been achieved in the fight against piracy?”

President Dmitry Medvedev, in his address to the Federal Assembly, instructed the Foreign Ministry to foster international anti-piracy cooperation more vigorously.

We regard the accents placed by the president in his address as a guide to action.

It is regrettable to note, however, that so far, despite all international efforts, no radical successes have been achieved in the fight against piracy in the northwest Indian Ocean. In this regard, we’re taking vigorous measures to promote and strengthen international anti-piracy cooperation.

We presume that anti-piracy measures should be consistent with international law. We continue to work actively toward this end, particularly by pushing for the establishment of an international judicial mechanism to prosecute pirates. We believe that the question of how to institute criminal proceedings against suspected pirates is now the key one in terms of improving the effectiveness of the actions of the anti-piracy coalition. It is obvious that impunity is one of the most important factors in encouraging pirates to engage in wrongdoing.

We note that with the active participation of Russia, the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, has adopted resolutions 1816, 1851, 1918 and 1950 (as well as several others) to combat piracy.

We welcome the establishment of the mechanisms for coordination of actions by states and international organizations conducting operations to combat piracy, in particular, the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), which includes Russia.

I would especially like to note that just 10 days ago, on November 23, 2010, the UN Security Council adopted another anti-piracy resolution (1950), whose most significant point in terms of reflecting Russia’s stance is the inclusion of a paragraph reaffirming the Council’s keenness to continue to consider all options for prosecuting pirates, as proposed by the UN Secretary General, with a view to taking further steps to ensure the inevitability of punishment for piracy.

­Recent media articles and interviews by FM Lavrov on OSCE problems

­Some media have recently published a number of interesting interviews and articles by Sergey Lavrov on OSCE problems, which were posted ahead of the summit in the newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the French newspaper Le Figaro, and broadcast by Voice of Russia radio station and other outlets. These materials can be read on the official website of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

FM Lavrov’s visit to the Republic of Belarus

On November 22-23, the minister of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation paid a working visit to the Republic of Belarus. The program of the visit included participation in a joint session of the collegiums of the two countries’ foreign ministries.

The session confirmed a readiness to further boost practical coordination between the diplomatic agencies on the basis of the Union State’s Program of Coordinated Foreign Policy Actions for 2010-2011.

Talks took place with Belarus Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov, in the course of which the urgent tasks in Russia-Belarus foreign policy cooperation were considered.

Sergey Lavrov also took part in the opening of a Russian Center for Science and Culture in the Belarusian capital.

­FM Lavrov’s visit to the Republic of India

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov paid a visit to the Republic of India on November 29. He held thorough talks with External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna and was received by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In his talks with the Indian leaders a wide range of issues on the bilateral, regional and international agenda were discussed. The main focus was on preparations for President Dmitry Medvedev’s upcoming visit to India in December.

The parties noted with satisfaction the dynamic development of multifaceted cooperation between Russia and India, now at the level of a privileged strategic partnership. They also stated their reciprocal intention to further assist its comprehensive advancement, primarily in priority areas. The identity or similarity of the countries’ approaches across a range of topical international problems was noted.

­Outcome of BSEC Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting

On November 26, 2010, Thessaloniki hosted a meeting of the BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Andrey Denisov, first deputy foreign minister, headed the Russian delegation.

The foreign ministers adopted a joint declaration on tackling climate change in the Black Sea region. Its implementation is seen as a regional input from the BSEC to global efforts aimed at minimizing the negative impacts of climate change. This document will be presented at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun.

The meeting summed up the Greek chairmanship’s performance, and discussed ways to improve the effectiveness of the BSEC, primarily through intensified work to embark on the practical implementation of infrastructure projects: The Black Sea Ring Highway and the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on the development of sea routes in the Black Sea region.

There was a lively debate on issues relating to the development of an algorithm for interaction between the BSEC and the European Union (the EU holds observer status in the BSEC). Most participants voted for the EU to work more actively in this direction. The Russian delegation stressed that effective interaction between BSEC and EU is only possible with the interests of all countries in the Black Sea region taken into account and if based on principles of equality and mutual benefit.

The BSEC chairmanship for the coming six months (January to June 2011) passed to Romania.

The next Ministerial Council meeting will be held in June 2011 in Bucharest.

­Council of Heads of Government Meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

A regular meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization took place on November 25 in the capital of Tajikistan.

The delegations of member states exchanged views on the current political and economic situation, as well as on stability and security in the SCO region and examined the state of and prospects for economic, trade and humanitarian cooperation within the organization.

The heads of government noted that terrorism, separatism and extremism, illicit drug trafficking and transnational organized crime seriously threaten regional stability and security.

In this regard, it was found necessary to continue building the dynamics of cooperation and to develop joint measures aimed at promptly averting the adverse impact of these challenges on the situation in the SCO area.

A joint communiqué was adopted at the end of the meeting. The Council of Heads of Government will next meet in 2011 in the Russian Federation.

­Upcoming Russia-EU summit

The next summit between Russia and the European Union, the 26th such meeting, will take place in Brussels on December 7, 2010. President Dmitry Medvedev will head the Russian delegation, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso the EU delegation.

The summit will discuss the full range of issues in Russia's relations with the EU, our closest neighbor and a natural strategic partner.

The “Partnership for Modernization” initiative, which already largely determines the vector of Russia-EU relations, will take center stage at the summit. This initiative is designed to strengthen the position of Russia and the EU in the global economy and facilitate building a harmonious space of “Greater Europe.”

The summit is also expected to discuss issues of the global agenda – the economic situation in the world, reform of the international financial system, the problem of climate change.

A traditional exchange of views will take place on topical international issues like Iran's nuclear program, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Transnistrian conflict settlement.

In general, we expect that the upcoming Russia-EU summit will enable the parties to noticeably advance along the path of building an alliance for modernization and make more active use of the colossal opportunities given to us by geographical proximity and civilizational kinship.

­Upcoming CIS Foreign Ministers Council meeting

On December 9, Moscow will host a regular meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM). It will be chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation as the country chairing the CIS during 2010.

An important place on the agenda is held by the topic of foreign policy cooperation among the CIS states. It is planned to hold an in-depth exchange of views on topical international issues, in particular those relating to interaction between the CIS member states in the OSCE.

A number of items on the agenda aim to deepen economic cooperation in the CIS area, and to streamline coordination of the regional entities operating in this sphere.

A solid cluster of questions deals with security and cooperation between law enforcement and border control authorities of the Commonwealth.

By tradition, much of the focus will presumably be on topics of humanitarian cooperation, and further development of interstate relations in this area and contacts between people. In particular, the Draft Strategy for International Youth Cooperation to 2020 and the Draft Concept of Cooperation among the CIS Member States in the Sphere of Culture are expected to be considered. In addition, the meeting will hear a communication on activities of the Mir Interstate TV and Radio Company.

It is planned to agree the text of a Statement of Heads of State of the CIS member countries on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

Some organizational matters will also be examined, including those related to the upcoming meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of State.

Joint Meeting of Foreign/Defense Ministers, Security Secretaries of CSTO Member States

On December 9, Moscow will host a joint meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), the Council of Defense Ministers (CDM) and the Committee of Secretaries of Security Councils (CSSC) of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

The meeting will consider the agenda for a session of the CSTO Collective Security Council and the draft documents on more efficient crisis response, the status of forces and resources of the collective security system, and military and economic cooperation.

It will also consider draft documents regulating the activities of the organization in terms of military and military-technical cooperation, information security and other areas.

Accreditation of journalists for the last two events is continuing.

The political situation in Kyrgyzstan

A majority coalition was formed in the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic on November 30, after lengthy consultation among the leaders of the political associations represented in the legislature. It consists of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, and the Republic and Ata-Meken parties. Leaders of these three parties signed an agreement on the formation and activity of the coalition of factions of the parliamentary majority “Consensus for Stability.”

We took note of the fact that this agreement designates a strategic partnership with Russia, and intensified collaboration within the CSTO, EurAsEC, SCO and CIS among the main foreign policy priorities of the coalition.

We expect that the composition and program of a new Kyrgyz government will be approved soon. Russia is ready to foster joint activities with the new leadership of the legislative and executive branches of the republic for developing further multifaceted cooperation on behalf of the peoples of our countries and to promote stability and security in Central Asia.

Concerning results of early parliamentary elections in Moldova

The announced results of the counting of ballots after the November 28 early parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova show voter sympathies distributed as follows: the Communist Party 39.3%, the Liberal Democratic Party 29.4%, the Democratic Party 12.7%, and the Liberal Party 10%.

Participating in the observation of the elections were representatives of the CIS Parliamentary Assembly and the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. Russian observers were part of an international OSCE/ODIHR group.

The elections saw a considerable voter turnout and were fairly well organized, according to first assessments. The CIS observation mission declared the elections to have been open, transparent and consistent with electoral legislation. The results are to be officially confirmed after the possible protests from political groups involved in the election and candidates who ran personally have been summarized and considered.

The early elections pursued the aim of exiting from the constitutional crisis that arose because the governing coalition and opposition parties had not been able since April 2009 to work out a compromise for the election of a head of state.

From this perspective, after another round of early elections Moldova has returned to the starting point. Approval of a viable regime – across all branches – is on the agenda.

It is reported that the four parties that have made it to the future parliament have begun coalition negotiations.

All-Ukraine Conference of Organizations of Russian Compatriots

The Second All-Ukraine Conference of Organizations of Russian Compatriots took place in Kiev on November 27-28.

It was attended by over 90 leaders of public organizations of compatriots elected to the forum at regional conferences.

The forum comprehensively reviewed the compatriot organizations’ activities for preserving the Russian ethno-cultural space, the Russian language and for strengthening ties with their historical homeland.

The conference was an important event toward further consolidating the Russian-speaking community in Ukraine. It approved a Uniform Regulation on Coordination Councils of Russian Compatriots’ Organizations, and elected an All-Ukraine Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots’ Organizations. Vadim Kolesnichenko, chairman of the NGO Human Rights Public Movement “Russian-speaking Ukraine,” will head the council.

The conference confirmed the powers of Vadim Kolesnichenko and Sergey Tsekov as representatives of Ukraine in the World Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots.

Concerning results of elections for the lower house of parliament of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IRA)

The Russian Federation has reacted positively to the announcement on November 24 of the results of the election for the lower house of parliament of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, meaning that by and large vote-count problems have been overcome.

We reaffirm our support for the formation of a parliament of national unity which would, in cooperation with the president of the IRA, help solve Afghanistan’s problems related primarily to military-political stability in the country and its socio-economic recovery and further dynamic development.

We express Russia’s commitment to deepen cooperation with the supreme legislative body of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and strengthen comprehensively the inter-parliamentary ties between our countries.

Cooperation within Russia-NATO Council on Afghan track

Peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in the long-term security interests of both Russia and the NATO member states that are involved in Afghan affairs as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is in Afghanistan by UN Security Council resolution 1386.

Russia tangibly and actively contributes to collective efforts by the international community to stabilize the security situation in Afghanistan. Without a glitch, the arrangements for transit of non-lethal ISAF goods through Russian territory are being carried out and bilateral agreements on the air transit of military personnel and munitions are being fulfilled. They will continue to be strictly adhered to.

Since February 2009, the US has transported more than 20,000 containers with non-military goods through Russian territory.

When taking the political decision in 2008 on the transit of non-lethal ISAF goods through Russian territory, our leadership decided the question in principle, without specifying the direction of movement of the goods. In the talks, NATO had not raised this aspect, so the return transit possibility was not reflected in the arrangements made at the Russia-NATO Council summit in Bucharest on April 4, 2008.

In Lisbon, we met the partners halfway, allowing a two-way transit of non-lethal ISAF goods through Russian territory by train – to and from Afghanistan.

Given our general concern about possible misuse of the transit from Afghanistan (drugs), NATO members expressed their readiness to agree to any cargo inspection procedure that suits our customs authorities.

Removal of non-lethal NATO goods from Afghanistan through Russian territory is important from the standpoint of the use of rail operators of Russian Railways.

We intend to vigorously pursue constructive engagement in the Russia-NATO Council on the Afghan track.

On the draft Russian-Lithuanian intergovernmental agreement on burial places of soldiers and civilian victims of war and repression

Another round of Russian-Lithuanian consultations on the draft intergovernmental agreement on burial places of soldiers and civilian victims of war and repression took place in Vilnius on November 22, 2010. During the meeting, which was held in a constructive atmosphere, progress was made toward the development of a single text of the document.

However, some outstanding issues still remain. The Lithuanian side has agreed in principle to continue negotiations on this agreement in the first half of 2011. We presume that the elaboration of such an agreement is very important from the viewpoint of ensuring the safety of Russian military graves in the territory of Lithuania.

Cooperation between Russia and China in the field of television broadcasting

In recent months, Russia and China have made significant progress in creating conditions for the work of TV channels of their countries on the territory of each other.

State-owned China Central Television (CCTV) currently circulates its Chinese- (CCTV-4) and English-language (CCTV-9) programs in the Russian Federation on the satellite platform NTV-Plus.

The talks held in 2010 within the Russian-Chinese Sub-Commission on Cooperation in the Field of Mass Media helped solve the question of mutual broadcasting of TV channels on the territory of Russia and China.

On November 23 the first Russian TV channel, RTR-Planeta, began to broadcast regularly to China, as did China Central Television to Russia in the Chinese language.

It is planned that in December this year one more Russian TV Channel, Russia Today in the English language, will receive access to the appropriate television networks in China.

On November 22, 2010 in St. Petersburg, during the 11th meeting of the Russian-Chinese Commission for Humanitarian Cooperation, the co-chairs of the Sub-Commission on Cooperation in the Field of Mass Media signed a decision that confirms the accord reached in this regard and provides a good basis for the development of relations between Russia and China in television broadcasting.

We presume that our cooperation in this area will be expanded based on the principles of reciprocity and parity.

Placement of consular information on website of Russian Foreign Ministry

­As part of efforts by the MFA information service to facilitate access for Russian and foreign citizens to the information they need, the ministry’s website has posted the Order on Approval of the Tariff of Russian Consular Fees Collected outside the Russian Federation.

The text of the order is placed in the Consular Matters section, which also carries the Resolution of the RF Government No. 889 of November 11, 2010, on Approval of the Rates of Consular Fees Collected by Officials for the Performance of Consular Acts. It shall enter into force on January 4, 2011.

Here’s where Russian and foreign citizens can obtain accurate information on consular acts and find in advance the level of likely payments for their performance in Russian consular offices.

­From the answers to media questions:

Question: What is the MFA’s reaction to the documents published on the website WikiLeaks.org in which US diplomats in particular allege close links between Russian authorities and organized crime? Did the US authorities warn Russia that this publication was being planned?

Answer: I had assumed that such a question might arise. I want to convey to you the official point of view. We have monitored the materials posted on the site WikiLeaks.org and published in several foreign media outlets.

Much of what has been released is routine diplomatic correspondence by the State Department with US embassies.

Though there are passages that, to put it mildly, are puzzling and regrettable.

As for the assessments concerning Russia and Russian-US relations, they have no surprises. In our daily work we are constantly confronted with stereotypes and a peculiar understanding of the processes occurring in Russia on the part of our American partners.

The Russian side, however, is committed to the positive development of bilateral relations with the United States.

With regard to possible warnings, you know that American diplomacy has taken steps that were aimed at mitigating the consequences of such publications. At different levels, through various channels, the United States conveyed its point of view to the main partners on this issue. This was also done in regard to Russia. As for comments upon specific subjects, I cannot and will not give them.

Q: What does Russia expect from the upcoming talks in early December between “The Six” [the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany] and Iran?

A: We know that EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Catherine Ashton on November 30 said that the representatives of Iran were willing to hold another round of talks with “The Six” on its nuclear program in Switzerland on December 6-7.

The international community’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program remain. The meeting agenda allows for discussing all these questions. Of fundamental importance is the setting up of a long-term negotiation mechanism aimed at a comprehensive settlement of the situation around the Iranian nuclear program.

The Russian delegation will be led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

Q: What is the MFA’s reaction to China's initiative for holding an emergency meeting of heads of delegations to the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula problem?

A: I can confirm that we did receive the proposal from the Chinese side. Currently, the participants of this track are arranging via diplomatic channels the date and format of possible consultation.

I hope you remember our commentary on this topic. Unfortunately, our concerns over what's happening on the Korean Peninsula have not yet been dispelled. Therefore, we will participate in such consultations, if they are organized.

Q: I would like to return to the theme of Iran's nuclear program. In Vladimir Putin's interview with Larry King, this theme was raised and the Russian prime minister in particular said that he did not see any military orientation in this program and reiterated that Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear energy. Could this affect Russia’s position in the upcoming talks?

A: In my opinion, the prime minister did not say anything new that would amend the position of Russia.

Q: Can the Russian Foreign Ministry comment on the intention of the prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Japan to view the South Kuril Islands?

A: Of course, we know about the intention of the prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Japan to soon visit an area in the northeast of Hokkaido and view, as stated, the South Kuril Islands from there.

We, of course, have no objection to the Japanese politicians being able from afar, from their territory, to admire the beauty of our amazing landscapes.

Q: Among the events involving President Medvedev, you failed to mention the upcoming visit to Poland on December 6-7. Does this mean that the Russian MFA does not attach any special importance to this visit? If that is not so, then what can we expect, and what possible surprises – documents and proposals – is Dmitry Medvedev preparing for the Polish politicians?

A: We appreciate the new opportunities that the upcoming visit will offer, but I must draw your attention to the fact that an announcement of its date has not yet been released by the press service of the president. Understandably, this does not mean that it will not happen. As for surprises, they must remain surprises. I am not authorized to disclose all of the themes of the talks to be held between our leaders. Let's leave it to our presidents.

Q: The EU president said that unresolved conflicts may develop into hopeless ones, if you often talk about them. Does the Russian MFA consider this term relevant, and which conflicts can be ranked among the hopeless?

A: I will take the opportunity to comment on the topic of hopeless conflicts to the person who talked about them. Speaking to the point, I am looking forward to the final document of the OSCE summit, which will dot the i’s on many items, including on this issue.

Q: Why did President Medvedev leave the OSCE meeting so soon?

A: I can assume that there were important matters, and the president left the summit to accomplish them.

Q: Framework agreements have become a frequent practice recently. How do they differ?

A: In international relations there are different forms depending on conditions. There are conditions that allow only a framework agreement. It all depends on the ability to negotiate.