Russia-EU co-operation acquires more mature features - FM spokesman

At the first weekly media briefing in June, Russian MFA Spokesman Andrey Nesterenko touched on various issues of international politics, including the results of the 25th Russia-EU and 8th Baltic Sea States Summits.

RT presents the full transcript of Andrey Nesterenko’s briefing from June 3, 2010.

Outcome of 25th Russia-EU summit

We have evaluated as very productive the outcome of the 25th Russia-European Union summit, held in Rostov-on-Don on May 31-June 1, at which the EU was represented in a new format after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

The meeting substantively discussed various aspects of co-operation between Russia and the European Union, both on global themes – energy security, climate change, overcoming the effects of the economic and financial crisis, particularly in the context of preparations for the G8 and G20 summits in Toronto – and on the deepening of bilateral co-operation.

A very sizeable cluster of questions associated with Russian-EU bilateral relations was formed this time. In particular, practical work began to implement the new Russian-EU initiative, “Partnership for Modernization”, the preparation of which had been arranged at last year’s November summit in Stockholm. Its purpose: to expand Russia-EU co-operation in such breakthrough areas as high technology and innovation, and to combine efforts in conducting advanced research and in organizing joint high-tech enterprises; on energy efficiency, green growth and on technical regulatory issues. All these questions are reflected in the joint statement issued after the meeting.

Another emblematic theme was prospects of transition to a visa-free regime of mutual trips of Russian and EU citizens. The Russian side once again emphasized its full readiness for this step, and transmitted for consideration by the EU the draft of an agreement abolishing visa requirements for citizens of the Russian Federation and the European Union.

The summit also discussed topical issues of the international and regional agenda, in particular, global and European security issues, the Iranian nuclear program, a Middle East settlement, and the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Europe. In the context of creating a Russia-EU common space in the field of external security, the main emphasis was placed on co-operation in crisis management. The Russian side handed over an appropriate draft agreement to the partners.

In light of the latest events in the Middle East, a joint statement of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Catherine Ashton was adopted, condemning the Israeli military operation against a Gaza-bound flotilla, demanding a full and impartial investigation of all the circumstances of this incident and calling for immediate opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people to and from Gaza.

During the meeting, an Agreement was signed between the Government of Russia and the European Union on the protection of secret information that will facilitate closer co-operation between Russia and the EU with respect to external and internal security, and brings our relations in this field to a fundamentally new level. In particular, the implementation of the agreement will help strengthen the co-operation of Russian agencies with such EU entities as Europol, Eurojust and Frontex.

In summation, we can state that there has been formed on the basis of the priorities of both sides, a packed agenda for joint work with the EU, aimed at addressing vital problems in both Russia and the EU. Our strategic co-operation thus acquires more mature features.

Outcome of 8th Baltic Sea States Summit

The 8th meeting of heads of government of the Baltic Sea states was held in Vilnius on June 1-2.
In accordance with established practice, Baltic summits are held every other year, with sessions of foreign ministers from the member countries of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS).

Present at the Vilnius meeting were the Heads of Government and other high-level representatives of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the President of the European Commission. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov headed the Russian delegation.

We regard the meeting as a major event in the Baltic Sea Region’s life. Summit participants had an extensive and lively discussion on the central issues of the Baltic agenda and exchanged views on ways to improve competitiveness, ensure sustainable economic growth in the area and deepen energy co-operation. They underscored the importance of strengthening the role of the CBSS as a pivotal element of the regional system of multilateral co-operation and underlined the need to impart to the Council's activities more practical orientation.

The meeting concluded with the adoption of a capacious political declaration, A Vision for the Baltic Sea Region by 2020, which set out a joint vision of the development prospects for this part of Europe. It also reflects such Russian priorities as expanding counterterrorism co-operation, creating an integrated energy market in the region, establishing public-private partnerships with emphasis on modernization and innovation, promoting tolerance and extending people-to-people contacts.

The meeting in Vilnius completed the period of the Lithuanian Presidency of the CBSS. This post has passed to Norway for the next one-year term.

Visit by Iurie Leanca

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov held talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova Iurie Leanca in Moscow on May 27. The latter was in Russia on a working visit.

The parties noted the ongoing Russian-Moldovan political dialogue that encompasses the most pressing problems, including the development of mutually beneficial economic and trade ties, augmentation of the juridical base of co-operation and reinvigoration of collaboration in the humanitarian sphere.

An international cluster of issues and the Transdniestrian theme also were discussed.

More information is available on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

Visit by Hector Lacognata

At the Foreign Minister’s invitation, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Paraguay Hector Lacognata is staying on an official visit to Russia from June 1-5, 2010.

Yesterday the heads of the foreign affairs agencies of the two countries held extensive talks that passed in an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding.

Following the talks, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Paraguay signed a Joint Statement.

The results of the talks of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs can be found on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.

As part of the visit, Hector Lacognata also made a trip to in St. Petersburg.

Visit by Marc Perrin de Brichambaut

OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut paid a working visit to Moscow on June 3. He was received by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, held talks with Deputy Minister Alexander Grushko and a conversation with Deputy Minister Aleksey Borodavkin. Perrin de Brichambaut spoke to students at the Russian MFA’s Diplomatic Academy.

Current issues on the OSCE agenda were discussed – including preparations for the upcoming informal meeting of foreign ministers from the OSCE member states (Almaty, July 16-17), plans for the 2010 OSCE Summit, as well as future prospects for discussion on key issues of European security within the Corfu Process.

The Russian side emphasized the importance of achieving a balanced content of the OSCE Summit, reaffirming the principle of indivisibility of security, starting the modernization of the Vienna Document 1999 of the Negotiations on Confidence and Security Building Measures in the military field, reviving the pledges to liberalize visa regimes in the OSCE area and reforming the Organization.

Sergey Lavrov’s visit to China

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov is paying an official visit to the People’s Republic of China on June 4.

During his stay in Beijing, Lavrov is scheduled to meet with President Hu Jintao and State Councilor in charge of foreign affairs Dai Bingguo and to hold talks with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

In Beijing, the ministers will discuss a wide range of questions with a view to further strengthening the friendly partnership between our countries and their international co-operation.

22nd meeting of BSEC Council of Foreign Ministers

The 22nd meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation Organization (BSEC) was held in Sofia on May 28. The heads of the foreign affairs agencies of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine, as well as observers and guests took part.

Mikhail Vanin, the Foreign Ministry’s Director General, headed the Russian delegation.

Detailed information on the meeting is posted on the Russian MFA website.

Completion of NPT Review Conference

The Eighth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) concluded its work in New York on May 28. It was attended by representatives of 172 States Parties to the Treaty. More than 130 intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations were observers.
Participants and guests were addressed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with a message of greetings. It reflects a comprehensive vision of the benchmarks, priorities and objectives of the Review Conference.

The Conference produced a comprehensive and balanced overview of the NPT’s functioning across all three pillars of the Treaty – non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of atomic energy. The statements made by delegations and the documents they submitted have confirmed the main thing: that the NPT remains the “cornerstone” of the international security system, containing the threat of the spread of nuclear weapons and ensuring progress towards nuclear disarmament and the development of broad international co-operation in peaceful uses of atomic energy. Also confirmed was the need for further efforts aimed at strengthening and universalizing the Treaty.

The Conference ended with the consensus adoption of a final document reflecting the debate results and identifying the concrete measures to further strengthen the Treaty.

For the first time in ten years, State Parties to the Treaty sent a strong political signal of their unity in support of the NPT norms and their readiness to take practical steps to strengthen it across all three pillars on the basis of a balanced action plan endorsed by the Conference.

As a result one can draw a fundamental conclusion which is shared by all – the new challenges to the nuclear non-proliferation regime that have arisen in recent years can and should be eliminated in the first place on the basis of the NPT.

For Russia, this Treaty is an important component of the system of international security. Over the 40 years of its functioning it has proved its effectiveness.

The Foreign Ministry’s comment on the results of the conference is posted on its website.

On the “US National Security Strategy”

An updated US National Security Strategy compared to the 2006 version was released in Washington on May 27.

Of course, each country has the right to define its own national strategy, based on national interests. But it is important that the realization of national goals proceed in line with the requirements of a stable and sustained global development.

From this perspective, we welcome the fact that the document declares a commitment to the principles of multilateral co-operation, multi-pronged diplomacy, “a democratic and equitable international order,” sustainable economic development and combating threats to international security.

We note the constructive mindset to build “a stable, substantive, multidimensional relationship” with our country, based on mutual interests with emphasis on such priorities as non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, confronting violent extremism and economic co-operation by seeking new trade and investment arrangements.

Against the backdrop of these positive elements, the appeals brought from earlier times and implicitly addressed to Russia to be “peaceful,” to “respect international norms,” to “act as a responsible partner in Europe and Asia,” moreover formulated in the context of the declared US commitment to “support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia’s neighbors” seem to be obviously dissonant.

We believe that the Reset Policy declared by Barack Obama is not opportunistic, but long-term. It is in the interest of our countries not to look back on the past, but to move forward towards a qualitative transformation of our relationship. A lot here depends on the consistency of our actions, regard for the capacity build-up for mutual understanding and trust and actual observance of the principles of equality. Only then can good intentions in action, not words turn into good deeds.

We proceed from just this understanding of the goals in relations between our countries and expect that the US leadership as it pursues the new Strategy will also follow a similar approach in its practical politics.

Outcome of the elections in Iraq

I was asked to comment on the decision by Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court to certify the results of the parliamentary elections held in Iraq on March 7 this year.

In this regard, we believe that this is an important and welcome development. The results of the Iraq national vote that brought forth a newly constituted parliament are definitively endorsed.

Now it is necessary as soon as possible to complete in accordance with national legislation the solution of the questions of the establishment of parliamentary bodies, election of a president and formation of a government. We hope that this will create favorable conditions for continuation of an inclusive political process, a return to normal life and the consolidation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.

Discussion of Tagliavini Commission’s report in OSCE

Heidi Tagliavini, head of the Commission established by the European Union, was given on May 27 the OSCE Permanent Council’s podium to present the main findings of the report prepared by the commission with regard to the events of the August conflict in South Ossetia in 2008. Following her presentation an exchange of views was held among the delegations of the member states of the Organization.

We note the desire of Tagliavini to maintain an objective, balanced line.

After making a reservation that the EU’s first fact-finding mission was not going to be a “tribunal” or “prepare legal arguments for subsequent moves,” Heidi Tagliavini directly pointed to Georgia as the party that “started the war” by launching on the night of August 7-8, 2008 a massive artillery barrage against a sleeping South Ossetian capital – the city of Tskhinval – for which, in her words, “there is no justification.” It is thus acknowledged that the hostilities were unleashed by the armed forces of Georgia. I will also single out the passage of the report that refers to the legitimacy of the South Ossetians’ self-defense in response to the illegal military attack by Georgia.

I quote the findings of the EU-appointed rapporteur with only one purpose – to confirm the objectivity in the assessments of the above-mentioned events, which many countries at the official level, as is known, interpreted from a diametrically opposite position. This is a good example of how, in the interpretation of individual events in international life, double standards are openly applied.

12th Congress of World Association of Russian Press

The 12th Congress of the World Association of Russian Press (WARP) was held in Israel from May 23 to 26. About 500 delegates and guests of honor had arrived in the Israeli capital from more than 50 countries.

Journalists and directors of print and electronic media discussed the issues of support and development of the Russian-language information space, and problems and challenges facing the Russian press in the 21st Century.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova sent congratulatory messages to the forum participants. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Information Minister Yuli Edelstein welcomed them. Israeli President Shimon Peres also met with the forum participants.

Sergey Naryshkin, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office, headed the Russian delegation. In Israel, he attended the opening ceremony for a photographic exhibition dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the Victory. The display is on view in the Israeli parliament building.

Honorary diplomas of the Russian Government “for outstanding contributions to the preservation of the Russian language and culture, and to the consolidation of compatriots abroad” were awarded to the editorial boards of five foreign publications. Among the laureates: the magazine Novy Vensky Zhurnal (Austria), the newspapers Kostanaiskiye Novosti (Kazakhstan), Europa-Kipr (Republic of Cyprus), Russky Kuryer Varshavy (Poland) and Novoye Russkoye Slovo (USA).

The Congress held celebrations to mark the 65th anniversary of the Victory in World War II.

Outcome of 3rd Forum of Alliance of Civilizations

On May 27-29, Rio de Janeiro hosted the Third Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations. This international body emerged through the initiative launched in 2005 by Spain and Turkey to pool efforts by governments, NGOs, religious and youth organizations, and local authorities to prevent conflicts from arising on ethnic, cultural or linguistic grounds. To date, the Alliance of Civilizations has become a global movement that brings together 100 countries and 22 international and regional organizations. Under the aegis of the Alliance, local projects are being implemented in four areas: education, migration, media and youth work.

Speaking at the forum, Konstantin Shuvalov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s focal point for the Alliance of Civilizations and head of the Russian delegation, gave detailed information about progress on Russia’s National Plan for the AC. Representatives of Russian scientific institutions and NGOs participated in the discussions.

Russia will continue to support international efforts, including actions via the Alliance of Civilizations, which are directed towards preventing conflicts, and promoting a culture of dialogue based on respect for the diversity of civilizations, cultures and religions, value systems and ways of social development.

14th session of UN Human Rights Council

The 14th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), the main rights body of the UN system, is being held in Geneva from May 31 to June 18.

During the current session it is planned to hold thematic discussions on important issues for the promotion and protection of human rights, such as:

 – Combating people trafficking;

 – Protection of journalists in armed conflict;

 – Women’s human rights;

 – The adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and hazardous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights;

 – Prevention of female mortality and morbidity.

Neither will the Council pass over the situation in the Middle East, especially in light of the recent incident with the humanitarian convoy that was headed to Gaza.

Also submitted for discussion by the Council will be the issues of the observance of human rights while countering terrorism; prevention of enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention; the situation of migrants; the independence of judges and lawyers; freedom of speech, and a number of other pressing problems in the promotion and protection of human rights. Interactive dialogues with relevant special rapporteurs and independent experts of the HRC will traditionally be held on these subjects. Along with this, it is planned to approve the national reports of a number of countries under the Universal Periodic Review.

Recognition of Nazi swastika as part of Lithuania’s historic legacy

I was asked to comment on recent media reports of the decision by a court in Klaipeda to dismiss the case against persons who held Nazi symbol-bearing posters during the Day of the Restoration of the State of Lithuania celebrations in that city on February 16 this year.

Indeed, the Klaipeda court on May 18 ruled in respect of the four young men involved that the swastika shown by them was part of Lithuania’s historic legacy and not a Nazi Germany symbol. The Chief Police Commissariat of the city last week appealed the said decision to the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania.

It is abundantly clear that after the Second World War – the most terrible tragedy of the 20th Century that claimed tens of millions of lives of people of different nationalities and religions – the swastika, in whatever form it may be presented, has become an overt and explicit symbol of aggression, bloodshed, crime, intolerance, destruction, pain and suffering. To any sensible person it should be clear that its public display in our time is a flagrant demonstration of adherence to the misanthropic ideology of Nazism.

Situation in Kyrgyzstan

The situation in Kyrgyzstan, politically as well as, which is especially worrying, in an economic context, remains difficult. We are taking appropriate steps to support the Kyrgyz side.

In particular, as already reported, Russia has extended a $20 million grant to Kyrgyzstan. The allocation of $30 million to Kyrgyz state-owned banks on easy terms is now being considered.

Supplying Kyrgyzstan with humanitarian aid consisting of 20,000 tons of diesel fuel and 1.5 tons of seeds for the sowing campaign is next on the agenda. On May 27 a Russian MOE plane delivered relief supplies to Bishkek – tents, food, medicine and medical equipment.

Russian humanitarian aid to Tajikistan

Two MOE planes arrived in Kulyab on June 1 carrying Russian humanitarian aid. The delivery included four power plants, 20 tons of sugar, 110 tents, and more than 36 tons of canned fish and meat worth a total of more than 19.8 million rubles.

The Tajik partners expressed their sincere appreciation for the Russian contribution to the normalization of the emergency situation caused by mudslides in Kulyab due the recent heavy rains in the Republic of Tajikistan.

Russian humanitarian aid to Poland

Responding to the Polish side’s official request under the Russian-Polish intergovernmental Agreement on co-operation in the area of industrial accident/natural disaster prevention and mitigation of 1993, the Emergency Situations Ministry on behalf of President Dmitry Medvedev and the Government organized the delivery to Poland of humanitarian aid cargo to combat the effects of flooding.

On May 25 the Ministry’s IL-76 plane airlifted to Warsaw 15 tons of humanitarian cargo (18 high-capacity motor pumps, 34 boats, and five mobile power plants), which have been sent to the worst-hit areas.

The move was commended by the Polish government.

Situation in Thailand

We note with satisfaction the tendency to diminution of tension in Thailand. We expect that the internal difficulties in the country will soon be definitively settled by peaceful negotiations and within the law.

However, the state of emergency in the capital and 23 provinces of the Kingdom, as announced by the authorities, will apply until the full restoration of public order (the situation in the main resort areas remains calm).

In this regard, the Foreign Ministry urges Russian citizens intending to visit Thailand to make informed decisions on such trips, guided by the relevant official statements of the Ministry, which are posted on our website, and to exercise extreme caution during a possible stay in the Thai capital of Bangkok.

Media Questions:

Q: How would you comment on the new report of the IAEA Director General on Iran?

A: Indeed, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s report on the Iranian nuclear program was released on May 31. The document is not intended for wide distribution. It will be discussed at the IAEA Governing Board session opening on June 7. We are studying it carefully.

The situation around the Iranian nuclear program is well known. Tehran continues to enrich uranium, including to 20 per cent. Questions also remain about the fulfillment of the other requirements contained in the decisions of the IAEA Board and backed by UN Security Council resolutions.

We support the IAEA activity in clarifying all aspects of Iran's nuclear program and urge Tehran to fully co-operate with the Agency on all outstanding issues.

Q: What are the outcomes of the visit of Rosatom experts to the Tehran Research Reactor? How will the findings of the Russian experts affect the prospects of Russian-Iranian dialogue on the nuclear program?

A: The Russian specialists have acquainted themselves with the technical condition and technological features of the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). These are important moments from the standpoint of determining the optimal scheme of nuclear fuel supply for the TRR.

We hope that, in the foreseeable future, the countries involved will be able to discuss with the Iranian side all the necessary practical aspects linked with the realization of the fuel exchange scheme. It would be best to hold such a meeting under the aegis of the IAEA.

Q: How can the Foreign Ministry comment on the decision by the Finnish authorities to deport Russian female citizen I. I. Antonova? And how could this decision affect Moscow’s relations with Helsinki?


A: We are concerned about the Finnish authorities’ decision to deport the 82-year-old Russian citizen I. I. Antonova, who has arrived in Finland at the invitation of her daughter, a Finnish citizen, and is in her charge.

According to the statement of her daughter, there is the conclusion of Finnish doctors that gravely ill Antonova is not transportable – she has suffered three strokes, is afflicted by asthma and rheumatic fever, her heart functions only with a pacemaker, and she cannot move independently. She has no relatives or housing in Russia.

In Finland, Antonova asked for a residence permit in connection with her dire state of health, but the immigration service rendered a negative decision (because under Finnish law a residence permit may be granted only to spouses and children under 18 years of age. The Helsinki and Supreme Administrative Courts, to which this decision had been appealed, also rendered negative decisions.
Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, has publicly denounced the ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court.

President of the Supreme Administrative Court Pekka Hallberg himself dissented on the decision (taken by a majority vote of the court).

While on a visit to Finland on May 27, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, commenting upon Antonova’s situation, drew particular attention to its humanitarian nature and said that if the family raised the question of providing a normal residence for this woman in Russia, we would do it.

Earlier, the Russian Embassy in Helsinki had repeatedly raised the issue with the executive bodies of Finland. While paying lip service to its humanitarian aspects, the Finnish side, however, had consistently referred to the unambiguous wording of the law.

Finnish authorities are planning to deport I. I. Antonova on June 16. The Russian Foreign Ministry, in collaboration with other agencies and the leadership of the Leningrad Region, is working out the necessary arrangements for her reception in Russia.

With regard to the consequences of such actions for Russian-Finnish relations, I want to note that, most importantly, both sides have a clear awareness that such problems should be tackled calmly, democratically and in the interest of those people who find themselves in similar situations, and we hope for a happy ending to this matter.

Q: What is Russia’s reaction to the Hatoyama government’s resignation in Japan?

A: Without going into comment on the political situation in Japan, I would like to say that we appreciate the efforts of Yukio Hatoyama’s government to build a partnership with Russia, including the deepening of a trustful political dialogue, especially at summit level, the expansion of economic and trade co-operation and the strengthening of interaction in the international arena, including in the Asia-Pacific region. We hope that Hatoyama’s successors continue this line, which would meet, in our view, the interests of both countries.

Q: How can the Foreign Ministry comment on the recent aggravation of the interethnic situation in Kosovo?

A: The ethnic unrest on May 31 in the city of Kosovska Mitrovica (the Serb-populated north of Kosovo) was yet another “derivative” of the irresponsible radical decisions of Pristina, which they there indulge in to excess – unfortunately, with external sponsors’ connivance.

After the unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, socio-political life in the province, including the electoral process, is being carefully adjusted to new schemes. In so doing, the interests of the Serb inhabitants who still consider themselves part of Serbia are ignored.

The events in Mitrovica, when Kosovo Albanian extremists, in fact, attempted to disavow the municipal elections held under the laws of the Republic of Serbia, have confirmed that without compromise, suitable for all parties, agreements on Kosovo to ensure security and stability in this part of the region is unrealistic.

Q: What is the situation with harmonizing the provisions of the draft Russian-US agreement on adoption submitted by the Russian side? When will the next round of consultations on this subject be held?

A: We are in contact with the US partners. As far as I know, a new date has not yet been agreed upon, but it will emerge soon.

Q: What is Tehran to expect from Moscow regarding Iran’s nuclear program?

A: I just commented about the new IAEA report. We are studying this question. We are in sufficiently close contact with the Iranian colleagues on all the questions that arise for us over the Iranian nuclear program and on themes referred to by other partners of the Six concerning recent developments around this program. I think we will need some time to clarify certain points and then we will have conclusions.