“Obama’s program for Moscow appears to be busy and interesting”

The forthcoming visit of President Obama to Russia, and the results of Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Africa were among the highlights of a briefing by Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko.

RT presents the transcript of the media address.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, welcome to our regular briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I would like to start by discussing the major international events that have occurred since our last meeting.

Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Africa

On June 24-26 the RF President, Dmitry Medvedev, made an official visit to a number of African states. This official tour started with a visit to the Federative Republic of Nigeria, where he arrived on June 24 upon the invitation of President Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. A range of important bilateral documents were signed during the visit. The presidents stressed their commitment to facilitating bilateral trade growth and to increasing economic cooperation between the two states, notably in the field of energy, metallurgy and hydrocarbon production. Then on June 25-26 Dmitry Medvedev made an official visit to the Republic of Namibia upon the invitation of the Namibian President Pohamba. This is the first visit of a Russian leader to this African country in the history of Russian-Namibian relations. To further develop their cooperation, the two leaders said that it is crucial to boost trade and economic, scientific and technical, humanitarian and cultural cooperation, and to use the existing opportunities to foster cooperation between the countries. Among top priorities are the development of mineral resources, infrastructure, energy, fishing, and cooperation in the field of tourism and education. The official talks have resulted in signing agreements on capital investment encouragement and protection in Namibia and in Russia and a Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal Agency for Fishery of the Russian Federation and the Ministry for Fishery and Sea Resources of Namibia. An agreement has been achieved on increasing the investment presence in new product development and implementation in the Namibian economy, notably in the fields of natural resource mining and energy. On June 26, the Russian President visited the Republic of Angola upon the invitation of President J. E. Dos Santos. This was the first ever visit of a Russian leader to Angola. During the negotiations the two leaders discussed the major issues of Russian-Angolan relations and gave special emphasis to the political environment in Africa. Agreements have been reached regarding Russian investments in major projects of the Angolan economy, notably in the fields of natural resources, construction, hydropower plants and space communications. A number of documents on further cooperation have been signed.

Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Azerbaijan

June 29 saw a visit of the Russian president to Baku, Azerbaijan, upon the invitation of Azerbaijani President Aliev. According to Dmitry Medvedev, the visit was short but very busy, with a long agenda leading to new highs of cooperation. The negotiations resulted in a range of agreements on Russian-Azerbaijani cooperation. The joint request of the Russian and Azerbaijani presidents on the Caspian Sea has been approved, which marked a new stage of mutual cooperation regarding the Caspian issue. A mutual request has outlined further steps concerning final state boundary delimitation and water resources distribution of the Samur between Russia and Azerbaijan. I would like to put special emphasis to the document stipulating the terms of sales and purchase agreement of Azerbaijani natural gas. We consider this document to be a milestone in Russian-Azerbaijani gas cooperation. Therefore, a solid foundation to mutually beneficial energy cooperation between our countries has been laid. An agreement between Kabardino-Balkaria and Azerbaijan signed in Baku on trade and economic, scientific and technical, and cultural cooperation points to the stepping-up of regional cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan. The visit has shown the high level of Russian-Azerbaijani relations that can now be characterized as a strategic partnership. Regular contacts between the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan enable immediate and constructive resolution of a lot of issues on the bilateral and international agenda. You may find detailed information on these points on the presidential official web-site.

Barack Obama’s forthcoming visit to Russia

Certainly, everyone is interested in the preparations to the first visit of the U.S. President Barack Obama to Russia. Preparations for the coming working visit of Barack Obama are being finalized now. The visit program of the U.S. President and his family in Moscow has been approved and appears to be busy and interesting. The documents to be discussed are being prepared. The agenda is comprehensive, as it entails vital bilateral and international issues. Among the key issues is a substitute for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty expiring in December this year. The three rounds of negotiations have seen a detailed and frank exchange of opinions regarding the future agreement. At the summit, the presidents will sum up the results of the work done and will give instructions to the experts concerning further steps. We are expecting a serious discussion on anti-missile defense, which is closely linked to strategic offensive arms reduction. Special attention will be paid to Russian-American cooperation in the area of nuclear non-proliferation. The presidents are going to touch upon the burning issues of international and regional security, notably, the situation in North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and the Near East. An important part of the summit will be discussion of trade and economic cooperation, cooperation in the field of culture, health care and humanitarian exchange in the Arctic. I would like to take the opportunity and draw your attention to the article on Russian-American relations published in Newsweek magazine, the full version can be found on the web-site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is an article by Sergey Lavrov.

European Security Agreement discussions

An all-round dialogue on developing and signing of the European Security Agreement (ESA for short), initiated by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, is picking up pace. During the Russia-European Union Summit in Khabarovsk in May 2009, there were a number of useful discussions. Also, at the annual OSCE conference on the overview of security issues, which took place in Vienna on June, 23rd. Also – at the unofficial session “Russia-NATO” (SRN for short) at the level of Foreign Ministers and at the unofficial ministerial meeting “OSCE+” that took place on the island of Corfu from 27th to 28 of June. The discussions revealed a great interest in joint cooperation on solving security issues in the Euro-Atlantic space and specific talks on the European Security Agreement on behalf of our partners.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took part in the last three meetings as Head of the Russian Delegation. In the course of those discussions, the Russian side presented additional reasons for signing the agreement that would include as parties, not just states in the Euro-Atlantic space, but all international organizations working here. With that, we would like to note that many politology centers demonstrate attention to our proposal and bring in their contribution to working out certain aspects (concerning/of) its implementation.

It would be good to remember the Representative Conference “Brussels Forum 2009”, a detailed discussion within the Schlangenbad Talks. There is a series of seminars in Brussels in line with the East-West institute program. The international work group based in this institute presented a report with some interesting ideas for the annual OSCE conference on the overview of security issues and for the informal meeting of OSCE+ that I have mentioned earlier – they took place on the island of Corfu in Greece. In September 2009 there will be a seminar on the topic of ESA, organized by the Security Policy Centre in Geneva. A number of politological discussions are planned to be held in Germany, France and Russia. We consider this to be a very useful process.
From the very start, we’ve been saying that we would like to enrich our knowledge with the ideas born in the Expert Society. We are confident that they will be in demand in the course of continuous work on the Russian initiative. During those discussions a large number of specifying questions were brought up. We provide detailed explanations to them. Yes, we often hear concerns about the situation and a whole range of practical aspects that reveal threats and risks. It’s the crisis in the Caucasus, its origin and possible outcomes; the situation with the conventional armed forces in Europe as well as the situation with fighting terrorism, drug-trafficking and organized crime. The main idea of this agreement is to eliminate the problems of the system, since the lack of their solution holds back our joint actions in many directions. First of all…… approaches to conflict regulations or tackling challenges and threats. We propose to stipulate all those blocks in the agreement. As I have already said, that was initiated by our President. We will continue to work on this.

I will underline this again that during the discussions our partners bring up the topic of an “umbrella approach” to security issues due to interconnections between its politico-military and economic and ecological as well as humanitarian dimensions. This is an important topic. Russia totally shares the Comprehensive Security Concept approved by the OSCE and is ready for dialogue on the so-called “soft” security aspects, including the issues of human and economic dimensions. Those areas contain quite a few undeservedly overlooked problems that need to be solved. They concern responsibilities on freedom of movement and travel, liberalization of visa regimes, facilitation of establishing contacts between people. Amidst the financial and economic crisis, we shouldn’t forget about the social-economic aspects of human rights. We are concerned with cases of neo-Nazism and xenophobia, minority rights violations, and continuous problems with non-citizenship in the Baltic state. There are also economic issues that demand our attention.

But all this is not directly linked to either accumulated array of issues with the system of the politico-military aspect or the ESA initiative that needs to be paid a separate, focused attention to without any artificial ties to whatever other topics.

Today, first and foremost, we need to strengthen the actual corner block of the Euro-Atlantic architecture, to be more precise – the system of the so-called hard security. There needs to be a new strategic document for the common Euro-Atlantic space – a legally binding agreement on European security that would be based on the legally secured basic principles of the international relations – first and foremost, the inadmissibility of the use of force in the international affairs and full respect of the interests of each and every state within the space of the Euro-Atlantic space as well as respect for the territorial integrity and inviolability of borders and acknowledgment of equality in terms of providing security. It’s important to make a common frame of reference for all, secured in this manner, obligatory for states and all organizations that operate within our common space. We can’t allow situations when principles that are comprehensive for all are stepped on by separate states or organizations.

The purpose of the agreement is to create an undivided security field of Euro-Atlantics, in which all states, regardless of their belonging or not belonging to the Military Alliance, will have secure and equal security guarantees; and in which approaches of separate groups of states would be built-in for all of the rules of the game instead of opposing them.

As the Cold War ended, there are now no reasons for sustaining the divided security space. We are satisfied to see that many of our partners acknowledge this. I will repeat that we will continue to work on the proposed idea together with them.

G8 Foreign Ministers’ Council

This meeting took place on June 25-27 in Trieste, Italy. It became an important milestone in preparations to the G8 summit in Acqueville, France which is scheduled for July 8-10 next week. The ministers have considered the political agenda of the G8, took a decision within their sphere of competence and drawn up proposals for political discussion at the top level. Central to the discussions were the issues on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the fight against terrorism and organized crime, peace-keeping and peace-building. This year another important issue – that of fighting piracy – has been put on the agenda on the initiative of the Italian chairmanship. The ministers have also tackled regional issues, notably the Middle East Settlement, Iran, Korea and hot spots in Africa. Much of the time has been spent on the situation in Afghanistan and at the Afghan-Pakistan border. The results of the discussion can be found in the joint announcement of the chairman. In addition, a joint announcement has been made by the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. This information can be found at the web-site of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Results of the Quartet meeting in Trieste

Now a few words on the results of the meeting between the ministers of the Quartet on the Middle East and the contact group of the League of Arab States that took place on June 26 as part of G8 meetings in the city of Trieste. We are satisfied with the meeting results. Both the atmosphere at the meeting and the final statements point to the fact that there are growing sentiments in the region and worldwide in favor of the conflict resolution. We think that it is important to point out the need for resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in Trieste based on the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, the so-called Madrid principles, the road map, the Arab peace initiative and the previous agreements of the parties. Russia joins the Quartet’s appeal to Israel and to Palestinians to strictly fulfill their obligations under the roadmap. We, just like other participants of the Quartet insist that the Israeli government should freeze the settlement activity including the natural increase of settlements and restrain from unilateral actions in East Jerusalem. The issue on restoration of Palestinians range on the basis of generally recognized international legal basis, the Arab peace initiative and the Palestine Liberation Organization was discussed as well. The participants of the meeting supported Egypt’s efforts. Abbas was said to be the generally recognized and legal Palestinian leader. Following the meeting of the ministers of the Quartet, Trieste saw a meeting of its participants with the contact group of the League of Arab States. The discussion showed that the Quartet and the League of Arab States use similar approaches concerning the Arab-Israeli settlement. It was confirmed that peace should not be restored from scratch but with the account to the achieved results on the solid basis of international law and of the principle of peaceful coexistence of two sovereign states – Israel and Palestine within safe and recognized borders. The participants of the meeting unanimously supported the Arab peace initiative thanks in large part to Russian diplomats, which has now become part of the international legal base of the Middle East Settlement. It has a great potential that should be used as soon as possible. The terms stipulated by the Arab peace initiative should be achieved through joint multilateral action. The representatives of the League of Arab States expressed deep concern about the ongoing settlement activity of Israel and the tough economic situation on Palestinian territory and in the Gaza Strip, in particular. They appealed to the Quartet participants to take the necessary action to improve the situation as soon as possible. The idea to convene the International Conference on the Middle East was accepted unanimously by the participants of the meeting. It should contribute to the joint international effort to restore peace in the region. The complete announcement of the Quartet in Trieste can be found on the web-site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well. I was asked a question about the Israeli attitude to the Moscow Conference on the Middle East. Let me answer shortly that the attitude is positive.

Russia-NATO Council meeting in Corfu

On June 27 Corfu saw an unofficial meeting of Russia-NATO Council at the level of foreign ministers, which has been mentioned a bit earlier. As you know, meetings at this level have not taken place for a long time. For this reason this first meeting between foreign ministers of this Council saw a detailed and frank discussion. Central to the discussion was the issue on further cooperation based on the principles of integrity and security and unacceptability of security at the expense of the security of other states. The thoughts expressed by Russia is not mere confirmation of these principles but the requirement to make them legally binding through considering the initiative of the Russian president on the above mentioned treaty as well. The whole range of security issues has been considered, including arms control, and the situation with the CFE treaty after the Transcaucasus crisis of 2008. The presence of the Italian chairman of the Council of Ministers, Silvio Berlusconi, at the meeting was very important. I was asked about the Russian assessment of the forum on security of Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC NATO) which was held in Kazakhstan.

EAPC forum in Astana

In this connection I can say that during the EAPC forum that was held in Astana on June 24-25, the delegates had a useful discussion and exchange of views on Afghanistan-related problems, security in Central Asia and in the Southern Caucasus as well as energy security in the context of cooperation in the Caspian-Black Sea region. We think it’s important that calls were made at the forum to strengthen regional approaches and combine military measures with civilian and socio-economic aspects of the Afghan settlement. This is indicative of the fact that NATO has reconsidered its concept of the Afghan settlement with account taken of the previous experience, changing international realities and the opinion of the world community. We support the need to assist Afghanistan, as a top priority, in the creation of its armed forces and the law enforcement that would be capable, in a long-term perspective, to take responsibility for providing security in the country. That, in turn, will create conditions for pulling out foreign troops from its territory. We hope that practical implementation of the outlined goals will bring about the results that are expected.

Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan in Trieste

A couple of words on the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan that also took place in Trieste on July, 26th. The meeting was commissioned by the presidents of those three countries, which they did in Yekaterinburg on June 15th, this year. Among various other initiatives on behalf of the international community, the ministers came to the agreement to activate interaction in anti-terrorism effort, countermeasures on drug-trafficking and drug-production as well as promoting good neighborly relations, regional stability, and stable development. In particular, the ministers decided to explore the potential tri-lateral partnership in such aspects as border control, information exchange on terrorist activity and activities of terrorist organizations, training police staff for countering terrorism, promoting tolerance and intercultural dialogue, and implementing a tri-lateral cultural and humanitarian exchange programs. They acknowledged that it’s impossible to implement anti-terrorism efforts by sheer use of force and that those measures should be supplemented by efforts at the national and international levels and aimed at assisting the social and economic restoration as well as the development of the region. More details can be found on our website, where we published the complete text of that join statement.

Afghanistan issue

One more aspect that is connected with Afghanistan. A number of mass media sources published information that Russian and America are preparing an agreement on military transit to Afghanistan. To that I can say that, as you know, during the first meeting between Russian and American presidents at the meeting of the G-20 in London, the importance of the all-round buildup of Russian-American practical cooperation in the Afghan track was underlined. It was then stipulated in a joint statement on the general framework of Russian-American relations. One of the key directions of such a partnership is assisting in regulating the situation in Afghanistan.

Considering a specific relevance, at this point, of the task of providing security and restoration in Afghanistan, we are currently involved in active consultations with the American side on the perspective forms of cooperation in the Afghan area of focus, in the broad context, and on the possibilities of transit.

UN conference on the global financial crisis

A high-level United Nations conference was held in New York on June 24-25 to discuss the global financial crisis and its impact on development. What can I say about the main outcome of this conference? First of all, its main goal was to use the universal platform of the United Nations to work out common approaches of the member states to the solution of multidimensional problems linked to ways of overcoming the crisis’ negative consequences and forming a political basis for further efforts on the way to a more fair and effective economic world order. The final document adopted at the conference reflects a collective vision of the U.N. member states of priority areas and global anti-crisis efforts; it fixes an approach to the solution of key development tasks and completes and develops the decisions of the G-20 summits in Washington and London. The document sets the guidelines for further actions designed to actively stimulate anti-crisis measures, constrain the negative impact which this crisis is having on development, improve global mechanisms of settlement and reform the international financial and economic system with an emphasis on the United Nations’ role. What makes this document so valuable is that it formulates in a concentrated form the general position of the entire world community on major issues on the global social and economic agenda. Despite the existing differences, the countries demonstrated unity in their intention to fight the crisis together and join efforts to achieve a viable solution to the challenges facing the world community. The political significance of such a consensus can hardly be overestimated. Russian Vice-Premier and Finance Minister Mr. Kudrin headed the Russian delegation at the conference. They used the conference’s rostrum to push forward Russian approaches to the solution of a strategic task of creating a new, fairer and transparent international financial and economic system based on meeting the mutual interests of all countries. Our vision of the key areas of reforming the international financial system, including issues of regulation and the provision of stability and efficiency of the global reserve system, etc, is shared by most United Nations members. We received support for our assessment of the situation in the world economy. The first signs of improvement in this situation haven’t yet been followed by relevant changes in any of the basic parameters and that doesn’t allow us to talk about any stable trends of getting out of the crisis. Such was the assessment given by the head of the Russian delegation. Another idea that received support was the need to ensure adequate supply of resources required for further promotion of anti-crisis measures at global, regional and national levels. Problems linked to the world financial crisis are expected to dominate the agenda of the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly. A special open working group will be set up as part of further activities on the results of this conference under the United Nations General Assembly to consider an entire range of issues related to the economic crisis such as the financing of development, trade, indebtedness as well as reform of the international financial system.

Situation in Honduras

Now I’ll say a few words about the internal political situation in Honduras.

As you know, on Sunday, June 28, a change of power took place in the Republic of Honduras. The lawfully and democratically elected President, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, was deposed and ousted from the country. What we have witnessed is a coup d’etat.

As a motive for their actions, the military claim to be trying to restore constitutional order in Honduras on the basis of corresponding resolutions by the National Congress, Supreme Court, Prosecutor's Office, and the Supreme Elections Committee. According to their statements, with his initiative to hold a nationwide poll on the reform of the Constitution, which provides for lifting the ban on reelection of the head of state, President Zelaya directly violated the Constitution, thus bringing the republic on the verge of crisis and loss of control.

On the same day, an emergency session of the Honduran parliament unanimously voted for suspension of President Zelaya's presidential powers and appointed Chairman of the National Congress of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, Acting (until the national election, scheduled for the 29th of November) President of the Republic of Honduras.

Neither the consoling statements made by the new President and members of the new government (Foreign Affairs Minister and Defense Minister have already been appointed), nor their desire to make the situation look lawful change the essence of this action, which was unequivocally qualified as a coup d’etat by most countries in the world.

Leading regional establishments of the Western Hemisphere (Organization of American States, RIO Group, Central American Integration System, Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) have strongly condemned the state coup in Honduras.

On June 30th, a special session of the UN General Assembly was held in New York. The gathering was devoted to discussing the events in Honduras. Manuel Zelaya delivered a speech in which he explained the developments in the country and his actions. After the session, a unanimous resolution was taken, which condemns the coup d'etat that violates the constitutional and democratic order and lawful power in the country, and calls for immediate reinstatement of Mr. Zelaya as the lawful and constitutional head of the state. All countries are strongly recommended not to recognize any other government of Honduras other than the constitutional government of Manuel Zelaya.

Russia unambiguously condemns the overthrowing of President Zelaya. We have no doubt about the unlawfulness of this coup carried out by the Honduran military, whose actions are a direct violation of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras and violent defiance of the fundamental norms of democracy. We consider it necessary to restore constitutional order in Honduras.

We welcome the efforts, including those taken by regional organizations and unions of Latin American countries, aimed at finding such ways out of the current critical situation that comply with international law.

Besides, it was with great anxiety that Moscow heard reports of violence during street demonstrations in Tegucigalpa.

The Russian diplomatic mission in Nicaragua (ambassador to Managua Igor Sergeyevich Kondrashov also doubles as the Ambassador of Russia to the Republic of Honduras) is keeping a close eye on the events in Honduras. According to our information, no Russian citizens living in Honduras were harmed in the disturbances.

US withdrawal from Iraq

I was asked to comment on the first stage of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. On June 30, the United States finished relocating their combat units from Baghdad and most Iraqi cities to military bases located in the country. That was done in compliance with an agreement on withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 and the settlement of all issues related to their presence in the Iraqi territory. The agreement took effect on January 1, 2009. Thus, the United States completed the first stage of the temporary pull-out schedule in full compliance with the aforesaid agreement. Iraqi policemen and servicemen took on responsibility for the provision of security in Iraqi cities. We think that the hand-over of control in Iraqi cities to the Iraqis is a major and important step. Russia has always come out for putting an end to the foreign occupation of this country as soon as possible so as the Iraqi people could take independent decisions regarding their fate and development without any outside interference and dispose of their natural resources. Concurrently, we proceed from the fact that the Iraqis are capable of ensuring their own security, despite the ongoing problems in this sphere. We continue to be sure that a genuine long-term settlement in Iraq can only be achieved through a national accord on the basis of comprehensive dialogue with account taken of the interests of all political forces, as well as ethnic and confessional communities in the Iraqi state.

Situation in Lebanon

On June the 27th the President of the Lebanese Republic, Mr. Sleiman, signed a decree appointing Mr. Hariri, the parliamentary majority leader, the chairman of the Council of Ministers. His task will be to form a new cabinet, submit a government program to parliament and get a confidence vote. Moscow is satisfied with the progress that friendly Lebanon is making on its path of democratic development after the election.