Bout's extradition a blatant injustice - FM spokesman

The extradition of Viktor Bout was implemented in the absence of any legal grounds for Thai judicial authorities, said the deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department.

­Speaking at a regular media briefing on November 18, Aleksey Sazonov touched on the outcome of the APEC summit in Yokohama, Russia’s attitude to the prospect of including India and Japan in the UN Security Council as permanent members and many other issues.

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

On the events involving President Medvedev

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

Firstly, it was the G20 Seoul summit which on November 11-12 discussed the problems of the global economy, international trade and climate change.

Secondly, the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit held in Yokohama on November 13-14.

Detailed information on these events, including the texts of the final documents, is posted on the official website of the President of Russia. The site also carries material on President Medvedev’s meeting with the American leader on the fringes of the APEC summit on November 14, his meeting in Moscow on November 16 with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and talks on November 17 with the President of Slovenia, Danilo Turk.

On the outcome of the APEC summit in Yokohama

We in Russia are satisfied with the outcome of the meeting of Heads of State and Government of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum on November 13-14 in Yokohama.

The summit, held under the “Change and Action” theme proposed by Japan’s chairmanship, considered a range of topical questions related to supporting the multilateral trading system, overcoming the effects of the global financial crisis, deepening economic integration and enhancing human security in the Asia-Pacific region.

The leaders endorsed APEC’s strategy for a balanced, comprehensive, sustained, innovative and secure growth. Realization of this important document will intrinsically complement efforts toward achieving the Bogor Goals, the APEC policy document. Russia intends to contribute to implementing and improving the Strategy through the realization of APEC projects, including in the framework of the Russian chairmanship of the Forum in 2012.

Measures to further deepen regional economic integration, including the possible modalities of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), were discussed in detail. Russia believes that integration in the AP region covers a much wider scope than the liberalization of trade regimes and creation of free trade areas. In particular, the tasks of co-operation noted at the summit in the integration of transport and logistics systems and development of a regional energy partnership merit attention.

In the APEC Leaders’ Declaration, and the separate statements on the Bogor Goals and the possible modalities of the creation of FTAAP, Russia’s approaches and proposals are taken into account. We are ready to work closely with the partners in the accomplishment of the tasks set by the leaders of APEC member economies.

Sergey Lavrov’s attendance at 10th Russia-India-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation took part in the 10th Russia-India-China (RIC) ministerial meeting on November 14-15 in Wuhan, China. A detailed Joint Communique was adopted at its conclusion; it is posted on the Russian MFA website in Russian and English.

The meeting has shown that RIC is establishing itself as an important element of the emerging multipolar international order. We witness ministerial meetings’ agenda and the range of areas of practical co-operation expanding. It is fundamentally important that the collaboration in this format rests on the actual identity or similarity of the basic national interests of Russia, India and China, which are each other’s strategic partners.

The parties were unanimous in their assessment of the trends shaping today’s polycentric international system and the need to strengthen the UN’s central role. The Foreign Ministers of China and India supported the initiative of the President of the Russian Federation to develop a new legal framework for international co-operation in the energy sector, as well as Russia's accession to the WTO in 2011.

The Ministers unequivocally called for the creation of an open, transparent and equitable security and co-operation architecture in the AP region, based on legal, non-bloc principles and taking into account the legitimate interests of all states. The Ministers reaffirmed the intention of Russia, India and China to co-operate closely in the framework of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which Russia joined this past October, as well as other multilateral regional groupings.

The parties agreed to step up trilateral co-operation on Afghanistan, using, in particular, the mechanisms of the SCO. In the Ministers’ view, the organization offers a convenient platform for regional co-operation on various aspects of the Afghan settlement.

The most pressing regional subjects were discussed, including the Iranian nuclear problem, the situation on the KoreanPeninsula and the Middle East peace process. The exchange of views revealed the consonance of the positions of Russia, India and China on these issues.

In 2011 the RIC chairmanship will pass to Russia. The next ministerial meeting will be held in the second half of next year in a Russian city. We intend to place special emphasis on intensifying the three countries’ collaboration in world affairs, expanding co-operation within the RIC and strengthening its practical arrangements.

Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the Republic of Kenya

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov paid a visit to the Republic of Kenya on November 16. He met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and held talks with Acting Foreign Minister George Saitoti and Minister for Trade Chirau Ali Mwakwere. A number of topical international problems were discussed, including countering global challenges and threats, strengthening the UN’s role in world affairs, and fighting international terrorism. Attention was paid to themes relating to the African continent, including sustainable development of African states and the resolution of the conflict situations in Somalia, Sudan, and the Great Lakes region. The state of and prospects for bilateral relations were examined in detail. Both sides confirmed their readiness to expand political, trade, economic and humanitarian co-operation between Russia and Kenya and to tap the available potential more actively under government, business and civil society auspices. They agreed on practical areas of further application of joint efforts in these fields. A number of documents were signed.

Upcoming working visit by Sergey Lavrov to the FederalRepublic of Germany

On November 21, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay a working visit to Germany, during which he will hold in Nuremberg talks with Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. The ministers will discuss topical issues of the international and bilateral agenda. The main emphasis will be placed on the practical tasks of interaction between the two countries in global and European affairs in light of the G20 summit in Seoul, and the Russia-NATO Council meeting in Lisbon. Particular attention will also be paid to the content filling of the forthcoming OSCE summit in Astana.

On the same day, Foreign Minister Lavrov will attend the opening ceremony of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial Courtroom Museum, timed to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the start of the trials of the major Nazi war criminals. Together with the German Foreign Minister and the authorized representatives of the United States, Britain and France he will underline the historic significance of the Nuremberg trials, the importance of their political lessons, and impact on the development of modern international law.

Upcoming visit by Sergey Lavrov to Belarus

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov will pay a working visit to Belarus on November 22-23. Within its framework, a joint meeting of the collegiums of Russia’s Foreign Ministry and that of Belarus will be conducted.

The practice of holding joint collegium meetings of the diplomatic departments is ongoing and reflects the high level of foreign policy collaboration between our countries, at the core of which lies the desire to develop common approaches on key issues on the international agenda.

During the meeting, special attention is planned to be paid to issues related to further deepening of the integration processes in the post-Soviet space, primarily in the format of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. Other themes of practical interest to both parties will also be considered.

The program of the visit also envisions the opening of a RussianCenter for Science and Culture in Belarus.

The working visit of Sergey Lavrov to Minsk and the holding of the joint session of the collegiums will undoubtedly promote the further development of Russian-Belarusian foreign policy co-operation.

The adoption in the Third Committee of the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly of a resolution on the inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

The UN General Assembly Third Committee, meeting on November 16 in New York, adopted, at the initiative of Russia, a resolution on the inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Our draft was cosponsored by Belarus, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Angola, Benin, Bolivia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Gabon, Guinea, Zimbabwe, India, Iraq, DPRK, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Myanmar, Namibia, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda, Central African Republic, Eritrea and Ethiopia. 118 states supported the resolution, only one delegation (United States) voted against, and 55 countries abstained.

It is highly symbolic that such an important document was adopted in the year of the 65th anniversary of the Great Victory in World War II. Furthermore, the resolution was approved ahead of another significant date – the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the Nuremberg Tribunal, the judgments of which made a substantial contribution to the creation of a modern system of international law.

The resolution expressed serious concern over the rise of extremist movements and political parties that propagandize racism, ethnocentrism and xenophobia and are engaged in the spread of the ideology of fascism and racial superiority.

The resolution condemns the glorification of the Nazi movement and former members of the Waffen-SS, including by erecting monuments and memorials, as well as holding public demonstrations in order to glorify the Nazi past, the Nazi movement and neo-Nazism.

The resolution stresses that such actions are not the exercising of, but a clear and manifest abuse of, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Of particular importance is paragraph 5 of the operative part of the resolution, which expresses “concern at recurring attempts to desecrate or demolish monuments erected in remembrance of those who fought against Nazism during the Second World War, as well as to unlawfully exhume or remove the remains of such persons.”

It is extraordinarily bewildering and deplorable that the United States voted against this document, doing so alone for the fourth consecutive year, and an array of countries, including all European Union members, abstained from voting on the draft resolution, supported by an overwhelming majority of the member states of the UN. Likewise deplorable is the position of Ukraine, which also chose to abstain from condemning the glorification of Nazism.

We hope that the adoption of this resolution sends a clear signal to those countries in which the need is long overdue for the strongest possible measures to counter the increasingly frequent attempts at glamorizing Nazism, including veterans of the Waffen-SS.

On the contributions of Russia to UN development activities

The Russian Federation attaches great importance to the issue of funding for UN development activities. We advocate for increasing its predictability, long-term stability and adequacy.

During the UN Pledging Conference for Development Activities on November 8, 2010, in New York, the representative of the Russian Federation briefed on our country’s plans to make the following voluntary contributions to UN programs and funds in 2011:

World Food Program – US$32 million;

United Nations Development Program – US$1.1 million;

UN Children's Fund – US$1 million;

United Nations Environment Program – US$900,000;

UN Office on Drugs and Crime – US$500,000;

United Nations Human Settlements Program – US$400,000;

United Nations Population Fund – US$300,000.

The Government of the Russian Federation has also decided to make an annual contribution of US$20 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2011-2013.

The amount and schedule of payments of contributions will depend on the actual execution of the federal budget of the Russian Federation.

Russia’s attitude to the prospect of including India and Japan in the UN Security Council as permanent members

Due to the intensified discussions in several Asian capitals of the theme of enlarging the permanent membership of the UN Security Council, the Russian Foreign Ministry was asked about Russia’s attitude to the prospect of adding India and Japan as permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Russia has repeatedly reaffirmed that it considers necessary and supports the idea of reforming the UN Security Council. On this issue we are actively co-operating with other UN member states. The debate has been going for over ten years now.

Many participants in the reform process, including Russia, mentioned the possibility of backing the candidacies of countries that have a significant impact on current international processes, while pointing out that enlarging the permanent membership of the UN Security Council would be expedient, if accompanied by a decision to enlarge the Council in both categories – of its non-permanent as well as permanent members.

The recent statements by US President Barack Obama in New Delhi and Tokyo fit into the overall fabric of similar remarks from other world leaders.

The last five rounds of intergovernmental negotiations on the subject, held since February 2009 in New York, have confirmed that in the stances of the member states there continue significant differences on all key issues of the negotiating agenda, in particular, on the models to enlarge the Security Council.

We believe that negotiations should be conducted on all the existing proposals without artificial narrowing of the agenda to one or two models and attempts to put any reform proposals to a vote in the UNGA or stage an informal vote on the existing models to enlarge the Security Council.

We firmly believe that progress in reforming the UN Security Council is only possible by finding a compromise whose achievement requires continuing the painstaking work that will take years. We need to find a model of the enlargement of this hugely important UN body which would enjoy wide consensus among the member states of the Organization, far more significant than a two-thirds majority required for decision-making in the General Assembly.

Outcome of the 11th round of negotiations on a new Russia-EU framework agreement

The legal basis of relations between Russia and the EU is currently the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement, which was signed in 1994 and entered into force in 1997. As of now this document is largely outdated and requires updating. On the Russian side's initiative, at the EU-Russia summit in London on 4 October 2005, the parties agreed to begin a dialogue on the elaboration of a new agreement.

The first round of talks took place in Brussels in July 2008. Also there, a plenary meeting on November 12, 2010 completed the work in the framework of the eleventh round of negotiations, whose outcome was positively assessed by the parties. The negotiation process is continuing – on November 15 one of the working groups met as part of the twelfth round now, which will end on December 17.

Despite the differences in approaches to certain issues, work is going in a constructive way. To date, the parties have agreed upon many of the articles of the four sections of a future agreement: on co-operation in the sphere of political dialogue and external security; on co-operation in the areas of freedom, security and justice; on sector-based economic co-operation; and on co-operation in matters of culture, education, media, sports and youth.

Trade and investment issues of the economic section are being discussed in the context of the prospects of Russia’s accession to the WTO and the creation of the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Important themes on which our approaches have yet to be agreed, we believe are the principle of equal and indivisible security, and the prospect of lifting visa restrictions on mutual travel of citizens of Russia and the EU.

On the current situation in the Middle East peace process

Today the Middle-East peace process is experiencing one of the critical moments, which, incidentally, have already been quite a few. All efforts are now focused on finding a formula that would make it possible to resume direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, by suiting both sides. An earnest of success is the extension by Israel of the freeze on settlement activity, which has become a major stumbling block, because of which the negotiating process was interrupted.

The current situation, in our view, especially requires co-ordinated and truly collective actions by the international community in order to find a way out. That is why Russia some time ago took the initiative of convening a meeting of the Middle-East Quartet at ministerial level. Its date and venue are currently under negotiation. We are working actively in a bilateral format as well. Most recently, Federation Council Chairman Sergey Mironov visited Israel and the PNA, now Viktor Zubkov, our Deputy Prime Minister, and Alexander Saltanov, Russia’s Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister, are there.

On the human rights situation in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar

In recent days, the release from house arrest of Myanmar’s well-known opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi has been actively commented upon. In this regard, we note the steps being taken by the leadership of the Union of Myanmar to implement a program of political reforms and transition to civilian rule. In this vein we assess the general parliamentary elections held on 7 November this year in accordance with national legislation, which became an important milestone in the process of democratization of the life of Myanmar society. From the same viewpoint, we also consider the release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi.

We are convinced that the heightened international attention to the topic of human rights in Myanmar is, to a significant extent, artificially stoked by the Myanmar political opposition and separatist ethnic groups. The charges put forward against the leadership of the country, of “systematic, widespread and flagrant” abuses of human rights are usually based on unreliable and often falsified information from unchecked and politically biased sources.

We believe that a blanket criticism of Myanmar on rights-based issues is not productive, but encouraging its government to continue political reforms, including in the field of fundamental human rights is the correct path.

Progress on issues of property rights of Russians in Abkhazia

The joint work with the Abkhaz side to restore the property rights of Russian citizens in Abkhazia continues. At the end of October, the first meeting of the Restitution Commission took place in Sukhum. It was attended by Abkhaz President Sergey Bagapsh, Russian Ambassador Semyon Grigoryev, and senior officials from Russian and Abkhaz agencies and entities. Approaches to resolving this difficult problem, painfully affecting the interests of people, were outlined. In the near future a joint working group will begin studying the applications filed by citizens.

The fate of the Russian citizens detained in Georgia on spying charges

The Russian MFA was asked by some media outlets about the fate of the Russian citizens detained by Georgian authorities on charges of espionage. In this case a Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister is quoted as saying that Russia’s consul in Georgia met with one of them: “Does the Georgian side hinder visiting the rest of the Russians accused of spying?”

Nino Kalandadze’s statements have nothing to do with reality. In fact, the situation is as follows.

Upon receiving from the Georgian Foreign Ministry a confirmation that four of the accused hold Russian passports, the Russian Interests Section at the Embassy of Switzerland asked the Georgian authorities to arrange an urgent meeting of our consular staff with these citizens – A. V. Gevorkyan, P. N. Devrishadze, Y. D. Skrylnikov and R. L. Shikoyan.

The relevant formal request was forwarded by the Interests Section to the Ministry of Corrections, Probation and Legal Assistance of Georgia. There is still no response to this request, dated November 12. Our consul is not being given the opportunity to visit the detained Russians.

The Russian side continues to insist on the provision of consular access to our citizens, as envisioned by Article 5 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, and then also by the elementary norms of civilized international relations.

From the answers to media questions:

Question:Please comment on the situation surrounding the extradition of Viktor Bout to the US, and on the form in which it was done. How does the Russian Foreign Ministry assess the actions of Washington and will it take retaliatory measures?

Answer: In the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement, we have already given an assessment of the US pressure on the Thai court that had preceded this fact.

In our opinion, with respect to Viktor Bout a blatant injustice was committed in the absence of any legal grounds for Thai judicial authorities to take a decision about his guilt on the charges put forward. Now he is in a federal prison in New York City; Russian diplomats have succeeded in getting a meeting with him. US authorities allowed this only after the first court session, in which Viktor Bout was presented with the charges, which he denied. I’ll note that our diplomats who met with Bout have already talked about the situation; they are carrying out all necessary measures to protect his interests. All necessary legal support will be provided, if required. As stated by Russian Consul General in New York Andrey Yushmanov, if necessary, Viktor Bout will be provided with the services of a defense lawyer. That support is needed is obvious. Bout has pointed to the fact that pressure had been exerted on him by representatives of the US authorities that were transporting him from Thailand. We will closely monitor this aspect and respond adequately. Regular meetings by consular staff with Bout will continue.

Question:Tomorrow the NATO summit in Portugal begins. What does Russia expect from the summit of the Russia-NATO Council?

Answer: Ahead of the summit, the Ministry’s information service has received many questions from the media relating to specific aspects of the upcoming talks in Lisbon and to Russia's position. In recent days, Russian officials have very actively spoken out about Russia's position. Recall the article of Minister Sergey Lavrov, the two interviews this week of Russia’s representative to NATO, one of them appearing today. Today, two days before the summit, none of us will tell the final details of our position, just as our partners in NATO. This is about the nuances which will become manifest after the summit.

Without anticipating the outcome of our meeting in Lisbon, I want to reiterate that we are going to this summit with high expectations, we assume that it will indeed constitute a milestone that will put an end to the remnants of the Cold War and will mark the beginning of a qualitatively new phase of new relations in the Russia-NATO Council and with the partners in a broader sense.

Question: When is the introduction of a visa-free regime between the EU and Russia possible?

Answer: We are in talks on the abolition of a visa regime in our travels on different tracks. In a nutshell, we are ready to begin work in the new regime even tomorrow, the leaders of our country indicated. The process is not that simple, and we have to admit that years of efforts and negotiations on the abolition of visa trips have produced no result so far, but as you know there is some movement in terms of easing the visa regime.

Question: Has the specific date been fixed for the visit of Russian President Medvedev to Poland and what point of the program of this visit is most important for Russia?

Answer: Information on the visits of the President, his Press Service is authorized to give. I do not have this information. The outline of the upcoming meeting, I think, is known in Warsaw. Poland’s president spoke about the meaning of this meeting. Let's wait a little and decide what the main thing is. In my opinion, the main thing is improvement in our relations, their restructuring, and elevation to a new level. It’s necessary to leave the most difficult affairs outside the political dialogue, dialogue between our peoples, and move forward.

Question: Regarding the so-called territorial problem between Russia and Japan. As a result of the bilateral meeting between President Medvedev and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Kommersant newspaper has carried comments of a high ranking diplomat that on the territorial issue Russia is walking away from the declaration of 1956 and is no longer going to stick to it. Is this information accurate?

Answer: The leaders of Russia, its political and diplomatic representatives have repeatedly spoken on this score. We do not hide our position on the sovereignty of Russia over its entire territory, but we are trying to build our dialogue with Japan without placing stress upon this problem. You are aware of the meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of Russia and Japan. During this conversation, both sides expressed their intention to take further steps to ensure a dynamic buildup of bilateral ties that meets the interests of our countries, enhance political dialogue and expand economic and trade co-operation, with emphasis on modernization and on the deepening of regular cultural and humanitarian exchanges and inter-regional ties. As we see it, this is a model for relations with contemporary Japan. We believe that it is necessary to focus on just the issues of co-operation in the political, economic and humanitarian fields – well, the positive result of this co-operation will enable us to eventually solve the problems that exist.

Question: What will Russia's position be in the upcoming negotiations of the Six with Iran?

Answer: At the moment I will not be able to explain the Russian position to you in detail. Both the political and diplomatic assumptions in the negotiations are not secret. We regularly comment on this topic, I want to draw your attention to the position that we stated the last time.

Question: I would like to revisit the question of Russian-Japanese relations. Can we say that the Russian side refuses to discuss the territorial question? Can we say that these steps – the Medvedev trip to Kunashir, the plans voiced by Minister Lavrov for the President’s possible visit to the Lesser Kuril Chain – are a departure from the Joint Declaration of 1956?

Answer: We have never said that we will not discuss the issues that the Japanese side invites us to discuss, including what is called the contentious territorial question. On the attitude to the Declaration I will say in just these words: let’s wait and see.