“Russia and NATO need responsible decisions to increase trust”

Russian-NATO relations need responsible, forward-thinking decisions that can help enhance mutual trust, said the deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department.

Speaking at a regular media briefing on November 11, Aleksey Sazonov touched on the upcoming Russia-NATO summit, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visits to Kenya and Nigeria, and many other issues.

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

President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the Republic of Korea

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev paid an official visit to the Republic of Korea on November 10-11. At the end of Russian-South Korean talks, a package of intergovernmental agreements and memorandums was signed. Details are posted on the website of the President of Russia.

Visit to Moscow by Tarja Halonen, the President of Finland

President Tarja Halonen of Finland was on a state visit to Moscow on November 8-9. More detailed reports are posted on the website of the Russian President.

Sergey Lavrov’s attendance at the 10th meeting of Russia, India and China (RIC) foreign ministers in Wuhan, China

On November 14-15, 2010, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov will take part in the tenth meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) in Wuhan, China.

They plan to consider a wide range of issues on the international and regional agenda.

In the context of the outcome of the summit of the Group of 20 on November 10-11 this year in Seoul, the ministers will discuss issues related to the process of reform of the system of global financial management and international financial institutions, as well as building cooperation between Russia, India and China in the framework of BRIC and the G20. They are also to compare notes on energy security and climate issues.

The focus of the meeting will be questions of the formation in the Asia-Pacific region of a new, improved security and cooperation architecture and the role of the RIC [Russia, India, China] in the system of multilateral regional associations. Dialogue on this subject will be held in light of the joint Russian-Chinese initiative to strengthen security and cooperation in the Asia Pacific region, launched by the leaders of Russia and China during the visit of President Dmitry Medvedev to China on September 26-28, 2010.

The ministers will consider plans for coordinating the actions of Russia, India and China in multilateral regional organizations – the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), where India has observer status, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting with Dialogue Partners (ADMM-Plus) and the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD).

The agenda of the meeting includes an exchange of views on the most pressing regional issues of concern to Moscow, New Delhi and Beijing – the situation in Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear problem, and the Middle East peace process.

It is expected that the participants will exchange views on the development of practical cooperation in the RIC format, primarily in emergency response, agriculture and public health, as well as outline ways to further improve the working mechanisms of the RIC.

In 2011, the RIC chairmanship will pass to Russia. Accordingly, the next ministerial meeting will be held in our country.

More detailed information on RIC cooperation is placed on the Russian MFA website.

Concerning visits of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the Republic of Kenya and the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, will make visits to Kenya and Nigeria on November 16-17, 2010. Lavrov is scheduled to meet with President of the Republic of Kenya Mwai Kibaki and President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan and hold talks with the heads of the foreign affairs agencies of those countries.

This will be the first visit by a Russian Foreign Minister to Kenya. During the upcoming talks in the Kenyan capital, the parties will exchange views on topical international problems and present their views on the current trends in the world and on the questions of countering global challenges and threats, including the struggle against international terrorism and piracy off the eastern coast of Africa. They will also review the situation in the Horn of Africa, particularly in the context of finding ways to unblock the conflict situations there.

In Nairobi, the plan is to discuss the state of and prospects for trade and economic ties, and the possibility of giving them additional dynamics. Joint railway transport projects and those for mineral exploration and development are being contemplated. There is mutual interest in broader cultural ties and in tourism and personnel training cooperation. It is expected that several bilateral documents will be signed.

While in Nairobi, the Minister is to visit the UN Center there and meet with its head and the Executive Director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), Achim Steiner.

The visit to Nigeria by the head of the Russian foreign affairs agency aims to consolidate the steady dynamism in Russian-Nigerian relations, which have reached a qualitatively new level after the first-ever visit to Abuja by President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev in June 2009.

Russia treasures the multifaceted ties with Nigeria, our time-tested partner. In recent years the economic relations of Russia with that country have been developing incrementally. A number of leading Russian companies are implementing or preparing to launch in Nigeria several major investment projects in such areas as energy, hydrocarbon extraction, metals and farm mechanization. Collaboration on the peaceful uses of atomic energy and in space exploration is on the agenda. Also the volume of trade, which has not diminished even in the face of the global financial and economic crisis. Nigeria firmly holds second place among the sub-Saharan African countries in these indicators. The trustful dialogue and effective joint work of our countries in world and regional affairs, based on the closeness of their foreign policy positions, are seen by the parties as an important component of bilateral cooperation. During the upcoming consultations much attention will be paid to discussion about the state of affairs in Africa, along with reviewing the problems of sustainable economic and social growth of the countries of the continent, as well as the issues of peacemaking and the resolution of conflicts, which are an obstacle to the development of African states.

We expect that the forthcoming trip of the Russian Foreign Minister to Kenya and Nigeria will confirm the strategic line on the comprehensive strengthening and development of our country's relations with the African community and will constitute an important new contribution to the creation of partnerships with the states of the continent.

Outcome of parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan

Moscow closely watched the preparation and holding of the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan that took place on November 7 this year. We have acquainted ourselves with their results, and assessments by international observation missions.

First of all, I would like to note the higher voter turnout, compared with the 2005 elections, the good level of organization of the elections, and the professional work of the CEC of Azerbaijan. Voting took place in a calm atmosphere, without any of the incidents that occurred in the previous elections. All registered political parties fielded their candidates. Present in the elections were over 1,000 international observers. And one of the most numerous – about 350 people – was the observation mission of the CIS.

Preliminary election results have shown greater popular support for candidates from the New Azerbaijan Party, led by President Ilham Aliyev. The deputy corps, consisting of 125 deputies, has been renewed by one-third. There has increased the representation in parliament of academic and creative intellectuals, of business and of women.

All this has given reason for the CIS mission to justly assess the elections as conforming to Azerbaijan’s electoral legislation and to democratic standards. The legitimacy of the elections is absolutely beyond doubt.

But the assessments of the elections given by European entities led by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) stand somewhat in contrast to the conclusions of observers from the CIS. The statement of the ODIHR, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament attests to an insufficiency of “progress in the democratic development of Azerbaijan.”

Clearly discernible here is the reluctance to notice the work accomplished by the Azerbaijani authorities to improve the quality of the electoral process.

In this regard, we fully support the initiative of the Coordinator of the CIS observation mission, the Vice Chairwoman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Svetlana Orlova, calling for the need to develop within the OSCE a set of uniform principles of monitoring the election process. We believe this is an important element of an overall effort to reform the OSCE.

Concerning the start of the first session of the new parliament of Kyrgyzstan

The Parliament of fifth convocation, elected in October 2010, started its work in Kyrgyzstan yesterday, November 10. We believe that this is a fundamentally significant event for the Republic.

We note that represented in the new Parliament is a fairly wide range of social and political forces of that country. As we know, the Ata-Jurt party won 28 seats, Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan 26, the Ar-Namys party 25, the Republic party 23, and the Ata-Meken party 18 seats.

Currently, negotiations are underway to create a parliamentary coalition. Their results will influence the configuration of a new Government of Kyrgyzstan, which we hope will be formed in the near future. The main thing is that the work of the highest executive and legislative bodies should help reinforce stability in the country and tackle its economic and social problems in the interests of the multinational people of Kyrgyzstan.

We would like to re-emphasize that the Russian side stands ready for the closest possible cooperation with the new Parliament and the Government of Kyrgyzstan on the basis of existing agreements, which in principle were confirmed by the transitional authorities of Kyrgyzstan.

Universal Periodic Review of the human rights record of the USA

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council adopted a UPR Outcome Report for the United States of America on November 9. UN member states and observers made to the US a record number of 228 recommendations concerning the observance of human rights and elimination of their violations within the country and during military operations abroad. The recommendations particularly highlighted the necessity of abolishing the death penalty, closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, thoroughly investigating cases of torture and the abuse of power by security forces, fighting racial discrimination and intolerance, observing the human rights of migrants, minorities and indigenous peoples, as well as increasing US participation in international treaties in the field of human rights, international humanitarian law and labor regulation. The outcome of the review of the US report once again confirms that in Western countries, which often claim to be leaders in the field of human rights, there are serious problems in promoting respect and support for human rights.

Current state of the negotiation process on the INP in the framework of the Six

With regard to the current state of the negotiation process on the Iranian nuclear program, I can say the following: Now the main efforts are concentrated on organizing a meeting between the Six and Iran. Tehran has officially confirmed its readiness for such a meeting. The Office of the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy is engaged in fixing mutually acceptable dates for the participants and the venue. At the same time work is under way on the content of the agenda of the meeting.

Intensive work is also continuing among the six nations. There are regular telephone conferences between the political directors. As part of the implementation of the provisions of the statement of EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Ashton made on behalf of the foreign ministers of the six powers in New York on September 22, work is being carried out to coordinate the common detailed approaches to the forthcoming meeting of the Six with Iran and to update the fuel swap scheme for the Tehran research reactor (TRR). It is assumed that the discussion of the TRR-related project with Iran will continue in parallel in Vienna.

We hope that soon we will be able to reach mutually acceptable modalities for the resumption of dialogue with Tehran.

On the change in visa requirements for citizens of Germany

The question about the practice of issuing visas by consular agencies of Russia and Germany was discussed during the talks between Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and Guido Westerwelle in Moscow on November 1 this year. Following the talks it was agreed to soon hold additional expert consultations aimed at reaching a unification of the requirements for a set of documents when issuing short-term visas for mutual trips of citizens.

I would like to point out that we have never been and will not be supporters of tighter visa barriers. On the contrary, we proceed from the necessity and possibility of further simplifying the visa formalities, as we consider this task a priority, and we hope that the consular services’ consultations at issue will result in just such constructive solutions based on the principle of reciprocity.

Concerning abolition of the simplified visa regime for foreign tourists visiting the Kaliningrad Region

Russian legislation, including the Russian Federation Government Resolution No. 374 of May 31, 2010 “On the amount of the state fee for the issuance, renewal and restoration of visas to foreign citizens and stateless persons by representations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation at the checkpoints on the State Border of the Russian Federation,” does not provide for the issuance of tourist visas at the border checkpoints. Hence this purpose of trip was removed from the draft Purposes of Trip list used when issuing invitations and visas to foreign nationals.

Nevertheless, we presume that the issuance at the border checkpoints Bagrationovsk, Mamonovo and Khrabrovo of short-term tourist visas for 72-hour trips is done as part of the experiment approved by the Government of the Russian Federation. No decision has been taken to end this. Therefore short-term tourist visas for 72-hour trips will continue to be issued in the Kaliningrad Region.

The clarifications have been sent to the Russian MFA representative in Kaliningrad.

On the situation in the “case Hobert”

In view of the enquiries being received by the Foreign Ministry from Russian and foreign media outlets, I would like to comment on developments surrounding the ‘case’ of the former employee of the German embassy, Mr. B. T. Hobert, who the court found guilty over a road traffic accident in Moscow on November 30, 2008, which resulted in the deaths of two Russian citizens, Alexander Yevteyev and Andrei Kamynin.

On November 5, the German Regional Court in Munster began consideration of a civil suit against Mr. Hobert by a Russian citizen, Olga Eduardovna Kamynina, mother of one of the killed Russians. During the first court session, personally attended by O. E. Kamynina, the parties were heard and the possibilities of an out of court settlement considered which would take into account the legitimate interests and reasonable claims of the families of the victims for compensation for moral and material damage. The reaction of the parties to the proposals discussed must follow within a month.

For our part, we intend to closely monitor further developments and to provide all necessary assistance to the relatives of the killed Russians in order to achieve an acceptable and just solution for them, including through payment of decent and reasonable compensation. We hope that eventually it will be so.

You know that this issue was repeatedly raised by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in talks with German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, including on November 1 in Moscow. We presume that the dialogue with the German side on this subject will continue.

We intend to keep you abreast of further developments.


The Foreign Ministry was asked by the TV channel Russia – 24: “A meeting of the Russia-NATO Council at ambassadorial level will be held this week. Can we expect that the Russia-NATO summit with the participation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will be a turning point in Russia's relations with the alliance?”

We expect that the upcoming Russia-NATO Council summit on November 20 will give a clear political impetus to our common resolve to bring relations between Russia and NATO to a qualitatively new level. The need is for responsible, forward-thinking decisions that would help enhance mutual trust.

We expect that a serious discussion will be held in Lisbon about ways to overcome the consequences of the Cold War and shift to a strategic mutually beneficial partnership in the RNC in responding to present-day security challenges. The RNC session will constitute a new step towards strengthening the stability and predictability in political-military affairs in the Euro-Atlantic space.

Around the conclusion of the Treaty on the State Border between Romania and Moldova

We were asked by TV Romania: “Romania signed a Treaty on the State Border with Moldova on November 8. In the opinion of the Russian Foreign Ministry, is the conclusion of this treaty helpful in strengthening stability in the region, particularly in the context of resolving the Transnistria issue?”

The text of the agreement, as far as we know, has not yet been published. Judging by media reports, this is about a bilateral document regulating to the technical aspects of border management. We have also taken note of the comments from individual Romanian representatives that in effect confirm that the signed treaty is not a direct recognition of the state border between Romania and Moldova.

We would like to consider this agreement as a first step on the not easy road to juridical formalization of equal relations between the two neighboring independent and sovereign states. There is a need for further progress in this direction that would enhance stability in the region. Such a development would create a favorable background for the resolution of the Transnistria issue too.

From the answers to media questions:

Question: How is the situation developing around Rimma Salonen and her children?

Answer: We were asked questions regarding Russian women Valentina Putkonen and Rimma Salonen, about our response to their requests for political asylum in Russia. These citizens did not approach either the Russian Foreign Ministry or the Embassy or consular agencies with such requests. Of course, we are closely following the situation, monitoring it, and keeping in touch with the Finnish authorities also from the viewpoint of observance of the rights of the citizens who have found themselves in such a complicated situation abroad.

Question: How will you comment on the situation surrounding the vessel Lyubov Orlova?

Answer: This topic has repeatedly been commented upon by us. We talked about the problem facing the crew of the ship. Here is a summary of some results of what has been done in this direction.

Pursuant to the decision of the Government of the Russian Federation, the Foreign Ministry and its overseas agencies – the Embassy and Consulate General of Russia in Canada – provided our seafarers assistance in returning home. Recently 27 members of the crew returned, while 16 people remained in order to maintain the vessel until such time as its new owner is determined.

I must add that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia has received a letter from the ship's captain, who thanks the Russian diplomats for the support and help they provided in the seamen’s return home.

Question: Recently we all witnessed how the Latvian Foreign Minister backed up the territorial claims to the Russian Federation. What is the reaction of the Russian MFA, and how do you assess the anti-Russian stance of the foreign affairs agency of Latvia?

Answer: In recent days, this question has been very actively discussed in the media, we were being asked about how we evaluate the appointment of the new foreign minister of Latvia. It is worth saying that this appointment is an internal affair of Latvia. This choice was clearly consistent with all the procedures and laws of that country. We will cooperate with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and discuss issues on the agenda of bilateral relations, although it should be acknowledged that the reasons for concern about the fate of Russians and Russian speakers living in Latvia are not diminishing.

The territorial claims voiced by the new Minister of Foreign Affairs require our response. We hold that in terms of bilateral relations between Russia and Latvia, the question of the state border is closed. As is known, the Treaty on the Russian-Latvian State Border entered into force on December 18, 2007, and it clearly determines the border line. In the framework of the Joint Demarcation Commission, preparations are currently under way for carrying out the relevant work on the ground. Any attempts to speculate around the border theme can only be called provocative. We are convinced that they will not find the slightest support in Latvia itself either.

We have certainly taken note of the passages that recently became public from the correspondence between the current Latvian Foreign Minister Kristovskis and the Latvian ultra nationalist Aivars Slucis living in the US. This story falls outside common sense and leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. We hope that Mr. Kristovskis, having retained his post not without difficulty because of the scandal, will in real life follow not his prejudices, but the line as declared by the government of Latvia on building good-neighborly relations with Russia.

Question: In light of yesterday's announcement by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran's nuclear program is non-negotiable, how does Moscow see the prospect of a meeting of the Six in the near future?

Answer: I just said that we are ready to discuss with Iran in the format of the Six, the issues pertaining to Iran's nuclear program. All matters that relate to the discussion will be presented. We await Catherine Ashton’s determination of the date and venue of the talks.

Question: Are there any plans for a visit by President Dmitry Medvedev to the so-called disputed territories after his upcoming trip to Japan?

Answer: Of course, I am not authorized to comment on issues that relate to the activities of the President of Russia in this context. That is his right; he is the one who defines it. I do not have information on this score.

Question: Once again about the “case of Hobert.” What is the Ministry’s attitude to the fact that, by court decision, the amicable agreement provides for compensation that does not satisfy the injured party?

Answer: Today I have already talked about the fact that this is a lawsuit that has recently begun, and final decisions are not yet made. On the interim decisions we all know, the parties are now discussing the possibility of reaching an agreement. It depends on them. I think that to comment now on their personal choice is inappropriate.

Question: At a briefing ahead of May 9 it was said that joint Russian-German consultations were expected to be held in Volgograd, where in particular the problem concerning pensions of Russian veterans living in Germany would be discussed. Contrary to German federal law, a part of the disability pension of war veterans is being removed and not paid, and besides, veterans have to go through German medical boards (it turns out, not trusting the data coming from Russia). Did those talks break down and was this question raised there? What does the MFA of Russia intend to do to ensure that this problem that violates historical justice is finally sorted?

Answer: I can confirm that such consultations are being conducted at present; we will report their outcome later. I would like to further inform you that the Ministry of Health and Social Development is responsible for dealing with this problem in Russia.

Question: Could you comment on today's publication in the newspaper Kommersant about the disclosed new circumstances of detention of the Russian intelligence agents abroad, and is the MFA planning any action through diplomatic channels?

Answer: I hold that at this stage it is not a matter for the foreign affairs agency.