«Russia carefully studies new US missile defense plan»

Russia will closely watch the US anti-missile preparations in Europe to see how it matches its security interests, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko during the latest media briefing.

In his weekly address to the media, Nesterenko elaborated on the results of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s official visit to Serbia and also the visit of Tajikistan leader Emomali Rakhmonto to Moscow.

He touched upon the recent remarks of the Japanese minister regarding the South Kuril Islands, Russia’s reaction to the second round of Afghani elections and many other issues.

RT presents the full transcript of the address.

Dear friends, colleagues! We are happy to see you at this briefing in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I would like to give you comments on the most topical international events that happened over the past week. I would like to start with comments on the visit of the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to the Republic of Serbia.

The president of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, paid an official visit to Serbia on October 20th. The visit was timed for the 65th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from Nazi Forces. The leaders of the two countries took part in a number of large-scale solemn events dedicated to the historical date.

Dmitry Medvedev and Serbian president Boris Tadic held negotiations on a number of questions regarding Russian-Serbian relations, the Balkans and international issues. They discussed implementation of the major energy projects, including branch development of the flagship enterprise “Serbian Oil Industry”, construction of a section of the transnational pipeline “South Stream” and setting up the underground gas storage “Banatsky Dvor”. The appeal from the Serbian leadership for financial and technical help to carry out infrastructure projects and tackle the consequences of global crisis developments was given some constructive consideration.

In the presence of the presidents, a pack of documents was signed to regulate the bilateral interaction in the areas of culture, science, education, sports, youth policy, emergency humanitarian response and cooperation between Parliaments, Ministries of Internal Affairs as well as cooperation on the regional level and further joint work in the oil and gas industry.

The similarity of approach to the main points on the international agenda, including the issue of European security, was observed as well. As for the Kosovo regulation, the Russian side confirmed its willingness to continue with active support and cooperation with Belgrade in its efforts to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia.

The official visit is a milestone and has had historical significance for the traditionally friendly relations between Russia and Serbia. It allowed an outlining of the priority areas that need improvement, taking into account mutual national interests and preferences.

Tajikistan president’s visit to Moscow

The president of the Republic of Tajikistan, Emomali Rakhmon, is currently on a state visit in Moscow. The press conference on results of the negotiations between Emomali Rakhmon and president Medvedev ended a short time ago. They signed a joint statement of the Russian and Tajik presidents. During negotiations in the restricted circle and between the governmental delegations a priority is put on cooperative aspects in the military and military-and-technical areas, including the functioning Russian military base in Tajikistan and providing military and technical help to the Republic of Tajikistan by the Russian Federation.

Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon (L) and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev meet in Moscow's Kremlin October 22, 2009.

An important place on the agenda was given to the topic of the bilateral cooperation in the humanitarian area and in the area of hydro energy. You can find more detailed information on the results of the visit of the president of the Republic of Tajikistan on our website. More detailed information can be reached on the website of the Russian president.

October 11-16 the Sultan of the State of Brunei, Darussalam Hassanal Bolkiah, made an official visit to Russia and held negotiations with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other officials.

As a result of the visit, a joint Russian-Brunean statement has been adopted on a visa-free regime for the owners of diplomatic and business passports. Also an intergovernmental memorandum on economic cooperation has been signed.

One of the major results of the negotiations and meetings is the fact that the sides reaffirmed their readiness to develop bilateral ties in different areas, focusing on trade, economic and investment cooperation with the oil and gas sector, education and tourism being top priorities. It was mentioned that the opening of the Russian Embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan will contribute to closer Russian-Brunean cooperation in all areas.

The discussion of burning international issues has shown that Russia and Brunei have similar stands on key international issues, including those related to the global economic crisis, the ways of the Middle East settlement and the situation in the Asian-Pacific region.

Russia-EU Foreign Ministers’ summit

The Permanent Partnership Council Russia-EU session of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs took place on October 19, in Brussels. The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs participated in the session, as well. The ministers discussed the state and perspectives of Russia-EU cooperation and the joint work with the current Swedish and the upcoming Spanish presidency in the European Union. They also reviewed the “road maps” on the four common areas and negotiations on concluding a new base agreement. The event was an important stage for setting the Russia-EU summit in Stockholm on November 18. The partners shared the approach that it is within our common interest to achieve actual results at the summit. You can find more detailed information on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

I would like to note that earlier this month the European Parliament held a conference named: “Europe: 70 years after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact”. The Russian side raised the question about it at the recent session of the Permanent Partnership Council of Russia-EU partnership in Brussels. The Russian minister emphasized that we were genuinely surprised by support of this conference by different EU structures. In particular, the vice-president of the Eurocommission, Jacque Barro, who called the pact – quote – “the horrible deal between the two totalitarian regimes” – end of quote.

The Russian stand on this is extremely simple – one shouldn’t mix history with politics. History should be left to historians. To try and get into today what has already received political assessment in principle – is counterproductive and leads to reestablishing the old dividing lines. We hope that our partners in the European Union have understood us correctly.

I would also like to note that Mr. Carl Bildt, who currently presides in the European Union, at the press conference in Brussels agreed that history is for historians. I think that perhaps we could draw a line here.

On Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Sri Lanka

Russian Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov is going on a working visit to Sri Lanka on October 26. During meetings and talks with President Mahinda Rajapakse, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and other Lankan leaders, a number of topical international and regional problems, as well as the state and perspectives of developing an all-round cooperation between Russia and Sri Lanka will be discussed.
Significant attention will be paid in the course of talks to developing trade and economic ties. Our side will confirm its interest in working in a number of areas, including exploration and production of gas on the Sri-Lankan shelf, reconstructing the oil-processing complex that was built with the help of the USSR, modernization and building the seaports and creating an energy infrastructure.

During the visit, the following agreements are to be signed – the intergovernmental Agreement on cooperation in fighting drug-trafficking and the use of drugs and psychotropic substances, and a memorandum on mutual understanding between the Emergency Ministries of our countries.

They will review the state of a number of agreements, which should strengthen the legal basis of the bilateral relations – on air transport, on mutual legal help in criminal cases, on cooperation in tourism, on trade and economic partnership and on readmission. The questions of further increases in the volume of tourist visits from Russia to Sri Lanka (in 2008 about 16000 Russian tourists visited Sri Lanka), state grants and commercial study opportunities for Lankan students in Russian Universities (in 2008 about 2000 Lankan students studied in Russia) and cultural exchange will also be among the topics for discussion. There will be more numbers in this regard and we’ll know them later after the Sri Lankan visit of the Minister is over.

After Sri Lanka the Russian Foreign Minister will visit India, specifically the state of Bangalore, where he will attend the 9th meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) on October 27, 2009.
The RIC format has been shaped as a mechanism of foreign policy interaction and practical cooperation on the basis of consonant interests of Russia, India and China, which are strategic partners.

A discussion to be held within the framework of the 9th meeting of the RIC foreign ministers will dwell on how to strengthen trilateral cooperation as well as on urgent international and regional problems, such as the struggle against international terrorism, energy security, the U.N. reform, the situation in Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear program, interaction within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the situation on the Korean peninsula.

In view of the ongoing instability in Afghanistan, a meaningful discussion of the Afghan-related issues will take place with an aim to work out common approaches of the three countries, including in terms of coordination of efforts to counteract terrorist threats coming from the Afghan territory and render assistance in the economic recovery of Afghanistan. In the course of discussions about trilateral cooperation, the foreign ministers are planning to sum up the past year’s results, outline further moves to step up activities in the aforesaid directions and discuss prospects of interaction in new spheres.
A Joint Communique, to be released at the meeting of the RIC foreign ministers, will reflect cooperation prospects within the RIC framework and the approaches of the three countries to international and regional problems.

China will host the 10th meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China in 2010.

Black Sea Economic Cooperation Foreign Ministers meet in Baku

Today (October 22) Baku hosts the 21st meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Moldavia, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and ministers of observer states at BSEC will take part in the meeting.

The Russian delegation will be headed by the First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Andrey Denisov. Unfortunately, due to significant reasons, our minister couldn’t make it to Baku.

Measures to strengthen the role of BSEC as the only comprehensive multi-lateral international organization uniting the Black Sea states will be discussed. The participants of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs will discuss the mechanisms to improve regional economic cooperation and achieving the results. Much attention will be paid to further promotion of major regional infrastructure projects related to transport and energy.Russia is for strengthening cooperation with the United Nations and other international and regional BSEC organizations.

Cooperation between BSEC and the European Union as two equal partners in the sphere of common interests – transport, energy, IT, emergency situations – will be discussed to solve the issues of regional development, the well-being of the people, and stability in the Black Sea region.
According to the rotation, Bulgaria will preside over the BSEC.

And now to Missile Defense. I was asked whether Moscow is slightly disappointed after the US declared about their abandoned idea of setting up the Third Site in Europe only to suggest a new system, which, though, also appears to suggest placing missile defense system in Eastern Europe?

As known, we had a generally positive reaction to the decision of the new US administration to abandon the previous plans on establishing the Third Site of their strategic missile defense in Europe. We will continue to thoroughly analyze the next steps of Washington in the sphere of missile defense.
In our turn, we proceed from the fact that any missile defense system in Europe should be collective, based on principals of equal security of all the participants and be built on joint assessment of real, not assumed, missile challenges and threats.

On new US plan of anti-missile presence in Europe

Also, in this connection I was asked the following question. I am going to read it now: Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has recently said that Warsaw is ready to participate in the global U.S. missile defense system. Specifically, the talk is about a possible deployment of American SM-3 missiles (Standard Missile -3) on Polish territory by 2011. Could such steps threaten Russia’s strategic potential?

I am answering this question. We are carefully studying a renovated U.S. plan of anti-missile presence in Europe. The U.S. side officially presented it to us in Moscow within the framework of the recent meeting of the Russian-American Presidential Commission.

We are proceeding from the fact that the United States plans to get down to phased deployment in Europe of the elements of its missile defense system that will be “adapted” to real missile threats. The first stage, and the Americans are open about that, may be deployment by 2011 of warships with ‘tactical’ anti-ballistic SM-3 missiles in the Mediterranean to protect the southern part of Europe from short-range and medium-range missiles. A ground-based option of the SM-3 missiles is scheduled to be deployed only at the next stage in 2015. By 2020, the Americans, if necessary, will seek to enable these anti-ballistic missiles to intercept strategic missiles.

We don’t think that transition from one stage to another is determined in advance. We assume that we jointly, with the Americans, will be able to begin thorough assessment of the existing and potential missile challenges and threats as it is written in the Joint Statement of the Presidents of Russia and the United States on the AMD issues during their summit in Moscow on July 6 this year. We are planning to involve all the European states concerned in this work.

Anyway, we are going to closely watch how U.S. anti-missile preparations in Europe correlate with Russia’s national security interests.

And another question in this regard. I received it before the briefing. Today, Defense Ministers of NATO countries discuss a possible change in the architecture of the US missile defense system, suggested by the Barak Obama administration. Will the Russian representatives participate in that as well and what are the general prospects for our country to participate in setting up such a system?

The Russian Federation is not a NATO member. That’s why we do not participate in those discussions. Let’s wait for the results and then we will be able to give some clarifications.

Customs Union seeks WTO membership

Last week in Geneva delegations from Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan held consultations with the WTO Secretariat, the member countries concerned and also the chairmen of Working Groups on joining the Organization.

During the meetings, the member countries of the Customs Union confirmed their commitment to the course of joining WTO and declared their intent to hold negotiations under the mandates that the Working Groups already have – which means that they will do it as separate states but, at the same time, under the coordinated terms in the areas within the competence of the Customs Union.

Upon receiving the information and documents on the set-up of the Customs Union, the WTO Secretariat will decide on a date to resume the negotiations. The decision is expected before the end of the year.

Thus, only the “legal appearance” of joining the WTO process changes. Due to the upcoming practical launch of the Customs Union mechanism on January 1, 2010, the WTO will consider the similar customs regime of the three states.

As for the results of the 21st session of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, we would like to inform you that it will take place on October 22. In that regard, we will send a plan of the statement for the press on the result of this event.

Yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, met with the Minister of External Affairs of the Republic of India, S. M. Krishna, who heads the Indian delegation to the 15th session of the Russia-India Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation. More detailed information can be found on the website of our Ministry.

I would also like to briefly mention something that you may already be familiar with. This is just to attract your attention to the big interview that the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation gave to the heads of “RIA-Novosti”, “The Voice of Russia” and “Russia Today” TV channel at the end of last week. The full text of the interview can be found on the website of the Foreign Ministry and is dated 16th of October.

Results of the VII summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the People's of Our America (ALBA)

The 7th meeting of the heads of state and government of countries-members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP) was held in the town of Cochabamba in Bolivia on October 16-17, 2009. A Russian delegation led by the Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, attended the summit as an honorary guest. He handed over to the summit’s delegates a message of greeting from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The message, which emphasizes Russia’s interest in strengthening multi-dimensional ties with the ALBA states and a speech delivered by the secretary of the Russian Security Council at the forum, aroused great interest and positive responses from its participants.

The summit’s final declaration analyzed the tasks of further development of integration processes within the ALBA and of political, economic, social and cultural rapprochement of its members. The parameters for creating its institutions were set, and a decision to introduce a new conditional currency unit for mutual settlements – the Sucre- as of January 1, 2010 was confirmed. The document also contains an analysis of global contemporary problems.

On the sidelines of the summit, Nikolai Patrushev had a series of bilateral meetings with the leaders of the ALBA member countries – Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, the First Vice-President of the State Council and the Council of Ministers of Cuba, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura. During the talks, the sides exchanged views on further development of cooperation in various spheres that present mutual interest for the participants in this negotiating process. Mr. Patrushev also held a joint meeting with representatives of the Caribbean states – the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister Skerrit of the Commonwealth of Dominica and Grenada’s Foreign Minister, Peter David (all the above-mentioned countries, except Grenada, are the ALBA members). They expressed interest in establishing practical interaction with our country. Nikolai Patrushev had a short telephone conversation with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

The participation of a representative Russian delegation in the ALBA summit reflects the process of deepening multi-faceted partnership –which is gaining momentum – with Latin American and Carribbean States. This partnership has a long-term strategic nature. The talks and meetings in Cochabamba proved that the ongoing dialogue between Russia and Latin American countries contribute to further strengthening of our interaction in the sphere of political and economic cooperation.

I’ve been asked to comment on a statement by the Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai P. Patrushev, made at the recent summit of the Bolivarian Alliance in Bolivia. It concerned Russia’s initiative to hold a special session of the U.N. General Assembly in the spring of 2010 to commemorate the World War II victims and counteract attempts to revise its results.

On August 13, 2009 the U.N. secretary-general distributed a letter from Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York as an official document of the 64th session of the U.N. General Assembly. On behalf of countries-members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), such as Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, it contained a request to include in the session’s agenda an additional item on “the 65th Anniversary of the End of World War II.” We already talked about that at our previous briefing when we were summing up the results of the recent meeting in Chisinau of the Council of the CIS heads of state. A draft resolution of the U.N. General Assembly was attached to the letter. The draft calls on all United Nations members and U.N. agencies, private persons and non-governmental organizations to mark this date as a tribute to all WWII victims and suggests holding, in the second week of May 2010, a special ceremonial meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in memory of all the victims of that horrible war. By decision of the General Committee, that issue was included in the agenda of the 64th session of the U.N. General Assembly and would be considered at one of its plenary meetings.

By including this item in the agenda we, above all, sought to remind everybody about the lessons of World War II and contribute to the preservation of the historical memory of peoples. The significance of the Victory in WWII is particularly vital in contemporary times when the international community should unite efforts in the face of global challenges and threats, such as international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and trans-national organized crime. It’s also important to preserve the memory of Victory over fascism because, at present, attempts are being made more and more often to rewrite history and revise the results of WWII and the Nuremburg tribunal.

On UNESCO General Conference

A few words about the results of the UNESCO General Conference that took place in Paris. The 35th session of the General Conference continues its work. It will last till October 23. So, I think it's too early to speak about its results. But nonetheless I can say a few words about this session. The Russian delegation is officially headed by the Minister of Education and Science, A. Fursenko. The delegation consists of representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Culture, the Russian Academy of Science and non-governmental organizations.

One of the decisions taken at the session is election of I. Bokovaya, a citizen of Bulgaria, as the Director General of the organization, who has become the first woman to head UNESCO. It is very pleasant to say that Ms. Bokovaya is a graduate of the Moscow Institute of International Relations, which celebrated its 65th anniversary yesterday.

As a result of the election held as part of the General Conference, the Russian Federation has been elected to the governing bodies of UNESCO international programs – to the Intergovernmental Council of the International Program for the Development of Communication and to the Intergovernmental Council of the “Information to All” Program.

We will inform you on the results of the session.

Kuril Islands in spotlight again

I would also like to draw your attention to commentary by the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry on the statement of the Japanese Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism, Seiji Maehara. Moscow took notice of the statements made by Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism, Seiji Maehara, about the “illegal occupation” of those islands by Russia, after he went on a so-called “visual inspection” of the southern Kuril Islands on October 17 this year.

It is regretful to again hear the unacceptable, incorrect and void of any legal ground confrontational statements against the background of the positive statements of the new Japanese leadership on its willingness to actively build relationships with Russia and after the constructive meeting between the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and the Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, in New York in September this year.

Apparently, such claims don’t only damage the good-neighborly atmosphere which has been developing in the bilateral relations, and the furthering of the Russian-Japanese cooperation in a number of areas, but it also obviously contradicts the intention, expressed by the new Japanese leadership, to have a calm and respectful dialogue on the Peace Treaty issue in order to find a mutually acceptable decision.

On Kosovo

An official session of the UN Security Council dedicated to the report of the Secretary General on Kosovo took place on October 16. During the session, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative, Lamberto Zannier, emphasized the important role of the UN Mission in Kosovo in the processes underway in the region and its focus on completing the tasks at the new stage.

Our compelling stand on this issue was stated at the Council session and remains unchanged: Moscow considers the UN Security Council resolution 1244 as a non-alternative and obligatory-for-all international legal basis for Kosovo regulation.

Russia still sees the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo as a Mission that has a leading role in regards to other international presences and supports its actions in fulfilling the mandate delegated by the Security Council. Any attempts to question the competence and authority of this Mission, or to replace it with other international structures in the regions, are unacceptable as they would contradict the package approach to the Mission reconfiguration confirmed by the Security Council in November 2008.

Moscow condemns the illegal actions of Pristina towards national minorities as well as its provoking refusal to cooperate with the international presence. Another important aspect – we would like to draw attention to the inadmissibility of the voluntary participation of Kosovo representatives in international forums under the UN.

Russia confirms its willingness to continue political efforts in cooperation to work out a legally correct and just solution to Kosovo problem and is going to take part in hearings in the International Court on December 1 on whether the unilateral independence proclamation of the region complies with international law.

Palestine’s internal situation

Palestine is going through a very difficult and decisive moment now. Overcoming the existing dissent is essential for the future of the peace process in the Middle East. Very much, if not everything, depends on whether the Palestinians are able to speak in one voice again.

So what I would say is – there should be less talk and more action on helping restore the unity of Palestine. This is what Russia does constantly, on day-to-day basis.

Let me just emphasize this: Moscow expresses hope that both Fatah and HAMAS, as well as all Palestinian organizations, concentrate on Palestine's national tasks and objectives, and take decisions towards fulfilling the expectations of the entire Palestinian nation, including the creation of an independent, sovereign, and viable state living in security and peace with Israel.

Afghani elections

Moscow paid attention to the results of the first round of the presidential election in Afghanistan, which were declared on October 20. We respect the decision of all the participants of the election process to hold a second voting round and hope that it will take place on the specified date of November 7 this year and will be organized, show a high level of attendance and reflect the will of the people in the results.

We hope that the newly elected, legitimate and capable president of Afghanistan will form an efficient government, considering the interests of the main participants of the Afghan political process. Undoubtedly this will give a new impetus to practical solution of the complicated problems that Afghanistan faces – such as, first and foremost, military and political stability and social-economic reconstruction and development of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Russia has confirmed, time and again, its willingness to continue to provide assistance for Afghanistan to reach those goals. More detailed information can be found on our web-site.

I would like to touch upon another issue related to Afghanistan. On October 14, helicopter Ðœi-26Т of the Russian aviation transport company “Vertical-T” participated in evacuation of the American helicopter СН-47 Chinook, which made an emergency landing 110 kilometers away from Kandagar. According to unofficial information, the helicopter was hit by Taliban gunfire.

In the conditions of thick dust, the crew managed to raise the helicopter body, which weighs 9 tonnes, which is the peak weight in such hot weather. Nonetheless, the helicopter has been successfully delivered to the base in Kandagar. The crew commander’s name is Chumakov, the instructor’s name is Likhachev.

Such an operation has been carried out by Russian specialists for the third time. You can find photo materials regarding this situation on our web-site. Let me repeat once again that the U.S. authorities, namely the president, expressed gratitude to the Russian president for this brave step by our experts working in Afghanistan.

On Iranian terror attacks

In the morning of October 18 this year, suicide bombers organized two terrorist attacks against Iranian military staff and elders of the local tribes in the Iranian province of Sistan-Beludzistan. As a result, over 20 people were killed and over 40 were wounded. Among the victims are several representatives of the High Command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), including the acting IRGC Commander-in-Chief of land forces, brigadier general Shushtari, and Corp Forces Commander in the Sistan-Beludzistan province, brigadier general Mohammadzade. The anti-government extremist group, Djundallah, which is has connections with Al Qaeda, has accepted responsibility for the terrorist attacks.

Moscow condemns the terrorist acts in Iran. What happened proves that international terrorism is becoming active which, in turn, requires all states to come together and increase anti-terrorist efforts. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev sent a telegram, expressing condolences to his Iranian colleague, Ahmadinezhad.

Political situation in Pakistan

I’ve been asked how we might comment of the political situation in Pakistan. The last two weeks have seen a number of bloody terrorist attacks in Islamabad and other Pakistani cities, including the attacks on the ground forces headquarters and other well-guarded facilities of the armed forces and educational institutions carried out by Pakistani extremists. The crimes are taking a toll in civilian deaths. Extremist organizations and groups have become more active and are trying to destabilize the country and to plunge it into turmoil. Apparently, the terrorist attacks are masterminded by the leaders of the Pakistan Taliban, which has close ties with Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda. They use both suicide bombers and commandos, unexpectedly hitting military and civilian objects.

Pakistani authorities have recently completed a military campaign against terrorists in Malakand, and on October 17 they went down to a massive offensive operation on the Pakistani Taliban forces deployed in South Waziristan, located close to the Afghan border. They made use of aviation, which made precision strikes at Taliban bases and army forces, which are trying to cut off ammunition supply channels. The number of internally displaced persons is now more than 100,000, but is likely to grow even more.

It looks like the confrontation between extremists and government forces may become even tougher. Pakistani authorities think that further strikes carried out by Taliban are possible and take additional steps to boost security, including preventive arrests of the members of extremist organizations to make new terrorist attacks less probable, which theoretically can be directed at nuclear infrastructure facilities, which arouses great concern.

South Stream plans

The question was how the Russian Foreign Ministry could comment on Turkey’s decision to start geologic exploration in the Black Sea economic region in light of the South Stream project implementation?

Answer: The recent decision taken by Turkey eliminates one of the stumbling blocks regarding the South Stream gas pipeline. It is part of the strategic agreement signed in November 2006 by the Italian company ENI and OJSC Gazprom. The project has been supported by Russia, Italy and a number of South European countries. After the Turkish government decided to issue permits to carry out geologic exploration in the exclusive economic zone in the Black Sea, we can start implementing the project. The South Stream pipeline will contribute to energy security of the EU countries and of a number of South European countries.

I was also asked to comment about the latest information regarding the case of Rimma Salonen. Sadly, this confusing story is far from being resolved as it’s getting more complicated due to some new developments. As is known, the ex-husband of Rimma Salonen – Paavo Salonen – initiated another case against her, now accusing her of slander. Rimma Salonen, in turn, declares her intent to challenge Paavo Salonen's custody rights for their son in court and also appeal against the latest verdict carried out by the court of Tampere.

We hope that, at the end of it all, the case will be given an objective and unbiased consideration by the Finnish juridical representatives, first and foremost – for the sake of the child’s interests. At the same time we think it’s important for the case to be free from any political pressure. In that regard, the recent statement of the Finnish Defense Minister, Jury Hyakyamies, in which he justifies the actions of getting the boy out of Russia, did attract our attention.

We would like to recall that a criminal case against Paavo Salonen was initiated in Russia and the investigation is currently underway. As for secretly transporting Anton and Paavo Salonen from Russia in the trunk of diplomatic car by the former staff of the Consulate General of Finland in St. Petersburg, the Russian Foreign Ministry has already given its assessment of this illegal act. The Finnish diplomat has also been declared persona non grata in Russia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry and our Consulate in Finland continue to closely follow the developments in this situation. If necessary, we are ready to provide relevant assistance to Rimma Salonen as a citizen of the Russian Federation. So far, Rimma Salonen has refused any additional legal help.

United Arab Emirates’ plane crash

And the last question is the plane crash in UAE. On October 21, 2009, at around 15:30, a Boeing 707 cargo airplane with 6 crew on board crashed in Sharja Emirate. According to recent information, there were no Russian citizens onboard. Airport security officers found no survivors at the crash site. According to information from Sharja authorities, all the victims are citizens of Sudan. The aircraft belonged to Sudanese airline Audan Air and was used to transport general cargo. The flight was bound for the city of Khartoum from the Sharja International Airport. The failure occurred while the plane was climbing. The plane crashed in a deserted area; no one was injured on the ground. The black box was recovered and delivered to a laboratory for deciphering. An investigation is underway.

Thank you for your attention, I am ready to answer your questions.

Questions from journalists

Q: Could you comment on the coming visit of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pyotr Poroshenko to Russia.

AN: Thank you for your question. Indeed, the visit of the new Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Pyotr Poroshenko, is scheduled for October 23, 2009 in Moscow. He is going to hold negotiations with the Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov. Regular talks of the foreign ministers took place on October 6-7 in Kharkov and point to a closer political dialogue between the two countries.

Sergey Lavrov and Pyotr Poroshenko will discuss key issues of Russian-Ukrainian relations. Specifically, they will talk about the topical issues of economic cooperation between the Russian-Ukrainian Intergovernmental Commission.

The talks will dwell on the Azov-Kerch settlement and the issues associated with the Black Sea fleet of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.

An important part of the negotiations is humanitarian cooperation. The ministers are planning to agree on a joint celebration of the commemorative dates in the history and cultural life of the two states.

The ministers will discuss international issues as well, including cooperation of Russia and Ukraine within the CIS and the Transdniester settlement and a number of other issues relevant to both countries.

Thank you.

Q: What is your assessment of the IAEA consultations on Iranian issue held on October 19 in Vienna?

AN: Thank you. I would say that these consultations to which you are referring still continue. Let’s wait for them to be over and for their official results to be announced. The fact that these consultations are taking place and a dialogue or multilateral talks, to be more precise, continues with the Iranian side provides evidence that questions that are of interest to the participants in this negotiating process can be solved in a civilized manner on the basis of mutual respect. Therefore, we will continue our line towards clarifying, as we maintain direct contacts with the Iranian partners, all problems that we deem necessary. We will draw relevant conclusions on the results of these conversations.

As for the consultations’ results, let’s wait for them to be over. Then we will be able to make concrete conclusions.

Q: Mr. Nesterenko, could you comment on a resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the Goldstone Commission Report which says that Israel violated human rights during an operation in the Gaza Strip? Thank you.

AN: Thank you very much for your question. I would somehow elaborate on this subject. The thing is that Mr. Alexander Saltanov, the Russian president’s special representative for the Middle East settlement, has visited Lebanon and Syria where he raised and discussed those issues. We set forth the Russian position, including the one which we took in considering the Goldstone Commission Report at the UN Human Rights Council which you’ve mentioned.

As for the report itself, our position is stated in detail on the Foreign Ministry website, which carries the Russian delegation’s statement regarding its motives for voting on results of considering the text of the aforesaid endorsed resolution. It also features a detailed address to this Session by Valery Loshchinin, Russia’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations office and other international organizations in Geneva, who also explained in detail our vision of this situation. I would like to emphasize that, in our view, it’s the UN Human Rights Council that remains an optimal base for considering the Goldstone Commission Report and implementing its recommendations. We are convinced that that the world community’s commitment that was reiterated in Geneva to observe human rights – this concerns both the Palestinians and the Israelis – must be accompanied by the doubling of efforts to revive the Middle East peace process and look for ways of resuming the Palestinian-Israeli negotiating contacts. The important thing in achieving this is precisely to avoid politicizing problems related to the human rights sphere.

As far as the tour of the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Alexander Saltanov, who is the Russian president’s representative for the Middle East settlement, to the region: to the aforesaid countries: Lebanon, Syria and Israel, it demonstrates our readiness to solve all the existing current problems with our Middle East partners.

Within the framework of Russia’s active efforts in the context of a Middle East settlement, he held numerous meetings with the leadership of those three countries, where issues linked to the present situation in the region were discussed in detail with account taken of all the factors.

A frank exchange of views on the state of the Middle East settlement took place, and steps were discussed that the regional parties, the Quartet, and the world community might take to rectify the situation. There was also a discussion of some pressing problems of bilateral relations. Reports for the media on Saltanov’s visits to the aforesaid countries can be found on the Foreign Ministry website. You can go there and get more details about our special representative’s visit. But his trip was organized along with the trips of other participants in the ‘quartet’ to this Middle East region and it reflects the desire of all parties to establish direct contacts and get the information which is necessary for searching for the best solution of urgent problems related to the Middle East settlement that are on the agenda today.
Thank you!

Q: I have two questions. The first one is about a program of the visit to Moscow of David Miliband. Will the talks dwell on resumption of work to facilitate the visa regime between Russia and Great Britain. And if possible, during his visit to Georgia the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, Alexander Vershbow, said: “We are trying to work out a plan to accelerate Georgia’s efforts to join NATO. What is Russia’s attitude to U.S. attempts to drag Georgia into NATO?

AN: Thank you. As for the first question about the forthcoming visit of British Foreign Secretary Mr. Miliband, we are waiting for him here in Moscow. An extensive agenda is being prepared for his talks with his Russian opposite number – Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Visa-related problems feature high on this agenda. We should note with great regret that, until now, Great Britain has been unwilling to resume negotiations on an agreement that will facilitate the visa regime. The process of getting a British visa is multi-layered and complicated. We proceed from the fact (this can be applied to all European and EU countries, and this issue, by the way, was discussed at a meeting of the Russia-EU Permanent Partnership Council this Monday) that communication among people would have no barriers. This is our common interest. Everybody is interested in creating favorable conditions for communication among people so we could visit countries located in our common European space without problems. That’s all on the first question.

We are interested in facilitating the visa regime so as we don’t have any barriers, I mean for peoples living in the European continent.

As for your second question, you know, such statements have been made. We took them into account. But we think that some remarks are not in line with the explanations of the position of the U.S. administration which we heard from Hillary Clinton during her recent visit to Moscow. We hope that what is said to us straight in the face – officially, at the negotiating table – will prevail in building relations with our American partners.

Thank you very much for your attention. Good bye!