Russia calls for dialogue on Syria – FM spokesperson

A photo released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows thousands of Syrians waving national flags and pictures of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad during a rally on June 16, 2011 (AFP Photo / HO / SANA)
Russia is calling for substantive dialogue to resolve the situation in Syria and strongly opposes any UNSC resolution, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich.

­Speaking at a regular ministry briefing on Thursday, Lukashevich reiterated Russia’s stance on the Syrian conflict, commented on Russia’s attitude to the removal of dozens of Taliban members from the UN blacklist, touched upon the investigation of the alleged rape of a Russian girl by her American foster father, as well as many other issues of international interest.

RT is providing the full text of the ministry’s briefing.

­FM Lavrov to hold talks with Belarus Foreign Minister Sergey Martynov

As part of regular inter-MFA dialogue, the Foreign Minister of Belarus, Sergey Martynov, will make a working visit to Moscow on June 19-20.

In talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the two will hold an in-depth exchange of views on pressing bilateral and international issues and are due to discuss the full spectrum of Russia-Belarus interaction within the UN in the run-up to the 66th General Assembly session. We look forward to further constructive cooperation at the UN venue on socioeconomic, humanitarian, environmental topics, security issues and crisis response. Considerable attention will be devoted to the interaction between the two countries in the OSCE and other international and regional organizations.

Discussions will also focus on the possibility of further expansion and deepening of collaboration within the framework of integration schemes in the CIS, in particular, within the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space with a view to forming a Eurasian Economic Union.

Our bilateral foreign policy cooperation is systemic and multi-faceted, both countries speaking with one voice or holding similar positions on major international and regional issues in universal and regional organizations. At the core of the mechanism of cooperation between our two foreign ministries lies the implementation of the two-year Program of Coordinated Foreign Policy Actions of the States Parties to the Treaty establishing the Union State. The current, eighth Program is designed for 2010-2011. We maintain active contacts between the relevant units of the foreign ministries, including those based on the annually signed Plan of Inter-MFA Consultations. One element of the coordination of joint efforts in the international arena is the holding of joint meetings of the foreign ministries’ collegiums. As expected, the ministers will discuss the progress of preparation of the next such meeting, scheduled for later this year.

­Foreign Minister Lavrov to hold a working meeting with the EU countries’ ambassadors and the head of the EU Delegation to Russia

There will be a traditional lunch of Sergey Lavrov with the ambassadors of the EU member countries and the head of the Delegation of the European Union to Russia on June 22 in Moscow as part of regular Russia-EU dialogue. Such meetings are held every six months after Russia-EU summits. We and the EU alternately act as hosts.

During these conversations the parties usually take stock of cooperation between Russia and the EU over the previous six months. In a businesslike and relaxed atmosphere they discuss topical issues in Russia-EU interaction, including the realization of the Partnership for Modernization initiative, the transition to visa-free travel for citizens of Russia and the EU, foreign policy interaction and cooperation in crisis management, as well as the most pressing topics on the international agenda.

­Concerning FM Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut in Moscow

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov will receive a farewell call by OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut on June 22. In the near future, the French diplomat completes his term as secretary general of the OSCE – his mandate expires on June 30.

The two will have a thorough exchange of views on the outcome of the Organization’s work in the last six years, the period of tenure of Perrin de Brichambaut as SG. All this time we worked in a businesslike and constructive manner with him. Based on the experience and broad contacts of Perrin de Brichambaut, the OSCE will examine prospects for its development, the interaction of its participating States in the context of fulfilling the task stated at the OSCE summit in Astana (1-2 December 2010) of forming a Security Community free of dividing lines, conflicts and zones with different levels of security.

­Situation in Syria

The situation remains tense in Syria, where in recent days, along with demonstrations, mostly peaceful, there were reports of armed actions by extremists, insurgents’ attempts to capture a number of settlements in the border areas, accompanied by murders of law enforcement officers and civilians, the smashing of government offices and the intimidation of the peaceful population. As a result of the actions of Syrian army units control over these areas has generally been restored.

We reaffirm the belief that the dialogue proposed by the Syrian authorities is the best way to resolve the situation. We consider that it should be substantive and ensure the further advancement of Syria along the path of profound changes, including a democratic renewal of the Syrian state and society, sustainable economic development, and respect for human rights and freedoms.

Anticipating interest in the Syrian story in the context of the ongoing discussions in New York on a new resolution, I want to draw your attention to the post-SCO Astana summit comment of Sergey Lavrov, published on the tapes of news agencies that Russia continues to oppose any UNSC resolution on Syria. Some time ago this principled stand was designated by the President of Russia and remains unchanged.

­In connection with court hearings for Michael Grismore

This topic has been actively present in broadcasts of Russian TV channels and had a wide resonance.

Currently, the US Court of Cherokee County, Georgia, is hearing the case of American citizen Michael Grismore accused of beating and sexually abusing his foster daughter, Russian Xenia Mae Blenford, nee Xenia Dmitrievna Antonova, born in 1994.

According to available information, Xenia was adopted in 2001 by US citizen Martha Annette Blenford, receiving a new name: Xenia Mae. In June 2009, the adoptive mother renounced the girl and she was adopted by Martha Annette Blenford’s sister Mary Blenford, and her husband Michael Grismore.

After the incident, Xenia had a course of rehabilitation. Currently she is in an orphanage of the state of Georgia under the supervision of social workers; she is being given medical and psychological assistance.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry and Embassy in the US keep the situation under close control. Our consular officials have visited the girl. She’s been assisted in obtaining a new Russian passport. Our diplomats also met with representatives of the law enforcement and judicial authorities of the state of Georgia, as well as her temporary guardians, lawyers and the investigators conducting her case and we are now in constant touch with the US State Department on this issue. The Russian side demands that US authorities conduct a thorough and complete investigation into the violent acts against Xenia and pass a just sentence on the guilty party.

This outrage once again confirms the need for urgent conclusion of an agreement with the United States on cooperation in the field of international adoption. The document is almost ready, and after a final reconciliation to be held during the next round of consultations in Moscow on 22 June this year, will shortly be submitted for signature.

­Russia's humanitarian aid to Côte d'Ivoire

Due to the dire humanitarian situation in the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire (RCI) after the armed clashes that have taken place there the Russian Federation intends to provide assistance to the people of that country. The first consignment of humanitarian cargo, including food, tents and blankets will be delivered to Abidjan next week by a special flight of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry.

We’re working through the question of providing the Ivorian population assistance by drawing on the Russian earmarked contribution to the UN World Food Program Fund. In addition, company Lukoil has declared the willingness to help supply essential goods.

Russian humanitarian aid is an act of goodwill and solidarity with the people of Côte d'Ivoire in a difficult post-conflict reconstruction of that country.

­Meeting of the Middle East Quartet

Several Russian media outlets are interested in our reaction to the initiative launched by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton to hold a meeting of the Middle East Quartet to discuss the plan of US President Barack Obama to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

I would like to recall that Russia in recent months and weeks had actively insisted on the urgency of a ministerial meeting of the Quartet of Middle East mediators given the stalemate in the Middle East peace process, which can only be overcome through joint efforts. I can also report that contacts are now under way among the Quartet participants with the object of agreeing a place and time to convene a Quartet ministerial meeting, to be held very soon.

­Mechanism of sanctions against Al-Qaida and the Taliban

We have been asked by Interfax news agency about Russia’s assessment of the consideration slated for today, June 16th, in the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee of the removal of 47 Taliban members from its blacklist, and also about how the Russian side looks at the prospect of creating separate terrorism blacklists for al-Qaida and the Taliban.

In the first place, taking into account the changing realities of counter-terrorism, in the course of the ongoing UN Security Council consultations on the reform of the sanctions mechanism against al-Qaida and the Taliban, imposed by UNSCR 1267 (1999), the Russian side has decided not to object to the basic proposal of our Western partners among the Council’s five permanent members – namely, the division of the existing sanctions regime into two independent mechanisms with the creation of new Security Council committees concerning al-Qaida and Afghanistan while maintaining the three main criteria for removal of Taliban leaders from the Afghan sanctions list. Let me remind you that it’s their renunciation of armed resistance, recognition of the Afghan constitution and breaking ties with al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.

We expect that this approach will contribute to the further buildup of efforts by the government of the IRA to implement the strategy of national reconciliation and to the accomplishment of the internationally agreed objectives of the peace process in Afghanistan.

In the second place, given the need for a balanced approach to Afghanistan's requests for the exclusion from the 1267 Committee’s sanctions list of a number of individuals contained in the “Taliban” section and for a detailed study of the possibility of their removal from the anti-Taliban sanctions regime, the 1267 Committee Chairman on June 15 circulated an official note to the committee members. In it, states are encouraged to postpone by one month (to July 15) the date of consideration of the Afghan requests, the deadline for decisions on which expires on June 16.

We are ready to support the proposal of the Chairman of the 1267 Committee.

In the ongoing study by the Russian side of the IRA requests for delisting, we will continue to be guided by the principle of individual approach and firmly oppose the dangerous attempts to exclude members of the Taliban by whole lists.

It is clear that today the anti-Taliban sanctions regime remains perhaps the only real lever of “pressure” in negotiations with the Taliban, whereas attempts to adjust it to suit the Taliban will not yield the expected dividends.

­From the answers to media questions:

­Question: On June 24, Kazan will host a meeting between the Presidents of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Considerable hopes are being pinned on it. Does Russia, which has initiated the talks, have any expectation of real progress? Will there be taken any practical steps – namely, withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied lands? Or will this meeting again amount to nothing more than “fussing” over the aggressor and occupier Armenia? Is Russia ready to force the aggressor to peace or facilitate this?

Answer: First of all, I would ask colleagues to watch their language. The language used is incorrect, and given the sensitivity of the process is totally unacceptable.

Indeed, there are many expectations in the context of the forthcoming summit in Kazan. In accordance with the agreement reached, the upcoming meeting is expected to consider the Draft Basic Principles for resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The wording of the document was elaborated in the meetings between the foreign ministers of the three countries held in Moscow in April and June this year. Those discussions managed to bring closer the sides’ positions on several key issues. The presidents will review these developments and take appropriate action.

At this stage I’ll confine myself to just this comment, taking into account the ongoing serious preparation of the meeting. The Russian side is interested in the achievement of progress and revitalization of the negotiation process. We find encouragement in the statement of the presidents of the Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, adopted in Deauville, which clearly indicates the task of reaching a concrete agreement.

Question: Is Russia engaged in dialogue with Azerbaijan on the Gabala radar station?

Answer: I would like to redirect you to the press service of Russia's Defense Ministry, which is engaged in this bilateral matter.

Question: How does the Foreign Ministry assess the situation in Yemen? Do you plan to evacuate the remaining Russians in the country? How many Russian citizens, according to your data, are still in Yemen?

Answer: We’ve repeatedly spoken about Russia’s assessments of the situation in the Republic of Yemen, they haven’t changed. As regards the second part of the question, on June 14 the Foreign Ministry website posted a detailed comment about the evacuation from Yemen of Russia’s citizens (most of them women and children) and those of CIS countries. The comment gives detailed information about how many people wished to leave the country.

If required, we will take additional measures to ensure the safety of citizens of Russia and CIS countries.

Question: According to Western media, all permanent members of the UN Security Council have endorsed the candidacy of Ban Ki-moon for a second term. Could you confirm this?

Answer: I can say that in the upcoming vote in the UN Security Council today Russia will support the candidacy of Ban Ki-moon for re-election as UN Secretary General. We’ll hold the same position in the course of next week's vote at the UN General Assembly as well.

Question:Is there some information about the upcoming visit to Russia by a delegation of the Syrian opposition? Do you have any information about the timing? Are any meetings scheduled at the Foreign Ministry of Russia?

Answer: I do not have such information. I will clarify the question.

Question:President Medvedev met in Astana with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. In discussing the Iranian nuclear program, the Russian side reaffirmed its commitment to solving this issue through political and diplomatic means. Do you have any further comments on this?

Answer: The Russian President’s website carries a detailed report on the meeting between the Presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan and Iran on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Astana.

Also I draw your attention to the comment by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, who said that the impasse in the negotiation process on the Iranian nuclear program is inescapably a concern, and this was why that meeting was initiated by the President of Russia. The voiced assessments seem exhaustive; I think it’s not worth repeating them.

I’ll add that the President of Iran made quite encouraging statements, particularly in the context of Iran taking additional steps to ensure greater transparency in contacts between Tehran and the IAEA.

Question: The border between Azerbaijan and Russia is delimited. But within Azerbaijan there remain two villages whose residents have Russian citizenship. Just literally today, local authorities demanded that they accept Azerbaijani citizenship, or leave the territory of the country. How can you comment?

Answer: We have repeatedly and publicly covered this issue. I am ready to routinely discuss with you about it.

Question:How can you comment on the dispersal of opposition demonstrations in Tbilisi?

Answer: At one of our recent briefings, we set out Russia's position on this issue. Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Ombudsman for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, also gave detailed comments on the subject. All materials are available on our website.

Question: What progress is expected in the Transnistrian conflict settlement?

Answer: If you're referring to the upcoming June 21 meeting in Moscow, we already commented on the subject at the previous briefing.

On June 14 the Foreign Ministry's website posted an additional release in connection with the unfriendly remarks that have appeared in some media on Russia’s position in the context of the Transnistrian conflict settlement. I suggest that you carefully review these materials.