Kiev’s role as intermediary between Moscow and Tbilisi “not necessary”

Commenting on Ukraine’s possible role in seeking dialogue between Russia and Georgia, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko said it’s not necessary to ask other countries to act as intermediaries.

At his weekly address to the media, Nesterenko spoke about the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit and its prospects, touched upon Hillary Clinton’s upcoming visit to Moscow, commented on Russia-US cooperation on nuclear arms reductions and the START follow-up treaty as well as other issues.

RT presents the full transcript of the address.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to the Foreign Ministry briefing where we will present our position on the most pressing issues which have been the focus of the international community since our last meeting.

I should probably start by saying that yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov concluded his visit to Ukraine. He had a meeting with Ukrainian Acting Foreign Minister Vladimir Khandogy, where they discussed both the bilateral agenda and a number of international problems. You will find a detailed account of the visit on our website.

CIS summit in Moldova

Today, on October 8, at this hour, a meeting of the CIS Foreign Ministers Council began in Chisinau. The Council will discuss some 20 various issues related to cooperation within the CIS.

The foreign ministers will consider the draft of the CIS leaders’ address to CIS nations and the whole world on the 65th anniversary, in 2010, of victory in World War II. They also plan to discuss the situation with veterans’ organizations in CIS countries.

The ministers will consider how to improve CIS security cooperation and common border control regulations.

To promote cooperation between various industries in CIS countries, the ministers will prepare a Joint Statement on CIS institutions for industry-to-industry cooperation.

As for humanitarian and social issues, the ministers will consider our cooperation in education. They are expected to adopt a CIS Cooperation Plan to Promote Distance Education and agree on additional measures to provide IT support for CIS countries’ education systems.

The ministers will pay serious attention to improving cooperation in migration policies. They will discuss a Comprehensive Plan of Top-Priority Measures to implement the principles set forth in the CIS Declaration on Coordinated Migration Policies.

As part of the ongoing interstate cooperation in emergency management, the ministers will consider a resolution to grant the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s Institute for Civil Defense and Emergency Management Research the status of a central organization for emergency management research in CIS countries.

The ministers are expected to go over CIS treaties and make some amendments, particularly those relating to Georgia’s withdrawal from the CIS.

Also, the ministers will coordinate some details regarding the upcoming meetings of the CIS Presidents Council and the CIS Prime Ministers Council, as well as make some organizational and personnel decisions.

As I just said, the CIS Presidents Council will convene in Chisinau tomorrow. There are about 16 points on the agenda. These have to do with various important aspects of Commonwealth activities and with improving the effectiveness of its institutions and interstate cooperation in key spheres.

The CIS leaders will discuss in detail how to deal with the consequences of the global financial and economic crisis. Also, they will pay great attention to the preparation for the 65th anniversary of our victory in the Great Patriotic War. The CIS leaders plan to sign an Address to the people of the CIS member-states and to the international community on the 65th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. They are expected to declare 2010 as Veterans Year and sign a Decree on Veterans’ Unions in the CIS member states which will emphasize the importance of the veterans movement and the need to promote it further.

As always, the CIS leaders will discuss CIS interstate cooperation, including the matters of strengthening border security, enhancing joint border control policies and humanitarian cooperation.

One section of the meeting will be dedicated to improving the work of Commonwealth institutions. The leaders will consider a Joint Statement on CIS Institutions for industry-to-industry cooperation. Its goal is to make these institutions more effective.

The CIS leaders are expected to adopt new by-laws for the Commonwealth’s main bodies: the Presidents Council, the Prime Ministers Council, the Foreign Ministers Council, and the CIS Economic Council.

Also, they will consider appointing Russia to chair the Commonwealth in 2010. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will present to his counterparts Russia’s concept of the 2010 chairmanship and an action plan to implement it.

As usual, they will discuss some personnel and organizational decisions.

The next CIS summit will take place in Moscow in December 2010. In addition, the CIS presidents will have an informal meeting in May.

Commonwealth’s prospects

A few words about CIS prospects. Today, CIS member-states are involved in serious and large-scale work to enhance the CIS and to make cooperation within the Commonwealth more effective.

This work is based on The Concept for the Further Development of the CIS, adopted at the CIS summit in Dushanbe in October 2007, and the corresponding action plan. In keeping with the action plan, the CIS summit in Bishkek in October 2008 made some important decisions on how to increase the effectiveness of CIS bodies and institutions. Principally, these included the Chairmanship Regulations, which strengthened the political and practical role of this institution, and the institution of National Coordinators for CIS affairs in member states.

Economic cooperation comes to the forefront today, especially given the financial and economic crisis. We believe it is crucial to implement the CIS Economic Development Strategy until 2020, which was approved at the CIS summit in Bishkek on October 10, 2008 and was adopted by the CIS Presidents Council in Chisinau on November 14, 2008. On May 22, 2009 in Astana, the CIS Prime Ministers Council adopted the Action Plan to implement the first stage of the Strategy (2009-2011). Also, there is the potential for developing our cooperation in the humanitarian and law enforcement spheres, which are also the Commonwealth’s priorities.

In keeping with The Concept for the Further Development of the CIS, we consistently strengthen the Commonwealth to realize its potential as a unique mechanism for multilateral industrial cooperation and political dialogue. Our goal is to turn the CIS into a full-fledged international regional organization, which would be able to effectively serve the interests of all its members.

Clinton to arrive in Moscow

I was asked to comment on the upcoming visit by the US Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton.

The visit will take place on October 12-14. It will be an important step in developing Russia-US cooperation according to the guidelines the presidents of the two countries as set forth during the Moscow summit in July.

As coordinators of the Russia-US Presidential Commission, the foreign ministers of the two countries will discuss the structure of the Commission and some practical details required for the Commission to operate effectively. They will draw up a schedule for the upcoming meetings and for the working groups.

The ministers will review the progress Russia and the US are making in their work on the START follow-up treaty and will identify priority areas for the negotiating teams.

Also, the ministers will discuss a number of international issues, including the matters of Afghan stabilization, a political and diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, intensification of the Middle East peace process and other matters of mutual interest.

Barents Euro-Arctic Council: Russia concludes chairmanship

On October 14 and 15, Murmansk will host the 12th ministerial session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, chaired by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The BEAC includes Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and the European Commission. The session will review the results of Russia’s chairmanship of the Council in 2007-2009 and consider the prospects for the further development of international cooperation in the Barents region.

In keeping with the principle of rotation, Sweden will now replace Russia as the Council chair for the next two years.

In his letter of greeting to the participants and guests of the Murmansk International Economic Forum, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out that the Arctic is part of our common home and that we firmly believe it will remain a zone of peace, stability and cooperation.

We are pleased that cooperation has become the predominant characteristic of the situation in the region. The credit for this should go to all Arctic nations, as well as key international and regional bodies, primarily the Arctic Council and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC).

Russia is now concluding its two-year chairmanship of the BEAC, the top priority of which was to ensure the stability of social and economic development in the Barents region, coupled with strict adherence to environmental requirements and support for the indigenous ethnic groups of the North.

Despite the current difficulties in the world economy, the Russian minister’s letter says we managed to carry out almost everything Russia, as the Council chair, proposed to do for the people living in those austere territories.

The Murmansk Economic Forum is Russia’s contribution to economic and other kinds of cooperation in the Barents region and in the Arctic in general.

A more detailed discussion of the region’s problems will take place at the session I just mentioned.

Lavrov to meet Miliband

I was asked about the upcoming visit of the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband.

I can confirm that, in keeping with an earlier agreement, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband will come on a working visit to Moscow in early November on the invitation of his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. During the talks, the ministers will discuss the entire spectrum of Russia-UK relations and exchange views on a wide range of international issues.

So, we do expect the British Foreign Secretary in Moscow in early November.

Baghdad talks

Yesterday, October 7, Aleksey Saltanov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and the Russian President’s special envoy for the Middle East, visited Baghdad. He was received by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Mr. Saltanov brought Mr. Maliki a letter from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The letter spoke of the need to further develop Russian-Iraqi relations and to strengthen economic and other kinds of bilateral ties.

Also, Mr. Saltanov had a meeting with the Iraqi Foreign Minister, the Chairman of the Iraqi section of the Russian-Iraqi Intergovernmental Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation, Mr. Hoshyar Zebari.

The diplomats discussed ways to intensify bilateral ties, key problems of the Iraqi settlement, and the situation in the region.

Russia-US nuke reduction

I was asked to comment on the statements US Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow made recently in an interview with the Interfax news agency, particularly those about the reduction of tactical nuclear arms, the joint use of Russian radars in Gabala and Armavir as part of missile defense cooperation, and others.

Several years ago, Russia offered the US to share data from the early warning radars in Gabala and Armavir to monitor missile launches in southern regions.

We proceed from an idea that such information can help carry out joint analysis of the modern missile challenges which, as is known, is a key element of the Russian approach to international co-operation in missile defense. We are certain that before taking military-and-technical steps, we should objectively assess the situation and co-ordinate the sequence of moves, beginning with political-and-diplomatic methods as the Russian and US presidents agreed on at the Summit in Moscow on July 6 this year. We are determined to organize work with our American partners exactly in this vein.

As for tactical nuclear weapons, we share Vershbow’s stance that it’s too early to start discussion of this issue at this stage. It would be logical to complete the work on the START follow-up treaty first and start working on it. Then, depending on its effect, it would be possible to consider further extension of the dialogue towards tactical nuclear weapons.

Vershbow also touched on the subject of a new agreement on the START follow-up treaty. We do not object to the emphasis in the forthcoming talks to be placed on reducing strategic arms. However, as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has more than once emphasized, nuclear arms do not exist on their own, but in association with missile defense. Therefore, when it’s a question of reducing strategic arms we should be aware of how this is correlated to missile defense. The main task for the START follow-up treaty shall be the strengthening of security of the member states as well as raising stability and predictability in relations between them. It does not seem possible to do that without taking into account this association.

Turkey-Armenia relations: step in the right direction

Now concerning the question of Armenian-Turkish relations. We’ve been asked to comment on the question about the forthcoming signing of related documents in Zurich scheduled for October 10.

The signing of the documents determines the actions of the parties towards a comprehensive normalization of the intergovernmental relations between Armenia and Turkey. It means the first and very important step in the right direction. It is an appropriate and long-expected process.

The establishment of good-neighborly relations between Armenia and Turkey will objectively help to ease the tensions and strengthen peace and security in Transcaucasia.

Improved Armenian-Turkish relations will invigorate bilateral trade contacts and will positively affect the economies of the two countries.

IAEA head’s visit to Tehran

The Russian Foreign Ministry has been asked how it can evaluate the results of the IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei’s visit to Tehran in the context of the further development of the situation around the Iranian nuclear program.

Our stance has been presented in the commentary published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website. Among other things, it says that ElBaradei visited Tehran on 3-4 October and coordinated an inspection scheduled for October 25 of a new uranium-enrichment facility near the town of Qom, of which Tehran notified the IAEA on September 21 this year.

We view this as a practical implementation by Tehran of the agreements about a need for close cooperation between Iran and the IAEA. For more details, please consult our ministry’s website.

North Korea issue

Now a few words about the statement of October 5 by Pyongyang about its readiness to resume multilateral-format talks aimed at denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula after recent bilateral talks between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the USA.

I can say that we are pleased to hear North Korean leader, Mr. Kim Chong-il’s statement about his readiness in principle for multilateral talks on the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, which we view as a way to get things moving after too long a pause in the process of its settlement.

We also drew attention to the fact that this agreement was made due to real progress achieved by direct contact with Washington. We would like to note in this connection that both the USA and North Korea have their own bilateral agenda and it’s their sovereign right to consider it.

As far as the nuclear subject is concerned, we have more than once confirmed that Russia’s attitude to discussing it in any format is positive, when it’s understood they do not substitute the Six-party talks but, on the contrary, help create conditions to resume them.

We proceed from the significance of the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula that goes beyond regional, and becomes bilateral, as it is of substantial significance in the context of providing efficiency to the non-proliferation regime. Regarding this, the search for its settlement should be led on a multilateral basis and according to Non-Proliferation Treaty standards.

We believe the six-party talks format to be optimal since it takes into account the interests and concerns of all the states directly concerned by the nuclear missile program of the DPRK.

We do hope that the USA and DPRK will find ways to pass the bilateral stage without procrastination, which will let them resume the talks in the six-party format.

'Arctic Sea' vessel situation

Now, concerning the latest reports we have received at the Russian Foreign Ministry about the situation surrounding the Arctic Sea [ship]. Earlier reports say that the Criminal Prosecution Committee with the Prosecutor-General’s Office, in co-ordination with representatives from the flag state authorities, that’s the police and Maritime Administration of Malta, have concluded the investigation on board the ship at anchorage not far from the town of Las Palmas, the Canary Islands, Spain.

Proceeding from the need to resolve the incident as soon as possible and acting in full compliance with the norms of international maritime law and in the interests of the parties concerned, including the crew of the dry-cargo ship and its owner, the Russian party was ready to tow the ship on its own to the above-mentioned port so as to pass it over to the control of the flag state authorities, with the help of the Spanish authorities, for further returning it to the owner for him to resume normal commercial operations. At the same time though, both the Spanish and Maltese sides had put forward a number of terms, mostly technical, the implementation of which in the current extraordinary situation with the ship, understandable for all, would be unrealistic.

Let me remind you that the recipient of the Arctic Sea cargo – timber – is a customer from Algeria. So we proposed to tow the vessel, again, on our own, to the port of Béjaïa to transfer it to the ship owner and the cargo to the recipient and, again, were refused by Algerian authorities to enter the port.

I can’t but note that moves and requests of the Russian side were dictated by the conditions of the really complicated situation with the Arctic Sea. This way or another, the incident had affected many parties. In our view, it only confirms the need to support the spirit of efficient multi-lateral co-operation and partnership in the struggle against piracy, a phenomenon dangerous for all. This is what related decisions of the United Nations and other competent international agencies appeal to the world community about.

At the moment the Arctic Sea, escorted by a Russian rescue ship and a Russian navy patrol ship, is anchored in the open sea east of Gibraltar.

The Russian side keeps in touch with all the parties concerned and is counting on the settlement of the incident with the Arctic Sea based on real co-operation and mutual understanding as soon as possible.

We’ll be informing you about further developments around the Arctic Sea.

'Magdalena' cargo ship

The Magdalena arrived and anchored at the cargo port of Dubai on 28 August, also to have the ship repaired after a turbine had malfunctioned. Upon arrival, officials from the Consulate-General contacted the port authorities in Dubai and the ship agent at the port and agreed that supplies of drinking water, food and fuel would be urgently delivered to the ship.

On September 7, technical experts from the ship owning company BJR Shipping arrived to assess the technical state of the vessel. On the same day, a representative from the Russian Consulate-General also met the crew, whose main demand was that the wage arrears they estimated at $250,000 for four months should be urgently paid. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the ship owner refuses direct contact with the crew and does not respond to the demand to pay the arrears. The announcement about a hunger strike was made with the purpose to attract attention from the media to the current plight of the Magdalena and urge its owner to meet the lawful demands of the crew, the captain of the ship told the Consul General.

The Russian Consulate-General is in constant contact with the ship’s captain and the authorities of the Port of Dubai.

Kiev to become intermediary?

Finally for part one of this briefing, I was asked to comment on the following. Georgian Foreign Minister, Vashadze said Ukraine would be ready to seek a dialogue between Russia and Georgia, before the Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to Ukraine, as I mentioned minutes ago.

I would like to draw your attention to what Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a news conference in Kharkov yesterday – that Georgia had not asked this question. It’s hard to comment on some media reports. Instead, we need first-hand information. The channels are available. As soon we receive this information, we’ll consider it and comment on it.
Thank you for your attention. I am ready to answer your possible questions.

Questions from reporters

Q: This week marks eight years since the war in Afghanistan began. What are the prospects for settling this question and what role can Russia play in it? Thank you.

A: Thank you for your question. It appears very important to me. The topic of Afghanistan is a priority of the international agenda during talks of our foreign minister with his counterparts abroad. Indeed, eight years ago the USA and its allies started an operation called Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Taliban, who seemed to suffer a crushing defeat then have managed to regroup their forces and are operating in a considerable territory of the country, including its northern areas, believed to have been relatively calm earlier. The extremists’ activity is based on the Afghan narcotic drugs industry that covers over 90% of the world supply of opium.

Recent years have shown that a military option alone in achieving a long-term stabilization of the military-and-political situation in Afghanistan is impossible. A comprehensive approach is required of combined measures, ranging from eliminating irreconcilable extremists; attracting rank-and-file members of Al-Qaeda to the side of the constituted authorities and who have recognized the Afghanistan Constitution and cut their ties with Al-Qaeda to raising the living standards of the local population; eradicating narcotic-drugs-related crime and securing a national consensus based on co-operation between the government and the legal opposition. It’s crucial to render comprehensive assistance to the Afghan authorities’ attempts to strengthen security all over the country and solve crucial tasks of the state development.

Russia is not going to send its servicemen to take part in combat action in Afghanistan. At the same time we continue helping the International Security Assistance Force. Among other things, our country granted the USA the right for surface and airborne transit of equipment, including military equipment, and personnel for the needs of the US troops in Afghanistan. Besides, a logistic liaison is established with Germany, France and Spain.

The ethnic Afghan servicemen, including the military and anti-drug personnel, are professionally trained in our country for free. In August last year, Russia and Germany donated two Mi-8 helicopters with medical-and-evacuation kits to the Afghanistan Interior Ministry, having financed it equally.

Russia provides assistance to Afghanistan in developing higher education, including the work of restoring and re-equipping the Kabul Polytechnic. Our country has written off over ten billion dollars of Afghanistan’s debt and granted 40 billion dollars in humanitarian aid. Russian specialists help restoring the Naglu Hydropower Station Dam, hoping to provide up to 50 % of Kabul’s need of electricity.

Q: What are the prospects of solving the issue around Guinea’s claim to nationalize the Frigiya bauxite-aluminum production facility owned by RUSAL company?

A: Your question is very timely. As you know, a delegation from the Republic of Guinea was on a visit to Moscow recently. It was headed by the republic’s Minister for Cooperation and African Integration, and the visit’s agenda included the issue of nationalization of the bauxite-alumunium production facility Frigiya, owned by the Russian company RUSAL.

In this regard I can say that the Russian Federation and Guinea have a long-term relationship in multiple spheres; but nowadays maintaining and developing this relationship has grown more difficult due to recent events in Guinea and Guinea’s authorities’ claims made in regard to the RUSAL assets located in this country. Therefore both parties, being interested in maintaining cooperation, have agreed to hold consultations on the inter-governmental level in order to define the prospects and mode of further economic interactions between Russia and Guinea. Today we are agreeing to the deadlines and the appropriate level of launching this dialogue. Therefore our best hope is that these talks will help us arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, and that for our part we’ll be able to secure the interests of the Russian company in question.

Q: Could you please comment on the statements made in regard to the Goldstone mission report?

A: Your question is also very timely. As far as I understand, this issue is the focus of attention in the majority of Arab countries. Obviously, it was propelled by the UN Security Council consultations held yesterday in New York at the request of the Libyan delegation to discuss the proposal to hold an official Security Council session on the Goldstone mission report.

As far as we know, a decision has been made to hold open debates on the Middle East issues on October 14, which will give all interested parties an opportunity to talk about this report as well.
As we see it, this will allow it to continue works aimed at the speediest resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks, of which Russia is an active participant, while keeping the international community’s attention firmly focused on the necessity to address the extremely hard social and humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories including the Gaza strip.

This report spawns a multitude of comments around it, if I may say so. But we hope that the unbiased assessment of the situation in the focus of this report will prevail, and that this will help all the involved parties identify the most efficient and acceptable solutions for all issues under discussion.

Q: Could we please get back to the Afghan topic again. NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has urged Russia to co-operate more in this area and, among other things, to supply Afghanistan with weapons and help in training Afghan military forces. Could you comment on this? And my second question is on the missile defense issue. It has been reported that Russian-American missile defense consultations will be held soon. Could you please comment as to when, where and on what level they will be held? Thank you.

A: As for your first question, I can only repeat what I said earlier. We are actively cooperating with Afghanistan in addressing multiple issues, in particular those related to maintaining internal security in the country, and the most pressing issues they are facing, and in implementation of state power throughout the country’s territory. Therefore there is not much I can add to what has been said in reply to your first question.

As for the second part of your question, the consultations you’ve mentioned will be held in Moscow. Our delegation or group of experts will be headed by Mr. Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister, and as for the USA – Ellen Tauscher, US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs. The Consultations will be held on the eve of Hillary Clinton’s visit to Moscow. So it’s probable that the first results of our dialogue on the partners’ terms with the USA on the above mentioned problem will be reported to both Russian and American Foreign Ministers, when they meet during the plenary session, or plenary negotiations which will take part in Moscow on the 13th of October. We are hopeful that the Consultations will be constructive and dynamic.

The leaders of the two states have agreed to discuss these issues to reach mutually acceptable agreements. Let’s wish the experts success.

Q: Last week a ship with a Russian crewed was detained in Panama. What’s the situation at present? What are the measures the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation is taking?

The second question. In Tajikistan, the law on the National language came into force. And now the Russian language has lost its status of an official language. Would you comment on that, please? Also, please comment on the Ukrainian government’s provision according to which it’s prohibited to speak Russian in Ukrainian schools.

A: So there are three questions. Let’s start with the first one. About our crew on board the ‘Piruit’ ship. Our Embassy in Panama, as well as in any similar situations with captured crews, makes its best effort to help resolve the situation with the crew of the ‘Piruit’ ship.

It’s important to note that the captain of the dry-cargo freighter addressed the Embassy only after a considerable time from the moment of the incident that was on September 23, when the crew’s state was close to critical.

The embassy passed on food supplies to the Russian crew. The food was received in line with the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Now the issue of humanitarian aid in line with Panama’s marine administration is being discussed. Negotiations are held with the company ‘Seaside Marine Agency’ which provided the ship with all services, on the migration formalities and permits for the crew to go ashore.

We cooperate with the Panamanian lawyer who is conducting the case on the salary debt recovery for the Russian crew from the operator-company. The bill will include the price for the tickets to bring the crew members to Russia, the cost of the food and medical care. It’s highly probable that the ship will be put up for auction, according to the information we have.

According to the captain’s report, restoring the working capacities of the ship is related to certain technical and financial difficulties, such as the delivery of electric energy, control of the ship’s connection joints and devices and, if necessary, required repairs, replacement of the crew, the vessel’s classification by the flag state, etc.. The captain plans to address the General Prosecutor’s office of the Russian Federation.

The issue remains under control of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation and the Embassy of Russia in Panama.

As for the second question, the Foreign Ministry is closely following the situation in Tajikistan, where measures were taken regarding the use of the Russian language in the country.

On October 7, the law ‘On the state language of the Republic of Tajikistan’ came into force. According to the new law, all legal acts will be drafted and written in the Tajik language. It is to become the language of records management in the state institutions, it is to be used in the army, in the education system, in the spheres of science and culture, in the media, etc.

From the moment of publication and up to now the new law is being discussed by the republic’s society and media and in neighboring states. The new law ‘On the state language’ has replaced the law ‘On the language’ adopted 20 years ago, according to which the Russian language had the status of an international communication language. The same status is assigned to the Russian language in the country’s Constitution. The changes will influence, first of all, the national minorities of the republic, for whom the Russian language is the main language of communication. First of all, it’s the Uzbek expatriate community, which constitutes about one-fifth of the country’s population.

However, Mr. Emomali Rahmon, the President of the Republic of Tajikistan at the recent meeting with Mr. Sergey Stepashin, the Head of the Account Chamber of the Russian Federation, assured that they are not going to violate the Constitution of the Republic and to review the status of the Russian language, which is widely used in Tajik society. Moreover, as the Tajik leader said, he supports development of teaching Russian in schools.

For our part, we count on preserving the position of the Russian language in the Republic of Tajikistan, and we will closely follow the development of the situation in the framework of implementation of the law.

As for the third part of your question, I can say that we are aware this information, however it requires being studied in great detail. And after we do so, we will be able to comment on it. Thank you.

Q: Let us return to the first question about Ukraine’s role of intermediary in stabilizing Russia-Georgia relations. Despite the fact that Georgia did not address Russia with such a suggestion, will you comment on the Foreign Ministry’s position towards Ukraine as an intermediary? Do we need intermediaries to stabilize Russia-Georgia relations?

I have a second question. According to you, why did the President of Russia refuse to meet the President of Ukraine in Chisinau? Thank you.

A: To your first question I can say that the decision to break diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia was made by Mikhail Saakashvili – the current leader of Georgia. It was not our choice. We did not suggest to our Georgian colleagues such an outcome. But Tbilisi made this decision, and it was later implemented by Georgia. We have found a way of communication through our Swiss partners. As for intermediaries, if we have a way of indirect communication through our partners, then in case of emergency we’ll be able to pass on the information with their help. In this case I do not find it necessary to ask other countries to act as a third party and intermediary. I would not go further into it.

As for your second question, President Medvedev did not reject any meetings. At present, the Council of Foreign Ministers of the CIS member-states is taking place, where both the Russian Foreign Minister and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister participate. As I’ve mentioned at the beginning of the briefing, in Kharkov a large-scale meeting between them was held on a wide range of issues including bilateral relations, and urgent issues on the international agenda. Later they participated in a meeting between heads of regions which have a common border along the Russia-Ukraine border. Tomorrow the Council of Heads of States will take place in Chisinau, where Dmitry Medvedev, the President of the Russian Federation, and Mr. Yushchenko, the President of Ukraine will participate. The meetings will be held in a similar format in the framework of the CIS to discuss the issues on the agenda.

Q: Today Mr. Lavrov is meeting his new colleague from Moldova and, accordingly, the next day Mr. Medvedev will meet Mr. Ghimpu. However, recently the authorities of Transdniester declared that they are ready to join the Russian Federation. Still, Mr. Ghimpu said that he is going to demand withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from the region. What are the expectations of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation from the upcoming meeting between the Moldavian and Russian governments? Thank you.

A: This meeting is going to be very important. It’s a bit early to speak about expectations, because the first meeting is to afford an opportunity to listen to viewpoints of both sides and to comment on them later. It’s quite possible that the comments will be given openly to the media present at the conference in Chisinau. We are hopeful that the situation in Moldova will be stabilized – everything will be put in its place – and the Republic will continue developing in a normal way.

As for individual statements – one of which you quoted in your question – they are really quite numerous in the media. But let’s wait for the result of the official meetings. Only then we’ll be able to discuss the issues you’ve mentioned. Thank you.

Q: As we know, Vladimir Putin is due to pay an official visit to China next week. What does Russia expect from this visit? What’s Russia’s viewpoint on development of the current situation and the prospects of Russia-China relations?

And my second question. What important issues are going to be discussed during the meeting? What measures are Russia going to offer to fill in the temporary gaps in the economic cooperation between our countries amidst the economic crisis? Thank you.

A: Thank you for your question. I cannot comment on the Prime Minister’s visit for obvious reasons. What I can say is that we are preparing for it. You know that we are viewing the People’s Republic of China as our kind neighbor, and our strategic partner. It’s a country we respect. Russia and China are developing a variety of mutual interests. We see this visit as another stimulus for deepening our cooperation in different spheres. We are going to reach more significant agreements which will enable us to move on resolving the issues on the agenda.

I would like to say once again, we are actively preparing for the visit and we are hopeful that this visit will become an important benchmark in development of Russia-China relations.

Thank you for attention.

See you next week.