Use of force on the Korean Peninsula is unacceptable – FM spokesman

The Korean sides should exercise restraint, responsibility and avoid escalation of tension in the region, said the deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department.

­Speaking at a regular media briefing on December 17, Aleksey Sazonov touched on the outcome of the Cancun Forum on climate change, elections for the Assembly of Kosovo, the situation surrounding the arrest in Britain of Russian citizen Ekaterina Zatuliveter and many other issues.

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

Events involving Russian President Medvedev

Among the most significant foreign policy events of the last few days of direct relevance to our country, we would, first of all, identify those attended by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Last week, on December 6-8, the President’s very productive visits to Poland and Belgium took place. A Russia-European Union summit was also held in Brussels. Detailed information about these events are posted on the official website of the President of Russia.

On December 9, in Moscow, the Russian President discussed with the partners in the Customs Union and EurAsEC the issues of economic integration, including progress towards the Single Economic Space.

On December 10 the President attended a Collective Security Council meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Since the Council’s last meeting in 2009, Russia, as the chairing country, focused on establishing a CSTO crisis response mechanism. A landmark event was the creation of a 20,000-strong Collective Operational Response Force. The joint war games, Cooperation 2009 in Kazakhstan and Cooperation 2010 in Russia, have shown that it already has good potential and represents a regional force capable of neutralizing potential threats.

The formation of a CSTO peacekeeping force of 3,500 men is nearing completion, and preparations are underway to conduct peacekeeping operations. Military-technical cooperation is being elevated to a new level. The discussion ended with the signing of a whole array of documents. The Chairmanship of the Collective Security Council has passed to Belarus.

On December 10 the President attended a meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of State. Recall that on Jan. 1, 2010 Russia took over the chairmanship of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Submitted to the Heads of State were 17 diverse questions, including discussion of the outcome of the recent OSCE summit in Astana, the preparation of a Free Trade Area Treaty, a strategy for international youth cooperation and a blueprint for military cooperation among the CIS countries, the outcome of the events held to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Victory and a number of others.

Discussions confirmed the unique nature of the Commonwealth as a platform for political dialogue.

The very preliminary expert analysis of the outcome of our chairmanship, its evaluations on the part of the CIS partners as well as the course and results of the Moscow summit, have shown that the multifaceted cooperation under CIS auspices has considerably intensified this year. Our economic and humanitarian initiatives have proven highly relevant, as has the collaboration between law enforcement agencies and in many other areas.

Russia intends to continue the work to improve the efficiency of the CIS in 2011, the anniversary year for it, when the CIS will turn 20 years old. The chairmanship of the Organization passed from Russia to Tajikistan.

On December 19-22, President Valdis Zalters of Latvia will make an official visit to Moscow, and on December 20-22 Russian President Medvedev will travel to India for an official visit.

Results of the Year of France in Russia and the Year of Russia in France

On December 8, the Year of Russia in France and the Year of France in Russia ended with a joint concert of Russian and French artists on the Bolshoi Theatre stage in Moscow.

A total of 350 events took place in France and Russia, which were, on the Russian side, financed from the state budget, and on the French side from the budgets of the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs and with the help of patrons. In addition, about 3,000 more events were initiated by regions, municipalities, and friendship societies.

It is difficult to name the exact number of visitors, but, according to preliminary data, the events in France drew about 2.5 million people and those in Russia approximately as many, totaling about five million people in all.

The Year of Russia and France has led to the emergence of new ideas for joint projects: the seasons of language, literature and culture of Russia and France in 2012, the project of a French-Russian Academy of Motion Picture Arts and the organization of a permanent forum for translators of Russian literature in France and of French literature in Russia.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Foreign Minister of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Pak Ui Chun

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on December 13. More detailed information is available at the Russian Foreign Ministry website.

Working Visit to Russia by Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic

Talks took place on December 15 between Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Vuk Jeremic, who is in Moscow for a working visit.

They commended the level and quality of interaction between Russia and Serbia, reiterated a mutual desire to build a strategic partnership between our two countries, underscored the interest in expanding trade, economic, scientific, technical and humanitarian cooperation, and reviewed the progress of implementation of the key economic projects, particularly in the oil and gas industry.

An in-depth exchange of views took place on the situation of the Kosovo settlement. The Russian side accentuated its commitment to a principled line on preserving a leading role for the UN and its Security Council in this process based on UNSCR 1244 and achieving a compromise solution through negotiations.

Lavrov and Jeremic signed a plan of ministerial consultations for 2011-2012.

On the outcome of the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 6th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (KP)

The 16th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 6th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (KP) took place on 29 Nov. – 10 Dec. in Cancun, Mexico.

The Forum was attended by the heads of state and government of several countries, the UN Secretary General, leaders of international organizations of the UN system and representatives of major international financial organizations, including the World Bank.

The Russian delegation was headed by Presidential Aide and Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change Alexander Bedritsky.

The Cancun Forum succeeded in solving the key conceptual problem of reaching consensus on the parameters and goals of the further negotiation process based on the December 9 Copenhagen Accord. Its main achievement is the approval of a package solution which, in the long run, opens up possibilities for arriving at a single comprehensive agreement. As part of the package, the interests of the countries with economies in transition were specified, along with preserving the favorable conditions for the CIS countries in carrying out project activities in the context of the KP market mechanisms. An important outcome of the Forum was the adoption of decisions on financial assistance to developing countries for their implementation of measures to combat global climate change, on the commencement of the process of technology transfer and the adaptation, reporting and verification of commitments, i.e., the whole range of issues related to the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Russian delegation focused on achieving a broad consensus aimed at making the new climate regime comprehensive in nature and universal in the lineup of participants. These were validated in the targets outlined in the speeches of the Russian President at last year's UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, which found reflection in its outcome document – the Copenhagen Accord. In particular, the range of possible emission reductions announced by Russia remains unchanged: between 15% and 25% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

The Russian delegation consistently noted the futility of a mechanistic extension of the Kyoto Protocol for the second commitment period in its current form because of its ineffectiveness – the commitments of developed countries as envisioned by the present KP format cover only about 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, it is impossible to achieve the internationally agreed goal: to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. In this connection the Russian side reiterated that on such a truncated basis Russia is not ready to participate in the second commitment period of the KP.

Russia aims to continue to actively participate in these efforts in a spirit of transparency, respect for the interests of all countries, collective responsibility and compromise.

Outcome of the work of the ITFY

We were asked: “How does the Russian Foreign Ministry assess the work of the ITFY in the context of the expiration of the Tribunal’s mandate in 2010? What is the further fate of this entity?”

It is well known that Russia, as well as many other states, is not satisfied with the direction and pace of the work of the ITFY. The activities of the Tribunal have been consistently and convincingly criticized by us both in contacts with ITFY functionaries and at numerous international venues, including the UN rostrum. It was at the insistence of our country that back in 2003 the UN Security Council, by resolution 1503, adopted the Tribunal's completion strategy. In particular, it provides that the Tribunal should complete all its judicial work by the end of 2010. However, the Tribunal is still handling a dozen and a half cases which require consideration in accordance with international standards of criminal justice, including the most complete account of the rights of the accused.

As to the further fate of the ITFY, the UN Security Council is currently arriving at the final stage of approval of a terse, cost-effective and time-bound mandate for the residual mechanism, which is designed to resolve the remaining procedural and technical matters: witness protection, possible case reviews and acquittals on the basis of newly-discovered evidence, consideration for parole and clemency, file management, etc.

We intend to continue to work constructively towards an expeditious solution of problems associated with the ITFY.

Current situation on the Korean Peninsula

Following the latest dangerous developments on the Korean peninsula, the Russia MFA continues a series of consultations with foreign partners to discuss possible ways of overcoming the current difficult situation.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin held consultations at the Ministry with the head of Japan’s delegation to the Six-Party Talks, Akitaka Saiki, on December 9.

On December 13, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with DPRK Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun.

Consultations were held on December 15 between Deputy Minister Borodavkin and the Republic of Korea’s chief delegate to the Six Party Talks, Wi Sung-lac.

On December 13-17, Ambassador at Large Grigory Logvinov held consultations in Washington with the American side on the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem and the situation in the region.

Consultations will continue.

In relation to the elections for the Assembly of Kosovo, Republic of Serbia

The Russian Foreign Ministry was asked: “How do you assess the recent Kosovo Assembly elections?”

We do not consider the 12 December 2010 elections for the Kosovo Assembly legitimate, since they were organized by the authorities of the self-proclaimed “Republic of Kosovo.” Significantly, international monitoring entities initially shied away from certification of the elections.

It is indicative that the participation of the province’s Serb community in them was limited. In the north of Kosovo Serbs boycotted them altogether.

The election “success” of extremely radical Kosovo Albanian parties, among them the Self-Determination movement advocating for the establishment of a “Greater Albania” is particularly worrying.

Observers have noted serious voting irregularities: fraudulent voter lists, the use of forged ballots, multiple voting. All this only confirms the incapacity of the quasi-state of Kosovo.

Outcome of the 14th round of Geneva Discussions on Security and Stability in Transcaucasia

The fourteenth meeting in the framework of international discussions on security and stability in Transcaucasia has taken place in Geneva. Participating on an equal footing in them are the delegations of the Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia, the Russian Federation, the United States, the Republic of South Ossetia, as well as representatives of the EU, UN and OSCE. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs/State Secretary Grigory Karasin led the Russian delegation.

The central issue this time was the subject of nonuse of force in Transcaucasia. The Georgian president’s statement on Nov. 23 and those by the presidents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Dec. 6 renouncing the use of force had tended to create a new atmosphere that is conducive to the strengthening of stability in the region. Further progress in this crucial area for the security of all three states was prevented by the unconstructive stance of the representatives of Georgia, who virtually ignored their neighbors’ statements. This has once again shown the unwillingness of Tbilisi to develop respectful neighborly relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

During the round the sides positively evaluated the work of the joint incident prevention and response mechanisms in the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian border areas. It was noted that they are an important tool for information exchange and stabilization in the border zones. The parties stated that, despite the incidents still occurring, the overall situation in the region remains stable and is characterized by positive dynamics, particularly in the sphere of border crossings by local residents.

In 2010, 385,000 people and 20,000 vehicles crossed the Georgian-Abkhaz border, and 251,000 people and 44,000 vehicles the Georgian-South Ossetian border. This indicates the absence of serious problems in this area.

Panel members expressed concern over the surfacing evidence of the existence of special camps in Georgia for persons kidnapped or arrested by Georgian special services.

The working group on security also held an exchange of views on the elaboration and practical application of possible confidence-building measures. Agreement was reached to continue work in this sector during the next meetings in Geneva.

Within the framework of the humanitarian group, participants discussed the urgent task of helping improve the situation of refugees and displaced persons from regional conflicts since 1989. The Abkhaz side submitted concrete proposals for the registration and verification of refugees, and the South Ossetian delegation expressed readiness to organize the return of refugees to the Leningorsk district of South Ossetia. All participants confirmed their intention to work constructively with UNHCR on these questions. OSCE’s specific proposals for the restoration of normal gas and water supply for the border areas of Georgia and South Ossetia were considered.

The next meeting in Geneva is scheduled for early March 2011.

On the prohibition of denial or belittlement of the extent of the crimes of totalitarian regimes

Several European media have reported that in early December the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania appealed to the European Commission to craft a law banning the denial or “devaluation” of the scale of crimes of totalitarian regimes. Such a step may indicate that, to our deep regret, for individual EU countries the “politicization” of history remains one of the priority government objectives.

The initiators declare good intentions – to preserve the memory of the victims in order to prevent the revival of totalitarianism. But it is clear to all that their real task is “demonization” of the communist past, the suppression of attempts of its objective study, and in the long term – equating the ideology of communism to Nazism. In fact, any non-critical assessments would be equated to crimes. Historians could thus be driven by politicians into a very narrow scope. Strangely in this case, EU members prefer to forget their own dictators and butchers.

The Russian Federation has consistently advocated the rejection of the politicization of history, the more so as all conditions are currently provided for scholars to do comprehensive historical research. We are convinced that only by being free from “political shackles” will historians be able to present to the public an objective picture of past events.

We expect that our partners in the European Union will properly consider our position.

On the situation surrounding the arrest in Britain of Russian citizen Ekaterina Zatuliveter

Before the briefing, journalists were interested to learn new moments in connection with the detention in Britain of Russian citizen Ekaterina Zatuliveter.

In our comments, all that is happening around the Russian woman was called a “theater of the absurd.” She was first arrested on the grounds that her “presence in the country is not conducive to the public good and national security.” An orgy of speculation began about her “wrongdoings” against the United Kingdom. By the way, some Russian media also enthusiastically set forth an espionage outline of the events, focusing as it is now clear on unverified information.

The first version is suddenly changed to another. British officials said that the claims against Ekaterina Zatuliveter boil down merely to violations of immigration laws. However, what they are, again, nothing is known. The Russian woman has now been released on bail and is awaiting an examination of her case by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

Unfortunately, there is still no clarity on the essence of the charges. Nor is there any response to the consulate request for a schedule of upcoming court proceedings. We will continue to monitor closely the situation that has evolved around Zatuliveter. Of course, we will continue to provide moral support and the necessary consular assistance to her.

On the return home of the crew of the motor vessel Lyubov Orlova

The evacuation of Russian sailors from the Lyubov Orlova, detained by Canadian authorities, was completed on Dec. 12. The captain and six crew members who remained on the ship to keep it in working order have returned home safely. The principal part of the crew had flown to the place of permanent residence on November 7.

As is known, through the fault of the foreign ship owner, the Russian citizens found themselves in a very difficult situation, with virtually no means of livelihood. By decision of the Government of the Russian Federation, they were given the necessary help in returning home. The Embassy and Foreign Ministry did everything possible to support our compatriots, fully protecting their rights and ensuring their unhindered departure from Canada.

The subsequent fate of the Lyubov Orlova will be addressed in Canadian courts.

On the detention of the Carib Vision tanker

According to the consular department of the Russian Embassy in the US, the Carib Vision tanker was detained on November 6 in the Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it arrived under the flag of St. Kitts and Nevis from the Dominican Republic.

All 17 crew members are Russian citizens and face charges of improper recording of the tanker’s storage and consumption of fuel and lubricants as well as unauthorized discharge of oil products into the sea. The maximum penalty for such crimes includes imprisonment for up to 6 years and a fine of up to 1.5 million US dollars.

Since the Russians have no US visas, they are not allowed to go ashore. Water and food are delivered to the vessel in full, the physical state of the crew members is normal. Unfortunately, the American side has still not notified the Russian Embassy in the US of the detention of the Russian citizens, about which an appropriate representation was made to the State Department.

The protection of the rights and interests of our citizens is carried out by the consular department of the Russian Embassy in the United States and the Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation in Puerto Rico in contact with the lawyers of the tanker’s owner. No specific charges have been brought against the members of the crew as of now, and the possibility of lifting the order detaining the vessel in case of posting a bond is being explored.

On the situation around the Russian sailors in Vietnam

According to information from the Russian Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, on Dec. 13 in the Vietnamese port of Vung Tau, two nationals of Russia – the captain and a crew member of the Phu Hai 1, a vessel of Antel Investments company registered in Belize – went on hunger strike until the full payment of an impressive amount of back wages has been received.

Russia’s Consulate General is in constant contact with the compatriots and local authorities, and within its competence, does everything possible to accelerate the equitable settlement of a labor dispute. In particular, on December 14 the question of immediate payment of wage arrears to the sailors was once again firmly raised in a telephone call of the Consul General of the Russian Federation in Ho Chi Minh City, A. V. Borovik, with the president and owner of Antel Investments, V. Y. Tikhachyova, a Russian citizen. Over the last few months she had repeatedly assured Consulate General officials that she would fully perform her obligations of payment to the company’s employees in Vietnam for their labor, each time giving new arrears payment dates. However, unfortunately, things do not go beyond words.

The Russian Foreign Ministry considers the behavior of the Antel Investments owners, who have for a long time been grossly violating the rights of the Russian sailors, cynical and irresponsible. An important lever of influence on the unscrupulous employers in this situation is the involvement of Russian law enforcement bodies to resolve the conflict. The Ministry has sent an appropriate letter to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation.

Visa facilitation with a number of countries in 2010

The work on concluding new, and monitoring the implementation of existing mutual visa facilitation agreements this year, has borne a systemic character.

Such agreements were signed with South Ossetia, Mozambique, Croatia, Turkey, Colombia, UAE, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, and South Africa, along with an agreement on simplified procedures for mutual travel of border area residents with Norway.

In addition, over ten more draft visa-travel agreements are in the process of elaboration – including with Bangladesh, Gabon, Guatemala, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mongolia, Oman, Peru, Panama, Singapore, Tunisia, and Uruguay, along with visa simplification agreements with India, Indonesia and Japan.

All in all, visa free travel for various categories of citizens to 98 states now exists under 82 agreements.

About the upcoming briefing

Please note that our next briefing will be held in the new building of the Ministry. Additional information about the time and place of the briefing will be published on the MFA website.

From the answers to media questions:

Question: According to Russian MFA data, how is the ratification of the New START Treaty proceeding in the US Senate?

Answer: We are closely following the ratification of the New START Treaty in the US. As far as we know, the ratification process is continuing. The US administration and President Barack Obama personally are making strong efforts to complete it before the end of this year. Last Wednesday, the US Senate voted to begin debate on the ratification of the New START Treaty. The voting results: 66 senators in favor, 32 against.

It is obvious to us that the Treaty was developed on a strictly equal basis and meets the security interests of both countries. The signing of this agreement already has a beneficial effect on international stability and security in general. After entry into force, it will strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and give impetus to the strengthening of relations between Russia and the US, between Russia and NATO, as well as open up new prospects for further progress towards the overall stated goal – a world free of nuclear weapons. It cannot be ruled out that the ratification of this document by the US will take place before the end of this year.

Question: How does the Foreign Ministry assess the situation surrounding Iran’s nuclear program?

Answer:

At this stage, the efforts of the Six are concentrated mainly on the creation of a sustainable long-term mechanism for negotiating with Iran, which would open the way to a comprehensive political-diplomatic settlement of the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program. The meeting of the Six with Iranian representatives in Geneva on December 6-7 and the agreement reached at it for the next contact in Istanbul in late January gave it not a bad start in this direction.

Now it is important to maintain a constructive attitude towards continuing the dialogue, and for both sides to refrain from any steps that might prevent this. There’s a need to calmly and sensibly approach organizing the Istanbul meeting. We are ready to contribute actively to this.

Question: There is a call for an EU entry ban for sixty Russian citizens involved in the murder case of Sergei Magnitsky. Will there be a response by the Russian Foreign Ministry?

Answer:

We keep tabs on the debate that’s going on among the European deputies on this topic. I read the resolution of yesterday's meeting. I want to draw your attention to the fact that the very idea of imposing sanctions, a ban on entry to the EU, and freezing foreign assets of the Russian officials have already been commented on by the Russian Foreign Ministry. We have said that we regard such calls as incitement to direct intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and an open pressure on the judiciary in Russia. It remains only to confirm what was said earlier.

It seems that the MEPs do not see anything vicious in that they have made it a practice to self-designate the culprits and determine the degree of punishment for them. In a rule of law state, only the courts can do that. It remains to note that, following this logic, the European parliamentarians were once again guided by the “presumption of guilt.”

In Russia, as you know, the investigation in the “Magnitsky case” is continuing, it is in the public eye and under scrutiny of the government.

Question: How can you comment on the situation of the Middle East settlement?

Answer:

The subject has always been the focus of Russian diplomacy. We agree that the Middle East peace process is today in a very difficult stage. After the expiration in September of the Israeli freeze on settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories, it still hasn’t been possible to restart negotiations between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel. This undoubtedly has a negative impact on the overall situation in the Middle East, for which a comprehensive and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict remains a key challenge.

Despite all the difficulties facing the Middle East peace process, we are principled supporters of a political and diplomatic solution to the Palestine problem, to which there is no alternative. We call upon the parties to show the necessary restraint, to use every chance for dialogue and negotiation. On this way it is possible to ensure the cessation of the occupation started in 1967, of all Arab territories, including East Jerusalem; the establishment of an independent, viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian state, and its coexistence with Israel within peaceful, secure and recognized borders.

In this case, Moscow is firmly based on the fact that the basis for a just and lasting solution is invariable. It is the relevant UNSC resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative, the Road Map, and the Palestinian-Israeli agreements reached. All this, as is well known, was in an expanded form recorded in the Moscow Statement of the Middle East Quartet on March 19, which also confirmed the unacceptability of unilateral actions that prejudge the outcome of negotiations.

We are convinced that in the current difficult situation there is a need for a serious build-up of agreed collective international efforts to unblock the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. We consider it even more urgent to implement the Russian initiative to hold an urgent ministerial meeting of the Quartet, in coordination with the Arab League, to find the best way out of the crisis.

Question: A terrorist act occurred this week in the city Chabahar in southern Iran, killing dozens of people. What statement can you make about this?

Answer:

We have already made an official statement definitely condemning the attack. It deserves condemnation from the viewpoint of all international and human norms. Of course, we look forward to the peaceful development of the situation in any region of the world.

Question: The US is currently seeking to adopt tougher sanctions against Iran. Will Russia support them?

Answer:

Today I have already commented on the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program. Consultations are being held within the well-known internationally recognized format, in it we intend to continue working. I just emphasized that we give priority to diplomatic and political methods of solving all problems, including the Iran issue.

Question: You touched on the Korean Peninsula problem, in particular the talks of the ministers of foreign affairs. The Russian Foreign Ministry website carried a press release noting that Russia has condemned the shelling of South Korean territory and expressed concern about the “nuclear-uranium” project. On the other hand, upon the North Korean delegation’s return home, the MFA of the country stated that its position as a whole had found understanding and approval from Russia. Was mutual understanding achieved on the shelling and the enrichment of uranium by North Korea?

Answer: I'm not going to evaluate the statements of the North Korean delegation. We commented on the situation with the shelling of the territory in an official statement in which we expressed condemnation. We consider use of force on the Korean Peninsula unacceptable. We have urged both the Korean sides to exercise restraint, responsibility and avoid escalation of tension in the region.