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3 Oct, 2009 01:30

“Institutions of multi-polar diplomacy are playing an important role"

It is obvious that the institutions of multi-polar diplomacy are playing an increasingly important role, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko.

During his weekly address to the media, Nesterenko touched on the issues of the G-20 summit, missile defense issues, the Middle East peace process, the political situation in Honduras and other matters of concern to Russia’s foreign policy.

RT presents the full transcript of the address.

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

We had a short break in our briefings because of the ministerial section of the UN General Assembly in New York. So we took some time off but now we are ready to go back to our regular schedule.

Russia-Belarus relations

First of all, just a few words about the meeting the Russian President had with the Belarusian President on Sep. 29 in the Brest Region. The two presidents discussed the results of the West 2009 joint military exercise. They agreed to conduct similar exercises every two years, alternating between Russia’s and Belarus’ territory. Also, the two leaders discussed the current agenda in Russia-Belarus relations.

G-20 summit

Now a few words about the G-20 summit, which took place in September in Pittsburgh (USA). Based on the understandings G-20 countries achieved at their previous meetings in Washington and London, the summit which took place in Pittsburgh on Sep. 24-25 succeeded in making significant progress in establishing a better global financial architecture and made some decisions that meet the real needs of the global economy.

One piece of good news from Pittsburgh is that summit participants noted positive changes in their national economies and, as a result, first signs of improvement in the world economy. To a high degree, this is due to the unprecedented financial and credit stimulation the world community provided in keeping with G-20 recommendations. Since the situation remains difficult, the parties agreed to continue with crisis management until we see stable recovery in the world economy. At the same time, the parties agreed that at this point it is not too early to prepare strategies for taking national economies off the “intensive care,” which means less government intervention in economic processes.

I’d say also that, on the whole, Russia is pleased with the partnership and cooperation in the G-20. Working together, we managed to achieve practical results in stabilizing the world economy and restarting its credit and investment infrastructure, paying special attention to the needs of those countries which needed this the most. We believe that the main reason our cooperation is so successful is that the leaders of member states had political will to address the most acute international economic problems, were ready to compromise and realized their responsibility before their nations to develop collective measures in order to overcome the consequences of the most difficult crisis as soon as possible.

Ministerial week

As I just mentioned, there was a “ministerial week” at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly on Sep. 23-30. It saw the unprecedented level of representation from UN member states: more than 120 heads of state and government took part in the General Debate at the General Assembly.

The discussion focused on overcoming the financial and economic crisis, on international and regional peace and security, climate change, disarmament and nonproliferation, fight against terrorism, and the reform of the UN, including the Security Council.

The positions of member states on such diverse issues vary and have “national faces.” However, the debate demonstrated that there are numerous global challenges and threats which unite everybody. These include looking for ways out of the crisis, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and vehicles of delivery for them, and climate change. It is obvious that the institutions of multi-polar diplomacy are playing an increasingly important role. This applies, first and foremost, to the UN as an unparalleled world forum, which has a universal mandate and the legitimacy of which is recognized universally.

That’s why Russian President Dmitry Medvedev emphasized in his address to the UN General Assembly on Sep. 23 that without and outside the UN it is impossible to find effective solutions to the problems of financial and economic stabilization, energy security, multi-party disarmament, settlement of regional conflicts, and protection of human rights.

On Sep. 22, one day before the General Debate began, there was a top-level summit on global climate change. The heads of state and government who attended the summit emphasized that it’s important to reach an agreement on the international climate regime after 2012 at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

On Sep. 24, the UN Security Council had a meeting on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. The leaders of Security Council member states discussed comprehensive approaches to disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation. Their main conclusion was: it is necessary to perfect and strengthen the global nonproliferation and disarmament regime, which is based on international mechanisms, primarily the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the end, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1887, which outlines practical steps we need to take to address our common nuclear threats effectively.

There was a number of other international and bilateral meetings on the margins of the General Assembly, including a ministerial meeting of the Middle East Quartet (Russia, the United States, the UN and the EU)—and I will say more on this in a few minutes—and a meeting of political directors of the six parties (five UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany) working on the Iranian nuclear problem.

Now that the “ministerial week” is over, major committees of the General Assembly start their work today. The agenda of the session includes 168 points—including some points proposed by Russia. For example, this year Russia proposed to include a point on the 65th anniversary of the end of Second World War in the agenda and prepared a draft resolution on the subject. Also, we will continue to promote the draft resolutions we proposed earlier: those “on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities”; on “developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security”; and on “inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” In addition, Russia will propose a new draft on the cooperation between the UN and the Collective Security Treaty Organization and between the UN and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Russia-US relations

I was asked to comment on the Russia-US bilateral meeting which took place during the 64th session of the UN General Assembly.

We currently see some improvements in Russia-US relations. Our presidents are in regular contact, and there are regular meetings at various levels.

On the practical side, the new tone of our relations led to a number of important agreements that were reached during US President Barack Obama’s visit to Russia in July. These include the Presidential Action Plan, which outlines the main guidelines and benchmarks for the future. The Russia-US Presidential Commission will oversee the implementation of the two presidents’ assignments—and it’s already working on that.

In addition to military and strategic matters, our priorities include peaceful nuclear cooperation and energy security, fighting terrorism, working on such pressing issues as the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Iran’s nuclear program, a Middle East settlement, and others.

Much attention will be devoted to economic matters—trade, investment, cooperation in outer space, and new technology.

Also, we regard humanitarian cooperation with our American partners as an important element of our relationship.

During the September meetings in New York and Pittsburgh, our leaders compared notes and confirmed the common direction of future work. In particular, the Russian president welcomed the decision made by the Obama administration to cancel earlier plans to deploy US missile defense installations in Eastern Europe. He emphasized that it was important to work together to monitor missile challenges.

Also, the presidents agreed that it was necessary to switch the talks on the START Follow-On agreement into a permanent mode in order to complete the process by Dec. 5, as was agreed earlier.

Thus, we can say that we see some positive dynamics in Russia-US relations. Of course, we know we have a lot of difficult work ahead of us. We still have some unresolved problems and differences between us. Therefore, it is important that, as we make plans for our future relationship with the US, we remain realistic and pragmatic.

Of course, a lot will depend on how closely the two parties will follow the agreed course and put those principles into practice.

Missile defense issues

I was asked if the decision not to place elements of the US strategic missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, announced by President Obama, would influence the Russian-American missile defense dialogue.

The US President’s re-assessment of the plans to place in Europe (Poland and Czech Republic) the “third missile defense site” (TMD), the strategic missile defense system, proposed by the former administration of Mr. Bush, is an internal decision of the American leaders, and it is definitely motivated by US national interests.

On a whole we see this decision as a positive step. It partly reflects our own ideas about how to build a missile defense system in Europe and in the world.

Good conditions are being created for further practical work in realization of the joint statement on the missile defense issues, which was proposed by the Presidents of Russia and USA on July 6 this year at the meeting in Moscow. As we know, in this statement they confirmed the readiness of both sides to look for the best ways to strengthen strategic relations on the basis of mutual respect and interests as well as building equal and mutually beneficial missile defense co-operation between all countries.

A thorough expert analysis is needed as well as substantial consultations on clearing and assessing in detail all aspects of the new architecture of American missile defense presence in Europe, proposed by the US administration.

On our part, we are ready to discuss in more detail the American proposals and Russian initiatives in the area of missile defense cooperation with the purpose of reaching mutually acceptable agreements. Our goal is to work together with countries involved and assess missile challenges and develop effective reaction mechanisms. We are mostly talking about certain political and diplomatic measures, which would allow us to consider interests and concerns of all sides as well as ensure security of all states on the European continent.

The Middle East peace process

The next question that I was asked prior to this session, goes as follows. How does the Russian foreign ministry assess the progress of the Middle East peace process, considering the events that took place in the framework of the UN General Assembly’s 64th session?

I will say right away that the subject of the Middle East settlement was one of the central topics in New York. This shows that the whole international community is concerned with the state of affairs in the region, on the one hand, and on the other hand – it seeks to work on this problem, looking for possible solutions.

We think that it is too early to draw conclusions about the future of the peace process, it has only been several days since the event in New York. It is probably better to focus on the events that took place there.

First of all, I am talking about the ministerial meeting of the Middle East “quartet” of international mediators, we are part of this quartet. You can read its statements on the Foreign Ministry website.

As we see it, the sides received a strong signal encouraging them to restart the negotiations process on a well-known international legal basis. I would like to note that the quartet welcomed US President Obama’s meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of the Palestinian National Authority Mr Abbas, which came as a result of the effort taken by the American side, actively supported and coordinated by other members of the “quartet”.

The very fact that the sides met on the highest level after a long break is a positive sign. But, of course, the main work is still ahead.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, as we know, had a number of bi-lateral meetings in New York, the core of which was discussing the Middle East problems – with Mr Abbas, also Israeli foreign minister Mr Avigdor Lieberman, several foreign ministers of Arab states, and the Secretary General of the League of Arab States Mr Moussa.

We will continue our mutual steps. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov is now in the region, accompanied by the special envoy of the Russian President for the Middle East Aleksandr Saltanov. American envoy for Middle East peace Mr Mitchell also stays in touch with the sides and plans to visit the region again.

Middle East settlement issues will also be the focus of attention at Mr Lavrov’s talks with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who will arrive in Moscow this month.

To summarize, I want to point out that much work was done at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, and now this work continues in the capitals of the region. The main goal of this work is to create conditions for talks which will help find mutually acceptable solutions to all the major issues of the Middle East settlement.

In this context one of the key elements of our support will be the Moscow conference on the Middle East, after restarting the talks, preparations for the conference will come to a very important stage.

Iran and the nuclear concern

And the last story related to the UN General Assembly, its 64th session is still going on. It is the Iranian nuclear problem.

On the sidelines of the 64th UN General Assembly we discussed the situation with the Iranian nuclear program in detail in bi-lateral and multi-lateral talks, including the meetings of the foreign ministers of the Group of 6 and the Group of 8.

The area where the views of Russia and its partners are the same is that now more than ever there is a need for a negotiation process, which is supposed to remove all doubts about the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, that in turn will allow Iran to have all the rights of a non-nuclear state – NPT member.

As the Russian President said in Pittsburgh, our country still strive for a serious dialogue with Iran in order to reach agreements on effective tools for clearing concerns of the international community about the nuclear program of this state.

The situation around the Iranian nuclear program remains difficult. Iran notified the IAEA about constructing a new uranium enrichment facility. This contradicts the demand of the Agency as well as resolutions by the UN Security Council about suspending enrichment works in Iran.

We want the IAEA to analyze carefully all corresponding information, and hope that the Iranian side will be able to provide for a necessary level of cooperation with the Agency on this and other issues concerning its nuclear program, which are not clear yet.

We expect Tehran to build on the important meeting between Iranian representatives and political directors of the Group of 6, which is taking place in Geneva, and use it in the interests of a comprehensive settlement of the situation with the Iranian nuclear program.

The Russian-French Council on security

Just recently in Moscow we had the 8th session of the Russian-French Council on security, which included foreign ministers and defense ministers of the two countries. And as you know earlier today the four ministers were received by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The information about it is now being reported by news agencies.

The discussion focused on security issues in Europe, including Russia's initiative on the issue, Russia's relations with the EU and NATO, also the co-operation within the framework of the OSCE. The sides had a serious discussion about the CFE treaty and a wide range of other international problems. At this time a detailed report about the meeting will be posted on the foreign ministry website. We will also give you the information on the press conference with the ministers on the results of their discussions.

Lavrov and Abkhazia

Now I would like to give you some information on the visit of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the Republic of Abkhazia, which will take place on October 3rd.

During his visit, Sergey Lavrov will meet with the President of Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh and Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba. A number of pressing international issues will be discussed at the meeting. The sides will also discuss issues of building friendships between our states, establishing a comprehensive interstate cooperation, helping Abkhazia in the area of security, cooperation in international matters, training diplomats for the republic.

Sergey Lavrov and Abkhazia’s leaders are expected to discuss the outcomes of the latest round of discussions in Geneva on stability and security in the South Caucasus.

During his visit Sergey Lavrov plans to meet with the commanders of the Russian border troops stationed in Abkhazia and the personnel of the Russian military base number 7, with the representatives of national organizations, with professors and students of Abkhazia’s State University international relations department.

Russian-Ukrainian dialogue

I would like to inform you that on October 6-7, 2009, there will be a meeting in Kharkov between the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine Mr Khandogia, and the leaders of the border areas of both countries. Representatives of border, customs, immigration and other institutions in Russia and Ukraine will take part in the meeting.

This format has become an important link in the Russian-Ukrainian dialogue. The previous meeting between the foreign ministers and leaders of border areas took place in October 2007 in Belgorod.

The discussion at the coming meeting in Kharkov is expected to focus on reasons why some promising projects slowed down – for example, the Permanent Council of leaders of Russian and Ukrainian territories “Fellowship of Regions”, established in 2003, as well as the Council of border regions leaders in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

One of the central topics is going to be creating good conditions for our citizens crossing the border, simplifying customs logistics.

Mr Lavrov and Mr Khandogiy will have a bi-lateral meeting on a whole range of issues concerning the relations between Russia and Ukraine. The problem of the Black Sea fleet stationed on the Ukrainian territories, settlement in the Azov-Kerch region, border problems, realization of large scale humanitarian projects, important international topics, including the upcoming Council of country leaders and Council of CIS foreign ministers in Chisinau, are expected to top the agenda.

I would also like to remind you that the Russian minister met with Mr Khandogiy a few days ago at the UN General Assembly.

Parliamentary elections in Germany

A few words about the outcome of the Parliamentary elections in Germany, which took place on September 27th this year. Now there is going to be a change in the government of Germany.

Discussions on forming a future ruling coalition with the Chancellor Angela Merkel as its leader have begun. We expect that the government of Germany will continue developing and strengthening relations with Russia to benefit the people of our countries on the basis of good neighborly principles, equality, respect and consideration.

We confirm that we are ready to continue the intense and comprehensive political dialogue, close and trustworthy co-operation in the area of global politics as well as European matters.

With deep satisfaction we would like to note that the signals we received during the election campaign in Germany show that the political elite as well as the whole society in this country agree on the importance of strategic partnership with Russia.

Russian delegation in PACE

We are pleased with the decision made by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe today, on October 1st, to confirm the powers of the Russian delegation in PACE. The failed attempt to strip the Russian delegation of powers shows that even though certain groups in the Assembly are biased and worked towards PACE accepting a biased resolution on September 29th, 2009 about the consequences of the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict, on the whole common sense and striving for a dialogue prevailed in the Assembly. We hope that in future PACE will refrain from ultimatums against Russia and will focus on constructive work.

The Tagliavini commission

As you know yesterday on the Foreign Ministry website we posted a detailed comment by the Department of Information and Press on the report of the so-called Tagliavini commission. I can remind you that it says that Moscow was eager to read the report by the EU Commission about the reasons of the conflict in August 2008 and those who are to blame for it. We hoped that the abundance of facts and testimonies that the Commission had would help reveal those who are fully responsible for the tragedy and therefore prevent such criminal things from happening in the future. The full text may be found on our website. I would just like to note that Ms Tagliavini acted as a professional, she met with Russian representatives in order to have a full picture of what happened in August of last year.

The Kuril islands

I was asked a question – how can the Russian Foreign Ministry comment on reports that Japanese authorities regularly issue papers for the citizens of their country allowing them to inherit property on the South Kuril islands which their relatives owned before 1945?

The Foreign Ministry is aware of reports by media and other sources about certain administrative procedures, which the Japanese side does for its citizens, who lived on the Kuril islands before 1945. We think that such procedures are done by the Japanese side of its own accord and naturally cannot have any legal power.

As has been said before, the South Kurils are a legal Russian territory, in full accordance with international legislation. Russian law governs the islands, among other things it regulates the property rights of both Russian and foreign citizens.

Political situation in Honduras

Now about the current internal political situation in Honduras and prospects for it being settled.

The history of the issue is well-known. On June 28 this year the President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya, legitimate and democratically elected, was removed from power and exiled abroad. So a coup d’etat took place.

On September 21 Mr Zelaya secretly returned to Tegucigalpa and has been in the Brazilian embassy up until now.

After the Brazilians accepted Zelaya, the de facto government of Honduras practically began a siege of the embassy. All phone lines are disconnected, including the mobile phones of the employees, there is no water or electricity.

Their access to food is also limited. There are certain limitations to the embassy vehicles’ movement. The de-facto government also gave an ultimatum to Brazil – to confirm the status of the ousted President, who was given a choice either to surrender or look for political asylum in some other country.

Russia, just like all the other members of the UN Security Council, calls for an immediate restoration of constitutional order in Honduras, and asks the conflicting sides to refrain from violence and resolve the conflict through negotiations, condemns the actions of Honduras’ state security forces when they dispersed Zelaya’s supporters demonstrating in front of the Brazilian diplomatic mission.

The de facto government, headed by the leader of the Parliament Roberto Micheletti, has to stop the siege of the Brazilian embassy immediately and observe the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic ties. The Brazilian embassy and all the people inside, including Mr Zelaya, have to remain untouched, their safety must be guaranteed. Russia also supports the regional format of the Honduras settlement.

Arctic Sea ship

The latest information about the situation with the Arctic Sea ship.

At this point the Investigation Committee of the Russian Prosecutor’s office has finished the investigation on board. This part of the investigation was conducted when the Arctic Sea was outside the Las Palmas port on the Canary Islands. Representatives of Malta’s police and maritime administration have also been on board.

I can inform you that unfortunately, or fortunately, there have not been any earth shattering findings on board. It is confirmed that the vessel was carrying timber. I hope that this true information, received from an official source, will help you cover this difficult from a legal point of view case in an unbiased manner in the future.

As the investigation is over, the Russian side doesn’t have any reasons to detain the ship and doesn’t plan on doing so. On the contrary, we think it is important to completely resolve the Arctic Sea issue, therefore we are taking all necessary measures in order to return the ship to its owner and help it finish its commercial trip, in accordance with the cargo transportation contract.

Pirates acted illegally, and they violently captured the vessel in the Baltic Sea, somewhat damaging the ship – in particular, some navigation devices were destroyed – therefore a certain amount of repair is needed. These damages do not endanger the towing of the Arctic Sea, but after they are repaired, the vessel has to be certified by its flag-state – Malta.

The Russian side is staying in touch on this issue with the owner company, the Maltese authorities and the recipient of the cargo, as well as other partners. As we get new information, we will update you on the situation with the Arctic Sea.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference

And the last thing that I have for you. I would like to remind you that on September 25th we celebrated 40 years since the foundation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov congratulated OIS Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ä°hsanoÄŸlu in a telegram, expressing his high esteem for the organization’s role and influence on the international arena, he underlined Russia’s readiness to strengthen its ties with The OIS in order to promote peace and security, develop an inter civilization dialogue as well as help in the political settling of conflict situations and resolve other issues on a legal basis.

The OIS unites 57 states, whose population practises Islam, it is the largest and the most influential Muslim organization in the world. Since Russia became part of the OIS in 2005 with observer status, our relations with this organization have developed further. In March of last year Russia took part in the Dakar summit of the OIS, which made some balanced decisions on many pressing international issues, confirmed the Organization’s new Charter, showing the maturity and unity of the Islamic community. There is a permanent Russian mission at the OIS headquarters in Jeddah.

Let me remind you of some major events that took place this year in our relations. I mean between Russia and the OIS. In March of this year Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ä°hsanoÄŸlu visited Moscow. He was received by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, took part in a special conference on Afghanistan, organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and had some meetings with representatives of Muslim organizations in Russia.

In May of this year Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took part in the 36th session of the OIS Foreign Ministers conference, which took place in Damascus and gave an address which was warmly received by the participants.
We take steps in working with the Islamic community on non-governmental levels as well. A few days ago there was an international conference “Russia and the Islamic world: Partnership for the Sake of Stability” in Moscow.

Russia’s ties with Islamic states are strengthened in the area of economy and finances, which was proved at the International Investment Conference, organized by the Islamic Development Bank in Kazan in June of last year. Cultural ties are being strengthened as well, including relations with the Islamic Education, Culture, and Science Organization.

Cooperation between Russia and the Islamic world in different aspects is an important factor in forming a polycentric international system, based on principles of justice, equality of all states and solidarity in the face of common challenges.

Thank you for your attention. I am ready to take your questions.

Questions from journalists

Anna Kostirova, Vesti. On September 29 there was a court session on child abduction by Russian citizen Rimma Salonen. Could you comment on this? Maybe you know how the events are unfolding. Thank you.

Thank you. Yes, it’s true, there is wide media coverage of this topic. As a foreign ministry we pay close attention to how the issues are being resolved.
Ms Rimma Salonen is a Russian citizen, so the Russian foreign ministry is obligated to defend her rights and provide necessary assistance.

I would like to emphasize that the Russian side expects the court to consider all circumstances of this case and first of all – the interests of the child, who is also a Russian citizen. The Russian side will put its efforts into making sure that the rights and legal interests of Russian citizens are observed.

But I want to say again that such cases are quite complicated and it is not easy to deal with them from the standpoint of international law. Thank you.

Gazeta.ru Maria Tsvetkova

During Hilary Clinton’s visit to Moscow in October there will be the first meeting of the Lavrov-Clinton commission. Do you know who the members of the Civil Society group are, led by Surkov and McFaul?

Yes, the members have been appointed of course. I can tell you that during Clinton’s visit to Moscow on October 13-14 of this year one of the main topics on the agenda will be the discussion of practical activities of the Russian American Presidential Commission, which will be coordinated by the US Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Minister.

We think that the Civil Society Group that you mentioned has an important place in the Commission. Lately there have been many problems in the humanitarian aspect, they demand our close attention, and most importantly – mutually developed solutions. Among these problems we can name legal aspects of war on terror and piracy, corruption, the penitentiary system issues, children’s rights, freedom of press, etc.

A meeting between co-chairs of this group, Surkov and McFaul, who will be accompanying Clinton during this visit, will take place beforehand. It’s too early to talk about how this group will work, but we can go back to this question after the meeting between Surkov and McFaul. So certain aspects of this group’s work will be discussed by representatives of the two states.

Arab News Agency: There will be an international conference in Moscow on the problems of Sudan. What are the prospects for resolving the Sudan problem? What is Russia’s role in it in the context of this conference, organized by a special envoy Mr Margelov?

I can only describe our position on this difficult problem. The conflict in Darfur continues to destabilize and complicate the situation in Sudan. The humanitarian and socio-economic consequences of the crisis are grave.
At the same time at this point we see certain prerequisites for restoration and promotion of the Darfur political process.

First of all, as a result of joint efforts of international and regional mediators there are certain advances in the Darfur opposition’s stand on the restart of talks with the government. We expect the negotiations in Doha to restart by the end of October of this year and be more substantial and comprehensive.

Secondly, with great satisfaction we note that the UNAMID deployment process is close to an end. The mission already has a big part in stabilizing the situation in the area of security.

The flow of events in Darfur proves the legitimacy of our usual approach – we need to have balanced strategies in all aspects of the Darfur settlement. There needs to be a constructive cooperation of the UN, the League of Arab States, international and regional mediators, and of course the African Union also has to play an important role.

Russia pays close attention to the situation in Sudan. Along with the Foreign Ministry we have Michail Margelov actively working on the Sudan issue, he is the Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian Federation Council and the President’s envoy for Sudan. Under his initiative, on October 6-7 there will be a scientific and practical conference on the Sudan problem, including its major component – a Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

We need to wait for the results of this conference. I think it will be very interesting, and I am sure Mr Margelov will make a detailed comment on this. I will stop elaborating on this subject.

Good afternoon, I have two questions. Today Israeli mass media published information that claims a staff member of the Israeli Embassy to Russia, Shmuel Poleshchuk, was expelled from Russia on suspicion of espionage, could you confirm if there is any truth in the accusation? Secondly, the Lithuanian Seim has introduced amendments to the Penal Code which make it a serious criminal offence to deny Soviet aggression against Lithuania, could you comment on this as well?

As for the first question, reports on this incident were published a few days ago in a number of sources including Israeli newspaper Maariv. I can confirm that the First Secretary of the Israeli Embassy to Russia was caught red-handed for unauthorized activities in Moscow on September, 24th. He is also a staff member of the Israeli liaison organization that maintains contact with Jews living in the CIS and Baltic states. The man in question is Mr. Poleshchuk. He has already departed from Russia. I’d like to add that we do hope that this unfortunate incident will have no negative impact on relations between Russia and Israel which are developing quite successfully on the whole.
As for the decision made by the Lithuanian Seim, I’d like to add more details here… the Lithuanian Seim has adopted amendments to the Penal Code in the first reading, which make it a criminal offense to publicly approve of what is called “the USSR aggression towards Lithuania” and “to deny the crimes committed by the Soviet and Nazi regimes.” We have addressed this topic in general quite a few times during our briefings. The Russian Foreign Ministry has, on more than one occasion, made a statement in regard to the attempts of certain falsifiers of history to interpret as equal the Nazi occupation and post-war events in Central and Eastern Europe. Our position is unchanged, it is a purposeful and blasphemous campaign aimed purely at reviving an ideological standoff in Europe and turning history into a political tool. We are confident that the initiators of the adopted law amendments are governed exclusively by these goals. We cannot label such actions as anything other than cynical and amoral. It is no accident that this unseemly fuss is in progress while the new Lithuanian government is making statements of readiness to build an efficient, neighbourly relationship with Russia. It is obvious that some people do not welcome this prospect, but we do hope that common sense will prevail in the Lithuanian Seim to guarantee historical justice, and that the provocative initiative of certain corrupt politicians will be suppressed.

Raisa Zadorozhnaya. “… Ukraine” [the first word cannot be heard].
I have a follow-up question about the meeting in Kharkov you’ve mentioned. Earlier it was announced that Timoshenko and Putin would meet there. Does this mean that the level of the meeting was lowered from a meeting of Prime Ministers to that of Foreign Ministers, because Timoshenko and Putin wont be attending? And one more question. Do you think Russia will decide to withdraw the Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol in 2017? Thank you.

As for the first question. I would like to say that it does not mean that the level of the meeting is brought down. Our Prime Ministers work closely. They have recently had a meeting. The meeting of the foreign ministers and the heads of the neighbouring districts, as I’ve mentioned, is very important for development of our bilateral relations. This meeting will enable us to resolve issues important for both sides. Upon the whole it will be a commitment to development of our bilateral relations.

As for the Fleet, let’s wait for the meeting between Mr.Lavrov and Mr.Khandogiy. I am sure they will discuss this issue. I can say that the meeting in New York was very constructive and the parties have dwelled upon many issues listed on the agenda. We discussed them calmly and constructively. And we hope that we will make progress in resolving them, and will take them off the agenda. So let’s wait for the meeting in Kharkov. Thank you.

Mr. Nesterenko, could you give us some preliminary reports from the Russia – USA Consultations in Geneva on Strategic Arms Reduction?
And secondly, you recently spoke about Georgian journalist Gudadze, who has asked for political asylum. What’s the situation with his request?Is it being considered?

According to the current legislation of the Russian Federation such a decision will be considered over a period of three months. This duration is not over yet. According to the information we have, he’s now in Vladikavkaz, where he is awaiting the outcome of his position.

On the Strategic arms reduction. Was that your question? You see, various meetings take place in Geneva nowadays.

The only thing I can say is that we have come to an understanding with the American partners that we need to progress in resolving issues of this huge and important topic, moving forward with no delay. The negotiators will be working continuously and tirelessly until the 5th of December. And I am hopeful that we, I mean our negotiators, will manage to report to the foreign ministers of both Russia and the USA during the visit of Hilary Clinton to Moscow, which will take place soon. Both parties have worked very hard. The atmosphere at the negotiations is constructive. Both sides are interested to resolve these issues considering the national viewpoints of both the American and Russian delegations.

Do you have any other questions?
Thank you. See you next week.