“Russia is grateful for the words of sympathy”

Moscow is deeply touched by the condolences offered by countries from around the world following the terrorist attacks on the Moscow Metro on March 29, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko.

In his weekly media briefing, the official also commentated on some recent foreign policy developments, including Russia joining the UN security sanctions against North Korea and Russia’s stance on Iran’s nuclear efforts.

RT presents the full transcript of Andrey Nesterenko’s briefing from April 1, 2010.

Moscow Metro bombings of March 29, 2010

Following the tragic events in Moscow on Monday, March 29, messages of condolence and telegrams flowed in from heads of state and government, leaders of international organizations and foreign political figures to the leadership of our country over these inhuman acts of terrorism.

Moscow is deeply moved by the compassion and support shown on this tragic day for the Russian people and appreciates the strong condemnation by the international community of any manifestations of terrorism.

Information about the victims of the terrorist acts in the Moscow subway on March 29, 2010 is available on the Emercom website (www.mchs.gov.ru).

According to reports, the bombings killed two Tajik citizens and injured several other foreign nationals. The injured Malaysian students have already checked out of hospital according to our information. A female citizen of the Philippines was also discharged from hospital.

The Russian Foreign Ministry expresses its heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones, and wishes a speedy recovery for those injured.

Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with Anders Fogh Rasmussen

A telephone conversation took place on March 31, 2010 between Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on his initiative.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen during the conversation expressed condolences on behalf of the Alliance over the terrorist attacks committed in Moscow on March 29.

Topical issues in Russian-NATO relations were also discussed.

Concerning NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s speech at the Brussels Forum 2010 on March 27, 2010

Moscow took note of the speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Brussels Forum on security on March 27. It contained some new ideas as to how to build qualitatively new relations with Russia and ensure indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic area. The Secretary General’s ideas are being studied.

We note in particular the approaches for cooperation in missile defense. In fact, the Secretary General recalled Russia’s 2002 initiative – to securely protect our countries from missile risks through joint efforts. Unfortunately, the relevant study by the Russia-NATO Council Working Group on TMD had actually ground to a halt following adoption by the former US administration of a course towards constructing a third GMD site in the Czech Republic and Poland.

We agree with the thesis of the Secretary General that Europe should play a more active role in the anti-missile dialogue of Russia and the US. That Europeans should have the deciding vote as to which method of ensuring European security is most preferable and effective.

Our proposals on this score are well known. First complete a joint appraisal of missile challenges and then devise methods to prevent such challenges from developing into real missile threats. The existence of missile systems in third countries per se does not mean the existence of threats to Europe. Hence to start with a military-technical response when the other ways of influence have not been exhausted seems premature. Moreover, there is a danger that the development of missile defense systems could, on the contrary, stimulate missile proliferation and lead to an arms race. It is well known that the improvement of offensive weapons outpaces the development of defensive means.

However, we support the idea of forging equal and mutually beneficial antimissile co-operation, particularly in situations where it will be deemed necessary by all countries concerned. Such work was already done in the Russia-NATO Council as part of the joint TMD research.

We regard positively the principles set out by Anders Fogh Rasmussen to build a possible pan-European missile defense system – set up, develop and run it on a collective basis. One can only add that such a system must correspond to the level of real missile threats to Europe, and be created without compromising the security of other countries.

Meeting of Council of Foreign Ministers of Commonwealth of Independent States

On March 26, 2010, the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers met in Moscow for a regular session. It was chaired by Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia as the country presiding over the Commonwealth this year.

Detailed information on the outcome of the meeting is available on the Russian MFA website.

Outcome of second ministerial meeting of Arctic Ocean coastal states

The second ministerial meeting of the Arctic Ocean coastal states – Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States – took place in Chelsea, a suburb of Ottawa, on March 29. It was attended by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov.

The meeting discussed the situation in the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic region as a whole in light of the new opportunities and challenges stemming from climate change and the progress of technology. It noted the special responsibility of the Arctic states for the state of affairs in the region. The parties reaffirmed their adherence to the Ilulissat Declaration, adopted at their first meeting in May 2008, including a pledge to deal with all possible issues through negotiation based on the existing and sufficient international legal framework.

The five states reiterated their invariable support of the Arctic Council, which, along with the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, is the central regional intergovernmental organization for cooperation in the fields of environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic.

A detailed exchange of views took place on the concrete areas of developing multilateral Arctic cooperation.

Sergey Lavrov informed the meeting about an international Arctic forum – “The Arctic is a Territory of Dialogue” – to be held in Moscow on April 22-23 under the aegis of the Russian Geographical Society, and expressed the hope that the five Arctic powers will take part.

More detailed information about the ministerial meeting, including the Chair's summary, is posted on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Sergey Lavrov on March 29 met with Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting. He also had a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.

Relevant information is posted on the Ministry website.

The visit to Moscow by Jaime Bermudez

On April 4-7, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Colombia, Jaime Bermudez, will pay an official visit to Russia, to be held in the year of Colombia’s bicentennial and the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Russian-Colombian diplomatic relations. During the visit he is scheduled to hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in which they are to exchange views on topical issues of the international, regional and bilateral agenda. Following talks with Minister Lavrov a joint statement is planned to be adopted.

The aim of the visit is more intense political dialogue between our two countries, and the practical advancement of mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields. It is proposed to strengthen the juridical base of bilateral relations. A Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Colombia on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and a Memorandum on Cooperation in the Field of Physical Culture and Sports between the Ministry of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy of the Russian Federation and the Colombian Institute of Sport of the Republic of Colombia are ready for signing.

Colombia is one of Russia’s important partners in Latin America and the international arena. The level of contact between the two countries has been steadily increasing. Regular and trustful is their high and summit level political dialogue. A firm foundation for this is the similarity or identity of the positions of our countries on most key issues of our time, which makes it possible to work closely in their solution within the UN and other international organizations.

Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming visit to Ukraine as part of Russian-Ukrainian political contacts

The Foreign Minister will pay a visit to Ukraine on April 9-10, during which the third meeting of the Russia-Ukraine Interstate Commission’s Subcommittee on International Cooperation headed by Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko is scheduled to be held.

Within this Subcommittee, six sub-commissions have been created and are working: on cooperation in combating new challenges and threats; settlement of regional conflicts; the Azov-Kerch settlement; border and consular issues; and cooperation in international organizations.

The meeting of the Subcommittee will substantively examine all matters within the competence of these sub-commissions. In addition, the heads of the foreign affairs agencies intend to discuss other topical issues of bilateral cooperation, major international problems, particularly European security issues, and the course of the Transdniestran conflict settlement process.

The upcoming meeting of Lavrov and Grishchenko – the third in the past two months – bears testimony to the active political dialogue between Russia and Ukraine.

Currently, preparations are underway for the sixth meeting of the Interstate Commission’s Committee on Economic Cooperation led by the prime ministers of Russia and Ukraine, which is scheduled for the second half of April in Moscow.

The economic component in Russian-Ukrainian relations is the most important one. It cements our ties. Today, Ukraine is one of Russia’s leading partners. Reciprocal trade in January 2010 increased more than two-fold compared with the corresponding period of last year and amounted to $2.1328 billion, including Russian exports $1.5399 billion (an increase of 272.2 per cent) and imports $592.9 million (a 125.0 per cent increase).

The next meeting of the Sub-Commission on the Black Sea Fleet of the Interstate Commission is scheduled for April. Its agenda comprises issues relating to ensuring the operation of the Russian Black Sea Fleet based on the territory of Ukraine.

In addition, preparations are underway for a meeting of the Interstate Commission’s Subcommittee on Humanitarian Cooperation in which the parties will objectively examine, among many other issues, those of meeting the social, cultural and educational needs of Russians and Ukrainians living in the two countries.

Also being prepared is the meeting of the Subcommittee on Security of the Interstate Commission in which issues relating to Russian-Ukrainian military technology cooperation and interaction between the armed forces of the Russian Federation and Ukraine will be considered.

The activities of the working bodies are directed to prepare the third meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission headed by President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev and President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich, which is scheduled for May 17-18 in Kiev.

The Russian side is ready for an active and constructive dialogue with the Ukrainian side and to search for solutions to all outstanding issues on the basis of mutual benefit.

Tenth round of Geneva Discussions on Security and Stability in Transcaucasia

The tenth meeting in the framework of international discussions on security and stability in Transcaucasia took place in Geneva on March 30. It was attended by delegations of the Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia, the Russian Federation, the United States and the Republic of South Ossetia and by representatives of the EU, UN and OSCE. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigory Karasin headed the Russian delegation.

The delegations of Abkhazia, Russia and South Ossetia called attention to the need to confirm the nonuse of force commitments in treaty form. The Russian side submitted its draft of the document.

It was emphasized that the activities of the joint incident prevention and response mechanisms are making a real contribution to strengthening stability and security in Transcaucasia and that it is important to ensure their smooth work. Principled assessments were given to Tbilisi’s attempts to popularize a certain strategy on “occupied territories” and to the provocative actions of the Georgian TV channel Imedi.

The next meeting is scheduled for June 8, 2010, in Geneva.

Results of PACE delegation’s trip to North Caucasus

I was asked how the Foreign Ministry could comment on the outcome of the trip by a delegation headed by PACE Monitoring Committee Chairman Dick Marty to the North Caucasus.

The Chairman of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Rapporteur of the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights Dick Marty visited Moscow and the North Caucasus region from March 22 to 28 in preparation, tentatively for the June session of the Assembly, of a report on “Legal remedies for human rights violations in the North Caucasus region.”

Representatives of federal and regional authorities gave the Rapporteur special attention, since the Russian Federation fully agrees with the approach of the Monitoring Committee to the effect that in all member states of the European Convention on Human Rights, each resident should be able to defend their rights in a peaceful manner, and that justice should be swift, independent and competent.

During the visit Dick Marty met with Aleksandr Khloponin, Presidential Representative in the North Caucasus Federal District; Vladimir Lukin, Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation; Konstantin Kosachev, Head of the Federal Assembly Delegation to PACE; senior Prosecutor General’s Office, FSB and Federal Penitentiary Service officials; Ramzan Kadyrov, President of the Chechen Republic; Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, President of the Republic of Ingushetia; Magomedsalam Magomedov, President of Dagestan; Ella Pamfilova, Chairperson of the Presidential Council for the Promotion of Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights; and heads of ministries and representatives of the human rights community of the North Caucasian republics.

We noted the remark by Dick Marty that the members of the PACE delegation had visited Russia as representatives of the pan-European family, not as judges. This suggests that the forthcoming report will be objective and aimed at assisting the Russian Federation in resolving the complicated problems of the region, and will not give any reason for their politicization.

Meeting of CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly

The 34th plenary meeting of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly will be held in St. Petersburg on April 7 to discuss mainly the question of the social and legal protection of Great Patriotic War veterans and home front workers.

As part of the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the IPA is holding an International Parliamentary Conference in St. Petersburg on April 7 to mark the anniversary in which the speakers of the parliaments of the CIS member states will take part (participation of Western parliamentarians and leaders of international parliamentary organizations is also anticipated). The conference is expected to adopt an appropriate declaration.

On April 8, the CIS IPA and PACE are jointly conducting an international parliamentary conference in St. Petersburg on the theme of “The Future of European Security.”

Russia joining UN Security Council sanctions

Before the briefing I received the following question from RIA Novosti news agency. On March 30, Russia joined the UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea. What concrete restrictions against Pyongyang will the decree of the President of Russia entail? Why was it signed almost a year after the adoption of the relevant UNSC resolution, and what effect will its signing have on the prospects of resuming the six-party talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula?

In this regard, my answer is, ever since the adoption of UNSCR 1874, the Russian Federation has strictly adhered to the sanctions regime against the DPRK as prescribed by this document. As to President Dmitry Medvedev’s decree of March 27, 2010, its adoption is a purely internal Russian procedure, carried out in accordance with our legislation.

Preparatory work for the presidential decree called for thorough interagency approvals-based legal expert assessments by various Russian ministries and departments, which took several months.

Russia presumes that the sanctions against the DPRK have not been imposed forever, and may be revised or revoked in the case of real progress in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. The relevant provisions regarding the procedures for changing the sanctions regime are contained in the UNSC resolution.

We firmly believe that a political solution to the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem can and should be found within the Six-Party Talks involving China, DPRK, ROK, Russia, the US and Japan. We call for an early resumption of the negotiations.

Outcome of parliamentary elections in Iraq

I was asked how the Russian Foreign Ministry can comment on the results of the parliamentary elections in Iraq and how it assesses the prospects for a peaceful transfer of power in Baghdad.

Recall that we have already given our assessments in connection with the parliamentary elections held in Iraq on March 7. In this case, we proceeded from the opinion of the Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq (IHEC) and of international observers that the vote was held without substantial irregularities.

We consider the subsequent differences between the various Iraqi political groupings over the vote count an internal affair of Iraq.

We expect that, acting within the legal field in strict accordance with national legislation, the Iraqis will be able to overcome those problems and to form a new government, and other governing bodies without delay, which will make it possible to move to searching for answers based on broad dialogue to the complicated questions on the internal agenda in the interest of ensuring national unity and consolidating sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Concerning the statement of Helsinki Commission of US Congress on explosions in Moscow on March 29, 2010

I was asked to comment on the statement of the US Helsinki Commission on the explosions in the Moscow Metro, which says in part that “the architects of Russia’s North Caucasus policy don’t ride the Metro” and that the terrorist attack “serves as a cry for help to end the violence and poverty in Chechnya and neighboring regions.”

In this regard, my answer is this. We are familiar with the statement of Senator Benjamin Cardin and Congressman Alcee Hastings, made by them as Co-Chairs of the US Congress’ Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, known as the Helsinki Commission.

We are grateful for the words of sympathy and solidarity for the citizens of Russia. However, the press release sets forth clumsy and totally irrelevant arguments that do not merit comment. Let us leave on the authors’ conscience these profound “conclusions” that run counter to the opinion of the entire world community, whose representatives, including US President Barack Obama, have expressed their deepest sympathy and unequivocally stated that there can be no explanation or justification for such barbaric acts of terrorism.

I would like to hope that Congressmen Cardin and Hastings will do some work with their speechwriters and in the future will be more responsible in making public assessments on issues affecting the feelings of millions of people.

Concerning the incident with the ship of the Navy of the Republic of Korea in the Yellow Sea

As you know a powerful explosion, in unascertained circumstances, sank the South Korean Navy ship Chonan off the island of Baengnyeong in the Yellow Sea on March 26. So far, more than 40 crew members remain missing. Expressing sympathy to the Korean side, we hope that the competent agencies of the ROK will conduct a professional and objective investigation, the results of which will make it possible to fully clear up the circumstances of this tragedy.

On Russian aid to Haiti

Russia joined the international operation in Haiti on January 14 when a search and rescue team and an airmobile hospital were sent to the epicenter of the disaster.

On the request of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a Russian Emercom Il-76 plane transferred a search and rescue helicopter Eurocopter Bk-117 (Global Reach Technology) to the disaster area. Two Emercom Il-76 planes also provided transportation of essential goods to Port-au-Prince from Caracas (Venezuela's humanitarian aid) and from Panama (from the reserves of the European Union).

The Russian rescuers saved nine people, including two children; searched 230 houses, three schools and a university on an area of 80 sq. km; 395 Haitians received medical treatment that included 67 surgical operations; 469 people received psychological support; the aircraft flew 21 flights, ensuring the delivery of humanitarian supplies from the countries of the region, including the delivery of 60 tons of relief cargo from Caracas.

In coordination with the UN, the operation of the search and rescue team was wrapped up on January 21 and of the mobile hospital in early February. Emercom spent $5 million on the conduct of this operation.

Through the UN World Food Program (WFP), Russia allocated $4.2 million for food aid to the people of Haiti. We provided another $1.8 million to the International Civil Defense Organization (ICDO) for reconstruction work. In addition, Russia allocated $1 million to the Children's Fund (UNICEF) for aid to Haitian child quake victims and $1 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) for assistance in the field of health care.

These figures were announced by the Russian representative in the course of the Donors Conference for Haiti, held in New York on March 31.

Conclusion of Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the IAEA to Establish on the Territory of Russia a Reserve of Low-Enriched Uranium for Supply to the Agency for Its Member States

The signing ceremony of an Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the International Atomic Energy Agency to Establish a Reserve of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) on Russian Territory took place on March 29 at the Vienna International Center. The document was signed by the Director General of the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom, Sergey Kirienko, and IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.

The LEU reserve of 120 tonnes to be located as per agreement at the International Uranium Enrichment Center in Angarsk – sufficient to produce fuel for two full loads for a typical 1,000 megawatt pressurized water reactor – will be available to potential buyers in just a few months. Those eligible will be member states of the Agency having an agreement with the IAEA for the application of its safeguards to all of their peaceful nuclear activities and observing their nonproliferation undertakings.

The agreement opens the way for creating a sustainable IAEA system of nuclear fuel supply guarantees, giving confidence to member states in the practicability and stability of their plans to expand nuclear energy use for peaceful purposes. Its conclusion ahead of the NPT Review Conference opening in May will contribute to the successful holding of this major international forum and facilitate strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime

About the start of the construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline

TV Channel Russia 24 asked me the following question. The construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline is beginning this week. How fast is it planned to be completed and what will that signify for Russia?

My answer is, the commencement of gas supplies to Europe through the first line of Nord Stream is scheduled for 2011. In accordance with the plans of Nord Stream AG, both its lines will come into full operation in November 2012.

I would like to note that Nord Stream is not a Russian, but a pan-European project. This is evidenced by its status as a priority energy project of the EU (Trans European Network – TEN), which was obtained in 2000 and confirmed by the European Commission in 2006. The composition of Nord Stream AG shareholders (Russia's Gazprom with 51 per cent of the shares, Germany’s Wintershall Holding and E.ON Ruhrgas 20 per cent each, and the Netherlands’ Gasunie 9 per cent) is another testimony. France’s GDF Suez, with a share of 9 per cent, is planning to join the project before April this year.

The construction of the gas pipeline will make it possible to diversify the routes for transporting Russian gas to European countries and to reduce transit risks which currently exert a significant impact on the reliability of energy supplies to Europe.

On the extension of Russia's continental shelf in the Sea of Okhotsk

The newspaper Gazeta asked me to comment on Russia's intention to apply to the UN for an extension of its continental shelf in the Sea of Okhotsk.

As is known, the application for an extension of Russia’s continental shelf in the Sea of Okhotsk was part of the overall submission of the Russian Federation for the establishment of the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, made by our country to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in 2001

In respect of the part of the submission concerning the Sea of Okhotsk, the Commission made a number of recommendations, based on which Russia is preparing a renewed application with regard to this area of the World Ocean. The application itself is a scientific justification of the belonging of the bottom of the central part of the Okhotsk Sea to the Russian shelf.

If the Commission finds the scientific justification as set out in the application sufficient and adopts positive recommendations concerning our renewed submission pertaining to the Sea of Okhotsk, then in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, the Russian Federation will be able to establish on the basis of these recommendations in this area its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles the boundaries of which will be mandatory for other states, as well as to extend its exploration and development rights for non-living resources to this space.

On the investigation into the death in US of Ivan Skorobogatov

The Foreign Ministry, our Embassy in Washington and Consulate General in New York keep the case of the death in the US last August of the adopted child Ivan Skorobogatov (Nathaniel Craver) under constant control. We maintain close working contacts with the US Justice Department. Its representatives have assured us of their special attention to this inquiry. According to them, the prosecutor’s office has enough material on the whole to prove the guilt of the adoptive parents. At the same time we were warned that the trial would be long, perhaps lasting more than a year. A preliminary hearing has been postponed at the request of counsel for the accused from March 31 to April 29, 2010.

Also being studied is the role of the US agency through which the adoption of Ivan Skorobogatov was processed. The company in 2005 was deprived of registration and the right to work in Russia.

Representatives of the Russian Consulate General in New York visited Pennsylvania where they met with officials from local law enforcement agencies and bodies for the social protection of children. A meeting was held with Ivan’s sister, who was adopted at the same time with him – Darya Skorobogatova. The girl, who now lives with the parents of the adoptive father, goes to elementary school and is regularly examined by doctors. We have succeeded in getting the temporary guardians of Darya to obtain a new Russian passport for her.

We are seeking an assurance from the American side that the consideration of this tragic case will be objective and that those guilty will not escape liability, as this, unfortunately, has occurred in similar cases before, and will suffer a deserved punishment.

We are also raising the question on the political level – that a bilateral agreement be concluded which would actually protect adopted Russian children and guarantee their safety and lives.

On the situation with Tatyana Denisova and her son Maksim Denisov

I was asked to comment on reports of the return to Tatyana Denisova of her son Maksim by the Netherlands authorities.

Maksim has returned to his mother – thanks to the meeting Denisova on March 29 had in Eindhoven’s Council for Protection of the Rights of the Child in which a representative of the Russian Embassy in the Netherlands participated. The Council took the decision, subject to court approval tentatively in mid-April, on the basis of the results of its investigation, taking into account the mutual desire of mother and son to be together. The Council also recommended appointing a guardian who will oversee the family for one year. All this time Maksim will be with his mother and to put him back in an orphanage will be possible only by court order. Tatyana Denisova is being given legal support (a lawyer provided) and the necessary consular assistance from the Russian Embassy in the Netherlands.

On the re-establishment of the Hill of Honor memorial in Armenia

News agencies have reported today about the re-establishment of the Hill of Honor memorial in Armenia.

In this regard, I want to say the following. Work is currently underway in the Armenian city of Gyumri on rebuilding the Hill of Honor memorial at the burial site of Russian army officers. It will be a replica of the obelisk to Russian soldiers by sculptor B. Mikeshin, erected in 1910 in Kars. The nearby Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker is being reconstructed.

Answers to media questions:

Question: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that consultations of the Iran Six on sanctions against that country will begin in the next few weeks. The US Ambassador to the UN told reporters that China has agreed to start the consultations. What are Russia's intentions in this respect and has our position changed on the Iranian nuclear problem?

Answer: Our position on the situation around the Iranian nuclear program remains unchanged. We advocate a political and diplomatic settlement of the problem.

We do not believe in the effectiveness of sanctions pressure for an overall resolution of the situation, but sometimes you have to resort to this tool in order to induce Tehran to show more constructiveness on the negotiation front. This is the basis for our work in the Six within the framework of a double-track approach, to which, as repeatedly stated, we remain committed.

However, we remain convinced that the use of sanctions should be approached carefully and proportionately, depending on the degree of cooperation from Iran, and not closing the door to further dialogue. In addition, it is necessary that the sanctions should be “smart” – that is, not have the character of indiscriminate use and an all-inclusive punishment of an entire country. Such measures, if resorted to, should be focused, pinpointed and aim at strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Question: Eduard Kokoity said that he has information about Georgia preparing terrorist groups to commit terrorist acts in South Ossetia and elsewhere in the North Caucasus. How can you comment on that?

Answer: I will refrain from commenting on statements by the South Ossetian head of state. I think you have a possibility to get more detailed information on this subject from Eduard Kokoity himself.

Question: I have a clarification question. Will the UN Security Council really start discussing sanctions against Iran soon?

Answer: We must await work in the UN Security Council. The practice of this UN body is to hold preliminary consultations involving all of its members, both permanent and nonpermanent. Let us wait for the beginning of this process to discuss possible proposals from those pushing for this idea, and then we will see how the situation develops. Our position was set out in the comment that I made a few minutes ago. We proceed from this and will stick to these arguments in discussions with our Security Council partners.

Question: How can the Ministry comment on the outcome of the visit to Moscow by Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius?

Answer: At the invitation of the Rostropovich Foundation, Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius was on a private visit to Moscow on March 26-27. He had a conversation on March 26 with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The heads of government of Russia and Lithuania exchanged views on further ways to strengthen trade, economic and investment cooperation, especially in energy, transport and agriculture.

They also touched on issues relating to expansion of the juridical base of relations and considered in detail the problems associated with operations in the Kaliningrad Region.