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Lavrov Recaps Year of Russian Diplomacy in Annual Press Conference

© REUTERS / Maxim ShemetovRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, January 26, 2016
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, January 26, 2016 - Sputnik International
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a press conference to mark the achievements of Russia’s diplomacy and foreign policy in 2015 on Tuesday.

The press conference was broadcast live on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website in Russian, with simultaneous translations provided in both English and French. 

Russia was at the forefront of many of the world’s major events last year, including launching an anti-terrorist aerial campaign in Syria, negotiating the much-anticipated talks between the Syrian government and opposition members, as well as helping Iran reach an agreement on its nuclear program that paved way to the lifting of the anti-Iran sanctions this month.

On Russian Anti-Terrorist Campaign in Syria

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"As a permanent member of the US Security Council, and one of the largest countries of the world, Russia exercised its right to get involved in the Syrian conflict."

However, the Minister added, one can't use only a military way to combat terrorism, but should also fight it politically.

Sergei Lavrov reiterated that the international law is the only basis of finding solutions to the conflict, but stressed that Russian aerospace operations in Syria definitely helped to change situation in the country.

"The Russian Aerospace Forces' operations [in Syria] following the Syrian government's request have really helped to change the situation in this country and helped to limit the territory under terrorists' control," Lavrov said at his annual press conference.

According to Lavrov, it became clear what is going on in Syria — who supports or helps terrorists, who fights against them or uses them for "unilateral egoistic purposes."

On the International Partnership

Russia is very active in cooperation with its partners of the Eurasian Economic Union, ASEAN Economic Community and the countries of BRICS.

On Iran Nuclear Program Talks

Russia welcomes all the steps on normalization of the situation around Iran's nuclear program and was very active in pursuing talks on the matter.

On Relations With Ukraine and Minsk Accords 

Russia is open to negotiation on the matter, presuming noninterference into internal matters of each country and strictly stcking to the Minsk accords.

"Policy of restraining Russia continues, though high time to drop this policy and file in historical archives," noted Sergei Lavrov.

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He also noted that US, EU continue non-constructive, dangerous policy toward Russia, including fortifying NATO.

Russia in 2016 will continue to demand the strict implementation of the Minsk deal on Ukrainian reconciliation.

"Not all the arrangements have been implemented, especially those concerning Kiev's obligations to establish a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Luhansk, the settlement of political aspects of the Ukrainian crisis. So it was decided to continue this work in 2016, but the objectives remain the same, they are all stipulated unambiguously in the Minsk deal and we will demand strict compliance with them, in accordance with additional efforts made within the framework of meetings of the Normandy Four leaders," Lavrov said.

The minister added that Moscow remained committed to a "peaceful resolution of the internal Ukrainian crisis and will continue to encourage the Ukrainians to regain their national consensus."

On Russia's Foreign Diplomatic Activity and Its Major Challenges

Russian Foreign Minister said that among Russia's major international challenges is to establish a democratic and fair international system. Russia howeve can't achieve it on its own, but only within the international partnership.

On Relationship With Canada

Russian Foreign Minister noted that regardless of ups and downs in the relationship between the two, common sense always prevailed. The rhetoric of the new government points at their readiness to restore relationship with Russia. Lavrov hopes that they will be ready to correct the mistakes of their predecessors. 

On Relationship With Germany

"We are engaged in an intensive dialogue, I would not characterize our relations as those being in a crisis or in a gridlock," said the Foreign Minister.

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One of the examples of the above statement, Lavrov said, is the dicision to lay down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The Ukrainian crisis, he acknowledged, is not a hurdle to this cooperation.

Regarding the current refugee crisis in the European Union, the Russian Foreign Minister stressed that Russia is interested in the strong EU and is aware of its current problems. Russia hopes that this crisis will be suvvessfully resolved in the EU and in Germany though being a major challenge to the EU.

Only a unified EU can be a good partner, but the solution to the crisis should not be made at the expense of its members.

On the Syrian Crisis

Answering to the question on which of the Syrian opposition members should participate in the talks on the settlement of the Syrian crisis, the minister answered that there should be a wide spectre of opposition leaders present, including the Syrian Kurds.These talks should be aimed at ceasefire and political reforms in Syria, so there should not only be opposition, which fights against President Assad. 

Lavrov also added that Russia has never offered the Syrian president political asylum: 

"We did not try to convince Assad to leave and we did not offer him an asylum," Lavrov stressed. 

About the Kurds

"We see Kurds as a very important nation and an efficient unit to fight against Daesh (ISIL/ISIS)."

"We fully respect the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Iraq," Lavrov said referring to recently voiced trends to split the territory of Iraq.

On the Nuclear Problem of the Korean Peninsular

"The problem is not only to prevent North Korea of obtaining a nuclear weapon, but to prevent everyone on the Peninsular, including South Korea, of obtaining the one," said Lavrov.

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Russia has been working actively with its colleagues, including China, on this matter. Six party talks on the issue should be resumed. it is not a good idea to meet without North Korea, which would mean that we are trying to isolate some participant. We should not repeat a mistake of isolating a state, similar to the one which was made with Iran, when it was at first left out from the talks on its nuclear program.

On the Relationship With Bulgaria

"Russia and Bulgaria are closely tied historically, culturally and spiritually," the minister noted.

Russia has never advocated for any roll back in the relationship.

With regards to the South Stream project, the Foreign Minister noted that it was hindered by the European Commission in Brussels, without any consultation with its member states, so Russia had to search for an alternative.

"It is quite distirbing and alarming for Russia,' Lavrov said referring to the expansion of NATO, including on the territory of Bulgaria, which is also a NATO member state.

On the Development in Donbass

Russia has never breached its international commitments, Lavrov stressed, including the one not to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine, pursuant to the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. Unlike Yulia Tymoshenko, who urged to burn Russia with nuclear weapons.

Everyone understands, what was happening in Ukraine, the Minister added, and who defended what. However, he said, as it happens, every country seems to have a right to defend its citizens, and only Russia is portrayed as acting against international rules and norms, which is not true.

Regardsing the amendments to the Ukrainian constitution, stipulated in the Minsk records, Lavrov said that the Ukrainian authorities try to stick to these accords not through its conscientious implementation, but rather through flirting with the radicals.

On the Munich Conference

This year Russian Prime Minister will head the Russian delegation, the Foreign Minister will participate in one ot its working commissions.

On the Settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

All sides are still in search for the settlement of the conflict, regardless numerous documents issued.

On Russian-Georgian Relations

The Foireign Minister noted that it would be unfair for the Georgian people to pay for the mistakes made by Saakashvili.

In the long run, Russia is interested in the visa-free regime with Georgia, even though at the moment there are no diplomatic relations between the two.

Sergei Lavrov stressed that he is open for the contacts with his Georgian counterpart and did not rule out possible contacts at the highest level.

On the Relationship With Japan

There is an active cooperation between the two, lots of Japanese companies are working in the Russian market, including in the car market. But the issue of a Peace Treaty should be included into agenda of cooperation between Tokyo and Moscow.

However it is impossible to move forward in solution of the territorial disputes between the two countries without recognition of the results of the Second World War. There is an article in the UN Charter that the results of the Second World War should not be revised. And Japan should recognize it.

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"The relations between the two countries cooled down long before the crisis in Ukraine, there is no resent, period," said the Minister. "It happened after the so-called Magnitsky Act, which replaced Jackson-Vanik restrictions, aimed at containment of Russia, which has never stopped."

And all the  promises that as soon as Russia starts complying with the Minsk agreements the relations will immediately improve, is not true, Lavrov said. However the mere fact that the US and the West prolongs sacntions against Russia, is a clear signal to Kiev that they should not fulfil the Minsk agreements on their part. 

"We understand that the US is interested in less competitors, at least comparable with them," Sergei Lavrov said. "It is clearly seen in the US relations with China and Europe."

"The reset is good, but it should be between the US and the whole world," he added.

Relationship Between UK and Russia

Britain's Litvinenko case inquiry seriously complicates the bilateral ties.

UK brought accusations against Russia's highest leadership and FSB officers in Litvinenko case without any evidence or otherwise verification, which is rare practice for such a case, the Minister said.

Regarding another highly discussed death of businessman Boris Berezovsky, Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow doubts that actual reason of his death will ever be revealed.

On Relations Between Russia and China

"The ties between Russia and China are going through its best period ever," said the Minister.

Russia does not have any other country with such an extensive mechanisms of cooperation, he added.

The two countries are building their relationship on the basis of the international law and the Charter of the United Nations.

Relationship Between Russia and Poland

The Minister has thanked his former Polish counterpart, Radosław Sikorski, for his contribution into people-to-people contacts between the two countries, including the so-called border movement, which facilitated the ties between the two, regardless the Brussels bureaucracy.

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