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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, press conference, Geneva, 12 February 2008

Transcript of Press Conference by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Geneva, February 12, 2008).

Good afternoon, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, colleagues.

Today during the plenary session of the Conference on Disarmament we jointly with our Chinese colleagues formally submitted a Draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects for consideration by the Conference.

The draft was submitted with a so called research mandate. We hope that given broad support for this document among the participating states of the Conference we shall be able at the next stage to switch to negotiation efforts as well. We are convinced that the elaboration of an agreement that will in practice bolster security and arms control and which will ban the placement in outer space of any kinds of weapons is extremely important for the maintenance of strategic stability and for the establishment of conditions for further space exploration and development.

The Russian Federation also drew attention to missile proliferation problems. As you know, the Soviet Union and the USA concluded the treaty on the elimination of their intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. None the less, the relevant arms, the relevant missiles are now in the possession of a whole array of states which are in no way limited in their obligations. We today suggested that the Conference on Disarmament devote itself to the elaboration of a universal agreement on the elimination of this kind of weapons - intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles - on a global scale. The President of Russia had advanced the relevant initiative in the autumn of last year. It had been supported by our American colleagues. Together with them the Russian Federation had at the autumn session of the UN General Assembly circulated a joint Russian-American statement in which we called for providing for a universal regime for the prohibition of intermediate-range and shortear-range missiles. We consider that, if this initiative materializes, it will also become a very important contribution to ensuring global stability and security, which ought to be indivisible and should not be ensured by some states at the expense of the security of other states.

Today I will also have a meeting with my Swiss counterpart, the Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Madame Micheline Calmy-Rey. We intend to discuss the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and the development of the accords that were reached in the course of Russian President Vladimir Putin's meeting with Calmy-Rey in November of last year.

I am also to deliver a lecture at the Palais des Nations as part of the series of Myrdal Lectures, organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). I am grateful to UNECE Executive Secretary Marek Belka for the invitation. The theme of my lecture is "The Future of European Cooperation - a View from Moscow." We endeavor to show how our country is developing, how it perceives itself in the framework of international cooperation and what our approaches towards solving global problems are. We advocate, as you know, that these problems be tackled on a collective basis, through multilateral diplomacy and, of course, on the basis of international law. We advocate that, considering disagreements among European countries on a whole array of acute problems of today, an open, honest dialogue be arranged, truly democratic debates on how we are to build on cooperation on the European continent on such issues as security, economic integration with regard for the economic interdependence of us all, and the role of European intergovernmental organizations and European civil society. We are convinced that the unity of Europe presupposes a new vision of relations in the Euro-Atlantic Region, relations of equal interaction between Russia, the EU and the USA. I expect that everybody correctly understands our approach - we have every reason to believe they do. We want that this would materialize into practical actions, into practical joint work on the elaboration of agreements which will enable countering the common threats and challenges to all of us more effectively.

Thank you.

Question: Why don't you believe the US that the missile defense system in Europe will not be a threat to Russia?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We have had many opportunities to explain our position on the problems that come up as a result of the unilateral plans to deploy a third US missile defense position area in Europe. The position rests on facts. And the facts are such that Iran, which exactly they call a source of threats to Europe and the US, simply does not currently have, nor can it have in the long run, any missiles of such range against which they intend to protect themselves. Even if the Iranian leadership has such plans, they cannot be realized more quickly than in about ten years' time. Therefore it seems to us excessive to take the measures planned by the US to repulse a nonexistent threat. At the same time if the third position area is created then the radar in the Czech Republic will be "x-raying" the territory of Russia up to the Urals. The interceptor missiles to be put in Poland will be in a position to pose a threat to the Russian deterrent arsenal. We are compelled to guide ourselves by facts, not intentions. We see a potential being created that our military planners have to consider in their own actions. I make bold to assure you that we are not going to respond with identical multi-billion-dollar outlays. There are the technical capabilities to respond adequately and without outlays that will be excessive for the Russian economy. It's certainly best to avoid this.

President Putin suggested last summer at his meeting with US President George Bush an absolutely transparent, comprehensible logic of interaction. A logic that is predicated on the cooperation of Russia and the US, of European and other interested states and which enables organizing a system for real time tracking of the situation in the region around Europe. A system which makes it possible to at once get information about the origination of a real threat, from whomsoever it may come. And for those who have doubts about the intentions of a particular state, this system provides a possibility to make certain that no such threat exists. And as soon as it does appear, it will be possible to detect it at once and to take appropriate action to neutralize it. This proposal was done from motives to foster security, including European security, by joint efforts, without creating mutual suspicion and without resorting to unilateral moves.

I can recall that the ABM Treaty between the Soviet Union and the USA was concluded precisely in order to ensure that neither party would try to acquire an anti-nuclear missile shield while at the same time having the freedom to wield its nuclear sword. And the logic of this treaty worked. It was important for the maintenance of strategic stability. All states of the world appreciated its role, and when the US in the early 2000s decided to withdraw from this treaty, we honestly explained that this would probably destabilize the situation in the area of military-political security. We replied to them that we understood that Russia would thus have to take response measures; we are not adversaries any longer, please do what you want. Now all of this moves into the stream of practical plans and we would like to avoid a chain reaction of unilateral actions and do nevertheless expect that our American partners will once again consider those sincere, far-reaching proposals that President Putin submitted on the arrangement of joint work in the field of missile nonproliferation. Agreeing to these proposals, to their implementation could radically change the strategic stability situation for the better.

Question: The Russian-Chinese initiative has now practically been joined by the SCO and CSTO partners, with whom you had preliminarily consulted. The American side, however, has been showing a restrained attitude towards it. How do you perceive in this context the perspective of support from other world players? Another equally important theme: there are at present no regimes to constrain the development of missile technologies. Could you tell us in greater detail how do you envision the role of the INF Treaty and our initiative in this field?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: As to the PPWT, work on this problem has been conducted for a long time, and the text which we, now as an official document, presented today with the Chinese colleagues largely reflects the opinions and comments of the participating states of the Conference on Disarmament. An overwhelming majority of the states support the idea of such a treaty. We know that the US, as you said, has doubts about this. We hope to dispel these doubts in the course of the work on the text which was today circulated. Anyway, we will be ready to listen to all reasonable comments and wishes. I am convinced that states should not overlook the chief objective, which is to prevent weapons of any kind appearing in outer space.

The second question concerns the missile nonproliferation regime. Efforts are being made in this field, but they all aim to ensure transparency in this sphere and especially transparency at the transfer of relevant missile arms from one country to another. We however believe that the destabilizing effect of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles tells increasingly on the international situation and on strategic stability. The experience of the Soviet Union and the USA, which on a reciprocal basis gave up this kind of weapons altogether, shows that such an approach is possible, and since both Russia and the USA have for a long time now had no intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles they have been appearing in other countries. The situation in no way improves because of this. We hold that this is not a simple matter, we know the position of a number of states which are skeptic about globalizing the regime for the renunciation of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. But at the same time we are convinced of the need for this work, and this matter is urgent enough and that's precisely how we will approach the promotion of our proposal at the Conference on Disarmament and on other levels.

Question: The independence of Kosovo will be proclaimed on February 17. What is your country going to do after the 17th of February? How do you assess the political crisis in Serbia - the president's confrontation with the prime minister?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: The problem of Kosovo has been repeatedly commented upon by many people. The fact that a whole array of states, particularly in Europe, speak of the absolute inevitability of a unilateral proclamation of independence for this part of Serbia and declare their readiness to support this initiative - I feel that many are not yet fully aware of its real implications, because at issue is the undermining of all the foundations of international law, at issue is the undermining of all the principles that with such a huge effort, at the cost of wars, sacrifice and bloodshed, Europe has worked out and put at the core of its existence and at issue is the undermining of the principles on which the OSCE rests and of the principles set into the UN Charter. I sincerely cannot understand the motives by which our American and European colleagues, especially the European colleagues, guide themselves when taking up that position. Many of them, for the sake of justice I shall say, do understand the risks, dangers and threats that are associated with a unilateral proclamation of independence for Kosovo. They understand that this will inevitably cause a chain reaction in some form or other in many parts of Europe and the world. But they count on somehow getting over this. No one can suggest a clear and distinct plan of action for the contingency of such a chain reaction. It turns out that in this question of colossal importance they are going to act on the off-chance. This is simply inadmissible, it is irresponsible. As before, we are seeking to ensure that, although I understand some capitals have already decided conclusively - to ensure that reason prevails, that a legal approach to this problem prevails. Why the hurry? Belgrade has no influence on how Kosovo lives, unfortunately. Although resolution 1244 demanded that the Serbs' rights should be ensured. But actually Belgrade cannot influence the situation in this province. They are saying that Serbs and Albanians cannot live together, and so Kosovo has to be separated from Serbia. But there are Serbs in Kosovo too. And, if the thesis is that Serbs and Albanians cannot live together, then how about those Serbs who are in Kosovo? To these questions there is no answer. An absolutely double standard: Kosovo is a unique case, they say, and so it is possible in this case to simply trample upon international law and all the rest must agree to this. That won't work.

As to the situation in Serbia, I do not consider it necessary to comment on it. Serbia has its own political system and its own bodies of authority democratically formed on the basis of free elections. Here we have a normal political situation where the different parties interact and search for a balance of interests. We support the democratic leadership of Serbia, we have regular close contacts and as regards the Kosovo problem on which the Serbian leaders are unanimous - we will be ready to tackle it on the basis of the conditions that will be acceptable to Pristina and Belgrade alike, as is indeed provided for in international law.

Question: How does Russia assess the role of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, in particular, in questions of energy and energy security, as well as the activities of the Commission in the Central Asian Region?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We have been members of the ECE since its founding. We treat with great respect this UN mechanism, a mechanism for pan-European cooperation: in the sphere of economy, in the social sphere, in the spheres of environmental protection, transport and communications. This is an authoritative UN body which possesses an enormous institutional memory, an enormous professional potential. And we are in favor of using it most actively. We participate in the work of practically all the entities that are created within the ECE and will keep increasing our contribution to its work, including financially.

I believe that the very nature of this Commission, which incorporates all European countries, the US and Canada on an equal basis, allows for working out well-considered, based on a balance of interests of all participants, agreements on the issues of the development of pan-European economic, environmental and other cooperation. I think that the format of the Commission, where I repeat everybody is represented on an equal basis, where there are no dividing lines, is quite good for discussing energy security problems as well.

Yesterday at the meeting with the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), Mr. Belka, we discussed the ideas of the Commission to play its role in the promotion of dialogue on energy problems. As I understand, people in the Commission want to look substantively at the ways by which to realize in practice the principles of energy security that were agreed upon at the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg and which presuppose equal consideration for the interests of producer, consumer and transit countries. I think this can be a very useful undertaking. At least, we will be ready to provide our assistance, our expert services to the ECE for the realization of this idea.

As to the projects the Commission is planning and implementing for Central Asia, we also support them. The principles on which the ECE operates include respect for the positions of the region's states themselves. This is a generally recognized and generally accepted principle in the UN system. And we expect that ECE's contribution to strengthening the economic systems in the countries of Central Asia will continue.

Question: You have said nothing about the treaty banning the production of fissile material, on which the Americans had insisted. And a second question: What plans does Russia have at this stage with regard to India? When will the supply of nuclear material begin?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We support the idea of preparing a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and expect the Conference on Disarmament to pay due attention to this problem. I'm not going to go into detail about tactical maneuvers within the Conference, where different groups of countries want to secure priority for this or that set of issues. I am convinced that the treaty you've mentioned ought to be somewhere at the top of the Conference's agenda.

As to our cooperation with India in the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy, the relevant agreement is prepared. Hopefully it will soon be signed, any day now. Our Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov was yesterday and is today in India. The Russian delegation consists of a number of ministers. I think that, in discussing all the questions of Russian-Indian interaction, which is very impressive and extensive, they will touch upon this theme as well.

Question: A question concerning Boris Berezovsky, whose extradition Brazil is demanding. Is the Russian government engaged in any negotiations with Brazil on the extradition of Berezovsky to Russia in case he finds himself in Brazil?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: This is a criminal matter, as acknowledged by Brazilian courts. Law enforcement bodies deal with criminal matters and all kinds of crimes in our country; they, from what I've heard, are in contact with the law enforcement bodies of Brazil and other countries.

Question: Please tell us about progress in the work on the creation in Russia of a multilateral uranium enrichment center.

Foreign Minister Lavrov: The proposal on the creation within Russia of a multilateral uranium enrichment center which would be operating under IAEA safeguards is already being realized in practice. Kazakhstan and Armenia have joined this project. We know that some other countries are also showing interest, so that the project is in the active stage of implementation.

Question: Sergey Viktorovich, what do you think needs to be explained in the first place to Americans and not just to them alone why other people's missiles cannot be a part of the system for ensuring the national security of Russia?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: I think that this is a good argument. One's own security cannot be ensured at the expense of that of others. This is the principle laid down in the Rome Declaration. It was signed by the leaders of Russia and the NATO countries in 2002. The way the situation is now evolving in the area of missile defenses and the CFE Treaty obviously undermines this jointly agreed principle. We will be doing all we can to continue negotiations and look for agreements resolving these situations which would be based on the principle of the indivisibility of security, of the inadmissibility of ensuring one's own security at the expense of that of others. We will in this work be using the good argument prompted by the Rossiiskaya Gazeta correspondent. Thank you.

February 13, 2008

Source: Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, www.russianembassy.org.

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