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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on relations with NATO, 5 December 2008

Transcript of Remarks and Response to Russian Media Questions by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov After the OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting, Helsinki, 5 December 2008.

The just-concluded OSCE Ministerial Council meeting was held in unusual conditions, primarily because there is a shortage of mutual trust being ever more acutely felt across the "vast territory" of this Organization, as well as of adequate mechanisms to ensure security that would be indivisible for all states situated in this geopolitical space. The central theme of the meeting was President Medvedev's initiative for a legally binding treaty on European security. We noted the initiative of OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb to devote a special informal heads of delegation meeting to this theme, in which 51 foreign ministers took part. That was a record number of ministers for OSCE meetings in recent years. Surely, that also attests to the wide interest in President Medvedev's proposal. I thoroughly explained our approaches to realization of this initiative and to the elaboration of a European Security Treaty, and answered many questions from our colleagues. I can say that during the heads of delegation meeting and in the remarks of most of them in plenary sessions there was a striving voiced to work on this proposal. Even at this stage, of course, not everyone takes identically what we propose, but our explanations and the reaction of our partners to them have shown that the questions were mostly concerned not with the substance of our initiative, but with how better to put it into effect in organizational terms. In this context the participants also discussed the proposal of French President Sarkozy and Russian President Medvedev to hold a summit dedicated to this theme. We presume that the main thing is, of course, the content filling of that event. In the coming months we will concentrate on ensuring that we all reach a common understanding of the tasks facing us in the realm of security. It will then be considerably easier to decide on the form in which to organize the meeting in order to endorse a principled approach to the elaboration of this treaty and start concrete negotiations on its text.

We single out several of content blocks; in the first place, everything with respect to the indivisibility of security. In this regard, we are not trying to invent anything new. We just want to confirm, but now in a legally binding form, the principles which are contained in many OSCE, Russia-NATO Council and other documents. The chief principle of these is clearly articulated and states that no one should ensure his own security at the expense of the security of others. It is important to give this political commitment a legally binding character, as I have already said, and devise the tool box to help realize it in practice. A second large block of issues concerns arms control where there is a deadlock owing to the situation surrounding the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty), or, to be more precise, because of the unwillingness of our NATO partners to ratify the Adapted Treaty. We want to overcome this state of affairs. The third block of issues to which we want to pay special attention in the new treaty is settlement of regional conflicts in the OSCE area. It is important that the treaty should fix the list of mutually agreed criteria and standards applicable in the work on surmounting different conflict situations. It would be important, of course, to reflect in it the new qualities of our cooperation in the fight against international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. There is wide agreement on that score.

Thus, I think, as of now, when we have received at a universal, pan-European level the first reaction to the Russian President's proposal, our efforts in this connection will continue to be concretized in different formats, particularly with the use of the OSCE platform.

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni, who will chair the OSCE next year, even suggested that an extraordinary informal meeting of OSCE foreign ministers be held in the first half of next year especially to consider Russia's initiative. In parallel, as we already said, we are going to ask scholars and political scientists to join in the work on the themes to be discussed and endeavor to prompt some possible interesting components that we have not yet fixed.

So the discussion on our proposal at the heads of delegation meetings, and in plenary sessions imparted to the present ministerial meeting a far from routine character. We are satisfied that the OSCE is perhaps starting to overcome the deadlock created around military-political security issues all these years. We will try to consolidate this process and draw the OSCE along with other organizations, such as the European Union, NATO, the CIS and CSTO, into developing the new treaty. Although we have no illusion that it's going to be easy, the questions have been raised and they need to be tackled.

A meeting of the three OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs on Nagorno Karabakh was held on the OSCE Ministerial Council sidelines. It aimed to convey to the Azerbaijan and Armenian foreign ministers the Co-Chairs' additional considerations as to the parties' negotiations for a mutually agreed settlement scheme. The Co-Chairs emphasized that we expect the parties in conflict to build on the positive momentum resulting from the Azerbaijan and Armenian Presidents' recent meeting in Moscow with Russian President Medvedev. As a result the Co-Chairs made a joint statement on this theme. A similar statement was made on behalf of the entire Council as one of the documents of the present session.

A number of other decisions also were made - on individual OSCE activities. Although I can't say they bear an extraordinary character, they are useful for the concretization and enhancement of the effectiveness of the work of the OSCE in different sectors. To sum up, I shall note that the Council's meeting was definitely of some use this time. We're going to try to strengthen this tendency.

Question: In a plenary session you said that all OSCE members should begin honestly discussing their positions. Was that a wish for the future, or did the MC embark on an honest dialogue now?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We honestly present our positions for discussion by the world community and we have long since been calling for such honest discussion, without beating around the bush, first of all in the sphere we're talking about - in the sphere of military-political security: ever since Vladimir Putin's Munich speech in February 2007, and that's what we would like our partners to do. The explanation is simple: a situation often arises, where we put our cards on the table and explain frankly and sincerely what worries us and why - and in response we hear rather vague explanations that mainly boil down to "no, don't be anxious, it's not against you, this shouldn't concern you." It's hard to discuss things this way. It concerns the third GMD site, the NATO countries artificially dragging out the ratification of the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty, and a whole array of other elements. I can't say we've already achieved our objective in relations with all partners in the OSCE area, but some real improvements are evident in the case of many. I hope that this process will continue and we will cease trying to conceal our true intentions from each other.

Question: The United States and Britain say they see no need for a summit or a change in the European security architecture. What are the prospects of concluding a new CFE Treaty?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: They aren't refusing to discuss this theme. I have already noted that the further work won't be simple or easy. Indeed, the US, Britain and some other countries in the course of the discussion of our proposal at the heads of delegation meeting argued that it was necessary to build security on the basis of successfully functioning structures, naming NATO and the EU in particular. The meaning of their remarks was that they felt comfortable within NATO in this case. Well, we don't feel very comfortable, so it turns out that the indivisibility of security, which principle lies at the core of OSCE activity, is subject to doubt. Only two days ago the NATO foreign ministers at their meeting in Brussels adopted a declaration particularly stressing, among other things, this principle exactly - the indivisibility of security - but for the NATO member countries only. But to reaffirm this principle for all OSCE participants, on account of the fact that in the OSCE it is written down in fundamental documents - this for some reason proves elusive. A majority of our partners are beginning to realize this thing and the arguments we adduced in development of our proposal, especially our logic concerning the indivisibility of security, were surely heard yesterday. It's very important to understand, which we said again, although we had earlier spoken about it, that no one is going to aspire to close down NATO or other structures in which Russia does not participate. This is not at issue. We just want all states and the security organizations in the Euro-Atlantic area to jointly examine the situation, analyze the problems that keep accumulating in this sphere, which no one denies, and jointly devise ways to overcome them on a mutually acceptable basis. So that there is nothing anti-NATO or anti-Western here; there is the sole desire that we should all be pro-European.

Question: What can you say about Russian relations with NATO at this stage?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We base our relations with NATO on the assumption that it is an objective reality. There is no point in enlarging NATO in present-day conditions, when security can be ensured by other, less contradictory means. Our position is well known, but we cooperate with NATO. We did not initiate a freeze on individual areas of Russia-NATO Council activity; that was the NATO countries' decision. We stand ready to resume these relations, but we will do that on the basis of consideration for mutual interests, not the way some would like: on the issues where NATO needs Russia let us cooperate, and on other issues we'll wait. Such an approach won't work anyway. Decisions on other countries have no special bearing on our relations with NATO, although, sure enough, we feel the artificial, speedy, against the people's opinion, bringing of new members from among Russia's neighbors into the North Atlantic Alliance does not favor our relations, rather puts them in jeopardy. So far a majority of European states hold a position which we think justified.

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

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