Transcript of Remarks and Response to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Joint Press Conference Following Talks with Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Babajan, Ankara, July 2, 2008
Esteemed Mr. Minister, dear friend,
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the traditional Turkish hospitality. I am certain that those 2.5 million Russians annually visiting Turkey share these feelings.
Our relations are on the upswing in all areas. The target set earlier by the presidents for a 25 billion dollars trade turnover in 2008 has already been overfulfilled. And the fact that as of the first five months of this year Russia has become Turkey’s largest trading partner, as well as the level of mutual investment in the economies of each other – six billion dollars Turkish investment in the Russian economy and four billion dollars Russian investment in Turkey – speak for themselves. We today agreed to continue doing everything to ensure that Russian businessmen in Turkey and Turkish entrepreneurs in Russia feel maximally comfortable.
Our cultural ties are fruitfully developing. The Year of Russian Culture was held in Turkey last year and this year is the Year of Turkish Culture in Russia. Student exchanges, tourism – all this strengthens our relations at the most principal level, the level of human communication.
We are grateful to the Turkish leadership for its assistance in restoring the monument to our compatriots in Gelibolu (Gallipoli). This is a monument to the Russians who in the Civil War era were forced to leave the Homeland and remained for ever in a Russian graveyard on Turkish soil. Our cooperation on global and regional problems is very intensive.
We today expressed satisfaction with the positive tendencies that are observed in Cyprus settlement and agreed to help consolidate this process in every way. On Middle East problems, on the question of Iran’s nuclear program and on most other international issues we hold similar, close positions which consist in the necessity to draw all parties into dialogue and negotiation without attempts to isolate anyone. We are strategic partners on every aspect of Black Sea cooperation, be it trade, economy, infrastructure or ways to maintain security in the region.
The only question we expressed regret about was that our teams did not succeed in meeting at the Euro 2008 final. But we at the same time agreed that the bronze medals for the Russian and Turkish teams are also a very good achievement. So overall the visit has borne out that the tasks that were set in the joint declaration signed by the Russian and Turkish presidents in December 2004, the tasks of constructing an advanced multifaceted partnership are being successfully fulfilled, and we have today agreed to continue working intensively in this sector. And we will be preparing new contacts at the highest level.
Question: My question is for both ministers. Although tourism is an important link in relations between our countries, we almost each year encounter one and the same problem when the Russian tourists having bought inexpensive package holidays become victims of unscrupulous actions by their tour operators, which causes huge dissatisfaction among Turkish tour operators and among hotel owners you know. Is there any action going to be taken in this regard?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I think the right thing to say is that problems arise on both sides. And the chief recommendation to tourists who visit Turkey, as any other country, a recommendation that our Ministry and the Russian government regularly renews, is to apply to conscientious, licensed and well-established operators. As you know, the last case that caused problems for Russian tourists was not linked to a Russian operator, and I would like in this connection to thank our Turkish partners who did everything to ensure that the Russian tourists who came here and found themselves practically on the street, felt comfortable and most of them did get an opportunity to have a rest after all.
Question: A question for both ministers. Today we already see a third round of Turkish-brokered talks being held between Syria and Israel. How do you assess the present talks and how effectively do they influence the Mideast peace process as a whole?
(after Babajan’s reply)
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Russia supports building bridges between Israel and Syria. We also support Turkey’s mediation role. We believe this practically manifests the principle about which we spoke today, that it is necessary in conflicts to engage all the parties in dialogue rather than try to isolate some one of them.
Russia has always said that a Middle East settlement must be all-embracing and that for all the priority of the Palestinian-Israeli track a final, sustainable and stable peace and security in the region can be ensured only when accords are reached on the Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian fronts. This approach is reflected in the decisions of the UN Security Council, it was reaffirmed at the Annapolis conference and it will also be promoted within the framework of the Moscow Conference on Middle East settlement, in support of which the Quartet of international mediators spoke recently.
Question: We have received information that an explosion occurred at the Russian base in Abkhazia. How do you assess this incident and the situation as a whole?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I did not hear of an explosion at the Russian base, but I did hear of the explosions that occurred in Abkhazia and in respect of which an investigation is now being carried out. We do not want to blame anyone until this investigation is over, but it will be recalled that over recent months, over the last year and a half there were too many provocations which the Georgian side organized, provocations that were accompanied by loud accusations but then turned into nothing. We hold that it is necessary to turn off this road and get back on the road of conscientious fulfillment of the accords that were reached earlier on Abkhaz settlement, on South Ossetian settlement and which the Georgian side is now trying to replace with new ideas. The key to a settlement in Transcaucasia lies in the fulfillment by the parties of what they have agreed on: to forge a respectful dialogue and gradually restore trust. Russia is ready to facilitate settlement along these
lines and President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev reaffirmed this with the utmost clarity during his meeting with President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia on June 6 in St. Petersburg.
Question: The time for the signing of an agreement on partial MD deployment is approaching; the agreements will be signed in the Czech Republic and Poland on July 8 and 10 respectively. How does Russia evaluate this situation? And a second question. What is the reaction of Russia to yesterday’s unrest in Mongolia?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Our position on plans to deploy a US third GMD site in Europe has not changed. We do not think that these plans reinforce security. On the contrary, they are bound to create new problems in this sphere. We advocate that any risks be analyzed jointly rather than by someone alone, and that any measures that are worked out to neutralize those risks should also be joint measures. Our proposals are known to everybody, and we hope that there still will be a return to them. As to the specific third site, our position towards this, I repeat, has not changed. We consider that such an undertaking creates, rather eliminates threats.
Now as to the elections in Mongolia, any questions that the opposition has there, as anywhere else, about the elections results should be tackled in accordance with constitutional procedures, not by taking to the street and violating law and order. I expect that this process will go in the constitutional field. We have always stood for that and I hope that everybody has already become convinced of the sad experience of the so called color revolutions. Revolutionary approaches need to be ended. The rule of law ought to be the basis for work, something all countries without exception call for, in my opinion. That’s the way to realize these appeals of your own in practice and respect the laws of the respective sides.
July 3, 2008