Press-releases of the Embassy

'Moscow wants evolution instead of revolution in Middle East'
Friday, May 13, 2011

BARÇIN Y0NANÇ

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

Andrey Denisov, who was in Istanbul to attend the UN summit of Least Developed Countries answers Daily News' questions various issues, including regional issues and domestic ties. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

Q: How has Russia approached the turmoil in the Middle East? Are there legal demonstrations to voice legitimate demands or illegal uprisings against legitimate regimes?

A: It is a mixture of different factors. While some observers say they are Facebook revolutions, inspired by new modern communications, I dont believe this is true. The roots of the events in the region are much deeper and they are political, economic and social. The situation is different in every country. Tunisia and Egypt have chances to ensure peaceful transition. But in Libya for instance we see a clear example of civil war with unpredictable results. Another vivid example of mixture of elements is Syria. What is it, either suppression of democratic movements as some of our Western friends call it or undermining activities of underground radical forces? It is probably both. What is important is to ensure evolutional pace of transformation not revolution. But the transition must be kept in legal framework and it has to be done by means of legal instruments. There should not be suppression of democratic movement but all ruling authority must keep the situation under control. Otherwise the Middle East could transform into a source of violence and terrorism. We must follow the efforts and decisions of regional organization, like African Union or Islamic Conference Organization, as they know the situation better.

Q: So accept the need for change in the Middle East.

A: Of course no one can deny it. If you are late to the necessary change, if you keep power longer that the society can tolerate the price can be very high. Violence is not acceptable but any authority has to keep the situation under control and it is difficult to determine where the line. So we must be very careful and cautious.

In Libya we need to follow the recommendations from international institutions like African Union but unfortunately one side in Libya, the rebels, deny any possibility of talks with the Gadhafi regime.

Q: But if the rulers resist change, should we remain silent to atrocities?

A: Violence against peaceful populations is not acceptable.

Q: Have you told this to Syrian leaders? Russia has traditionally good relations with Syria.

A: Of course we tell them. As well as other international forces.

Q: But you blocked a resolution in the U.N. against Syria?

A: But one should not see it as black and white as good guys and bad guys. While strongly criticizing violence against peaceful demonstrations we have to bear in mind that not all demonstrators are full of peace lovers, there are radicals as well. We cant react emotionally.

Q: You have been critical of the bombing in Libya.

A: Russia helped pass the U.N. resolution on Libya. But that was about no-fly zones not about bombing shelters, or urban areas where civilians suffer. How can you be patient when Gadhafis son and small children are killed?

Q: Some commentators say Russia prefers siding with the regimes because of fear that they will be replaced by some Islamic movements, which might have negative consequences on the Islamic groups in Russia.

A: Such concerns certainly exist but they do not only exist in Russia. But there are different types of Islamic groups. There is the radical, extremist Islam as well as moderate Islam and the forces of moderate Islam are closely connected to Islamic regions in my country. We in Russia have a good record of coexistence.

Q: But there have been terror attacks attributed to Islamic groups in Russia.

A: We fight against terrorism and we prevent any assistance to terrorists from outside.

Q: In the past there have been problems between the two countries on illegal crossings. There are many people in Turkey with close relations with communities that live in Russias Caucasus region. The fact that the visa requirement was lifted, does it symbolize the trust between the two countries?

We lifted the visas; fresh air from an open window is very valuable

A: Of course. Turkey and Russia are friendly countries. And also we are not as vulnerable as we were in the 90s. Terrorist forces are basically withdrawn. There are still some criminal acts in Northern Caucasus region. Some emissaries of al-Qaeda try to penetrate the region. But the situation is under control.

We dont see the reason to keep such barriers with Turkey. Turkey is visited each year by millions of my compatriots. We are grateful for the hospitality. People coming from Turkey are mostly construction workers who help develop our economy. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said once, If you open the window, some flue may enter but the fresh air is more valuable. This decision will help our two countries.

A: You mentioned the al-Qaeda. How does Russia see the consequences of the death of Osama ^bin Laden? Some dont even believe he is dead, while other criticizes the way he was killed.

A: We keep a low profile. We clearly understand that such an operation cannot be done with silk gloves. We understand that the elimination of bin Laden is a symbolic act for the United States, for he personified evil for thousands of Americans. It is shown as a success of American agencies. While there are elements of the operation that were worthy of questioning, we are letting the U.S. tackle them.

Q. Do you expect any retaliation?

A: There is this possibility and all of us we need to be vigilant. But the fact there was punishment is important. The worst is impunity. Sooner or later those who perpetrate attacks will be punished. It does not mean this terrorist network will no longer be active. But especially all countries, including Russia and Turkey, which suffer from terrorism must remain alert.

Q: To what degree do Russias and Turkeys positions converge in the Middle East?

A: We appreciate the position of Turkey, with regards to major global and regional issues. We have strong mechanism of political consultation. We work very closely on key international problems.

Q: What are your views on comments that Turkey is drifting from the West toward the East?

A: Foreign policy is not like a peace of ice. It must be flexible. It is a reaction to international situations, we asses Turkeys foreign policy as a flexible tool for the pursuit of its national interests. There might sometimes be disagreements but that does not overall effect our cooperation.

Q: Turkey voted against sanctions on Iran in the Security Council where you said yes.

A: But we say no to further sanctions. There are some efforts to impose sanctions unilaterally. We dont see any reason to impose any more sanctions because it wont bring positive result. We favor a combination of stimulus and precaution.

Q: Some in Turkey question the need for nuclear energy and are concerned about the plant Russia will build in Turkey.

A: Everybody is concerned after what happened in Japan. We are convinced the future belongs to peaceful use of nuclear energy. What is needed are mechanism ensuring the safety and security of nuclear power. Russia has plenty of experience. We paid a high price for that. Chernobyl was a painful test for us but there it was a human mistake rather than a mechanic one.

Q: Yes but there will always be humans involved in nuclear plants?

A: We cant avoid human participation. But there are systems to assure the safety of nuclear installation. Japanese Fukushima was 40 years old.

Q: Some are saying Russia will test new technology on Turkish soil.

A: Russia intends to increase the production of electricity from nuclear power from 13 to 18 percent. We are building several nuclear plants in Russia, so it is inappropriate to allege we will use Turkey as a test.

Russia and NATO

Q: Russia and NATO will cooperate for a European missile defense shield. Recently Russia said it is ready to assume protection of its sector in Europe from a missile threat in the framework of so-called sectoral approach. If this offer was accepted, does that mean Russia would be provided a nuclear shield for Turkey?

A: I believe Russia is closer to northeastern Europe than southeastern Europe. What Russia is saying is thatcooperation in missile defense shield can only be effected if there is mutual trust. Europes defense shield should not affect Russias strategic potential. Russia is a key element to the nuclear deterrence system. And we want this to be preserved in the future.

Q: Russia voiced concern over Romanias recent decision to host U.S. interceptors for a European missile shield. There were plans for Turkey to host parts of the system, namely the radars? What would be your reaction if Turkey takes such a decision?

A: I dont know about specific talks and this is not my responsibility. But we dont expect an unfriendly move from Turkey. It is our distinguished partner. What is important is transparency, predictability. There should not be steps inspiring any suspicions on what the real plans are. I dont mean Turkey. But in the case of Romania we had an uncomfortable feeling. It was done on a bilateral basis, without consulting us in advance. It is up to the countries to make their sovereign decisions. We were told that this would not affect Russias capability.

Q: Whats your view on the Prime Ministers plan to have a parallel seaway in Istanbul, called the Istanbul Canal.

A: Russia is not an isolated Black Sea country. It is up to Turkey to put forward a bold plan. While working on such a plan, the interests of other Black Sea nations must be taken into consideration from the perspective of international law. I can give an example, the public road from Moscow to the international airport is free of charge, but it is overloaded. The city authorities have plans to build another road but then using it will not be free of charge. Turkey can offer such plans, but of course the Black Sea countries are waiting for clarification.

Q: Lets move from the Black Sea to South Caucasus. Lately we see Russia is spending a lot of effort to solve the Nagorno Karabakh issue. How close are we to a solution?

A: Russia was always active to find a solution. Prime Minister Medvedev in particular offered his good offices. This conflict has a very complicated nature. It unfortunately cannot be resolved only in judicial terms. The solution should involve political and diplomatic means. Only good will from the two parts can solve it. We are ready to facilitate and play the role of guarantor. We are closer to the breakthrough. It may go slowly but the process is going on. Last March we arranged an agreement for the inspection of incidents at the border.