Press-releases of the Embassy

Speech by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and his answers to questions from the mass media during the joint press conference with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoğlu, summarising the results of the IV session of the Russian-Turkish Joint Strategic Planning Group, Moscow, 27 May 2014

1280-27-05-2014

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IV session of the Russian-Turkish Joint Strategic Planning Group has just ended. We discussed a wide range of issues on the bilateral agenda, regional and international affairs.

The format of the Joint Strategic Planning Group is operating within the framework of the High Level Cooperation Council, which has substantiated its purpose as an effective mechanism of determining ways for the build-up and improvement of multifaceted Russian-Turkish interaction, in recent years.

We discussed our bilateral relations in detail. On the subject of trade and investment issues, Turkey is one of Russia’s key economic partners. We stated the achieved of our successes, primarily in the energy sector, where our cooperation has entered into the level of strategic partnership. Direct contacts between businessmen of our countries are developing dynamically.

We are committed to do everything within the authority of the foreign policy agencies to assist in the achievement of the goal set by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and the Prime Minister of Turkey, Tayyip Erdoğan, to bring the volumes of mutual sales to 100 billion US dollars in the near future. We noted the successful implementation of projects for the South Stream gas line and construction of the first nuclear power plant in Akkuyu in Turkey by a team of Russian specialists.

We exchanged opinions on our humanitarian cooperation. In 2014, the Russian Centre for Science and Culture opened in Ankara. We expect that a reciprocal event – the opening of the Turkish Cultural Centre in Moscow will be held by the end of this year.

Exchanges and ties at the level of the regions of the Russian Federation and Turkey in the areas of education and other humanitarian formats are growing. We welcome this actively. We will support further work of the Community Forum of the two countries, which is also a part of the structure of the multifaceted interaction between our countries and peoples.

We reviewed topical regional problems. Russia and Turkey are interacting in many aspects of the situation in the Middle East, Iran’s Nuclear Programme and problems within Cyprus. We discussed the situation in Transcaucasia, Central Asia, the Black Sea region, as well as individual aspects of relations between Russian and NATO in detail. I believe that the exchange of opinion about the experience of relations between our countries and the European Union would be helpful. I hope that we will continue our discussion on this issue.

Of course, we touched upon the situation in Ukraine, taking into account the latest events in this country. The elections have been held, and we respect the results of the expression of will by Ukrainian voters. However, we believe that it is absolutely necessary to implement the agreement reached within the framework of the Geneva Statement of 17 April – to stop violence – immediately. We are worried that not only were elections held against a backdrop of continuing military actions, but orders to build-up the intensity of the violent operations were given by the Kiev authorities immediately after the completion of the elections. You know what is happening in Donetsk, the Donetsk region and the region of its airport. Despite all the appeals and requests coming from international organisations, there are casualties on both sides, journalists are suffering.

Therefore, the No.1 task and the challenge for the Kiev authorities, taking into consideration the results of the presidential elections, is to stop using the army against the population and bring an end to violence from any side immediately. We will firmly speak in favour of the implementation of other provisions agreed within the framework of the Geneva Statement of the 17 April, including the transition to a truly comprehensive national dialogue, the development of a constitutional reform, which reflects the legal expectations and peculiarities of all political, ethnic and sectarian groups in Ukraine.

We reviewed issues related to our cooperation within the framework of international organisations – we are interacting with the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe closely. We appreciate the mutual support between our two countries during discussions on the majority of issues.

In general, we think that the current session was an important stage in the preparation for the V session of the High Level Cooperation Council to be presided over by the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the Prime Minister of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan. We expect that our further work will make a contribution to all kinds of deepening of Russian-Turkish interaction for the benefit of our countries and peoples.

Question (to both ministers): You have just said that your economic relations are developing well. At the same time, we hear statements from western countries regarding the introduction of sanctions against Russia because of its position in the Ukrainian issue. What is Turkey’s attitude to this?

Sergey Lavrov (answers first): Our trade and economic relations are developing. We have just confirmed the need to move fast towards the goal of bringing the turnover of goods between our countries to 100 billion US dollars per year, which was set by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and the Prime Minister of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan. Russia and Turkey are jointly implementing the largest infrastructure and energy projects: we already mentioned the NPP in Akkuyu, the South Stream and many other things. Turkish companies actively participated in the construction of sports facilities in the territory of Russia, including those which were built for the Sochi Olympics. Today my colleague and friend Ahmet Davuto.lu confirmed the interest of Turkish businessesin continuing to explore our country’s plans in the area of sports construction, and you know we have many. Turkish constructors, with their experience, discipline and quality of performance, will always have enough work in the Russian Federation. Economic ties are developing rapidly, because we are guided by considerations of mutual benefit and respect and refuse to politicise the trade and economic area.

As to the sanctions which were announced by western countries, in my opinion, if there was no Ukraine, there would be something else. Long before the beginning of the tragic events on the “Maidan”, its occupation by radicals, who requested anticonstitutional actions from the opposition, there were already a lot of claims towards Russia, including with regard to Syria, Iran’s Nuclear Programme, Edward Snowden and simply because we were holding the Olympics – many people did not like this.

Such a situation reflects much deeper processes in the West, primarily under the influence of those, who believe that Russia is “in their pocket” after the “cold war”. The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, spoke about this in detail and clearly on the side-lines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

As to the implementation of the West’ssanction policy, they first announced restrictions, because we implemented a historical mission and responded to the request of the overwhelming majority of Crimeans, who spoke in favour of their reconnection with the Russian Federation by expressing their free will. The Crimeans did this when they saw the threat coming from those who seized power in Kiev, when representatives of ultranationalists attempted to penetrate the territory of Crimea by force. Only then the population of the peninsula rose in rebellion and announced that they wanted to hold a referendum on independence with further reconnection with the Russian Federation. For this, we were punished by sanctions against Russian natural persons, whose choice was rather specific. The Russian President Vladimir Putin also spoke about this during the PIEF.

Then some second lists followed, after which they started to set other requirements – they announced that if Russia invaded the territory of the South-East of Ukraine, strict economic and financial sanctions would be used. First they did not listen and then did not trust our explanations that we were not going to do this and there was no need to present the exercises, which we conducted in our own territory absolutely transparently according to international norms, inviting (at their request) international inspectors and observing all other requirements for the organisation of such events, as a threat. Later, they seemed to agree that Russia had no such plans.

But it seems that somebody wanted to announcethe third “wave” of sanctions. They said to us that they were ready to believe that we were not going to invade Ukraine, but they “prohibited” any support of the referendums on the 11 May in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions threatening that the third “wave” of sanctions would be issued against us for such support.

You all know our attitude to these referendums. To calm the situation down, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, appealed for the organisation of the referendumsto be postponed, but they were held despite this. Then our western partners started to search for a new cause (it is hard to punish for an appeal to postpone the referendum), which was found in the context of the presidential elections. They announced that if Russia disrupted the presidential elections on the 25 May, the strictest sanctions would be used against it. We were not going to disrupt these elections. We stated our attitude to them long before they were held. Then a new formula appeared: “Russia is not going to disrupt the elections, but (focus on this quote) “if they do not happen due to any reason, sanctions will follow””. And all this irrespective of whether Russia used its levers or not. Today the European Council is deciding, which other penalising measures can be used against the Russian Federation.

I heard a statement from Washington a few days ago that Russian actions to collect the debt for gas supplies from Ukraine can be considered illegal and a cause for the introduction of the third “wave” of sanctions. I explain all of this in detail, because it is funny. These guys are clearly engaged in searching for any reason to continue their pressure on us. Firstly, all of these reasons sound ridiculous and miserable. Secondly, no attempts to apply pressure on Russia have ever been productive.

We are interested in settlement of the Ukrainian crisis and in cooperation with everybody who wants the same, however without legitimising a part of the Ukrainian society looking in just one direction, but taking into consideration the interests of all the Ukrainian people, including the legal requests of the South-Eastern population. We talked about this and we will do this again.

Question: Did Ukraine turn to Russia asking it to organise a meeting between the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko? Are you currently working on the issue regarding Petro Poroshenko’s visit to Russia?

Don’t the latest tragic events in the South-East of Ukraine strike down any hopes for the improvement of Russian-Ukrainian relations and won’t they affect the Russian position with regard to the presidential elections there?

Sergey Lavrov: The issue regarding Petro Poroshenko’s visit to Russia is not being considered or discussed through any diplomatic or other channels.

As to the latest events, let me remind you that Petro Poroshenko engaged in the elections promising to unite the country. Yesterday he said that he would make his first trip to Donbass. There is real war there. He makes statements that the “counter-terrorism operation” should be completed as soon as possible by intensifying it. If the idea is to suppress protests in the South-East using heavy armaments, the National Guard, the Right Sector and similar means, before the expected inauguration of Petro Poroshenko, so he will be able to enter Donbass as a winner, this will hardly create the right conditions for a hospitable reception in the Donetsk Region.

Military actions must be stopped immediately, as well as the actions which the Ukrainian authorities constantly request from others, should be made: to implement the Geneva Statement of the 17 April and the “roadmap” developed by the Current OSCE President, Swiss President, Didier Burkhalter, on the basis of this statement. This envisages immediate termination of any violence and use of the army in the operation in the South-East. Instead additional mobilisation is announced in Ukraine, people are being forced to join the army and the National Guard.

The “roadmap” and the Geneva Statement request the amnesty of all the protesters. As far as I know, this draft legislation is pending review. However, one law on amnesty has already been adopted on the 6 May by the Verkhovna Rada and is related to the amnesty of criminals provided that they enrol in the National Guard. We would like respected international bodies, including the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and other mechanisms, to clarify to what extent this law corresponds to the high norms of modern international law-making. The “roadmap” also requires an exclusively peaceful attitude towards all the protesters and the rolling-up of the protests through negotiations. We insistently appeal to the Ukrainian authorities to do this. I am convinced that if they make this step, people in the South and in the East will respond.

Moreover, the “roadmap” envisages investigation of cases of mass deaths of people. The Council of Europe once created a group, which is engaged in the investigation of the tragedy on the “Maidan” on the 18-20 February (the so-called “sniper case”) and other assassinations there. We requested an unprejudiced and independent investigation many times into the events on the 2 May in Odessa and on the 9 May in Mariupol. Almost 10 days ago I wrote letters to the UN Secretary-General, the OSCE President and Secretary-General, the CE Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights appealing to them to use the possibilities, the potential and the expertise they have to ensure an independent investigation, primarily of the Odessa tragedy and the events in Mariupol.

Yesterday, in his interview to “Novaya gazeta” Petro Poroshenko said that he is interested in an international investigation into the Odessa tragedy and is going to invite EU, in particular German, as well as Russian experts to ensure absolute impartiality in the establishment of the facts. Some time ago, representatives of the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior announced that they were ready to involve experts from Israel. We are waiting, for these statements and promises to be implemented in practice. This should be done urgently, while all the tracks have not been covered, because there were attempts to do this in the House of Trade Unions in Odessa.

Observers from international organisations, in particular, parliamentary assemblies of the OSCE and the CE, who monitored the course of the voting last Sunday, completed their public assessments with an appeal to Petro Poroshenko to use his new position to ensure a true dialogue with everybody in the South-East, to stop using “terrorist” and “separatist” tags, but to ensure a truly inclusive dialogue. This is the main criterion now, which will test the true intent of the Kiev authorities and Petro Poroshenko personally. We expect that he will be acting in the interests of all the Ukrainian people. If he does, he will find a reliable and serious partner in Russia.

Question: You were talking about active development of trade and economic ties between Russia and Turkey, however your positions differ in some points on Syria and Ukraine. Will this affect Russian-Turkish relations?

Sergey Lavrov: I have partially provided the arguments, according to which, if there was no Ukraine, there would be something else.

Several years ago, before the Syrian crisis our western partners made claims against us regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme and stated that if Russia stopped “covering up” for Iran, its nuclear problem would be swiftly resolved. So, at that time it turned out that everything depended on Russia again. The Syrian crisis began and our western partners were looking at us again stating that if Russia stopped supporting the SAR President, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian crisis would resolve itself. There was Libya before that, when they told us that we supported Muammar al-Gaddafi, who turned out to be on the “wrong side of history”, and therefore Russia was also guilty of that. It is hard for me to say who is on the “right side of history” in Libya now. But certainly not those, who have led the country to an actual breakdown and made it a hotbed of terrorism and illegal proliferation of weapons towards the entire African continent.

After the situation in Ukraine, which, as the President of Russia Vladimir Putin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, was created primarily by their western partners – the EU and the United States – ran into a deadlock, they started to accuse us of all sorts of sins, in particular, for our support of the legitimate President. It turned out that it was not OK to support him, because he was bad and his people did not like him. We also have a lot of questions about the term “people” – on the “maidan” there were representatives, including from nationalist parties, who “saddled up” the indignation of normal peaceful civilians very quickly. Therefore, we take a philosophical approach, when Russia is accused of almost every conflict in the world. The only exclusion is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They have not accused us of the created and deepening deadlock in that yet. We wish our US partners, who took the leadership in the resolution of this conflict, success in the unblocking of this deadlock.

You mentioned that Russia and Turkey do not perceive the Syrian crisis and the Ukrainian situation in the same way. Well, it is not unanimity which is important here, but how each of the partners perceives the assessments and opinions of the other. This is a good example for all the others in our relations with Turkey. Although there are differences and nuances, we can discuss Syria, Ukraine or any other situation, where Russia’s and Turkey’s interests cross, and have a dialogue not through slogans, but absolutely professionally, based on facts, by listening to one another and being ready to not only insist that we are right, but to perceive the position of our partners and correct our own position, where it is necessary. This is the nature of true partnership and the value of Russian-Turkish interaction, rather than “showing servile obedience” somewhere in well-known Euroatlantic bodies and saying: “Yes sir! At your orders!”

Question: The topic of the Crimean Tatars was discussed during the negotiations today. Moscow made many statements regarding the extension of their rights. What steps will be made in this direction?

Sergey Lavrov: You seem to monitor actions of the Russian Federation to vest rights, which all Russian nationals have, also in the nationals residing in Crimea. The President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed the Decree on Rehabilitation, including with regard to the Crimean Tatars. Measures are being undertaken and specific plans have been scheduled to overcome all the consequences of deportations, including, primarily, the resolution of social and economic, household, residential problems, to ensure a true national and cultural autonomy (to Crimean Tatars). Representatives of Crimean Tatars are members of the Government of the Republic of Crimea, they hold other positions in the bodies, which ensure life in the territory of the Republic and in Sevastopol. The Crimean Tatar language has become one of the three state languages of the Republic along with Russian and Ukrainian. Culture will be developed, schools will be supported, theatres and other bodies will work. All this was confirmed on the 16 May at the meeting between the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and representatives of the Crimean Tatar community.

We will maintain relations with community organisations of the Crimean Tatars including the Majlis and the Council of Elders of Crimean Tatars, Milli Firka and other associations. The series of memorable events in honour of the 70th anniversary of the decision on deportation of Crimean Tatars, which were held in different cities of the Republic on the 16-17 May, confirm the commitment of the current Crimean authorities to promote national peace and consent.

The Tatars living in other regions of the Russian Federation, primarily in Tatarstan, pay significant attention to the reinforcement of ties with the Crimean Tatars. A few days ago, the World Congress of Tatars (the organisation created at the initiative of the Republic of Tatarstan) signed a Document on cooperation with the Majlis of Crimean Tatars. Maximum attention is devoted to these questions at the state, federal and local regional levels, as well as within the ambit of community movements. I am confident that the expectations of the Crimean Tatars have been heard, and everything will be done to satisfy them.

Question: How does the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs monitor the circumstances of the investigation into the death of the Russian national Andrey Mironov, who accompanied an Italian journalist as an interpreter, near Slavyansk? What difficulties does the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs face from the Kiev authorities in returning the bodies of the dead?

Sergey Lavrov: The circumstances of this tragedy are being clarified, although without any specific messages for the mass media, of Russia or Italy, as the countries of Andrey Mironov and Andrea Rocchelli. The Leaders of the OSCE Secretariat, including the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, made insistent appeals to investigate these events immediately. The respective work is being carried out.

I hope that unlike other incidents measures will be taken as promptly as possible. The main thing for us now is to ensure the removal of the bodies of the dead. We are working in close coordination with our Italian colleagues, because only through joint work can we do this most effectively. Their bodies are in the mortuary of Slavyansk. The best option would be airlifting to Kiev and then home. You know what is happening in the Donetsk Region, in particular in Donetsk, in its airfield. In these conditions airlifting is impossible. We agreed on the technical issues of removal of the bodies by land with our Italian colleagues, using our foreign bodies in Ukraine and local authorities. There is specifically equipped transport for that. The ground route is not safe either because of continuing fighting. OSCE representatives are dealing with this, helping to agree on a pause or other means of guaranteeing that the transport, which will be carrying the bodies, will not be attacked.

Today we also discussed the situation with regard to the disappearance of four OSCE observers, including one Turkish national. In this regard, through the mass media I would like to highlight again that the memorandum between Ukraine and the OSCE, which ensures the rights, immunities and privileges of employees of this mission in Ukraine, has still not been ratified by the Verkhovna Rada. There are still no formal legal foundations to request immediate measures to search and ensure the safety of the missing members of the OSCE mission. It is necessary, especially now, when Petro Poroshenko makes statements that he will resolve all the problems, that the Ukrainian authorities start at least with ratification of the memorandum, which should ensure the safety and immunity of OSCE observers in the territory of Ukraine.