16.06.04. Interview of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, Granted to the Anatolian News Agency, Istanbul, June 16, 2004

Russia has been invariably attaching great importance to the development of mutually beneficial, friendly relations with the Republic of Turkey. We regard your country as a good neighbor and an important partner in regional and international affairs.

We are pleased with the current dynamic, ongoing development of Russian-Turkish ties in various fields, and intend to jointly take them to the level of a multifaceted, constructive partnership. We are convinced that this would meet the vital interests of the peoples of our countries and would contribute to the strengthening of peace and stability in the Eurasian region.

Question: What are the positions of Russia in the matter of resolving the Iraq problem and the approaches of Russia to the latest peace initiatives in Middle East settlement?

Answer: From the very start of the Iraq crisis Russia consistently pursued a line on its political resolution under the aegis of the United Nations and on the basis of the principles of international law. And we always associated the future of Iraq with the creation of a peaceable, integral and democratic state in which the rights of all its citizens would be equally guaranteed irrespective of national or confessional identity.

The adoption by the Security Council on June 8, 2004, of Resolution 1546 signifies the onset of a new stage in Iraqi settlement. On June 30 the occupation of Iraq ends, and there arise before its people the tasks of constructing a peaceful life. The job ahead is the determination of a future state structure, elaboration and adoption of a constitution, and preparation and holding of general elections to new power institutions. This will require a high degree of national unity and consistent efforts by the Interim Government, formed on June 1, in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country.

Of course, the international community should give Iraq necessary assistance in coping with these tasks. This is the exact focus of UNSCR 1546, by which the important role is laid upon the United Nations in providing assistance to the Iraqi authorities in advancing the political process and rehabilitating the Iraqi economy. We also consider essential the provision of the resolution on the need to clarify the questions definitively as to the presence of WMDs in Iraq, the unsettledness of which became the excuse for the military operation.

Taking into account the need for international support of the interim power institutions of Iraq, and the complexity of the tasks of the transitional period, the proposal of Russia to hold an international conference with the participation of all the influential forces of the country, the neighbor states and the members of the UN Security Council remains relevant.

Speaking of Russia's material contribution to Iraqi settlement, I would like to recall that almost immediately after the end of hostilities Russian specialists arrived in Iraq to help reconstruct its vitally important infrastructure and power facilities. We are ready to assist further in this the new Iraqi authorities subject, of course, to reliable security for our citizens.

As for the initiative of Ariel Sharon for disengagement with the Palestinians, recently approved by the Israeli government, our basic approach to it remains unchanged. The proposed measures for Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a part of the West Bank can play an important positive role in restoring the peace process. But of course they must fit into the roadmap for Middle East settlement, drawn up by the Quartet of International Mediators, and actually lead to the end of the occupation of the Arab lands and the ultimate realization of the idea of a coexistence of two states - Israel and Palestine.

It is equally important that movement towards peace should not stop at the carrying out of the envisaged measures, and that they become a part of the comprehensive settlement process. We are convinced that a truly enduring peace can be established only through negotiations on a generally recognized international legal basis - UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1515 and the Madrid principles.

Question: Your assessment of the current process of Turkey's entry into the EU in the context of a "conflict of civilizations," in particular, on a religious basis. May this, in the Minister's opinion, reflect on the process of Turkey's entry into the European Union?

Answer: We have been closely watching the processes of the EU enlargement and the transformation of the mechanisms of the European Union. We have been consistently supportive of the formation of a Greater Europe without dividing lines.

As the largest Eurasian state, where all the major religions are represented, Russia flatly rejects the very idea of a conflict of civilizations.

Question: What are the approaches of Russia to solving the Cyprus problem?

Answer: Russia has held a consistent position in Cyprus settlement. We are ready to continue cooperation both with the Cypriot parties and with other states in the interest of achieving a comprehensive, viable and just settlement in Cyprus on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions and within the framework of the Mission of Good Offices of the UN Secretary General.

We presume that the search of a compromise should proceed on a voluntary basis with due regard for the lawful interests and concerns of all the Cypriots - Greeks and Turks.

Russia supports the steps to render financial and economic assistance to the Turkish Cypriots on the condition of the elaboration of special international mechanisms for its provision not violating the appropriate UN resolutions on Cyprus.

Question: Do alternative projects exist for the transportation of Russian oil skirting the Black Sea Straits, including on the basis of the concept of developing a network of international regional pipelines?

Answer: This problem is currently being discussed ever more often, which is understandable, since, as you yourself noted, it is directly linked with the need for the diversification of routes of transportation of energy carriers and, ultimately, with the tasks of ensuring a secure and stable regime of supplies of oil and oil products to the European market.

The events of the last few months have again shown convincingly that the market responds to any irregularities and even the eventual risk of irregularities in supplies of energy carriers stemming from a sharp rise in prices. This turns into substantial losses for importing countries, and so for ordinary consumers too. And, on the contrary, the smooth functioning of the routes of delivery of energy carriers has a positive impact on market conditions.

In other words, both exporting countries and importing countries stand to gain only if the possibilities of the major routes of oil transportation are used most effectively, in full accordance with the rules of international law. That is the reason why we are in close contact with the Turkish side and are holding active consultations with our colleagues from the Foreign Ministry of Turkey and other competent agencies as to how to raise the effectiveness of shipping in the straits, considering that reserves exist for increasing their throughput capacity. By the way, not only our specialists adhere to this view, but also the experts of authoritative international institutions and organizations.

At the same time, we treat with considerable attention the concerns of the Turkish public over the high concentration of oil supplies by tankers through the straits. I want to note that, in spite of the shortage of export capacities, Russia in the coming years does not propose to substantially increase oil supplies in the Black Sea sector. As you know, we are rapidly developing the Baltic Pipeline System. The realization of the projects in the northern sector of Russia for the transportation of oil from Siberia also has great prospects.

In addition, the implementation of the agreement of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia for the integration of the Druzhba and Adria pipelines also will help to reduce the load on the Black Sea Straits.

We are carefully studying other schemes for the transportation of energy carriers in the Black Sea region and intend to continue our negotiations on the existing projects with interested states.

June 16, 2004