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Russia is "supportive" of the involvement of Belarus in various European forms of cooperation

Transcript of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Remarks and Answers to Media Questions at Joint Press Conference with Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov After Joint Meeting of the Collegiums of the Russian, Belarus Foreign Ministries in Minsk, November 23, 2010

Foreign Minister Lavrov: I would like to express my satisfaction with the way we worked today. The annual meeting of the two collegiums of the ministries of foreign affairs of Russia and Belarus was devoted to very topical issues for our countries. We compared notes on the integration processes in the CIS area with emphasis on the Customs Union and Single Economic Space between our countries and Kazakhstan. We agreed on how to make better use of the possibilities of the foreign ministries in advancing our common objectives, including forging cooperation with the EU, and with the European Free Trade Association. Negotiations between this entity and the Customs Union are beginning in the coming days.

We consider very important the upcoming events at the level of Heads of State under the auspices of the CIS, EurAsEC, the Customs Union, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, when Belarus will take over the CSTO chairmanship from Russia.

The third direction of our discussion today, besides the CIS and integration processes, and interaction with the EU, was the upcoming OSCE summit in Astana, and further activities of the body, which should more actively and effectively adapt to the demands of our times, particularly in regard to its involvement in shaping the new European security architecture. We have common approaches to the summit, common, including with a number of other CSTO countries, initiatives that we bring to this summit. We have agreed on how to advance them substantively in the coming period and during the Astana summit itself.

I once again express gratitude on behalf of all my colleagues and myself to our Belarusian friends for their hospitality and the excellent organization of the work.

Question: Your visit comes amid reports in the Russian and Belarusian media that you will not call on President Alexander Lukashenko. This is attributed to the deterioration of the atmosphere of Russian-Belarusian relations. Is this true? Can you comment on reports of Belarusian media that the President of Russia has forbidden his ministers and governors from calling on the President of Belarus?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We arrived in Minsk to engage in doing concrete things – to hold a joint meeting of the collegiums of the two ministries. We did it, held a very useful session and made decisions that have practical, not abstract significance for the interests of our two states in the domain of foreign policy coordination. We did not envision any other activities when arranging the trip to Minsk.

Question: One of the issues that you discussed today is cooperation in the European sector. Western politicians are actively coming to Belarus and showing interest in the processes occurring here. How do you assess relations between Belarus and Europe?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Through all the years of independence of our countries, namely the last twenty years Russia has been consistently and most actively supportive of the involvement of Belarus in various European forms of cooperation. This is our principled, non-conjunctural stance, and we support all the applications of the Republic of Belarus to specific mechanisms, whether the Council of Europe, Northern Dimension or any other multilateral formats of cooperation. We are absolutely far from desiring to hold someone back from engaging in efforts reflecting the national interest. It is not our policy or stance.

In regard to the specific visits of European representatives to Minsk and of Belarusian representatives to Europe or any other region, I think this is a reflection of the realities of today. The world is becoming interdependent, the world is globalizing. Russian foreign policy operates on the presumption that we need to cooperate with all who are willing to do it on an equal, mutually respectful, and mutually beneficial basis.

Question: How can you comment on the reports that today the DPRK fired artillery shells at South Korean territory, which caused human casualties and damage?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: What has happened should be condemned. Those who initiated and resorted to shelling the South Korean island in the area of the so-called Northern Limit Line, of course, take on enormous responsibility. There must be an immediate stop to any exchanges of strikes. There are already killed and wounded, serious damage has been inflicted, including burning houses, perhaps there are other destructions. Unfortunately, all this is still going on.

We urge the parties to take immediate measures to calm the situation and to prevent similar actions in the future. Much to our regret, this is not the first incident of its kind. It is the third case this year. The first two were single exchanges of blows. In this case, it can all slide into fighting. It is an enormous danger to be avoided by all possible means.

We have repeatedly warned that tensions in the area are increasing. We called upon all parties to avoid actions that could be misinterpreted and give rise to a situation sliding into a force-based solution. I hope that all will make the right conclusions. But the most important thing now is to stop the shelling and prevent anything like this in the future.

Question: On which of the issues to be discussed at the summit in Astana have Russia and Belarus reached a consensus?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Russia and the Republic of Belarus on all matters to be submitted to the summit in Astana have not just consensus but common initiatives, beginning with military and political themes, including the principles of bolstering European security and strengthening confidence-building measures, including the humanitarian sphere, the sphere of streamlining the procedures for election observation, greater transparency in the activities of the ODIHR, and ending with a whole package to reform the OSCE. This is the adoption of a Charter, introduction of the rules for the activity of field presences, and restoring order in the financial sphere, as extrabudgetary contributions are not controlled by anyone now and are used occasionally for purposes incompatible with the principles of the OSCE.

The answer would have been shorter if I had said that on all issues we had a common position.

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