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Speech of and answers to questions of mass media by Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, at the meeting with students and the team of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Federation's Ministry of Foreign Affairs , Moscow, 25 February 2013

365-25-02-2013

    Dear Jevgeny Petrovich,

    Dear colleagues, friends,

    First of all I would like to congratulate all in audience on the Day of the Diplomatic Academy that you have celebrated together with Saint Valentine’s Day. I do not know what lies behind this symbol, but it is so.

    We value the work of your team of professors and teachers. We welcome the efforts of the management of the Diplomatic Academy in increasing the efficiency of its activities. We consider essential the aspiration to preserve the closest interaction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian foreign institutions, to maintain an organic link between theoretical knowledge and practical requirements that are set for international professionals. The Diplomatic Academy makes more and more notable contribution to the uneasy process of comprehending the deep changes that take place in the world. I think that DA must more actively tell others about its life and what projects it implements. Recently, Jevgeny Bazhanov, Principal of the Diplomatic Academy, wrote an article that deserves to be developed into a more serious and extensive material and published in mass media. I am convinced that all the colleagues in the audience from mass media will support such an initiative. I consider it important to encourage such an interest in all possible ways.

    Changes in the geopolitical landscape are indeed widespread. You know about the global financial and economic crisis, reallocation of the balance of forces in global affairs, resurgence of turbulence in different regions, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa, the raise of significance of cultural and civilizational dimension of competitions in the world. Generally, international relations become more and more complex and less predictable.

    Reinforcement of new trends in the global development is reflected in the updated Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation approved by the President Vladimir Putin. The document defines goals and objectives of our country's foreign policy and the main lines of action used to achieve them. Herewith it is based on the philosophy of succession, following key principles of our foreign policy doctrine that were formed during the last two decades when, starting from the Foreign Policy Concept approved by the President Vladimir Putin in 2000, its openness, predictability, pragmatism, multi-vector nature, also its consistent, but not confronting nature and the promotion of national interests were fixed.

    Russian foreign policy will also be targeted to the creation of favourable external conditions for the economic upturn of our country, ensuring international security and stability. The President of Russia set a goal for us to act in advance, to take into account any situation development versions, to actively influence the course of global processes in accordance with the role that rightfully belongs to Russia as one of significant centres of power and influence in the forming polycentric world order.

    We are strongly convinced that the stability of the new international system may be secured only based on the supremacy of international law, primarily, UN Charter principles. To act otherwise – staking at the intervention into internal affairs of sovereign states and relying on force as the main factor in international relations – means to intensify chaos in the world policy, which will eventually hit the interests of all the members of the global community.

    An autonomous and independent foreign policy course of Russia in accordance with its centuries-old traditions becomes more and more strongly sought-for. And here autonomy has nothing to do with attempts to square away for sea alone. It is quite the reverse; we actively work on the alignment of collective actions for the purposes of searching adequate answers to common, general nowadays challenges. Russia energetically participates in the work of key multilateral formats. Last year we presided in APEC, this year in the Group of Twenty, in the nearest two years we will chair the Group of Eight, BRICS and SCO.

    We set a goal for ourselves to strengthen global management institutes. We will further promote universal principles of equal and undivided security, consecutively work for the purposes of promoting political settlement of conflict situations through the promotion of an inclusive dialog of all the parties involved, orienting ourselves on the support of escalated reforms in the countries that are on their path to reformations without imposing any outside scale of values and acknowledging the multiplicity of development models.

    Our policy fully corresponds to the realities of the interrelated world of the 21st century, and we will advance our development of integration with our neighbours, deepening of the interaction with all those who are also ready to cooperate based on equality and taking into account mutual interests.

    Certainly, the most important part of our foreign policy activities will always be protection of rights and rightful interests of Russian citizens and our nationals residing abroad.

    Modern Russian diplomacy strives to combine huge professional experience and the aspiration to master most modern methods and technologies, including those in the economic and informational spheres, the use of “soft power” mechanisms.

    We set very high standards in our work. I thank Jevgeny Bazhanov, Principal of the Diplomatic Academy, for his good words about our successes, but the main thing for us now is not to lag behind in the processes of changes, to act in advance as the President of the Russian Federation requests from us, and to try finding solutions that would maximally secure our interests and correspond to the objective of strengthening stability and security around our boundaries and globally.

    I reckon that the team of the Diplomatic Academy will make a weighty contribution to our joint efforts. I will not elaborate on different regional and functional aspects of Russian foreign policy. I am convinced that those who work and study in the Diplomatic Academy are actively interested in these processes. The foreign policy concept of the Russian Federation was approved just a few days ago. It fully discloses our priorities and main lines of action. I am convinced that you are all familiar with it. I will be ready to answer all the questions of the audience and the team of professors and teachers.

    Question: Having read the updated Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation, I paid attention to Paragraphs 63, 68, 71 concerning relations of Russia with the USA and NATO. Words like “non-discrimination”, “non-interference in domestic affairs”, “respect of mutual interests” and “balance of interests” stand out. Can we assert that the United States do not always guide themselves by provisions of internationals law in the sphere of foreign policy and most frequently place their interests ahead of interests of other countries? What are consequences of that for Russia?

    Sergey Lavrov: Non-interference in domestic affairs of sovereign states, equality, mutual benefit are generally accepted principles of international law and all the countries must guide themselves by them. However, it is not always possible to follow them, for the USA as well. It is sufficient to recall the participation of the United States and NATO in bomb attacks to Yugoslavia – it was a gross violation of the UN Charter, OSCE Helsinki Final Act, when a member state of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was attacked. We can remember the Iraq war that started (as everybody learned afterwards) on a false presence and was not authorized in accordance with international law.

    A fresh example is the recent situation in Libya, when UNSC resolution was grossly misrepresented taking into account that it was far from being perfect. The implementation of the no-fly zone regime was implemented in such a way that there was no doubt that there were violations. In fact, we warned about it, we feel the consequences of Libyan events even now. The infiltration of weapons and militants to neighbouring countries still continues. The situation in Mali is in many ways a direct consequence of how we treated Libya. We try to contribute to the efforts of the Libyan government by ensuring unity for this country that is in jeopardy, also contributing to the stabilization of social, economic and political situation in all possible ways.

    The answer to your question is yes. USA has service record of violations of international law. It is certainly an anomaly. Our task (by our I mean all the countries) in our dialog with the USA is to seek that the USA acts within the boundaries of international law and the UN Charter. We are interested in involving our US colleagues into collective actions. I think that many realistic people in Barack Obama’s Administration, that was formed after his re-election as a President, understand that the legitimacy of actions on the international arena, acknowledgment of the rightness of any steps made by a country (if the country wishes its actions to be perceived correctly) must be established within the boundaries of international law.

    I reckon that we will talk about specific examples during our meeting in Berlin with US Secretary of State John Kerry - including the example of the Syrian crisis, where both our countries are interested in stopping bloodshed, in “pushing” the conflicting parties to dialog, to make Syrians sit and agree among themselves so that no ethnic or religious group feels deprived, but would be comfortably “integrated” into the political system.

    Question: My question concerns the new revision of the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation and its structure. The document highlights a range of prioritized countries in each region of the world, with which Russia needs to maintain and develop partner relations, except the Middle East and North Africa. The revision of the Concept of 2008 contained countries of this region, in particular Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia. Why specific countries of the Middle East and North Africa are missing in the new revision of the document?

    Sergey Lavrov: All the countries you have listed and many others are still important in our foreign policy line in the Middle East and North Africa. This region is currently deeply changing, the processes have not completed yet. Not everything is clear there; optimum models are searched for that would be acceptable both for the governments (including the countries where revolutionary changes took place) and for the oppositions.

    The priority of this region is also highlighted by the fact that we wish to build relations with the League of Arab States uniting all the countries of the Arab world. A few days ago a delegation of LAS leaders visited Moscow. Negotiations, that had a format of a strategic ministerial forum for the first time, completed with the adoption of an extensive Joint Statement, a detailed Action Plan that sets the tone and topics of our partnership for a long range perspective.

    We cannot talk about any reduction of the role of the Middle East, North Africa and the Islam world in our foreign policy. It is quite the reverse, we wish the Islam World, the Arabs to solve the issues emerging in their region more actively, not to be tempted to rely on an outsider and to speak as a unity more actively. This is in our interests, in the interests of stability of the region. Here it is important to act based on the statutory principles that were approved by these countries. LAS acts on the basis of consensus. In the recent years there were situations when the League started to depart from this rule and this did not lead to the increase of its authority. The situation is the contrary now. We have felt our partners, their aspiration for active actions in favour of peaceful settlement of the conflicts present in the region, first of all (and it is very important) the Palestinian problems. I was moved to the background of the world policy in the midst of the events of the Arab spring. It is bad, because the root of many problems that have set agog here and continue to destabilize the region now, is the lack of settlement of the Palestinian matter.

    I appeal to you to read the section devoted to the Middle East and North Africa. You will see that the priority of this region is increasing.

    Question: Will Common Economic Space be able to provide an impulse to the development of economic and regional relations with countries of Latin America?

    Sergey Lavrov: Having regard to all conditions, the relations are developing as intensively as effectively the country lines up its economy. The fact that the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space, and in the long term also the Eurasian Economic Union increase competitiveness and effectiveness of economies of the countries that are members of these unions (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) has been proved by statistics. After the Customs Union started to operate, economy growth rates of these three countries significantly increased. We will feel these benefits more and more clearly. The stronger the economic indicators of these three countries are, the more effective our positions will appear in the development of trade and investment cooperation with other regions, including Latin America.

    We had a “Renaissance” in our relations with Latin America in the recent years. We feel a thirst for cooperation with Russia, including the spheres of investments, hi-tech, space and many other spheres. We build up a technological alliance with Brazil. We have good prospects of cooperation with Argentina. We have just reached new, important agreements with Cuba. There are many stocks that bring fruit with Venezuela. In the few recent years relations with practically all countries of the region moved in a positive direction. This trend will only strengthen with the development of integration processes in the Post-Soviet space.

    Question: Summarizing the results of the last year, what, in your opinion, was the greatest achievement of Russian diplomacy? What do you regret most of the things that were not achieved?

    Sergey Lavrov: This is an ungrateful question, because I am not used to evaluating my achievements – this is a task of our citizens and economic operators whom we support to help them to avoid discrimination. From the point of view of journalism, it is an interesting statement; however, we should not have problems in any lines.

    Talking about regrets, I will mention a non-settlement of the whole range of situations with Russian citizens who found themselves in a difficult situation abroad. I cannot and will not tell in detail what we do specifically. Almost every day we deal with matters of those who found themselves in a difficult situation in Libya, Nigeria, USA and other countries. Unfortunately, not everything depends on us. Viktor Bout and Konstantin Iaroshenko got to the USA after a gross violation of international regulations by US agencies, and in case of Viktor Bout – also of laws of Thailand. We need to rescue our people and we work on it. We deal with sailors in Nigeria, our fellow nationals in Libya. There are things that we cannot talk about to avoid harming them, it is a delicate job. This disappoints me most of all.

    Question: The priority line of Russian foreign policy is the cooperation of Russia with CIS countries. What is the role of diplomacy in the field of economic cooperation in CIS?

    Sergey Lavrov: CIS countries are our close neighbours. Many of them are our allies, strategic partners. Certainly, this is a priority line of Russian foreign policy as is directly confirmed in the updated Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation.

    The role of diplomacy in any economic relations increases. This is the request of the day, the sign of the time. The President of Russia calls for that, and we constantly work on it.

    The specifics of economic links in the CIS area – political, military and political, humanitarian and other relations – involves that our presidents meet very intensively and directly review issues of principle. During such summit meetings they make key decisions on the deepening of our economic integration and the development of economic links with the countries that are parties to the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space, but not members of the Eurasian Economic Community and CIS in total.

    CIS achieved a significant result – an agreement on the creation of a free market zone was signed recently. It is a breakthrough decision confirming that the Commonwealth is not just a base for a direct dialog of leaders (which is valuable by itself), but also a structure able to make systemic decisions allowing to significantly improve economic exchanges and thus to create jobs, increase the welfare of citizens.

    Diplomats together with Ministers of the Economy are ready to participate in the preparation of all agreements. We cannot stay aside here. However, direct agreements at the summit level play a decisive role, and our task is to prepare them as scrupulously and in good faith as possible.

    Question: I represent the Republic of South Ossetia, the existence of which became possible due to the discretionary decision of the Russian government in August 2008. We all remember, appreciate and value that. I also would like to express our gratitude for the possibility to get education in the Academy we all like so much within the framework of the interaction of our Ministries of Foreign Affairs. In the new Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation the priority question is still cooperation with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In the light of a thaw in relations of Russia and Georgia, I would like to hear from you personally that the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is not in jeopardy.

    Sergey Lavrov: The President of Russia Vladimir Putin talked about it directly and unambiguously. I can only confirm it. It is strange that such question has arisen.

    Russia, as you have said, provided a possibility for the Republic of South Ossetia and the Republic of Abkhazia to exist. If Mikheil Saakashvili managed to do what he did in South Ossetia in 2008, Abkhazia would be next (plans, maps with the direction of main hits had already been prepared). Therefore, we did not see any other outcome to secure not just safety of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but also the survival of these people. We have no such choice any more. There were possibilities for agreements before the war, and these prospects were constantly “torpedoed” by the regime of Mikheil Saakashvili. South Ossetia was attacked not only in August 2008, but also in summer 2006. That time they did not have enough forces – militia men of South Ossetia supported by peacemaking divisions managed to stop the aggression.

    After the aggression in August 2008 was stopped, we presumed that we could still agree, and we were ready to conduct special discussions about status with the participation of these countries. But after statements of Mikheil Saakashvili that they will definitely gain revenge, and he would not discuss the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, “masks were torn off” and we did not see any other outcome. This was an unanimous decision of the Russian government. It cannot be revoked.

    You mentioned about a thaw in relations with Georgia. We never nose-dived in respect of the people of Georgia. They are our close neighbours, fraternal people. We have a mutual thirst in the field of culture, humanitarian links. We never wanted to “fence ourselves off” from the people of Georgia or to isolate them. However, the regime of Mikheil Saakashvili made a decision about the breach of diplomatic relations. Now the new government of Georgia acts pragmatically. If the Georgian party has interest to further development of humanitarian links, air traffic (it exists), economic contacts (they never broke them completely, in the field of energy and in other fields our companies still worked there), we are ready for the development of interaction in these fields. I will emphasize again that it will not be at the cost of treason of our brothers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This will never happen.

    Question: There is a UN Model at the Academy. The main topic is the Arab-Israeli conflict. How do you see its solution? Will Palestine become a rightful member of the UN?

    Sergey Lavrov: You want me to provide you a clue for participation in the UN Model? Though, try yourselves!

    But if we talk seriously, this is the oldest conflict dragging on from the end of the 1940s, when UN made a decision about creation of two states in the territory of the mandate Palestine: Jewish and Arab. The Jewish state has been established, but the Arab state is still not established. We can have a long talk about why it did not happen, but currently we talk about the state of affairs, when we are almost in a catch 22 situation. Facts are created on the land, the territory that may be proposed to Palestinians for discussion, was constantly “cringing” in the last decades. This is bad, because we stalemate negotiations. To be more precise, there are no negotiations. It is bad that the “quarter” of international mediators consisting of Russia, EU, USA and UN is inactive. We cannot hold a ministerial meeting in this format for a long time. It is notable that the EU and the USA are ready for that, but Americans constantly postponed the convention of such meeting up to recently. Although we visited the same events with our colleagues during the UN General Assembly and at the OSCE ministerial meeting in Ireland, we constantly faced unreadiness of Washington. The meeting may bring nothing, as previous rounds have brought nothing. I would not obligatorily try to adopt such a document once again. Even if we cannot adopt such a document, we just need to meet, to look into each other’s eyes and to discuss the problem. Ideally, we need to meet not behind closed doors, but rather together with representatives of the League of Arab States, who must more responsibly and actively work on the Palestinian line. But we need to interact with them. If the situation when the “quarter” adopts some instruments by itself, but LAS discusses initiative in its own circles continues, that will not mend matters.

    I will provide a trivial answer to the question how to settle the conflict: through negotiations only. There are no other options, but the time for negotiations passes by. PA starts to have sentiments in favour of refusing from those abridged powers that the Authority has in the West Bank, because it has almost no authority in Gaza. They want to dissolve the Palestinian Authority saying to Israeli: “You are the state of invaders, therefore now you are responsible for light, water, salaries, food supplies etc.” We think that this would be the biggest failure of the world community in many decades, if the prospects of the creation of a Palestinian State living in peace and safety together with Israel, are disrupted.

    We need to act in many lines not to allow it. First, to involve as soon as possible the “quarter” and LAS into a direct conversation understanding that we need not to continue unilateral actions in violation of decisions of the Security Council, for example, the larger extension of settlement activities of Israel in the West Bank in general and in East Jerusalem. Secondly, it is of crucial importance to restore the unity of Palestine. The lack of it seriously disrupts the opportunities of Palestinians in respect of future negotiations and, as I hope, negotiations with Israel that will be soon restored. Contacts with the West Bank, where PA is in authority, and Gaza, where actual levers of power are with Hamas, continue through mediation of Egypt. We actively promote these contacts, support efforts of Egyptians. Currently a rather meaningful coordination of parameters of restoration of the unity and the organization of elections takes place. Here, it is important that the Hamas movement that “runs the show” in Gaza, does not doubt the authority of Mahmoud Abbas as a PA Chairman for conducting relations with Israel. The trouble is that these relations are practically frozen and now it is important to return the situation to the track of negotiations. There cannot be anything other than negotiations. But, having read about facts, learned about precedents (Camp David, Oslo, proposals of Bill Clinton to Yasser Arafat), you offer your own version of specific negotiations within the framework of the UN Model on this topic; we will ask the Principal to show us the best ideas.

    Question: As a representative of the Far East I am interested in the problem of Tumangansky project in Primorski Krai. Could you please answer what are current prospects for negotiations on this project, in what stage it is and what are the main disagreements of the parties in this matter? Will recent events in the Korean Peninsula have an impact on the development of trilateral relations between China, North Korea and Russia?

    Sergey Lavrov: I cannot boast that currently I know details of the Tumangansky project. I dealt with it once, when I worked in the Department of International Economic Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But I assume that nothing significant has happened in this sphere since then. The project is indeed trilateral, and the situation on the Korean Peninsula does not help in holding meetings and in consideration of practical ways that would allow to get things moving. The discharge of emotions and a series of actions made by parties to this process will have a fall and does not show any optimism.

    As you know, we discussed another explosion of a nuclear device by North Korea. When DPRK warned us some time before the explosion, we sent a clear signal that this will be a mistake. Unfortunately, neither our, nor Chinese or US signals were taken into account. Now we work on a resolution in the UN Security Council that must be considered as soon as possible. This may not stay unpunished. We need to coordinate additional measures of affecting North Korea beside those that have already been adopted. First of all, these measures must be addressed directly to nuclear and missile programs of DPRK, because it is their development that creates a threat for international peace and security as UNSC has already mentioned in its resolutions. On the other hand, this resolution must not contain any loopholes for those trying to treat it as a pretence for resorting to force. This would be a catastrophe. Thirdly, the resolution must clearly confirm the lack of options beside the negotiation solution of the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula through renewing six-party talks. We will do relevant work in bilateral channels with Pyongyang. We support the efforts of China. We think that USA could also make its contribution to air clearing. We do not deem that it would be correct to use the current situation as a pretence for a “military buff-up” in this region, preparing answers, conducting mass military trainings, extending possibilities of the missile potential targeted to DPRK. As you know, if there is a gun hanging on the wall, it will once fire. Therefore, like in any conflict, the more “firing hardware” we have (even more so if it is hi-tech), the greater the risk that the situation will break into a military scenario. We do everything to prevent this from happening.

    Within the framework of six-party talks in the currently inactive working group Russia presides on principles of peace and security in North East Asia. When things were getting better, we spread the vision of the document that might be adopted by all the parties during the six-party talks. It would be currently useful to return to this idea to help hush passions. It is clear that guarantees of safety and security are a key to bringing the situation back to the track of negotiations. When this happens, we can deal with Tumangan without getting distracted by these problems and advance other trilateral projects involving Russia, DPRK and Republic of Korea more actively. This includes a railway, electric power and gas.

    Question: When will the EU agree to easing visa restrictions? Why is it so difficult to reach a consensus?

    Sergey Lavrov: I think that this is a political issue; we openly talked about it to our EU partners at the last summit in Brussels, in 2012, when the President Vladimir Putin met with the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso.

    There are two processes. I am convinced that we are ready for a visa-free regime for short travels of citizens. I recently met Romano Prodi, who being the President of the European Commission back in 2003 said that a visa-free regime is a reality, and we can agree on it in no more than five years. Ten years have passed. Romano Prodi currently being a Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Sahel was in Moscow and was expected by the President Vladimir Putin. I also met him, and he remembered that he indeed set sucha target ten years ago, and regretted that it still remains on paper. Though, like us, he is convinced that we could coordinate it long ago and put into effect a visa-free regime.

    We have a list of “Common steps towards visa-free short-term travel for Russian and European citizens” coordinated with the European Commission, related to the need of introduction of biometric passports, understanding of cross-border control. This list is either posted on the official website of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or it will be posted very soon. You can study it. There are no ambiguities – everything is clear and verifiable. The list is exhaustive. We understand that when all these steps are made, we will move to a visa-free regime and sign an agreement that may be typed on computer in half an hour. Mutual visits are envisaged and will take place. We write each other reports on how these steps are implemented. We have no doubts that it is time to close the books by the middle of this year and to start writing a visa-free agreement.

    Our partners take a reserved position, and cannot clearly explain it. I recently was in Brussels and met High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Catherine Ashton. We demonstrated in detail that there are no technically unsolved problems mentioned in these “Common steps”, but rather a political decision is required. We are getting the impression that some members of the European Union took a political position discriminating the Russian Federation. EU has a project named “Eastern Partnership”. Six ex Soviet Republics, but currently sovereign states, are parties to it – Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. As far as we know, several members of the European Union using the principle of consensus in force in the EU, strongly insist that visa easements in relations with Russia do not outrun, but rather follow easements for the countries of the Eastern Partnership. If this is so, it is a clear prejudice. It means that people are trying to conduct matters not based on the actual situation, but rather based on their political preferences.

    I hope that the objective approach will prevail, and we will get things moving. The decision about the elimination of visas shall be made judging by the degree of readiness of each country rather than by political preferences.

    The second process we now have with the European Union deals with further easement of the visa regime. We could do it a long time ago. We have an Agreement of 2006 that introduced the first steps for easing visa restrictions. We decided to update and extend the category of citizens falling under this Agreement, the possibility of receiving multi-entry visas, multiannual visas, etc. Currently the problem is that our partners refuse to include into this list (the category of citizens entitled to eased visa regime) holders of service biometric passports. Currently holders of diplomatic passports do not need any visas. We offered to do the same for holders of service biometric passports as well. First, our partners said that they do not want to include into the visa-free regime service passports, then they insisted that these must be biometric passports only. The category of citizens entitled to this easement, if the agreement is signed, are 15 thousand people from Russia and about 200 thousand people from the EU. We clearly understand that explicitly this may be perceived in a way that Russian negotiators stubbornly refuse because the EU does not wish to let 15 thousand officials to its territory without visas. Under otherwise equal conditions, I would advocate not to insist on it and to bring the agreement into force, because it significantly eases the visa regime for other categories of citizens, who are not officials.

    However, just recently the European Union signed an Agreement on easing visa restrictions with Ukraine, where holders of service biometric passports are freed from the need to get visas. And here we get into a situation that by refusing it, we consciously allow to discriminate us. We ask in Brussels: “Why is it that Ukraine can, but we can’t?” We get a very interesting answer: “Russia is not Ukraine”. Of course it is not Ukraine. However, we know that a Ukrainian official does not differ much from a Russian official. Therefore such discriminating approach cannot settle us. Therefore, I hope that we will eventually obtain consent for the final text of the Agreement about easing visa restrictions. I hope that our citizens will respect that we cannot voluntarily agree to such discrimination.

    Question: In light of discussions about compulsory military service in the Russian Army as a mandatory requirement for civil services, I would like to know whether it is an essential condition among other recruitment criteria for the employment in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. If no, then does it provide any advantages when getting employed by a foreign policy agency in Russia?

    Sergey Lavrov: The requirement concerning mandatory military service does not concern those accessing the diplomatic service. There are no provisions according to which a person after a military service would gain any automatic advantage. We need to consider each case individually.

    As I understand, you mean not only the specifics of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, but rather all the discussions concerning access to the state service. I heard about it, but I think that they are not regulatory yet.

    If, when you graduate, you are interested in working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – you are welcome. We have a recruitment commission that arranges interviews.

    Question: After the adoption of the “Dima Yakovlev Law” in December 2012 the Agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation Regarding Cooperation in Adoption of Children was in fact stricken down. How will this sphere be further regulated within the framework of international law?

    Sergey Lavrov: First of all, the above mentioned Agreement will be in force for one more year, i.e. till 31 December 2013, and the obligations under it remain in force. Currently, when we are trying to learn about the fate of several children – citizens of Russia, who were adopted in the USA, the Agreement is fully applicable.

    Secondly, Russia and the USA are parties to a Consular convention regulating the need to provide access to Russian citizens irrespective of what has happened to them. Therefore, there is still a legal aspect. The problem is that US authorities cannot or do not want (though I hope that it is not so – we see some attempts to do something recently) to put pressure on authorities of the states. In accordance with laws and regulations of the USA states deal with adoption problems, each of them has its own organization of work, and it is not always possible to correlate them. Therefore, when we prepared this Agreement, we sought that the federal government undertakes additional obligations for providing access to children in trouble in any state. I repeat, the Consular convention is in force and it puts on these obligations, we just need to seek that Washington authorities (and we do it) do not skip them.

    Question: According to my observations, the human resources department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not voluntarily employ graduates of the Diplomatic Academy. What does the Academy need to do to improve this indicator?

    There are different opinions about the importance of the consular service: the President Vladimir Putin and you recently talked about it several times. We deem this line to be important and it needs to be improved. What is your opinion?

    Sergey Lavrov: As to the first part of the question, Principal Jevgeny Bazhanov knows statistics better. We are ready to accept more, but graduates need to pass tests.

    As to the consular service, I agree that you cannot do diplomacy, if you have not mastered basics of this work. Me and my more senior fellows whom I see here and our teachers remember, how we were running with papers, when we were just employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we were foot soldiers. There is no diplomacy without that. It is the same as today’s youth cannot master more creative forms of our profession without computer literacy. The consular service is a basic service. The diplomat, who went through the school of consular work, enriches himself, creates more possibilities for himself. Here I will highlight two aspects.

    The consular service is frequently associated with Russian tourists who got in trouble. For instance, the case with the liner “Costa Concordia” that overturned, when we needed to help with clothes and drugs, and with their return home. The same is related to incidents on resorts. There are tsunamis in Turkey and Thailand, problems with local police. Unfortunately, the incidence of such cases does not reduce. According to the statistics, there is one incident related to the violation of laws of the receiving country or an accident per every five thousand Russians going abroad.

    There was an interesting case in Antalya. Three consular employees work in the General Consulate of Russia, while more than two millions of Russian tourists visit this place every year. Divide two millions by five thousands and get an impression of how many times they need to deal with incidents. Therefore, we count on strengthening of our forces in the consulate line and the President Vladimir Putin promised us support.

    The second aspect of consulate work is that these diplomatic institutions must do not only consular, but also analytical and operative work. Especially, when we talk about large cities. For instance, Istanbul, the centre of many meetings, events, the centre of the economic life of Turkey. Therefore, I cannot imagine the General Consulate without political work. So we must presume that a Consul must first of all take care of Russian citizens located in his area, but must not forget about analytical and operative work. I fully support you here.