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Briefing by Russian MFA Spokesman Andrei Nesterenko, January 29, 2010
 


Outcome of the trilateral meeting of Presidents Medvedev, Aliyev and Sargsyan on Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement


I think you're already familiar with the statement Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made after the meeting between the three presidents on Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement, held in Krasnaya Polyana on January 25.

In particular, he said that the presidents had a frank and, of course, useful conversation, which they decided to continue. The main outcome was an agreement whereby the parties will prepare their specific ideas and suggestions on the remaining unagreed points of the document containing the formulations, as proposed by international mediators, the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Russia, US and France), of the Basic Principles for a Settlement. For our part, confidence was expressed that this would help the Co-Chairs in their subsequent work.

Let me remind you that the statement of the head of the Russian foreign affairs agency is posted on the Ministry website.


Visit to Russia by Mahmoud Abbas

President Medvedev met in Sochi with the Head of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, on January 26. Assessments of the discussion held are placed on the President’s and Foreign Ministry websites.


Sergey Lavrov’s attendance at international meeting on Yemen

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, on January 27 took part in the international high-level meeting on Yemen that was held in London. The lineup of attendees also included foreign ministers from the G8, China, the Gulf Cooperation Council, several regional countries, and UN, IMF, and World Bank leaders.

Participants expressed support for the measures being taken by Yemen’s government to combat extremism and terrorism. They noted the importance of consolidating international assistance to the Republic of Yemen in repulsing threats to its security, ensuring internal stability and addressing social and economic problems. As part of the coordination of efforts in solving these tasks, agreement was reached to form a Group of Friends of Yemen, which includes Russia.

During the meeting the Russian side underlined its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of Yemen, and the inadmissibility of interference in its internal affairs. It reiterated Russia’s consistent line on providing multifaceted assistance to Yemen in the interests of developing the economy, improving the humanitarian situation, and ensuring security and stability.


London International High-level Conference on Afghanistan

On January 28 London hosted an international high-level conference on Afghanistan, co-chaired by Afghanistan, the UK and the UN, which was attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, foreign ministers from over sixty countries assisting in the stabilization of the IRA, and leaders of international organizations. Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov headed the Russian delegation.

The conference discussed assistance to Afghanistan in combating terrorism, improving public administration, carrying out socioeconomic reconstruction, and developing regional cooperation. It welcomed the desire of the Afghan government to gain greater autonomy in running the country after the transfer to it from the International Security Assistance Force of responsibility for ensuring order and stability. The conference endorsed the policy of Kabul to end bloodshed in Afghanistan through the reintegration into civilian life of Taliban and other anti-government militants if they accept the Constitution of the IRA, give up armed struggle and break ties with Al-Qaida. Featuring prominently in the discussions were the issues of developing regional cooperation with Afghanistan in various fields, including within the SCO framework, and of enhancing the role of the states of the region in the Afghan settlement. Considerable attention was paid to developing measures for the destruction of the regional drug industry, which undermines the security of states and is a source of funding terrorist activity.

The conference marked a significant milestone in international efforts to help Afghanistan rise swiftly as a peaceful, independent, neutral and economically stable state, free of terrorism and narco-crime.

On the sidelines of the London conference, the head of the Russian foreign affairs agency held a series of meetings, particularly with the US Secretary of State and with the Foreign Ministers of China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Canada. Detailed information on this subject is available on the Foreign Ministry website.


Russian-US contacts

Russian-US contacts, at various levels, have seen a boost recently. Apart from the cited meeting between Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in London, I would like to mention the January 21-22 visit to Moscow of a delegation led by US National Security Advisor James Jones and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. Besides, a telephone conversation took place on January 27 between Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama. The Russian and US presidents expressed satisfaction with the serious progress achieved during the recently concluded Moscow round of talks in preparing a new Start treaty for signature, and agreed to instruct their delegations to conclude technical refinement of the document in the near future.


Work on a new Start treaty

Pursuant to the Russian and US presidents’ instructions, a continuous, intensive work is in progress on the preparation of a new Russian-American treaty on further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.

That work, at both the expert and political levels, did not stop even in the New Year holidays.

The next full-blown round of talks between the sides’ interagency delegations is beginning in Geneva on February 1.


Sergey Lavrov to make a working visit to Germany and attend the Munich Conference on Security Policy

At the German side’s invitation, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay a working visit to the Federal Republic of Germany on February 5-6, 2010.

The visit program envisages holdings talks in Berlin with German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on February 5. It is borne in mind to review comprehensively the state of, and discuss the prospects for the strategic partnership between Russia and Germany, taking into account the intensive schedule of bilateral political dialogue at the highest level being formed for 2010.

In a ceremony at the Russian Embassy, Sergey Lavrov will present Russian Foreign Ministry Contribution to International Cooperation Badges, and 65 Years of Victory Jubilee Medals to a group of German anti-fascist veterans who fought in the Red Army ranks during the Great Patriotic War.

On February 6, he will deliver a speech at the plenary session of the 46th Munich Conference on Security Policy on the theme: “The Future of European and Global Security,” laying the main emphasis on President Medvedev’s initiative for a legally binding European Security Treaty and on promoting the principles set forth in the draft document submitted by Russia to the partners.

We expect a positive input to the discussion by participants of the Conference, which is one of the most representative venues for a comprehensive and open debate on current issues in the realm of global security.


Commemorative events for 65th anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp by the Red Army

On January 27, 2010 solemn commemorations were held at Oswiecim for the 65th anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

On behalf of President Dmitry Medvedev, Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko led a representative Russian delegation at the commemorations. He read out a message from the President of the Russian Federation, which found wide international resonance. You have already acquainted yourselves with its text.

There was the unveiling of a renewed Russian exhibition in Block 14 of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, prepared by the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 in conjunction with the Polish side. It is dedicated to the life and struggle of Soviet prisoners, thousands of whom fell victim to Nazism.

The commemorations at Oswiecim before the 65th anniversary of the Great Victory are another reminder that, the President stresses in his message, “unconcern and indifference, like forgetting the lessons of history, eventually lead to tragedies and crimes. And trust and mutual assistance can withstand the most dangerous threats.”


Outcome of formal UNSC meeting on Kosovo

An official meeting of the UN Security Council on Kosovo took place on January 22. The discussion confirmed the differences between its members who have recognized Kosovo and those who, like Russia, continue to adhere to the position on the illegitimacy of the unilateral declaration of independence. In his speech, Russia's representative stressed that the position of the Russian Federation on Kosovo remains unchanged. We are convinced that UN Security Council resolution 1244 remains fully valid in all its aspects and continues to be the international legal basis for conflict settlement in Kosovo, binding upon all parties.

The Russian Federation fully supports the activities of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in fulfilling its mandate and the provisions of the UN Secretary General’s November 2008 report. This document laid down the primacy of the UN Mission over the other international presences in the province.

We consider any further UNMIK operational staff cuts unacceptable as this would doubtless limit the capacity to fulfill its Security Council mandate.

We are convinced that no one has the right to impede the fulfillment by UNMIK of its tasks, particularly aiding in the implementation of the standards for Kosovo established by the international community.

We insist on the fulfillment by UNMIK of its duties relating to the external representation of Kosovo in regional and international mechanisms. There must be no changes in this regard.

We believe that the present situation calls for strong discouragement of attempts to push harmful concepts for Kosovo (“The Strategy for Northern Kosovo”) which are in breach of resolution 1244 and provoke tensions in the province.

Kosovo’s future should be decided through dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, without any outside interference.

Russia reaffirms its readiness to continue political efforts to promote a legally correct and fair solution to the Kosovo problem in accordance with UNSCR 1244.


Ninth round of Geneva Discussions on Security and Stability in Transcaucasia


The ninth meeting within the framework of international discussions on security and stability in Transcaucasia took place in Geneva on January 28. It was attended by delegations from the Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia, the Russian Federation, the United States, and the Republic of South Ossetia, and EU, UN and OSCE representatives. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs/State Secretary Grigory Karasin headed the Russian delegation.

The main focus of attention in the group on security issues was the need to develop firm security guarantees for Abkhazia and South Ossetia in line with the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreements. Different variants of the conclusion of agreements on the nonuse of force between Georgia, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia were examined in this context. In discussing the current situation in the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian border areas, a positive assessment was given to the role of the joint incident prevention mechanisms. Concrete ways for an acceptable solution for all parties to the problem of detainees and missing persons were outlined.

Participants in the group on humanitarian issues continued discussing the problem of refugees and displaced persons. They noted the priority importance of following in these matters the principles of voluntary return in safety and dignity.

The next meeting in Geneva is scheduled for March 30, 2010.


Outcome of Russian-Azerbaijani forum on humanitarian cooperation

The first Russian-Azerbaijani forum on humanitarian cooperation took place in Baku on January 21-23 – a unique event in relations between Russia and Azerbaijan, unprecedented in the CIS space as a whole.

It was distinguished by a high level of representation of the intellectual and creative elites. Sergey Naryshkin, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office, led the Russian delegation, approximately 150 strong. Those who arrived in Baku with him included Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev, Special Presidential Representative Mikhail Shvydkoi, a group of parliamentarians, heads of a number of federal agencies and of major media, prominent scientific and cultural workers, and representatives of various public, creative and sports organizations.

The delegation was received by President Ilham Aliyev, who stressed the readiness of Azerbaijan without any limitation to expand ties with Russia, including in the spiritual and humanitarian fields, and to facilitate strengthening the position of the Russian language in the republic.

The plenary meetings demonstrated the great potential for humanitarian cooperation between the two countries. Specific collaborative projects were proposed in the fields of print, television, cinematography and education. The need for cooperation by intellectual elites in the areas of innovative development and scientific and technological progress was highlighted. Participants called for giving permanent status to the Forum and its conduct under the aegis of the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan.


Winter part of the PACE 61st Session

The winter part of the 61st session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg is drawing to a close today, January 29. It generally bore a businesslike and non-politicized character.

A constructive tone for the session in many ways was set by the news from Moscow about the positive dynamics of the process of ratifying Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights, initiated by the State Duma on January 15 and continued on January 27 by the Federation Council. Russia’s completion of the ratification process in the near future essentially paves the way for intensifying the reform of the European Court of Human Rights. This input by the State Duma deputies and Federation Council members into solving “the Protocol 14 problem” was highly commended by almost all delegations to the PACE, as well as in the speech from the Assembly rostrum by the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Micheline Calmy-Rey.

PACE members with interest discussed the ideas for Strasbourg Organization reform proposed by Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland. Its chief aim would be to strengthen the CoE’s role in the system of European and trans-Atlantic institutions, and to make the Organization close and relevant to each of the Europeans.

An important event in the session was the unanimous election on the first day of its work, of a new President of the PACE – Turkey’s representative Mevlut Cavusoglu. The new Assembly President had been able to get such unanimous backing because he is well known as a figure committed to pushing within the Assembly the agenda for building a Greater Europe.

The session adopted a number of resolutions and recommendations, in particular, on the Middle East situation, on combating trafficking in persons, on media freedom, on increasing women's representation in the political life of European states, on improving the electoral legislation to enhance voter confidence, on an anti-corruption drive in the judiciary and law enforcement bodies, on biodiversity and climate change, and a number of others.

The Russian side advocates that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe continue to focus on solving problems that really concern the majority of Europeans.


7th round of Russian-Japanese strategic dialogue

On January 25, Tokyo hosted another round of Russian-Japanese strategic dialogue at the level of first deputy foreign ministers with the participation of Andrey Denisov and Mitoji Yabunaka.

A keen and constructive exchange of views was held on Russia-Japan relations, nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as a number of pressing global and regional problems.

In the context of the bilateral agenda, the focus was progress on the accords reached recently by the top leaders of Russia and Japan to step up their advance along the path of building partner relations. Priority attention was given to the further deepening of political dialogue and to the expansion of investment cooperation, including realization of major energy and infrastructure projects in the Far Eastern region.

The exchange of views on international issues was aimed at finding possibilities for closer practical cooperation between Russia and Japan in resolving the most important problems. In particular, the sides noted the closeness of positions on a number of disarmament and nonproliferation issues, including the preparation of the NPT Review Conference, as well as resolving the situation on the Korean peninsula and approaches to solving the Iranian nuclear issue.

In reviewing the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, discussion focused on the operation of regional integration mechanisms, enhancement of their efficiency, and the main thrusts of joint or parallel efforts by the parties to ensure security and stability in the region.

It was agreed to hold the next strategic dialogue meeting in Moscow in the second half of 2010. Specific dates will be arranged via diplomatic channels.


Bestowing of Order of Hero of Ukraine on Stepan Bandera

The decree bestowing Stepan Bandera with the Order of Hero of Ukraine is an event so odious that it could not but evoke a singularly negative reaction, primarily in Ukraine. Already known is the position on this question of a whole array of Ukrainian politicians, believing that decisions of this kind do not serve to consolidate Ukrainian public opinion.

Quite a few negative responses have appeared outside Ukraine, too.

As to the Russian reaction, the media and public entities have spoken out exhaustively in this connection. The tonality of the assessments varies from sarcastic irony to severe criticism, which fully matches the public sentiments in Russia.


Adoption by Lithuanian parliament of a resolution concerning the January 13, 1991 events in Vilnius

As you know, the Seimas of Lithuania passed a resolution the other day asking the cabinet of ministers to turn to the Russian Federation demanding payment of compensation to the families of those killed or injured as a result of the events in Vilnius on January 13, 1991.

The document is explicitly politicized and unfortunately indicates that a significant part of the Lithuanian MPs continue to live phobias of the past and are clearly not interested in remedying bilateral relations.

As to the gist of the propositions set out in the resolution, in particular, about “the aggression of the USSR against the independent state of Lithuania,” they are not only essentially absurd but also legally untenable. Under international law, aggression can only be a wrongful use of armed force by one state against another, and the UN Security Council gives a legally significant act of aggression qualification, but as of January 1991, an independent Republic of Lithuania did not exist because it was not recognized by any state.

Also improper are the references to the Treaty between the RSFSR and Lithuania of July 29, 1991, in which the parties recognize the state sovereignty of each other. This document at the time of signing was an agreement between two entities of the Soviet federation and, accordingly, could not engender international legal consequences.


Russian assistance to Haiti, affected by a devastating earthquake

Since the early days of the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti, which, according to latest figures, killed more than 170 thousand people, Russia has proactively and in cooperation with other nations and international organizations been vigorously involved in assisting the country. Thanks to prompt and selfless actions of Russian and foreign rescuers thousands of lives have been saved, and the situation prevented from developing into a humanitarian collapse.

While paying tribute to all who participated and continue to participate in the heroic work on eliminating the consequences of the monstrous calamity in Haiti, I would like to note Russia’s contribution to the overall efforts of the international community.

About 140 EMERCOM officers and ten units of equipment (including five aircraft) were involved in the relief work. Over the period of activity in that country, Russian search and rescue teams saved 9 people (including 2 children) from the rubble, and searched 230 houses, three schools, a university, and a number of other buildings in an area of 140 sq. km. EMERCOM spent more than US$5 million on humanitarian support of the Haitian people.

After the Haiti government declared an end to the search and rescue phase of the earthquake relief operation on January 22, a considerable part of the EMERCOM staff left the country.

Nevertheless, Russian doctors from EMERCOM’s Tsentrospas detachment and the Zashchita All-Russia Center for Catastrophe Medicine of the Ministry of Health and Social Development, and an airmobile hospital in possession of intensive care, operational, consultative/diagnostic and other specialized blocks continue working in Port-au-Prince. On January 23, an additional group of Tsentrospas doctors arrived in Port-au-Prince, delivering 15 tons of goods: medicine, food, and 15 days’ supplies for the hospital, including equipment for plasmapheresis.

Medical assistance has been provided to 1,726 victims (including 606 children), more than 150 surgeries have been performed, and 63 people hospitalized, despite the fact that the mobile hospital is not intended for patient treatment. Psychological support was provided to 1,282 Haitians.

At the requests of the governments of Venezuela and Panama, EMERCOM IL-76 aircraft delivered humanitarian goods from Caracas and Panama to Haiti.

All in all, Russian planes carried out 36 flights, and transported 260 tons of cargo including humanitarian and 240 passengers. The total flying time amounted to more than 140 hours.

On January 28, another EMERCOM IL-76 aircraft flew from Ramenskoye Airfield to Haiti with 15 tons of humanitarian aid on board.

Our country will continue to support the Haitian people in close coordination with other countries and international organizations.

Aware of the complexity of the situation in Haiti, we do not forget about the citizens of that country who are in Russia, including those training in our tertiary education institutions. In particular, it is about the transfer of all the Haitian students receiving education in our country on a commercial basis (more than 20) to a free form of training through the federal budget.


Concerning dismantling of monument in Tashkent

The theme of the monument was not left unheeded by the Foreign Ministry leadership and the Russian Embassy in Tashkent. Thus, in particular, in a conversation with visiting Uzbek Deputy Foreign Minister Bakhtiyor Islamov on January 25, Deputy Foreign Minister/State Secretary Grigory Karasin raised the issue with a view to getting clarification of what happened, especially in light of the upcoming 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

The Uzbek side offered the following explanations. The dismantled monument was not a monument to the soldier who fell during World War II, but to the defender of the southern borders of the Soviet Union. It was erected in 1975 by decision of the command of the then Turkestan Military District, next to its headquarters, and was part of its museum. According to the Uzbek representative, in fact, from the very beginning this monument was just part of the museum display and in that place there never were any military graves, nor were any memorial events held.

Currently, the Uzbek Ministry of Defense occupies the building of the former museum, so it was decided to dismantle the monument to the Defender of the Southern Borders of the Soviet Union and to install in its place a monument called “The Oath of Allegiance to the Motherland.”

The Uzbek Deputy Foreign Minister stressed that his republic not only takes care of Great Patriotic War veterans, but also carefully tends to military burial grounds. On the territory of the Volgogradsky Memorial Cemetery in downtown Tashkent stands the Monument of the Grieving Mother, at which mourning events, involving Uzbek leaders and officials from the embassies of the CIS countries and some other states, are annually held on May 9 to commemorate the fallen in World War II and soldiers who died in Tashkent hospitals


Holding the Year of Russia in France and the Year of France in Russia in 2010

In line with the agreement between the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the French Republic, 2010 has been declared the Year of Russia in France and the Year of France in Russia.

The organizing committees, made up of experts from interested ministries and agencies of Russia and France, were in close contact all through 2008 and 2009, coordinating a program of official events for the “intersecting Years.” The program was approved by Prime Ministers Vladimir Putin and Francois Fillon in Paris on November 27, 2009.

It includes more than 400 events in the fields of culture (concerts, exhibitions and festivals), education, youth exchanges, sports, science, economy, and communications. Varied in content and nature, the events will be held not only in the capitals, but also in many other cities and towns of our countries.

Both we and the French aim to show the extent to which the deep historical and cultural traditions unite our countries and peoples and to demonstrate the strategic nature of our bilateral partnership in all spheres.

The event that launched the program of the Years, a concert of the Mariinsky Theater orchestra under the baton of Maestro Valery Gergiyev at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, was a great success.

The Intersecting Years formal opening ceremony will be held in Paris on March 2, 2010 and on this day an exhibition called “Holy Russia” will be opened at the Louvre. The solemn closure of the Years will be marked by a gala concert of Russian and French ballet stars at the Bolshoi Theater in December 2010.


Prospects for regular flights of Georgian airlines to Russia

I was asked about the prospects for regular flights of Georgian airlines to Russia. As you know, our civil aviation authority recently granted the request of Airzena Georgian Airways to permit a series of charter flights between Russian and Georgian cities during the New Year and Christmas season. In doing so we proceeded from the humanitarian importance of this matter, which affects the interests of no small number of citizens of both countries, including those related by family ties.

For the same reasons, there are no principled obstacles on our part to the resumption of regular air links. Of course, this requires prior agreement between the aviation authorities on a number of technical aspects, in particular, the flight schedules of airlines of the two countries. It is also necessary to fix the procedure for repayment of the debts of Georgian carriers for air navigation services in Russia's airspace. If the Georgian side shows interest, we would be willing to undertake relevant negotiations.


Situation with Russian tourists in Peru

Russian media have carried quite a lot of reports on the situation with Russian tourists in Peru recently. In this connection I can say that the question of the Russian citizens on the Expedition in Search of Pink Dolphins is not new to the Foreign Ministry. We have already commented on the need for our travelers to do their route planning more responsibly, taking into account the situation and natural, climatic and other conditions. Unfortunately, our recommendations do not seem to be adequately taken by travelers. Recall the provocative attempt by a tourist group to cross the Ecuador-Peru border at a specific point unauthorized. The incident was settled only thanks to coordinated action by the Ministry and our consulates in Quito and Lima and successful cooperation with the Peruvian authorities.

Ignorance of local customs and norms of the legislation for the protection of communal lands, or reluctance to at least superficially acquaint oneself with them, has once again engendered a problem, now – when passing through little-explored territories. In this context, Alexander Ivanov, who presents himself as the expedition leader, has again turned to our embassy in Lima for assistance, although he is well aware that the possibilities of such assistance are not infinite.

The Russian Embassy in Peru is in constant telephone contact with the members of the expedition, who are currently in the Peruvian selva. We are alarmed that a few days ago, the expedition split into two groups, which had no connection for some time. Ivanov asserts that all members of the expedition are alive and well and continue their journey. I would like to believe that this is so. In any case, Mr. Ivanov took responsibility for the safety and health of the people not being with him and constantly exposed to various dangers.

One has the impression is that the expedition leaders, despite the real threat to the health and lives of its members, are stubbornly seeking to complete their project, which is fraught with unpredictable consequences.

We again draw attention to the responsibility that rests with them, and once again recommend that they revise their dubious plans and choose a more optimal route.

In the case of new risks, which the expedition leaders from time to time report to the embassy, the best choice, again, would be its members’ evacuation home.

From responses to media questions:

Question: Please comment on Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s statement regarding the prospects for Iran’s domestic production of uranium enriched to 20 percent.

Answer: Teheran has repeatedly said that Iran will begin to enrich its stock of low-enriched uranium to 20% on its own. As you know, we recognize the inviolable right of Iran as a party to the NPT to develop its national peaceful nuclear program. However, the international community has serious concerns about its direction, which Teheran must remove. In these circumstances, a decision to start upgrading uranium within Iran, contrary to the demands of the relevant UNSC resolutions and IAEA Board of Governors decisions, will only heat up the existing concerns and delay an early solution to the situation around the Iranian nuclear program, towards which we aspire.

We believe that at this stage it is important to concentrate on a search for mutually acceptable untanglings over the IAEA-proposed scheme for the supply of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TIR). In early January, Iran presented its additional considerations to the Agency in this regard. Now we’re examining them in conjunction with the other project participants. We expect to prepare a response to the IAEA on Iran's proposal in the very near future.

A successful implementation of the project to supply fuel for TIR would not only remove the need for Tehran to proceed to domestic upgrading, but is also intended to be a good example of Iran’s cooperation with the international community in peaceful utilization of nuclear energy and would mark the first real step in restoring confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, creating the necessary atmosphere of trust to start a dialogue based on mutual respect.

Question: You have touched on the theme of the monument in Tashkent. What is the position of Russia: Are we satisfied with the explanations of the Uzbek side, or will the Russian side continue to monitor this issue?

Answer: I believe the information provided by the Uzbek side is sufficiently exhaustive. We are in contact with our Uzbek partners. If there are any additional aspects of this situation, we will necessarily tell you about them.

Question: What is Russia's reaction to the fact that yet another monument to Soviet soldiers has been dismantled in Georgia?

Answer: With regard to the monument in Georgia, we took this information with great concern. I think that the most objective judgment will be made by living participants of those difficult years, those battles in which they took part, the relatives and families of the fallen. I mean the citizens of Georgia.

Question: What is Russia's reaction to the decision of city authorities to remove the Soviet symbols from the monument to Red Army soldiers in Brno-Kralove Pole?

Answer: The Foreign Ministry keeps the situation in its field of vision and is in constant contact with the political leadership of the Czech Republic in order to ensure that the Czech side unconditionally complies with its treaty obligations for the safety of our military burial grounds and memorials in that country. I repeat, we keep this situation under control and are in contact with the Czech partners.

Question: How can the Foreign Ministry comment on the reports of the approval by US Senate of a bill imposing sanctions against Iran? Is it possible that Russia will soon also support sanctions against Tehran?

Answer: We have received information on the subject. Since this decision is sufficiently serious, we need to get a written text. We’re expecting the text of the document through our embassy in Washington, which we will study and then we'll be able to comment on it.

Question: Please comment on Russia's decision to grant the application of Afghanistan for lifting of sanctions against five former Taliban functionaries.

Answer: Russia as a permanent Security Council member gives priority attention to improving the effectiveness of the 1267 Committee sanctions against Al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists, and persons and organizations involved in their activities. We consider this sanctions regime as a unique and essential tool for counter-terrorism cooperation at the disposal of the UN Security Council and the international community as a whole.

I would like first of all to stress that the Russian Federation’s decision to back the request of the Afghan government to remove from the 1267 Committee sanctions list five of its listees, former Taliban functionaries, is in line with the overall Security Council policy, aimed at checking and updating the sanctions list and, accordingly, enhancing the effectiveness of the sanctions regime. The parameters for such joint work of states, as we know, are laid down in UNSCR 1822 adopted in 2008.

Our decision had been preceded by considerable relevant work. The principled stand of Russia in this regard is well known: we are ready to consider removing individual listees from the “Taliban” section of the sanctions list, subject to a number of clear and obligatory conditions – such persons must lay down their arms, accept the Constitution of Afghanistan, finally sever all ties with Al-Qaida and other extremist organizations, and stop terrorist activities.

But also consistent and, I would say, unshakable is our stand that we will reject any attempt without proper justification to rehabilitate Taliban leaders under the pretext of the need to support the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Moreover, we are against the use for these “political” purposes of the procedures of the sanctions regime approved by UNSCR 1267 (1999).

We are convinced that such attempts are at risk of not only undermining the effectiveness of international counter-terrorism cooperation on the UN platform, but also of leading to dangerous, destabilizing consequences both in Afghanistan itself and in the region.