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Answers of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation S.V. Lavrov to the questions from the Deputies during his speech at the State Duma within “Government Hour,” Moscow, 14 March 2012

516-14-03-2012

    Question: Which prospects are there for the creation of a Union State of Russia and Belarus? How do these projects correlate with the Customs Union? Will they exist in parallel, without intersecting, or are mutual integration and consideration of reciprocal experience supposed?

    S.L. Lavrov: There is no contradiction or mutually exclusive aspect in the efforts to consolidate the Union State of Russia and Belarus, to develop the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Community. The leaders of our countries spoke repeatedly of it. The Union State project proceeds. In a number of lines, primarily, in the sphere of equalisation of civil rights in Russia and Belarus it is more advanced, than the programmes implemented within the Customs Union.

    Question: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, together with the relevant authorities, are preparing proposals regarding the creation of a regulatory framework to launch simplified procedure of transit of NATO non-lethal cargos from Afghanistan, using Vostochny airport in Ulyanovsk. Does it only mean commercial interests?

    S.L. Lavrov: Of course, the commerce should be taken into account, since the Russian companies are actively involved in a number of international projects, they operate and make money on shipments for the NATO member countries as well, by the way, not only in Afghanistan. However, in this aspect we do not only take into consideration the fact that it is necessary to support our companies. The main reason for our assistance to the coalition, which is in Afghanistan according to UNSC mandate, lies in the national interests of Russia. The coalition has received the mandate to root out the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking in Afghanistan. Both of these threats directly concern our country and manifest themselves within the territory of Russia and our close allies. It is in the interests of Russia that the coalition achieves a progress, before leaving, and provides the Afghans with the ability to protect their country and maintain an acceptable security level.

    I will note that since at the UNSC the mandate was given collectively to the NATO coalition, the Russian party would like to listen to the report on the level of the fulfilment of this mandate and the tasks, set therein, before the withdrawal of the coalition forces. We are not satisfied with the artificial terms set as a benchmark for the international forces to leave Afghanistan. First, it is necessary to ensure that in this state a fundamental order could be maintained by the Afghan security structures, in the equipment of which Russia takes part.

    Russia considers the transit primarily as a way to assist those who undertook to root out the terroristic and drug threats in Afghanistan. This transit is to be effected according to the inter-governmental agreements with a number of European countries and the USA on the military cargos and personnel transit, as well as to the arrangements with NATO as an organisation, shipping non-lethal cargos. The draft decision, you mentioned, has not come into force yet, it is submitted to the government. I will repeat that this agreement is based on the logic, which I spoke of before; we are interested in efficient fulfilment of the tasks by those who curb the threats, which create problems for Russia inside Afghanistan.

    Question: It is not impossible that the third world war has already started, which is proved not with the military conflicts but with the full-scale wars in the Middle East. One of the main topics today is the protection of the Syrian Arab Republic by Russia and China. Does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia intend to further support Syria, including by means of the military arguments, which our country has in large quantities? Do you consider it necessary to confront the USA in Syria and ensure the presence of Russia in this country?

    S.L. Lavrov: I would not describe the occurring events as the beginning of the third world war. Russia supports neither regime, nor particular persons, it supports the international law, according to which the internal conflicts are to be settled without interference from outside. We honour our contractual commitments to Syria in relation to military-technical co-operation. The weapons that we sell to the Syrian Arab Republic are necessary to ensure the national defence and security. Russia does not supply Syria with the combat equipment, which can be used against the demonstrators, civilians, and which, unfortunately, contributes to the escalation of conflict. We do not deal with it. I am repeating that Russia supports Syria in ensuring security against the outside threats.

    As far as your saying about “confrontation with the United States in Syria and ensuring of our military presence” is concerned, then there is some implied sense regarding the Russia’s military entry to Syria to participate in the combat operations. I believe that this will contradict Russia’s basic interests.

    It is not correct to set as an objective of the Russian policy in the Middle East the strike on the USA authority. It is necessary to increase our authority rather than decrease that of the others. Speaking about the USA authority, it is not necessary to do anything on purpose in this situation. The USA authority has not increased after leaving Iraq, where the situation is much worse now, than it was before the invasions of the American troops. The USA authority has not increased and after the events in Libya. There is no American influence. The USA has, of course, contacts with certain officials, but the community spirit cannot be described as pro-American. Think, for instance, of Egypt where the American representatives are called on to stop illegal funding of non-governmental organizations. These also cannot be called pro-American activities. In the Arab Republic of Egypt an independent regime is being established, there are the processes that will reflect the whole range of political forces after all. The Islamist parties are getting into the saddle in Egypt. We are ready to co-operate with everybody, all the more so as we have never had any contraindications against contacts with such organizations as Hamas. I do not agree with your conceptual presentation of the problem.

    Question: Could you please comment on the results of the referendum on the status of the Russian language in Latvia. They reminded again to the whole word that in this country, which is the EU member state, there are problems with the electoral law. The major part of the population of Latvia remains outside the election process. Despite this, the European Parliament members monitor the situation with the human rights in Russia on a regular basis. Do you think that the European Union has double standards?

    S.L. Lavrov: To move forward, support and strengthen the position of the Russian language abroad is one of our highest priorities. The Russian language takes serious positions in the world; it is one of the six official languages of the UN and the OSCE. The activity of such organizations as the Government Committee on Compatriots Abroad, implementation of the Russian language programme, preparation of the programme “Russian School Abroad”, which is to end in the near future, the activity of Russian World Fund, all this is aimed at strengthening the Russian language positions.

    In Latvia, more than 270 thousand people voted to make Russian the second state language. Many people again could not vote since they are not citizens of this country. I consider it a shame of the modern Europe and the European Union, which received into the fold Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, in spite of the fact that they did not meet the EU membership criteria, also from the point of view of their human right policy and ensuring the linguistic rights of the national minorities.

    We actively support the initiative aimed at making the Russian language the EU language. In practice, we are ready to further co-ordinate our actions, to use the channels, we have, to move forward an appropriate initiative of parliamentarians and public organizations.

    I agree that the European Union applies double standards. I am repeating that the situation with the statelessness is a shame of the EU. Russia does not claim more than what the international organizations and structures such as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, recommend urgently. All of them submitted specific proposals to Latvia and Estonia regarding the necessity to eliminate the statelessness. However, nothing has come of it for the moment. To our regular questions, we get the answers from the EU, that these countries meet the so-called “Copenhagen criteria,” which is not true. The membership in the EU does not free anyone from implementation of the decisions of the universal organization such as the UN, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe. We will continue moving forward this policy in the future. This is a prime topic in our humanitarian dialogue with the European Union.

    Question: How do the visa-free dialogue and the process of resumption of the diplomatic relations with Georgia develop? How will Russia react to unilateral establishment by Tbilisi of visa-free regime with Russia and the Georgian proposal to resume the diplomatic relations with our country?

    S.L. Lavrov: Georgia did not offer to resume the diplomatic relations, it broke them on its own initiative when it attacked South Ossetia and got “a going-over”. Recently, President M. Saakashvili has stated that he unilaterally declares visa-free entry of the Russian citizens to the territory of Georgia. This statement is to be regarded within the context of everything that the Georgian party does in relation to Russia.

    I will remind you that last year President M. Saakashvili already declared visa-free entry of the Russians, who live in the territory of the North Caucasian republics, which is definitely discrimination. Now when he declared that all the Russian Federation citizens could use this “privilege”, he forgot to mention the “law on occupied territories”, which is in force in Georgia. According to its provisions, any person, who recently, after the war, started by M. Saakashvili, has visited South Ossetia or Abkhazia, is subject to criminal prosecution in Georgia and they can face 2 to 4-year imprisonment. Two our compatriots are already suffering for it and serving a sentence. We are trying to get them out of prison with the aid of Switzerland, which represents Russia’s interests in Georgia.

    Thus, we answered in return that we are ready to establish visa-free regime on a mutual basis, but, first, the above-mentioned law is to be abolished. Otherwise, our citizens are to be aware of where they go and what they can face there. And the proposal to resume the diplomatic relations was made by Russia in return to M. Saakashvili’s decision on visa-free regime.

    Question: In your speeches, you reputedly called CSTO a full-featured regional organization within the former Soviet Union, assessing it positively. How can you comment on its activities now?

    S.L. Lavrov: I confirm my positive assessments. The process of strengthening this organization is gaining momentum. The most important documents, which permit it to operate as a full-featured international organization in the security sphere, are signed. First of all, it regards the creation of the Collective Rapid Response Forces, the decision, which is already being implemented, about creation of the CSTO peacekeeping forces to fulfil joint operations, including those in accordance with the UN mandate, as well as the recent decision that we as allies are to settle the problem regarding the possible deployment of the third countries military bases in the territory of any CSTO member state only by common consent. These are very serious arrangements, which testify to the maturity of this organization.

    Certainly, there are still problems with the growth, but I dare say that any multifaceted organization has them.

    Question: The Baltic States, where the most powerful NATO force grouping is concentrated, present a serious threat to Russia. According to estimates of the Russian military, the potential of this grouping, which several times exceeds our defence possibilities, is being openly augmented. Are any measures being taken to stop reinforcement of NATO troops’ presence on the border between Russia and these states or to withdraw them?

    S.L. Lavrov: This, of course, worries us as well. Within the context of NATO expansion, in spite of all assurances, the military infrastructure is closely approaching our borders. By the way, the Baltic States were not the members of the Treaty on Conventional Armed forces in Europe. The fact that the western countries seriously breached the Treaty in relation to its abridged version, which was already adapted to the situation, when the Warsaw Pact was not applied any more, forced us to declare by law a moratorium on the participation in the CFE Treaty.

    In order to renew the efforts to approach the armed forces in Europe in a balanced manner, it is necessary to open new negotiations. I hope they will start some day. It will be a new regime of control over conventional armaments in Europe. We claim that the task, you mentioned, underlies it, that is to ensure the conditions, in which no one would have advantage, and that such future treaty would not stipulate any restrictions, which in the former CFE Treaty dealt with the deployment of armed forces within the proper territory, the so-called “flank limitations”. Such an approach underlies our position.

    Unfortunately, the USA is trying to condition the opening of the negotiations with requirements that are unacceptable for us. First, they say that we must resume implementation of the CFE Treaty, although in Russia it is not possible according to the law. Second, they want that before the negotiations a joint statement, in which it will be stated that we all respect the principle of the host country consent to deployment of the foreign troops in its territory, is made. Moreover, this principle is to be proclaimed or, as they say, confirmed within the internationally recognized borders of 1999, and this means that the territory of Georgia comprises South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which is absolutely out of question. For us they are independent states, our allies, the Russian troops are deployed there with the sanction of these host countries according to the interstate agreements. If the artificial conditions that block the whole process are withdrawn, then we will strive for the settlement of the issues, which we are talking about.

    Question: The Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation in his letter says that through the shipping point in Ulyanovsk not only the belongings will be swung, but also human resources of the USA and other their allies within NATO. Why do you not speak about it? Are you not armed with the information, or is there any other reason?

    S.L. Lavrov: Of course, I know about it. When I said about the agreements between Russia and a number of NATO member countries on the military transit from Afghanistan, then they do not regard only equipment and machines but also the personnel. I will specify that these contingents are in Afghanistan, according to the UNSC mandate, as I already explained before.

    As far as Ulyanovsk is concerned, then there will not be placed any structures, there will not live any contingents. It is all about only the transit of non-lethal cargos, their transhipment from one means of transport to another. I will repeat one more time that the draft agreements are not approved, they will be still considered by the Government, and however, they correspond to the objective to advance the struggle against the threats that exist in Afghanistan.

    Question: In 2014, there will be a referendum in the UK regarding the separation of Scotland, the results of which, to all appearances, can be unprecedented. Taking into consideration this fact, and that the UK openly conducts unfriendly policy in relation to our country of late, ought we to establish our position and start building up independent relations with Scotland?

    S.L. Lavrov: Speaking about the relations with the UK, I will say that some time ago they went through the “bottom” for the well-known reason. We consider requests for extradition of the Russian citizens absolutely unacceptable and we confirm our readiness to examine any materials that the Brinish justice can have possession of. Unfortunately, nobody has ever presented us with such materials in full, but the British continue insisting on an unacceptable demand, the fulfilment of which would mean the violation of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

    At the same time over the last years, especially during D. Cameron Government, there appears understanding from the British party that it is necessary, however, to straighten the relations. We are ready for this and in those situations where our interests coincide we work in concert. It is conditioned by the fact that the UK is one of our most important commercial partners, and regarding the investments, it tightly holds together with the Netherlands the leading positions.

    As far as Scotland is concerned, then we have never forgotten about it. In Edinburg, there is our Consulate General, which carries out a very active work, including a number of cultural activities. Our ships come to Scotland with friendly visits etc. It is being done, and we will continue following such a policy.

    We consider the referendum the internal affair of the UK. We start with the premise that in this as in any other similar cases the principles of the Helsinki Final Act (of the former Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe) are to be inviolately respected, one of which reads as follows that the borders in Europe are inviolable unless it is otherwise agreed by the parties concerned. As I understand it, the referendum will be conducted with the permission of the government of Great Britain.

    Question: On the 27th of February an article of V.V. Putin “Russia and the Changing World”, a specific programme of foreign policy and diplomatic activities of Russia for a foreseeable period, was published. However, this programme requires specification, particularization of the objectives by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its subsidiaries inside the country and abroad. What do the senior officials of the Ministry undertake in this respect?

    S.L. Lavrov: Now we are operating on the basis of the current Conception of Russia’s foreign policy, approved by President D.A. Medvedev in 2008. When a new President assumes office, the conception of foreign policy is, of course, to be examined with view to the practicability of specification of this or that aspect. In the article of V.V. Putin, there is a conceptual vision of the further Russia’s policy in the international arena. It is largely within the framework of already applicable doctrinal philosophy, as the Conception of 2008 became, actually, a successor of the similar document of 2000, adopted during the year when V.V. Putin started his first term as Russia’s President.

    I am convinced that also this time the continuity will be definitely ensured, however, certain peculiarities and correcting aspects will appear, since the international life forges ahead, it changes, and undoubtedly, it requires closer attention and manoeuvring. I believe that in view of the latest events in the Middle East and North Africa we will pay a special attention to more insistent upholding of the principle of supremacy of the law in the international arena. Our partners always tell us that Russia and other states should ensure this supremacy at theirs, but when we offer to document it within the international context, their enthusiasm vanishes.

    Question: It is commonly known that, the issue of adoption of the Russian children by the foreign citizens is acquiring increasing importance and arouses concern of a larger number of our citizens. Nowadays Russia signed an agreement regarding the adoption with Italy, France and the USA. Could you please say if you are arranging the similar agreements with other states? If yes, then with which ones and when should we expect them approximately?

    S.L. Lavrov: The agreement with Italy has come into force. The document with the United States has already been submitted from the Government to the State Duma. The agreement with France is still under consideration at the Government, but I think that it will be referred to the State Duma in March as well. Of other states, with which we are negotiating, I will mention Spain, Israel, Ireland, Great Britain as well as Australia and New Zeeland, which I have visited recently and where we felt an interest in such agreements.

    Unfortunately, not all states show such a necessity and, much to our regret, among these states there is our close kind neighbour Finland. I think you are aware of the periodically arising problems with children in this country. For instance, literally these days we managed to settle a situation that occurred with a still unborn child. Thus, we will address this set of questions.

    I would like to add that we support the initiative of the relevant State Duma’s Committee to write clarifications to the Family code, noting that the adoption issues are to be settled with our foreign partners only if there is a valid international agreement with the relevant state. I believe that it will be more correct.

    Question: Could you please clarify at which stage are the negotiations with Japan over the joint use of the Southern Kuril Islands as well as with China and Korea regarding the long-term lease of territories?

    S.L. Lavrov: The negotiations over the joint use of the Southern Kuril Islands are not being held. Our Japanese colleagues some years ago during one of former governments, offered to create a joint administrative organization to control the investments in the development of the islands. To that, we answered that Russia had its own laws, clarifying the rules of investment and other economic activities, and we offered the Japanese party to co-operate on the basis of our legislation. This position has not been changed. The Japanese colleagues have taken a break and mention periodically this issue in some speeches and in contacts with us; however, they have not taken any real practical steps towards our proposal.

    I have not heard about the projects of leasing of the territories with China and Korea. Maybe it is all about some sayings of certain scientists and political analysts. I will recheck and send you relevant information.

    Question: You probably know that according to the UN data, over the period of NATO presence in Afghanistan the production of drugs has increased by many times. Russia, in turn, makes concessions: provides a transhipment base in Ulyanovsk, the transit without examination and the possibility to export the military equipment. Which is Russia’s position in this respect indeed?

    S.L. Lavrov: The increase of drugs flow from Afghanistan is a very serious problem, as owing to them our people and children die. We claim that the coalition forces, which are in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan according to the UN mandate, primarily, engage in an eradication programme. We are said that the poor Afghan peasants do not perceive these arguments. The Afghan peasants can be poor, but in Colombia, the coca-plant fields are simply eradicated and it is considered the main method to fight drugs, from which the USA suffers. We claim that the similar method is applied to struggle against the Afghan drug production, from which the citizens of Russia as well as of the countries in Central Asia and Europe suffer. We claim that the North Atlantic Alliance engage in it, since it is NATO that leads the forces, which are in Afghanistan.

    For the moment the reaction, I confess, is weak, but to struggle by means of blocking the routes will be useless, if the source itself remains untouched.

    As far as the transit is concerned, then the examination is specified in all agreements. At the request of the Russian party, it is to be effected according to all existing agreements. In the documents that can still be adopted, this provision will be specified as well.

    Question: On ratification of the START, President B. Obama announced that the USA would not present the information to Russia about the test launch of their anti-ballistic missiles and will continue the development and deployment of the American ABM system. What is Russia’s position on it?

    S.L. Lavrov: The START treaty is fair. It is clearly stated in it that the document is signed on the basis of inextricable connection between offensive and defence weapons. Thus, when on the 23rd of November 2011 President D.A. Medvedev made an announcement, he said that if the development of the American ABM system in Europe reached the levels, that according to estimates of our military experts and the General Staff of Russia could create risks to our strategic nuclear arsenal, we would take countermeasures.

    Question: In two years in Russia, the winter Olympic Games well be held. The attention of the whole world is compelled to this region, and in 30 km from Sochi, there is Abkhazia, which is recognized for the moment only by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Tuvalu. It is obvious that the Georgian chaotic policy, including the visa issue, will be continued. The fact that Tbilisi started the war on the first day of the summer Olympic Games in Beijing speaks for itself. Thus, the issue of prompt recognition of independence of Sukhumi and Tskhinval is more than ever pressing, since it is the issue of stability.

    It is clear that the negotiations are held by the foreign policy agencies of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, we are supporting them after all. For the rest of the time before the Olympic Games of 2014 which other countries can recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia? How does Russia interlink this issue during the negotiations with its partners?

    S.L. Lavrov: We do not hold such negotiations. Our independent allies Abkhazia and South Ossetia are engaged in them. They have their own plan of the foreign policy activity, they communicate with a number of foreign states, not only with those who recognized them, but also with other countries, including those in Latin America. The representatives of Sukhumi and Tskhinvali regularly visit this region and they, of course, discuss these issues.

    In our contacts, we actively support their efforts to expand international activity and relations. We, however, do not dangle before anybody, we do not give any sops, and we do not try to persuade anyone to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We learnt about the achievement of certain agreements, for instance, with a number of small countries in the Pacific Region, namely Tuvalu, Nauru, Vanuatu, when the agreements had already been signed.

    Of course, we will support the friends of our friends in the political sphere, as they have many interests, also during negotiations over the issues of combating climate change. The small island states, suffering from water level rising in the World Ocean, need that their position is taken into account and their interests are protected. We will help them in this. We also facilitate their relief from natural disaster, the effect of which they feel more heavily. We send them certain aid via EMERCOM within the UN World Food Programme. We facilitate these processes; however, we cannot take decisions for sovereign states, especially because they are our close allies. On the requests for support, we always render it to them.

    However, do not think that the quantity of the countries, which recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, will influence in some way the irritable brain of the President of Georgia and restrain him from new risky undertakings. Having started the war in August 2008, M. Saakashvili attacked the Russian peacekeepers, who were under protection of the international agreement, signed by Georgia. However, even this fact did not stop him. Thus, we should understand that it is an unbalanced person.

    When recently he was in Washington, he went out after the negotiations with President B. Obama and announced that everything was alright and the USA fully resumed the military co-operation with Georgia and the process of its movement to NATO membership. I asked the US Secretary of State H. Clinton whom I met in New York these days, whether it was true. It emerged that the Georgian leader had, at least, slightly excessive perceptions of what he heard, although the conversation was in English and he speaks English.

    The second question that I put to the US Secretary of State was more serious. The US-Georgia American-Georgian military drills, by the way, with a land component are starting today and they will last for 10 days; if I am not mistaken, up to 300 American soldiers participate in them. The subject of the training is the suppression of an uprising. I attracted the attention of H. Clinton to the fact that all that looked slightly provocative and we hoped that the similar steps would be regarded not only as rewarding of Tbilisi for keeping 1.5 thousand Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan, but also from the point of view of ensuring the stability in this very delicate region of Transcaucasia.

    Question: In recent times in a number of western countries, it became trendy to produce “blacklists” of the Russian officials on the basis of the judicial and non-legal assessments. These actions can be regarded either as an attempt to interfere in Russia’s domestic affairs, or as illegal pressure on the Russian justice. Which measures can and should our country develop to cut down to seize the overseas lovers of “witch-hunt”?

    S.L. Lavrov: You are absolutely right that it is unacceptable, from the point of view of law, to take certain measures to punish persons during investigation of a relevant criminal case and even before the passing of a sentence. However, it is not the main thing. The main thing is that we should deal with our affairs ourselves and such interference, of course, creates serious problems in relations with our partners. Moreover, we tell them about it.

    Now, when in the USA they are trying to abolish Jackson-Vanik amendment, it strictly refers to an American problem. When the State Duma ratifies a package of documents on Russia’s joining the WTO, the American business will be affected if this amendment is retained. The Americans are trying to compensate the forthcoming abolishment of the amendment by adoption of some new law on restrictions, which can be introduced to punish Russia for human rights policy. It is not acceptable and can badly rebound on our relations with the USA. Of course, the representatives of the US Administration do not speak about it; these plans are nurtured in the US Senate and the House of Representatives. However, Washington should understand that in any case the result will affect the bilateral interstate relations.

    And the last comment on the “blacklists” topic. In principle, according to the international law, any country can refuse any citizen of any foreign country a visa without giving any reason. Thus, all such cases, generally speaking, are a pure PR, the attempt to show how powerful we are, as we produce the blacklists and we will not admit anyone. Admit no one it is your right! We also use this right.

    Question: It is a question from the Russian citizens who live or work abroad. It is from Sri Lanka. The provision of Federal Law No. 114 on the procedures for entry in the Russian Federation and exit from the Russian Federation, regarding the possibility to issue an entry visa for the family members of a Russian citizen, who are not the citizens, on the basis of their application handed to the consulate at place of stay, does not work.

    One more question from the Residents of Blockaded Leningrad, who live in Latvia. They suppose that it is necessary to sign an agreement with Latvia on a simplified procedure of issuing visa for visiting the burials.

    Could you please answer these questions?

    S.L. Lavrov: We attach great importance to the agreements on burials. We have signed such agreements with a number of states. As far as Latvia is concerned, then the agreement either is at the final stage, or is already concluded. I will definitely ascertain it.

    As far as the first question is concerned, then the head of the foreign establishment has powers to issue a visa in the cases that you mentioned. If a Russian citizen, regardless of whether he permanently lives or temporally stays abroad, files an application in which his relatives are indicated, then a visa is to be issued at the embassy or consular institution. If somebody (I do not exclude the possibility of such cases) fails to fulfil their functions, then can you please send me certain information on when such a refusal has been received?

    Question: Does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs try to prevent military conflicts in the Middle East and in the whole world? Which measures are taken to prevent the military operations near the Russian borders?

    S.L. Lavrov: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia takes certain measures. It is important that they are understood, in this case by the party of the Syrian conflict that we have influence on, namely by the Government of B. al-Assad. Unfortunately, not all our advice and not always in due time was embodied in his practical activity. Of course, the President of Syria has adopted useful laws, which renovate the political system and make it more pluralist than the one-party system that existed before. Nevertheless, it is being made with a great delay as well as the proposals to open a dialogue. Meanwhile the armed opposition gains its own dynamics. This inertia can capture and swallow everybody. Who is the next? I hope that in Syria’s case Russia will manage to do something. It is important not to disrupt a multiethnic and multifaith nature of the fragile Syrian state, which in its time was, as the saying goes, “basted”. If the existing construction is removed, then the entire pyramid will collapse. The events in Syria are also connected with the processes occurring inside the Islamic World, where the tension between Sunnis and Shiites increases to the utmost. All this can explode so that you will not find it funny.


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    S.L. Lavrov: I would like to add something. When I was speaking about the moving forward of the Russian language and culture, I did not mention inexcusably Rossotrudnichestvo among those organizations, which are engaged in it. I believe that it will be appropriate to say about it now, as K.I. Kosachev started to work in a new position. We are very glad that this work will continue in a new way.

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    S.L. Lavrov: In conclusion, I would like to express sincere gratitude to all participants of the meeting, especially to those who asked questions and spoke on behalf of the parliamentary parties, and made comments.

    I completely agree with the idea that it is necessary to pay greater attention to the forecasting. We are interested in it.

    I am grateful to V.N. Likhachev that he commented on our personnel problems. Indeed, while there is a lack of diplomatic officials to create new foreign establishments, which is necessary, there are 3 officials to serve 2.5 million tourists in Antalya, whereas in Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada there is no consular presence at all. Now we submit a proposal to open Consulates General there. There is a necessity to do the same in Donetsk (Ukraine) and Oskemen (Kazakhstan). In Guatemala, there are no diplomatic officials as well, while dozens of thousands of tourists go on a holiday there each year.

    There is a lack of several hundreds of positions to efficiently ensure security of the foreign establishments, which is also connected with their safety. Our asset holders are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Presidential Affairs. As far as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs assets, namely Embassies, Consulates General and centres for science and culture, are concerned, then probably it would be interesting to define their value and just know it. However, the most important thing is that these facilities are maintained in a proper way. Their safety also depends on timely and sufficient insurance. I can assure you that all these facilities are insured by the Russian companies on the basis of a competitive selection, and this guarantees a solicitous attitude to what we have.

    V.V. Zhirinovsky touched a topic of the parliamentarians’ work abroad. I cannot say that we have a right to assess the work of our parliamentarians. However, we are interested in close co-operation with the parliamentary delegations, heading for different events within the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. We are ready to do our best to further strengthen this co-operation by effectuating the day before the trips the joint meetings, preparation of the materials with due consideration of the reshaped State Duma.

    In the same way, undoubtedly, I support the idea of more active development of the public diplomacy. The parties, perhaps, can decide themselves which funds for the international activities they should create. As far as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is concerned, we have worked this way. The President of Russia has approved our proposals. Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund has already been working for 2 years and from the 1st of January 2012 the Fund to Support and Protect the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad starts to work. For the current year, about 50 events are planned within the first Fund, in which the Russian non-governmental organization would like to take part. The Fund will give grants in order that our NGO could appear more often at the international events, participate in different forums, where in absence of the government representatives the ideas are often born and tested, which then has a strong hold on the minds of the serving politicians.

    I support the idea of A.A. Klimov, who, before the beginning of today’s meeting, has offered to prepare and hold hearings dedicated to “The Human Rights in the European Union Member Countries”. I consider it a good idea. We have never regarded the topic of human rights as a closed one. We are ready to discuss our problems in this field as well. It does not mean infringement of sovereignty if everything is done with a mutual respect and with the basis on the obligations, accepted by everybody within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other universal instruments, in which, I am repeating, the counties participate voluntarily. It will be very useful, in addition to the hearings on this topic at the European Parliament, to hold our reciprocal event.

    I thank you all for your interested participation in the “Government Hour.”