Briefing of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman

12 October 201714:19

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, October 12, 2017

Table of contents

  1. Meeting between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President of El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly Guillermo Gallegos
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to attend the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students
  3. Global Forum of Young Diplomats as part of the World Festival of Youth and Students
  4. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to attend a Valdai Club meeting
  5. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the ministerial session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council
  6. Accreditation for the 16th ministerial session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), Arkhangelsk, October 18-19
  7. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's participation in the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference
  8. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting with Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation Lassina Zerbo
  9. The 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
  10. Developments in Syria
  11. Outcomes of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group meeting
  12. Anti-Russian statements by Danish Defence Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen
  13. Russian flags torn down by US authorities
  14. The Economist’s reporter violates Russian law
  15. ‘Helping Putin’ article in The Times
  16. Comment by Current Time Director Daisy Sindelar regarding US action against RT
  17. Russia’s attitude to the possible closure of the Afghan Taliban office in Qatar
  18. Visit by Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland to Russia
  19. Answers to media questions:
    1. Visit by Liberal Democratic Party delegation to Pyongyang
    2. 2017 Moscow Nonproliferation Conference
    3. Visit by leader of the opposition Syria’s Tomorrow Movement Ahmad Jarba to Moscow
    4. Foreign Ministry position on Catalonia
    5. Number of US diplomatic personnel in Russia
    6. Russia-Turkey cooperation
    7. Russian diplomatic property

 

Meeting between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President of El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly Guillermo Gallegos

 

On October 13, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will have a meeting with President of El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly Guillermo Gallegos, who will be in Russia as head of a delegation of the Salvadoran Parliament to participate in the 137th session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly (St Petersburg, October 14-18).

We consider El Salvador our promising partner in Central America. In recent years, bilateral relations have gained a noticeable momentum and made some progress reaching a qualitatively new level. An Agreement on the Foundations of Relations was signed and entered into force on December 17, 2012. The Embassy of El Salvador opened in Moscow on October 18, 2012, and an Intergovernmental Agreement on the Abolition of Visa Requirements for the Citizens of Russia and El Salvador entered into force on August 27, 2016.

June 3 marked the 25th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Russia and El Salvador (1992). A ceremony of handing over the Russian flag for permanent installation in the hall of plenary sessions of the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador was held in San Salvador last May. A photo exhibition, Modern Russia, was opened to visitors. An agreement was reached with the leaders of the Salvadoran Parliament to hold a number of joint events in the autumn timed to coincide with the aforementioned date (Russian film festival and exhibitions).

Inter-parliamentary contacts play an important role in the political dialogue. The visits of the leadership of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (August 2013) and a delegation of the State Duma (March 2014) to El Salvador gave a special impetus to the interaction between the legislative bodies of our countries. In May 2014, Salvadoran parliamentarians led by President of the Legislative Assembly Sigfrido Reyes visited Russia. In May 2015, Deputy of the Legislative Assembly and General Secretary of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front ruling party Medardo Gonzalez visited Moscow.

We look forward to seeing further progress in Russian-Salvadorian relations, which are dynamically developing in the political, trade, economic, investment, cultural, and other areas.

Additional information on bilateral relations will be posted on the Foreign Ministry’s official website.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to attend the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students        

 

On October 14-22, Russia will host the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS). The opening ceremony will take place in Sochi on October 15.  

Over 20,000 young people from 150 countries will attend this ambitious international event. The festival aims to bring youth from different continents together for the sake of peace, justice and mutual understanding. 

Guests of honour will include high-ranking officials from foreign countries, as well as representatives of sociopolitical, academic, cultural and sporting circles from Russia and abroad.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to take part in the scientific, educational and discussion programmes of the festival.

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Global Forum of Young Diplomats as part of the World Festival of Youth and Students  

 

The first Global Forum of Young Diplomats will be held as part of the World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi. 

The event is the result of the effort put in by the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Council of Young Diplomats (CYD) for more than four years, during which time it organised regional forums, in which young diplomats from foreign ministries [of other countries] traditionally take part. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to speak at the forum.    

The scope of the event that is run by the CYD is as impressive as that of the Festival of Youth and Students. The main theme of the forum is information security and environment protection. Another issue on the agenda is the creation of the International Association of Young Diplomats, which will bring together all working foreign ministry specialists and young representatives of the political and business elites.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to attend a Valdai Club meeting

 

On October 16, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the 14th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club.  

Throughout its existence, the Valdai Club has earned a reputation as an influential expert forum that allows members of the public authority, as well as leading politicians and public figures from Russia and abroad, to engage in open and honest discussions on the most pressing international issues.

This year, the discussion at the Club will focus on the antagonisms in global development. Participants will analyse the origin of present-day conflicts and try to answer the question about the future world order that the current global turbulence is likely to produce. 

Speaking before the forum participants, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will explain Russia’s view on the current situation in international affairs and prospects for its transformation and also, by tradition, will field questions from the audience.  

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the ministerial session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council

 

On October 18-19, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be in Arkhangelsk, chairing the 16th ministerial session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), the closing event of Russia’s 2015-2017 chairmanship of BEAC.

The session will address matters of key significance for the region that have been the focus of Russia’s chairmanship: improving transportation and logistics infrastructure, protecting the environment and fighting climate change, promoting cultural cooperation and making the North more attractive for international tourism. Each of these priorities was propped up by a meeting of relevant ministers of BEAC, giving Russia’s chairmanship of the Council a result-oriented touch. During these meetings and the follow-up press conferences, the participants will sum up the results of what has been done.

In the course of our chairmanship, considerable attention was given to such Barents cooperation tracks as the development of trans-border economic ties, the forest sector, healthcare, the rights of indigenous peoples, education, scientific and youth exchanges and joint response to emergencies.

A joint declaration is expected to be passed, which will outline practical solutions designed to support the sustainable socio-economic and environmental development of the Barents region, including in light of the 25th anniversary of Barents cooperation in 2018.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is planning to hold a number of bilateral meetings with his BEAC counterparts on the sidelines of the session. As usual, we will promptly inform you about the schedule and the meetings themselves.

The rotating two-year BEAC chairmanship will pass from Russia to Sweden.

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Accreditation for the 16th ministerial session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), Arkhangelsk, October 18-19

            

On October 19, the office of the Arkhangelsk regional administration in Arkhangelsk will host the 16th ministerial session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) chaired by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

A joint news conference by the heads of delegations attending the ministerial meeting will be organised after the session.

On October 19, the first Barents Grant awards ceremony for cultural cooperation will be held in the Arkhangelskiye Gostinye Dvory historical and architectural complex.

Russian and foreign media are invited to cover these events. Accreditation applications must be emailed to: Sizemskaya@dvinaland.ru

Accredited media representatives will be additionally informed in detail about the events’ programme.

Contact person: Head of the Media Relations Department at the Agency for the Press and Mass Media of the Arkhangelsk Region, Svetlana Belova. Contact phone numbers: 8(8182) 28-84-53, 8(8182) 20-06-55.    Accreditation for the media is open until noon, October 16.   

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's participation in the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference

 

On October 19-21, Moscow will become a key platform to discuss nonproliferation and arms control.

The Russian non-governmental organization, Centre for Energy and Security Studies, together with the Russian Foreign Ministry will hold the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference. The event is expected to draw a wide range of official representatives, specialists and experts from various countries and international organisations. The agenda includes the most important and pressing issues of the current situation in nonproliferation and arms control.

On October 20, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will address the conference to speak about Russia's key approaches and priorities in this field.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting with Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation Lassina Zerbo

 

On October 20, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) Lassina Zerbo, who will be attending the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference.

The officials will discuss the issues of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, including those related to the interaction between Russia and the Provisional Technical Secretariat of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission.

Russia, which ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 2000, consistently supports the Treaty and the activity of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission, and considers the Treaty's prompt entering into force to be a priority.  

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The 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union

 

On October 14-18, St Petersburg will host the 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the oldest international parliamentary organisation, which comprises 173 member states. The IPU closely cooperates with the UN and shares its goals and tasks.

The IPU consists of national inter-parliamentary groups. The co-chairs of the inter-parliamentary group of the Russian Federation are Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko and Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.

The Assembly is expected to draw delegations from over 160 countries, about 100 speakers and 70 deputy speakers of foreign parliaments, a record-setting level of representation in the 128-year history of this respected organisation. We hope this will give high international resonance to the Assembly's discussions and decisions.

The main topic of the parliamentary forum is Promoting Cultural Pluralism and Peace Through Inter-faith and Inter-ethnic Dialogue. Upon the Russian delegation's initiative, the Assembly will consider the draft resolution Sharing Our Diversity: The 20th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Democracy.

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Developments in Syria

 

Developments in the Syrian Arab Republic are still characterised by positive trends.

Supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, Syrian troops continued ousting ISIS terrorists from the province of Deir ez-Zor, moving from its administrative centre down the Euphrates. Government forces liberated the central part of Mayadin and a local airport.

The Syrian Army continued successful combat operations against ISIS, which had infiltrated the suburbs of the city of al-Qaryatayn via the US-controlled zone around Tanf on the Syrian-Jordanian border.

In line with the agreements reached as part of the Astana process, Russian servicemen from the Centre for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides are actively working to prevent ceasefire violations. As a result, their numbers in de-escalation zones have substantially reduced.

Nonetheless, control forces have recorded inroads by al-Nusra terrorists in Idlib, Eastern Ghouta and the South zone that are trying to wreck the efforts to normalise the situation and establish durable peace in Syria.

The presence of foreign jihadists in the South zone is a source of concern. They continue to receive support from the outside, and in this context the expediency of trans-border supplies to Syria without the knowledge of its official authorities is a big question. Humanitarian access to these areas from Damascus has been open since the formation of de-escalation zones. A trilateral humanitarian committee of Russian, Syrian and UN representatives is successfully operating in Damascus.

Syrians are restoring roads and socially important infrastructure facilities in the liberated areas of their country, thereby creating the conditions for peaceful life and the return of refugees and displaced persons.

The second production line of a bakery has been put into operation in the city of as-Suwayda, which helped increase its capacity to 20 tonnes of baked goods per day, which covers the requirements of the city. The medical centre in the city of Bludan (the province of Damascus) is being restored. It is being fitted out with new equipment. The construction of a high-voltage line is underway in the Deraa-Herbat-al-Hazala section. Its completion will make it possible to supply electricity to a number of cities in the south of Syria. A school for 400 students has been restored in the city of Muaddamiet-Al-Shikh in the province of Damascus.

Russian servicemen from the Centre for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides continued rendering humanitarian relief to civilians both in the de-escalation zones and outside them. Food and other basic necessities were delivered to Khirbat-ash-Shabab in Damascus province, Rasm-Faleh in Aleppo province, Maarin in Hama province and Khan Urainiba in al-Quneitra province.

A special Russian medical unit rendered qualified medical aid to patients in the Mugaba military hospital in Aleppo as part of the extended humanitarian mission.

The Rukban refugee camp located on the Syrian-Jordanian border in the so-called “deconfliction zone” arbitrarily established by the United States around Tanf is facing humanitarian disaster. The Americans are using aviation, rocket and artillery systems to prevent Syrian Government forces from entering this zone. According to the UN, the number of refugees in this camp exceeds 60,000. They are threatened with starvation and have no access to fresh water. The risk of epidemics is growing.

The US command near which all this is happening does not give access to the camp to humanitarian convoys that are sent by the Syrian authorities and international humanitarian organisations.

I have one question: Will this information also fail to be duly covered or occupy even a small place in the reports of US TV channels, news websites and newspapers? Once again we are not being heard because the US is carrying out an information blockade at home against this information.   

Humanitarian agencies cannot get access to people who are under a de facto siege from Jordanian territory, either.  Destitute residents of this area are being almost openly recruited for illegal armed formations.

The situation in Raqqa is also grave. Aircraft of the US-led coalition destroyed the last artesian well in the district of Al-Tawasu'iya. The city’s water pipes and 12 artesian wells had been destroyed by US air strikes before. This information will also sink into oblivion and be concealed from the US audience that concentrates only on what is happening in the Russian Federation or what the Aerospace Forces are doing on Syrian territory. Maybe some US TV channel, news agency or newspaper will find the courage to tell their audience about this? If you do not agree, okay, we are ready to answer your additional questions. But these are facts that nobody refutes. Let me repeat that this information does not reach the US audience and Ms Christiane Amanpour does not show the photos of these people on the CNN TV channel and plead for compassion.

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Outcomes of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group meeting

 

On October 11, the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group convened in Moscow at the level of deputy foreign ministers.

The Contact Group was established in 2005 in order to draft recommendations and proposals on SCO-Afghanistan cooperation in areas of mutual concern. It was decided at the SCO Summit held in Astana, Kazakhstan, in June, that the group’s activities need to be adjusted following the expansion of the SCO’s membership.

During the meeting, chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, officials discussed issues related to combatting security challenges and threats in the region and assistance in rebuilding Afghanistan as a peaceful, stable and prosperous state. They unanimously agreed on the need to promote SCO-Afghanistan cooperation within the framework of this consultative body in the interests of attaining the above goals.

The group’s members also supported the initiative advanced by China, which holds the rotating SCO chairmanship, to hold the next meeting of the Contact Group in Beijing in 2018.

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Anti-Russian statements by Danish Defence Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen

 

Unfortunately, we have to acknowledge the very unconstructive and unfriendly rhetoric we are hearing from Danish officials about the alleged Russian threat, which has become, in our opinion, a bad habit. Danish Minister of Defence Claus Hjort Frederiksen recently drew attention to himself in this regard.

Ahead of the parliamentary debates on the inter-party agreement on Denmark’s military spending in 2018-2022, Mr Frederiksen described in lurid terms the “aggressive intentions” of Russia, and asserted that war on European soil is already a reality. As such, he naturally argued that Denmark should significantly build up its military might, because Russia allegedly only understands the language of power.

It is absolutely clear that such statements are made to justify increases in the Kingdom’s military spending. We kindly request that Danish officials stop deceiving their own people. If you want to boost the military budget, this is what you should say to your voters. Russia has nothing to do with that. It is difficult for us to understand what military scenarios Copenhagen is preparing for. Can anybody explain what the issue is?

We would like to see our Danish neighbours in the Baltic region make a constructive contribution to the current discussions of ways to strengthen stability and security in the region. Such statements lead in the opposite direction.

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Russian flags torn down by US authorities

 

Another hostile action by US authorities against our diplomatic missions came to light yesterday. Russian flags were torn down from the buildings of the Russian Trade Mission in Washington and the Consulate General in San Francisco earlier seized by US special service agents.

We regard this incident as desecration of the state symbol of Russia. We have already lodged a strong protest with the United States. Of course, Russia did not issue any consent to have the flags removed. It was done by the people who had earlier trespassed on Russian property, broke down the gates and entrance doors, and have since been lording around the place like invaders.

The US State Department claims that we are not being deprived of property rights to these buildings are outright hypocrisy. I can officially confirm that Russian employees are not allowed there. In recent months, Russian representatives have been denied access to five Russian diplomatic properties in the United States. This is unprecedented in the history of Russia-US relations.

In addition to openly attacking our flags, the Americans do not conceal the fact that they had rummaged through our papers in the Consulate General, after they forced out its employees. This is despite the fact that, under the Consular Convention, consular archives are inviolable at all times and all places, even after the consular office closes.

To reiterate, we often hear a number of high-ranking officials and employees of various US government agencies say that we are citing documents, while they are new to their jobs, and are not familiar with such documents. Maybe it’s time to read them already? In particular, go over the Consular Convention, which regulates much of what is now being done by the United States in violation of governing laws and regulations.

One may think that certain American political forces steeped in Russophobia are acting in concert with the secret services, and consciously destroying relations between our two countries as best they can. By the way, perhaps they are doing so for a reason in order to create an unfavourable environment for new US Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, as he begins his work here.

Of course, Russians are patient people, but we can’t put up with cowboy manners indefinitely. We have already issued several reminders that the principle of reciprocity has always been and remains the cornerstone of diplomacy. So, we believe that when the US intelligence services broke into Russian diplomatic missions, searched them, and tore down the flags (it was broadcast almost live), the US authorities thus agreed to the possibility of a similar approach to their missions in Russia.

Russia will decide on its response.

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The Economist’s reporter violates Russian law

 

During our briefings and interviews with foreign correspondents, as well as in other formats, we have talked about the unprecedented pressure that is being put on Russian media outlets, in particular in the United States. We have said that matters related to the activity of foreign correspondents in Moscow have always been regulated only by Russian laws. No political considerations of the moment and no opinion, even on the expert level, could affect the professional environment for foreign correspondents. Much of what [those] correspondents did, in particular US and British correspondents, as well as those from some other countries, was dealt with on our part without things being brought out into the open. We believed that we should act in a constructive spirit. Now that we are seeing a shift in conduct towards Russian TV networks and journalists in certain countries merging on lawlessness we have a right to respond. That is prescribed by the law.

At our briefing last week, we talked about the need for members of the foreign media to observe Russian laws. As you may remember, the issue concerned BBC journalists who violated our country’s laws (appropriate measures were taken with regard to them) and then, in their film, accused Russia of [practicing] “harassment and detentions”. We not only commented on that but provided hard facts.

Today, I would like to draw your attention to a similar case.

Not long ago, Arkady Ostrovsky, a special correspondent for Britain’s magazine The Economist, a Russian and British national, arrived by boat at a town in the Sakhalin Region, which, as you may guess, is in the border zone. I believe Mr Ostrovsky may also have figured that out. As the boat approached the pier, the journalist took photos of the sea terminal, as well as of a border guard detail on duty.

All [foreign correspondents] seem to be grown-up people with experience of working in hot spots and covering official visits, and they know that there is a special accreditation procedure and rules of procedure for working at certain facilities. If for some reason somebody does not understand what this is about or has not been duly informed, then I would like once again to draw your attention to the fact that photography and video recording within restricted border areas (without permit) are prohibited. Such actions are regulated by the Law on the State Border of the Russian Federation No. 4730-1 of April 1, 1993.

As a result, Mr Ostrovsky had an administrative report filed against him and was fined.

I would like to reiterate that everyone must comply with Russian laws and the authorities’ legitimate requirements. This applies to both Russian and foreign citizens. Even if somebody like Mr Ostrovsky is, for instance, a Russian citizen but works for a foreign media outlet, this does not exempt him from the need to comply with Russian laws across our country’s territory.

I will be ready to respond to your questions if you are planning some trips or if some problems come up. Staff members of the Foreign Ministry’s Press Centre are ready to provide necessary consultations.

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 ‘Helping Putin’ article in The Times

 

We took note of the article entitled “Helping Putin”, which was published on October 11 in The Times. It criticises British politicians for appearing and participating in talk shows, programmes and discussions on the Russian TV channel Russia Today, thus allegedly “assisting Kremlin propaganda.” That is nebulous logic, of course.

Yesterday, the Bloomberg news agency asked us for an interview. I have a question: When I am interviewed today, what propaganda will I be assisting from the point of view, for example, of the British media? That is something new in journalism.

You all know the phrase “the media are the fourth estate,” but it seems that in the British context, the media went even further. I am not saying that all the media, but some of them are evidently taking on the right not just to influence public opinion by word but simply to dictate their rules of the game, in particular, the rules as to where politicians may or may not speak.

According to the logic of the article’s authors, the fact that British political figures freely communicate with a Russian TV channel is reprehensible because allegedly there is a danger of ending up “on the other side of the truth.”

Of course, we know and have long been accustomed to the fact that the Western media know exactly where the right side of the truth and the right side of history are. Although a couple of years later it often turns out that everything is the exact opposite but in principle the tradition has already been established. Of course, from the point of view of the Western mainstream media, posing the issue point-blank – you are either with us or against us – is nothing new. I would advise you to read this piece because it ends in fact with the same rhetorical question. Generally speaking, questioning but in effect limiting the freedom of your country’s MPs to talk to the media breaks new ground in journalism. It’s been a long time since I saw such cases. A well-known quote comes to mind (it is ascribed to Winston Churchill): “[Everyone is in favour of free speech….] but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.”

As for who assists who – I am referring to the phrase that British journalists used – it looks like the British media are assisting the section of the US establishment that is afflicted with Russophobia and standing behind which are intelligence services, because they are actively playing up the allegation that Russia Today is not “handshake-worthy.”

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Comment by Current Time Director Daisy Sindelar regarding US action against RT

 

A respected and experienced journalist has said that she and her resource “have no concrete information about any moves being taken against RT in the United States, and have no reason to expect reciprocal action.” Daisy, are you serious? Such comments are cause for surprise. It appears that a respected media representative is working in an information vacuum. Do you have no access to news or the internet? Actually, numerous reports have been made over the past few days regarding US restrictions against RT.

Maybe Ms Sindelar wanted to say that she does not see anything illegitimate in US moves against RT but failed to express her meaning or was misinterpreted? If so, I am sure that she will not notice reciprocal action against US media, about which we spoke at length as well.  

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Russia’s attitude to the possible closure of the Afghan Taliban office in Qatar

 

I would like to answer a question put by a Wall Street Journal correspondent. Russia believes that the continued operation or closure of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, is the internal affair of Afghanistan.

The Taliban office was established primarily to develop contact between the Kabul authorities and the Afghan armed opposition as part of efforts to launch a national dialogue. Regrettably, the activities of the Taliban office in this area have not produced any practical results. Moreover, some countries have used it to address their internal needs. For example, the United States used it for negotiating the exchange of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five Guantanamo inmates.

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Visit by Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland to Russia

 

I can say in reply to a question from the Russian media that we are analysing the possibility of organising a visit by Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland to Russia to discuss Russia’s participation in CoE activities.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: Last week a Liberal Democratic Party delegation visited Pyongyang where they met with Kim Yong-nam, President of the Presidium of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, to discuss North Korea’s long-range ballistic missile test plans. The meeting was attended by Russian Ambassador Alexander Matsegora. Can you tell us about the results of these talks?

Maria Zakharova: The Liberal Democratic Party is a political party that operates in accordance with its plans, which also concerns its visits to other countries.

As for the information we receive from our ambassador, this is an issue of internal communication. I can ask if there is something in it that we can share with the media.

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Question: You have mentioned the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference, which North Korea may attend. Does the Foreign Ministry have any information regarding the possible visit by a North Korean delegation? Do you plan to hold bilateral talks in the framework of this conference? Is it possible to coordinate a US-North Korean dialogue?

Maria Zakharova: I will ask about North Korea’s participation, although I believe that it would be logical to ask the North Korean Embassy in Moscow about this. You know that we comment on the participation of official Russian delegations and that the countries that send their delegations should be responsible for this information through their foreign ministries.

However, I will request this information, of course. You will receive an answer before the next briefing.

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Question: The opposition movement Syria’s Tomorrow has announced that its leader, Ahmad Jarba, will visit Moscow on October 13. What do you know about this? Will Mr Jarba hold talks with Sergey Lavrov?

Maria Zakharova: I can tell you that there are plans for this trip. As for the timeframe and those who will attend these meetings, we will tell you when we know.

I would like to remind you that Russia’s consistent policy is for a peaceful settlement in Syria through an inclusive and multilateral dialogue. Rallying the opposition for constructive talks with the Syrian Government so as to restore peace and stability in the country is a major factor. It is for this purpose that we maintain contact with various members of the Syrian opposition, about which we regularly inform you. We will tell you about the practical details of the planned visit as soon as we can.

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Question: I would like to hear the Russian Foreign Ministry’s stance on the Catalan issue. You have also read that Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics described your statements on this matter as inappropriate, questioning the competence of certain Foreign Ministry officials. What comments can you make on this?

Maria Zakharova: Both of these topics are, in fact, interrelated because it all started from the issue of the Catalan referendum. We spelled out our position before the referendum and later as the events unfolded. We also made statements on this point a few days ago and they were very important for Spain. Firstly, this was a clear-cut stance. Secondly, it was consistent and, thirdly, it did not clash in any way with the earlier expressed Russian opinion on this matter.

We were not just surprised but also outraged as we read statements by the “foreign policy official” whom you have mentioned and who accused Russia of alleged involvement in the events in Spain. At least that was what we read in the media and no refutation has followed. Unlike that official, who permitted himself such remarks instead of airing his country’s position on the matter, Russia has repeatedly come up with its principled assessments. One of its latest comments was published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website yesterday. Leadership of the state, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and representatives of the Presidential Executive Office have also repeatedly stated and reiterated Russia’s position on this subject at various levels.

No one doubts, I believe, that we hold a clear-cut and consistent stance. Now that I told you this – and everything I said is confirmed by documents – you can make your own conclusions as to whose statements are appropriate.

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Question: Will you comment on his statements about “incompetence?”

Maria Zakharova: I have just done that.

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Question: The Foreign Ministry has announced that Russia is ready to act as a mediator at talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as to provide a platform for contacts. Has Moscow received a reply from these countries? What will be their reaction?

Maria Zakharova: As far as I know, there has been no reply so far. As regards this initiative and the situation concerning it, we will, undoubtedly, give you additional information.

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Question: Reports about North Korea’s new missile suggest that yet another launch may be carried out soon. How will Russia react to it?

Maria Zakharova: Our reaction, of course, will come afterwards and not before. It will be consistent and based on international law as well as Russia’s position on this matter.

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Question: Will North Korea’s delegation attend the Interparliamentary Union Assembly in St Petersburg?

Maria Zakharova: It’s better that you address such questions to the relevant agencies in charge of organising these events. As for this subject, from an ethical and professional points of view, you should better turn to the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Moscow. I would like to redirect you there. Let me promise again, on our part, that you will get this information from us as well, but first of all, there are official spokespersons of the DPRK Embassy in Russia.

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Question: It was reported yesterday that the Russian Foreign Ministry does not rule out further reducing numbers at the US diplomatic mission. Can you clarify this statement? And one more question in connection with your statement today that by taking hostile actions, the US authorities have agreed to countermeasures. What countermeasures may be taken?

Maria Zakharova: As I said, we reserve the right to elaborate these measures. There is no rush, we have the time for this.

As for cutting the diplomatic mission, we see that, far from stopping, the United States is ramping up its absolutely illegal conduct as regards Russian diplomats, property and buildings abroad. I have cited a specific example: not a single employee of Russian foreign missions has access to the five buildings for which the Russian Federation possesses property rights.

Even leaving aside political bias, we have engineers and technical experts in our offices abroad who could inspect our property but they are not allowed to do even this although our ownership of these buildings has been confirmed.

Every week, if not every day, we witness new, even more perverse anti-Russian acts. And so a wide array of countermeasures may be taken. By acting against Russian diplomats or diplomatic property, US secret services and law-enforcement bodies are giving their consent to countermeasures from us. They were repeatedly warned about this via the US Embassy in Moscow and the Department of State, and by senior officials of the Foreign Ministry. Let me repeat that we have repeatedly explained and taken response measures and that, regrettably, every new hostile initiative will lead to countermeasures. As for what countermeasures to take, we will still have to think this over.

To be honest, we would rather resume normal dialogue on issues of mutual interest. As you see, there are plenty of such issues, starting with Syria. But you can see for yourself what is going on. We can guess why it is being done and who stands directly behind such measures, and sometimes we share our views with you. I think there are more questions for the US than Russia. 

Just imagine our domestic secret services taking the initiative – as opposed to responding – to come to Spaso House, take down the American flag, kick out diplomats and start looking through consular and other papers. Nobody can even imagine this. As for the Russian representatives of diplomatic property, there is no need to imagine anything – this has already been done. Why and on what grounds? What right does the US have to take such actions? Does it have the right to touch our flag on our building in the US? Let me repeat that circumstances may vary. What if someone finds an American law adopted in 1813? There are some hundred year old laws on foreign flags that the Americans suddenly dig up. All kinds of things are happening today.

Notes are exchanged, there are contacts between embassies and a mutually respectful attitude to each other. We are not talking about sympathy – merely of mutual respect based on the law. Why do they come and take away our flags? Who gave them the right to do this? Who allowed US secret services to touch a flag of the Russian Federation?

Just imagine Agent Smiths in America visiting a farmer and taking the American flag from his house. Can you imagine this? Not at all. Why is this happening with  a foreign flag that belongs to a foreign country and flies over its property? Why is anyone handing it? Why do they take such liberties? And you are asking about the potential reduction of 150 diplomats. I am just citing for you examples of what is happening. What will the countermeasures be? Switch on your deep thinking and try to imagine that everything or even part of what is taking place as regards Russia on US territory, or even one hundredth of it – starting from consulates general and ending with the RT TV channel –  were done by the Russian Federation against US diplomats, journalists and other citizens. How would the US media react? Why is everyone silent when this is done to Russia? All this is being done under the pretext of far-fetched accusations, like interference in the election. Nobody is citing any evidence; millions of dollars are spent to set up sham commissions that create fake news and say a lot of nothing. Nobody produces any witnesses. They just talk and talk, despite the disasters that are plaguing the US and despite the existence of many problems the US could deal with in world affairs. Millions and maybe tens of millions of dollars of US taxpayers’ money are being spent for this purpose. Moreover, these sums are spent on brainwashing US taxpayers against Russia. And this is used as an excuse to commit absolutely illegal actions as regards Russian diplomatic property and media.

I believe you worded the question absolutely correctly. It is time for the US media and all those in America who are not under the sway of their emotions to ponder all this – why this is being done, what response will this trigger and what consequences will it lead to?

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Question: President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Kiev that he does not recognise Crimea as part of Russia. Will his statement affect Turkey’s cooperation with Russia, for example in Syria?

Maria Zakharova: Any statements on the recognition or non-recognition of Crimea’s reintegration with Russia will not change its status as part of the Russian Federation. We have various partners, who have various interests. No statement will change the status of Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.

Tomorrow I will meet with journalists in Simferopol at their invitation. Not long ago I held a briefing for the local media at the Hotel Mriya Resort & Spa. There were journalists who attend events at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s press centre. I have received an invitation from them, and I will go. There will be interviews and meetings tomorrow. I suggest that you go too so that you can see everything for yourself. Regrettably, many foreign politicians do not want to or are afraid of doing this. I believe that the best impression of this region should be based on one’s personal opinions. We are ready to help you organise such trips to Crimea, if you wish. You are welcome. Go to Crimea, talk with the people there, visit facilities that are open to the public and receive permissions to visit those that are not. We are ready to provide whatever assistance you may need. As for the Simferopol journalists, I will meet with them tomorrow.

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Question: What do you think about NATO’s position regarding security in the South Caucasus? Does it take into account new geopolitical realities, such as the growing threat of terrorism?

Maria Zakharova: I will have to request information regarding this question, which is very extensive. I will have an answer at the next briefing, or we will publish a comment on this issue on the ministry’s website.

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Question: Parliamentary elections will be held in Austria on October 15. What do you expect in this regard?

Maria Zakharova: Of course, elections in any country are the internal matter of that particular state. They reflect the will and aspirations of the people, especially when the issue is about parliamentary elections. We believe that everything will go in accordance with the law.

I don’t see any reason for any particular comment here. This is an exclusively domestic matter of Austria. Perhaps, we will be able to make some comments on the outcome, or our parliamentarians will make them.

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Question: At the last briefing, you promised to tell us a little more about the business mission to the southern Kuril Islands that is scheduled for late October. Is there any additional information about it?

Maria Zakharova: No additional information so far, but as soon as it becomes available, we will make it public.

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Question: Regarding the Russian diplomatic mission, they have removed the flags and do not let Russian representatives into Russian property. Is my understanding correct? It is not a leased property, is it?

Maria Zakharova: All of the property in question was purchased when the Soviet Union was still around. Today, we will once again post information together with photos of these buildings on the ministry’s social media accounts. We first posted this information about three weeks ago. Today, we will bring this subject up again, and update the background information. This is the property of the Russian Federation.

Indeed, we leased one office, but we are not talking about it. The Consulate General in San Francisco, the residence of the Consul General there, the corresponding buildings in Maryland and Oyster Bay, to name just a few, are all owned by the Russian Federation. There may be no doubt about it whatsoever. These are the buildings that have been bought for a certain amount of money. Over decades, dating back to the times that are now commonly referred to as Cold War, the American officials have never questioned Russia’s title to these properties. This issue is not debatable. This is the property of the Russian Federation.

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Question: So, denying access to Russian representatives and removing the Russian flags is a direct violation of the law. Normally, a country would go to court.

Maria Zakharova: You may be aware of a presidential instruction for the Foreign Ministry to prepare corresponding papers to file a lawsuit. This work is underway. Media reported that an agency to represent Russian interests in court has already been appointed. To date, preparatory work is in progress. A company to represent the corresponding interests during the trial hasn’t been picked yet.

So, please follow the Foreign Ministry’s official information on this account. Should any new information come your way, please see us for confirmation.

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