Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions during a news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of the Hellenic Republic Nikos Kotzias, Moscow, June 13, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen,
We held very substantive talks that we will continue at a working breakfast.
We noted our mutual interest in maintaining and substantially increasing the legacy left to us by our predecessors and the relations that have lasted for more than a century.
We noted the dynamic growth of trade, commercial and economic ties. Last year trade grew by almost 30 per cent to reach $3.7 billion. We are consolidating our ties in the investment, energy, scientific, technical and law enforcement areas. Today we agreed on ways to expedite the updates of our contractual foundation.
We have a common and positive assessment of our cultural and humanitarian contacts. The Russia-Greece Cross Year of Tourism is being held with success this year. A number of interesting events have already been held in this context.
We agreed to continue cooperating closely in international organisations, including the UN, the OSCE, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation and the Council of Europe.
Russia and Greece believe that the dialogue between Russia and the EU and between Moscow and Brussels needs improving. In this context we appreciate the constructive attitude of our Greek partners.
For our part, we discussed with our Greek colleagues what we think about military-political developments on our common continent. I am referring primarily to the buildup of US and NATO military activities near Russian borders. We will continue compelling our colleagues in NATO to display respect for all the agreements that were proclaimed at top political levels: on the unacceptability of dividing lines and of building security at the others’ expense.
Naturally, we exchanged views on a settlement in Cyprus. Russia and Greece favour a solution to this old problem based on the relevant UN resolutions and agreements between the two parties.
We are interested in settling issues in the Western Balkans in line with the aspirations of the people there. This applies to a Kosovo settlement based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244.
We reconfirmed our position on a settlement for Ukraine. I told my colleague and friend Foreign Minister of the Hellenic Republic Nikos Kotzias about the meeting in the Normandy format at the foreign minister level in Berlin on June 11. We insist that there is no alternative to the Minsk Package of Measures and that this should be strictly carried out as approved by the UN Security Council.
Our countries have close positions also on the various crises in the Middle East and North Africa, including the need to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on the Syrian settlement.
Naturally, we agreed to maintain close contact between our foreign ministries through the useful practice of consultations at various levels.
Thank you for inviting me to Greece. I will certainly visit.
Question: What are Russia's plans in the Balkan region’s energy sector?
Sergey Lavrov: I will say a few words regarding the question that was posed to Foreign Minister of Greece Nikos Kotzias, as it has been part of the UN agenda for quite a while now (I’m referring to discussions around the official name of Macedonia). We have always emphasised that we stand for finding an agreement on this issue without outside interference and without establishing artificial terms and conditions. We said we would support that decision, which meets the interests of Greece and Macedonia and relies on broad public support. I hope that the agreement announced yesterday will be just this.
With regard to our plans for energy cooperation with the Western Balkans countries, these plans depend entirely on the agreements reached by the respective states. If they are interested in further developing our energy interaction, we will by all means reciprocate. If the political interest is there, the economic parameters can then be coordinated.
Importantly, we should not artificially interfere in the process of coordinating the terms of any particular projects, as was the case with the South Stream. The Western Balkans may be interested in another new project, which is the Turkish Stream. We have repeatedly stated our willingness to establish cooperation on this project. If the EU countries are interested in a gas pipeline across their territory, we need 100-percent guarantees by the European Commission and the EU in general.
We remain prepared to compete with other manufacturers and other routes, which are also being discussed as part of the so-called Southern Gas Corridor. Importantly, the competition must be honest, as is customary in the countries which respect the pillars of the market economy.
Question: Speaking about the preliminary results of the Singapore summit, is it safe to assume that the first two items of the Russian-Chinese initiative have been implemented? According to President Trump, there will be no improvements and the sanctions will remain in place. How, do you think, will this affect the negotiation process? Can it take on a multilateral dimension in the near future?
Sergey Lavrov: We have already expressed our positive attitude to the Singapore summit. The very fact of a direct contact taking place between the leaders of the United States and the DPRK deserves support. Indeed, the Russian-Chinese road map, which was put together a little less than a year ago, called for an end to bellicose rhetoric and provocative actions on both sides at its first stage, and establishing direct contact and the beginning of a discussion of all the issues and concerns that both parties have, at its second.
It appears that Washington and Pyongyang are moving precisely towards this end. Of course, President Trump announcing that there is no need to conduct the next US-South Korean exercises at this stage will help keep up the right momentum. By the Russia-China road map criteria, the United States and North Korea are still at the very beginning of the second stage. The document that was signed is clearly of a framework nature, and it will take a very long time to coordinate the details, especially the ones related to the most complicated issue related to nuclear potential. I hope that the negotiators have enough patience to accomplish this.
Of course, when we study that agreement, which we will do later, we will need to pay special attention to the terms and what stands behind each of them. For example, as they expressed their opinion about what happened, many commentators stated that an agreement had been reached on the early stages of North Korea denuclearisation. However, Pyongyang itself - just like the rest of us, including Russia, China and the international community in general - has always talked about denuclearising the entire Korean Peninsula. The difference is substantial as you can see.
Of course, we should talk about the entire Korean Peninsula, as has always been stated during the six-party talks. Of course, it is important that, following his meeting with President Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un thought that assurances that North Korea would eventually receive security guarantees were convincing, noting that the processes in question, such as denuclearisation and security guarantees, should be synchronised and incremental.
Of course, given the importance of resolving the problems between the United States and the DPRK, including the stages of denuclearisation of the peninsula and security guarantees, it is clear that these problems are unlikely to be resolved in full in a bilateral format. All the participants of the six-party talks invariably operated on the premise that the creation of a system of peace, security and stability throughout Northeast Asia should crown this process.