Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Andorra Maria Ubach, Moscow, October 10, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen,
Russia and Andorra established diplomatic relations more than twenty years ago. Since that time we have achieved a high level of mutual trust and made significant progress towards mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas – and the talks today confirmed it.
Our friendly links continue to develop progressively. Russia and Andorra follow the practice of agreeing approaches on a number of issues within the framework of the UN, including during elections to UN bodies, which is illustrative of our efficient cooperation.
As concerns other areas of bilateral cooperation, I would like to note the agreement between the Russian Federal Service for Financial Monitoring and the Andorran Financial Intelligence Unit, which has been successfully implemented for several years and helps us to cooperate in countering gains obtained through illegal means.
We developed a draft agreement on international motor service that will facilitate operations of our respective companies involved. In 2018, we exchanged cargo permits, which was the first step towards the new agreement.
Our cultural links are progressing and tourism is their important component. The number of Russians who travel to the Principality, primarily in winter, is growing steadily. Last year, Andorra had 40,000 Russian visitors. In response, we will be happy to welcome Andorran citizens who wish to visit Russia and enjoy our hospitality.
I also would like to note that the agreement signed last year between the Krasnaya Polyana resort and the Ski Andorra agency will also contribute to tourism exchanges. This was also one of the specific steps that are to create more comfortable conditions for contacts between our peoples.
We have held Days of Russian Culture in Andorra. Special concerts devoted to the 20th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations were organised. Today we have agreed to prepare an intensive programme of events for the 25th anniversary of our relations, which we will celebrate in a few years.
Regarding humanitarian ties, I would like to mention the project that was completed in 2016 with the financial support of the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Media and the Government of Andorra. I am referring to the joint cultural project, notably the publication of the book “Andorra and the Poet.” You can see copies of this book here. You can take them after the news conference.
This publication in Russian and Catalan is devoted to the memory of Maximilian Voloshin, a great Russian poet from the Silver Age, a literary critic, a painter, a man of great talents, with big life energy and a surprising destiny.
He described his journey to Andorra in 1901, opening this Pyrenean principality to Russian readers. His impressions and the drawings that you see in the book are very interesting.
Today we are honoured to present this book that has replenished a series of books issued in the Principality that could be tentatively called “Andorra through the eyes of foreigners.” Using this opportunity, I would like to thank all those who put their hearts into this important project.
In her preface to this book, Yekaterina Geniyeva, former director of the Russian Library of Foreign Literature, who regrettably is not with us anymore, noted that Voloshin “did everything to avoid imposing unilateral opinions on others” and that his favourite hobby was to “discuss rather than instruct.” I think this approach is what is wanted in general and in part, in the process of international communications. At any rate, we try to develop our policy and contacts with our foreign partners based on this.
I was pleased to hear from Ms Prime Minister that a small but fairly active Russian community in Andorra (about 600 people) is very interested in relations between our countries and is ready to do anything to improve and promote them. I am sure that the Government of Andorra and the Government of the Russian Federation will support this approach.
Question (to Maria Ubach): Many Russian tourists visit Andorra. Do you plan to build your own airport, because then you could consider visa-free travel for Russian citizens?
Sergey Lavrov (replies after Maria Ubach): Speaking about large numbers of Russian tourists, I would like to add that 40,000 Russian tourists are far from the biggest part of those who visit Andorra. There are millions of tourists from all countries who come to visit Andorra. What Ms Minister explained indicates what they think about it in their principality.
You also suggested that an airport could make it possible to cancel visa requirements for Russian citizens. But Russians do not need visas to travel to Andorra. They need visas to enter France or Spain and then they come to Andorra without a visa. However, Andorran citizens need visas to travel to Russia. Today we agreed to remove this injustice and start consultations on drafting an agreement on a reciprocal suspension of visa requirements. I hope we will be able to do this soon.
Question: The deadline for the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the demilitarised zone in Idlib Province expires today according to the recent agreements between the Russian and Turkish presidents. What does Moscow think about the implementation of these agreements and the commitment of the sides to them, especially the separate groups concentrated in this zone?
Sergey Lavrov: The agreements on the creation of a demilitarised zone in Idlib reached by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on September 17 in Sochi are being carried out. The main role in this respect is played by our Turkish partners that are working hard to compel the local groups to cooperate in resolving this objective. According to our information, this process is steadily underway.
The deadline by which these demilitarised zones must be fully functional expires on October 15. Two or three days do not matter. The quality of this work is more important. The main point is that this process in ongoing. We are actively supporting the efforts of our Turkish partners.
Question: Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu announced about a planned meeting with President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Do you know when this meeting will take place?
In the context of talk about this meeting, can you comment on Netanyahu’s statement on international recognition of Israeli control over the Golan Heights and Tel Aviv’s resolve to continue fighting against the Iranian threat in Syria and groups associated by the Israelis with Iran on that territory?
Sergey Lavrov: This proposal has been received. Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov commented on it. Dates are discussed by the Presidential Executive Office and the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel.
As for a comment on the Golan Heights, their status is determined by UN Security Council resolutions. Changing it in circumvention of the UN Security Council would be a direct violation of these resolutions,
We would prefer if all external players involved in the Syrian conflict in this or any other way would be guided by the main goal – providing support to the Syrian Government in uncompromising eradication of the terrorist threat on Syrian soil as required by UN Security Council Resolution 2254. I think we should judge these and other actions based on this criterion.