18 June 200323:39



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Unofficial translation from Russian

Transcript of the Interview Granted by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov to Russian Media Following the Plenary Meeting of the Tenth Session of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)

(Phnom Penh, June 18, 2003)

Question: Esteemed Igor Sergeyevich, what would you name among the main outcomes of the Forum's work?

Answer: The first day of the meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum took place today, at which a whole array of topical problems of concern to all the countries which are part of this regional forum were considered. I want to stress that this ASEAN forum is the world's largest in coverage of countries. So the security issues too which were today considered affect a large number of states of the region.

In the first place the questions were discussed of further coordination of steps in the fight against international terrorism and of the involvement of ARF mechanisms in the efforts of the international antiterrorist coalition. Unfortunately, in the countries which form the ARF major terrorist acts have also taken place recently, so the coordination of efforts is needed in order to achieve effective results in the fight against this common evil. In this regard, it is very important that the appropriate statements were adopted at the forum which presuppose the intensification of the joint struggle against international terrorism. It is the first steps of this kind, which help broaden the legal basis for joint efforts in the antiterrorist drive.

Another theme, which is also relevant for this region - the problem of the threat of drugs and especially that emanating from the territory of Afghanistan. Also discussed today were the joint efforts and measures that need to be taken in order to localize this problem and to prevent it from spreading to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

There is another acute problem worrying the region - the problem of the Korean peninsula. Most speakers pointed out - and it should be noted that the representative of the DPRK was present at the meeting - that a solution of the Korean problem could only be achieved via dialogue. The participants in the meeting therefore welcomed the start of negotiations, the first round of which had taken place in Beijing, and spoke in favor of continuing the talks in this or other format. The common opinion of the meeting participants: the Korean peninsula should be free of nuclear weapons, it is necessary via dialogue to develop confidence-building measures so as to bolster security on this peninsula.

The questions were also discussed of raising the effectiveness of the regional forum's activities so that in between meetings, which are held once a year, mechanisms would exist permitting the use of the capabilities of the region forum for dealing with current affairs. This involves, first of all, enhancing the Chairman's powers in the intersession period. He could be vested with appropriate authority and would perform appropriate missions. In the intersession period meetings on individual issues can also be held so as to further coordinate the efforts of the states which form this organization.

It is of fundamental importance that all countries at the anniversary session emphasized, and today it was the Tenth Meeting, that in the ten years the Organization had tangibly moved forward with regard to the strengthening of confidence, mutual understanding and cooperation in the solution of the problems which currently face the international community as a whole and the states of the Asia-Pacific region in particular.

At the end of the meeting a Statement of the Chairman was adopted, reflecting these key aspects discussed today. I want to say that the discussion passed in a frank and benevolent atmosphere. On all the issues mutually acceptable accords were found.

Question: What would you name among the main outcomes of the present discussion for Russia?

Answer: For Russia this is, above all, two problems. First, it is the problem of the struggle against terrorism, as we know that from the Asia-Pacific region comes considerable support for the terrorist structures and organizations which operate in the North Caucasus. That is why this struggle should bear a comprehensive character. Coordination with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region is an important element of the international efforts to combat terrorism as a whole. Second, it is, of course, the struggle against the threat of drugs emanating from the territory of Afghanistan. There are many channels by which narcotics from Afghanistan reach sales outlets, including through Asian countries and then in transit via Russia. This transit, unfortunately, means that a significant part of the drugs settles on the territory of our country. Therefore these are probably central problems for us.

But, of course, a very important problem is the Korean peninsula. Russia here plays an active role in the search for a political resolution of the situation. And it was important that the efforts which Russia has been making were understood and supported by the participants of this forum.

Question: Today Pyongyang, as has become known to us, said it has defensive nuclear weapons and refuses multilateral talks. What are the prospects for resolving this issue and do you think it can be submitted for discussion to the UN Security Council?

Answer: You know, on these problems and on other matters associated with nuclear problems, many different statements of various kinds are being made. They are sometimes contradictory in nature, therefore one has to treat them with sufficient discretion. The most important thing is to continue the efforts of the international community: the establishment of dialogue in the course of a political settlement.

This question may, of course, be considered in the UN Security Council, but we have repeatedly stressed that methods of pressure and threats complicate the atmosphere of the negotiations. That is why Russia welcomed the beginning of the trilateral negotiations, and we consider that these negotiations should be continued, whether in the trilateral or other format which the participants in the negotiations may deem necessary. Only such negotiations can lead to the solutions and accords which would take into account the interests of all the concerned parties. When I say the concerned parties, I mean the United States and the DPRK and Japan and South Korea and the other countries of the region which are interested in stability and in the settlement of the problems which still exist on the Korean peninsula.

Question: Your route to Cambodia lay through India. Now a vigorous dialogue is going on within the Russia-China-India triangle. How do you evaluate the prospects for such trilateral cooperation?

Answer: A visit by the Indian Prime Minister to China is being prepared in the next few days. This is an important visit, it reflects the tendencies now being observed, namely the broadening of dialogue and contacts between the states of this region. Russia has always attached great importance to its dialogue with China, it is our strategic partner. The recent visit to Moscow of the PRC President once again underscored and consolidated this line in the foreign policy of Russia. India for us is also a major strategic partner in the region and in the world as a whole. Therefore the dialogue between Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi will be continued, and we welcome the step-up of the dialogue between New Delhi and Beijing, because, in the final analysis, there is a great identity between our countries in approaches on basic issues. It is, first and foremost, respect for the Charter of the United Nations, respect for international law, a striving to tackle and resolve international problems via dialogue by political means, and a keen interest in the construction of a multipolar, secure and just world order. Here our positions, I repeat, coincide. Therefore our cooperation in this or that form, of course, will develop. I think that this is very important for international stability as a whole.

June 18, 2003

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