Transcript of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Remarks and Answers to Questions at Press Conference Following Second Ministerial Meeting of the Northern Dimension in Oslo, November 2, 2010
Sergey Lavrov: We appreciate the work of the Northern Dimension. We believe that this is one of the most effective multilateral formats of cooperation in Northern Europe. The spectrum of its activities has been steadily expanding. Today, the forum concerns itself with, among other things, protection of the environment, as well as energy efficiency, which is very important for Russia. We are also talking about health care and improvements in the transport and logistics infrastructure. There successfully operate the Northern Dimension Institute and Business Council. We expect concrete results from all entities operating within the Northern Dimension.
I want to express hope for a speedy consideration of the application of Belarus. As we have agreed to fix in the final declaration, the entry of Belarus as an observer into the Northern Dimension will once again confirm that this format is a pragmatic and non-politicized one.
Question: How important is the signing of a Russian-Norwegian agreement on the facilitation of mutual travel for border area residents? Do you think this is a small step towards the main objective, that of achieving a visa-free regime with Norway?
Sergey Lavrov: This is a small important step, although it is relatively small. We will tell you in detail about the importance of the agreement for border area residents after the ceremony of its signing.
With regard to a visa-free regime between Russia and Norway, we have reiterated our proposal in this regard. We hope that the Norwegian colleagues will consider our proposal and we will be able to discuss specific aspects of a visa-free regime for all citizens of Russia and Norway.
The agreement to be signed today is important because we want to focus on specific actions that can make life easier for ordinary people. I think that it will be a real contribution to achieving this objective.
Question: In September, Russia and Norway settled a territorial dispute and reached an agreement on maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea. When should we expect concrete steps for the development and exploration of these rich territories? Will other countries join these projects?
Sergey Lavrov: With regard to the Russian-Norwegian treaty signed in September in Murmansk, I do not think that the preparation for its elaboration should be called "territorial dispute." We had been negotiating the delimitation of maritime spaces. The work was constructive. Sure, it took a long time since we are talking about large areas that are rich in hydrocarbons.
We are pleased that this negotiation process was successfully concluded with the signing of the treaty. In both Russia and Norway, the treaty must undergo a ratification procedure, of what we spoke yesterday with my counterpart Jonas Gahr Store. We hope that the treaty's ratification in our countries will take place until the end of this year, it will enter into force, and then we will begin to discuss specific projects, including joint development of mineral resources.
Question: After the visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to the Kuril Islands, the Japanese Foreign Ministry recalled its ambassador from Russia, as was pointed out, temporarily for consultation. How can you comment on this reaction of the Japanese side? How will this affect Russian-Japanese relations?
Sergey Lavrov: Certainly, Japan's ambassador to the Russian Federation is in the service of the Japanese state. He receives instructions on what to do, and where to move, from Tokyo. So it is their internal affair. But in general, the continuing escalation of emotions by the Japanese side over the trip of the President of the Russian Federation to Kunashir Island is bewildering us.
We have already noted that the demarches, protests and other actions being undertaken in this connection are unacceptable. We reaffirm this position.
This morning, I talked with President Medvedev; he expressed his satisfaction with his trip to Kunashir Island. It enabled the Russian President to see with his own eyes how things are there, to give important instructions to accelerate the solution of the socio-economic problems of the region. The President also said that insufficient funds had so far been allocated for the social development of the Kuril Islands, and that this situation would be radically corrected.
The president also said he was planning to visit other islands of the Lesser Kuril Chain.
Question: What steps can Russia take to improve relations with Japan? Do you plan to recall the Russian ambassador to Japan?
Sergey Lavrov: I do not think that we on our part plan to take any steps, because we have never undertaken anything that could worsen our relations with Japan. Now we are not planning any trips abroad for our ambassador in Tokyo.
Question: The question concerns visa issues between Russia and Norway. Leaders of a number of Norwegian NGOs have repeatedly been denied entry visas to Russia. This topic was raised by Minister Jonas Gahr Store in Moscow in February 2010. What has been done by the Russian side to carry out an investigation?
Sergey Lavrov: Russia is aware that to solve any problem you require two parties. When my good friend and colleague Jonas Gahr Store drew attention to the situation with some representatives of Norwegian NGOs who had not been granted a visa, or were restricted in their movement, we looked at this situation. I cannot call it an investigation. We studied the situation. It turned out that in most cases the travel in the questionnaire had been declared as tourism, while in reality their activities in Russia weren't tourist.
For us, the visits to Russia by civil society representatives of other countries are not a problem. You only have to abide by the rules, which, incidentally, aren't that complicated. If you're going to lecture or participate in public events, then this must be declared.