29 April 200920:52

Transcript of Remarks and Response to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Joint Press Conference after Sixth Arctic Council Meeting, Norway, April 29, 2009

695-29-04-2009

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I am gratified that all the tasks set at the previous Arctic Council session in Salekhard have been accomplished. I want to note the services of the Norwegian chairmanship, to thank the Norwegians for their efforts and to wish the Danish chairmanship success.

Among the decisions made today are two Russian initiatives: to establish a multilateral system for preventing and neutralizing the consequences of man-made disasters and to establish a system of search and rescue. We also suggested additional projects to our partners, in particular, concerning creating a pan-Arctic electronic library ‘Electronic Memory of the Arctic,' and expanding collaboration between coast guards of Arctic states.

I fully agree that the existing norms of international law help solve any issues that may arise in the Arctic.

By decision of President Dmitry Medvedev, the guidelines for the Russian Federation's state policy in the Arctic to 2020 were approved last year. They articulated the task of promoting multilateral Arctic cooperation with the employment of all the existing norms of international law and entities, the Arctic Council in the first place.

In conclusion I want to say that practical activities of the Arctic Council, which we have consistently sought to strengthen, debunk every prognosis that the Arctic is becoming a potential source of conflict. Such has never been, nor will ever be, the case.

Question: Is Russia planning to create security forces in this region? Will the Russian military contingent be increased there? How do you envision the role of observer countries in the Arctic Council which are not Arctic countries, for example China or Japan?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We do not intend to increase our armed presence in the Arctic. Decisions being adopted to strengthen the capabilities of the coast guard are important for rescue operations in these areas. There are no plans to introduce any extra armed forces in addition to the regular units performing their functions.

We have heard of various ideas concerning development of security cooperation in the framework of organizations which are not part of the Arctic Council. But those are not Russian proposals. I hope that any likely proposals in this sphere will be regulated by mechanisms of the Arctic Council. That's the exact decision of last year's Arctic Ocean Conference at Ilulissat. I hope that this decision will be respected by all countries.

As to observers, we welcome all who make their contribution to our work. We expect observers to take into account the positions of all Council participants. If we see that our partners are ready to facilitate realization of the goals approved by the Arctic Council member countries, we will always be able to find a common language with them.

Question: The United States has declared an intention to head up the talks in Copenhagen. What will be the role and aim of Russia in the negotiation process?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: I cannot speak for the United States. You better put this question directly to my American counterpart. Russia is interested in the success of the conference in Copenhagen. We are actively involved in the work of this forum and believe a just solution must ultimately be worked out that meets the interests of all participants. We hope that its concrete parameters and objectives will be developed on a professional and universal basis.

Question: Was the question of a possible legislative prohibition of a military presence in the Arctic discussed in the Council?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We did not discuss this theme. As I have already noted, our common position is that the existing norms of international law help solve any issues in the development of cooperation in this region.

April 29, 2009

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