Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions on the sidelines of the Fifth Caspian Summit, Aktau, August 12, 2018
Question: What is the Caspian Sea? Is it a lake, or a sea, or none of these?
Sergey Lavrov: The Caspian is a special body of water. Its characteristics are spelled out in the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea (the Convention), which is available for consultation. The requirements concerning open seas and oceans as stipulated in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea do not apply to the Caspian Sea. The Caspian has a special regime reflected in the Convention. Thus, we found a compromise between those who demanded a full application of the 1982 Convention to the Caspian Sea – some of our Western colleagues had advanced such proposals for several years – and those who believed it was a lake, so there is nothing to discuss at all.
I think this is a very good result, something President Vladimir Putin called a “historic success” in his statement to the press, and so it is.
Question: What about the non-deployment of other countries’ armed forces in the Caspian? How certain can we be that this situation will continue?
Sergey Lavrov: We have no doubt that the heads of state who signed the document containing that commitment acted responsibly and with full awareness of what they were agreeing to.
Question: The leaders of the Normandy Four have not met for a long time. Is it not time they met?
Sergey Lavrov: We have already commented on this. We would like the Normandy Four to work more intensively, but do not want these meetings to end with agreements that are not observed. We have repeatedly cited examples from the Normandy Four summits in October 2015 in Paris and then in October 2016 in Berlin. During these summits, a very specific agreement was reached: the leaders themselves marked three villages on the map (Pokrovskoye, Zolotoye and Stanitsa Luganskaya), where not only heavy weapons, but all forces and equipment were to be removed. In the first two villages, the disengagement of forces and weapons has indeed taken place. In Stanitsa Luganskaya, the Ukrainian side, the Ukrainian authorities are still looking for any excuses to avoid this. In particular, they unilaterally demanded seven days of complete silence, with not a single shot, before they would begin the disengagement. Since then, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission has already announced 22 times that a 7-day, a week-long period of complete silence has been recorded. Ukrainian representatives immediately said that this was according to the OSCE’s statistics, but they had registered a couple of shots. The second agreement, reached in Paris and then confirmed in Berlin, was the so-called Steinmeier formula that detailed the enforcement of the Donbass special status law – an agreement made by the heads of state. It is not being implemented though, and neither is the Stanitsa Luganskaya agreement, so we asked our colleagues who want to resume the Normandy meetings at the highest level, to do so after previous agreements have been implemented, at least out of respect for the heads of state.
Question: In a conversation with the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, you expressed a categorical rejection of their statements about new US sanctions. What did Mr Pompeo say? Based on the events of recent weeks, is it worth holding US-Russia meetings at the highest level, if post-summit relations develop the way they are now?
Sergey Lavrov: As for the objection to the latest US State Department act, I think everyone even vaguely aware of the so-called Skripal case understands the absurdity of the official document that the US has “established,” claiming that it was Russia that was guilty of the Salisbury incident.
Regarding your question about the point of meeting, we have actually never avoided contact, even with representatives of countries that pursue a clearly unfriendly policy towards us. If our leaders feel the need to meet and return to issues that we think should unite Russia and the United States, but which provoke rejection in some circles within the United States, I think a meeting will take place. At least, we are ready to develop such contacts at the level of foreign ministers – if the American side is ready to act on the basis of a balance of interests, equality and consideration of each other's positions, of course.
Question: We have been given an ultimatum – there will be a second package of sanctions unless we do something right now.
Sergey Lavrov: Not something. We were told that within three months after the first package is imposed on August 22, we will have to provide a certain guarantee that we will no longer behave like this and agree that foreign, international inspectors visit our chemical plants on demand. I can say only one thing – three years ago, based on all possible inspections that were carried out on our territory, we received confirmation from the OPCW that the process of chemical disarmament in the Russian Federation was complete. The United States should have done the same, around the same time. They have asked for another extension, until the early 2020s, I think, so it's probably necessary to say that there is a problem with the destruction of chemical weapons in the United States. We never closed our plants to inspectors. They visited every facility they wanted, and came to the conclusion that I have just mentioned.