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    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following a trilateral meeting with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Baku, April 7, 2016

    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following a trilateral meeting with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Baku, April 7, 2016

    660-07-04-2016

    First, I’d like to express gratitude to our Azerbaijani hosts for their hospitality and for organising an important meeting between Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran in a new format. This initiative stems from an agreement between the presidents of our three countries, who expressed a desire to launch the format of trilateral meetings, including at the summit level. We, the foreign ministers, have been instructed to take the first step by discussing the potential of this idea.

    Our meeting was useful and constructive, and our confidential talks have shown that the long-term and mutually beneficial cooperation between our three countries has sound potential in many spheres, from the economy with a focus on transport and energy to political coordination and security. Our common task is to find more effective methods to combat international terrorism, drug trafficking and, in general, cross-border organised crime. This region is more and more often used as a transit point for militants, prohibited commodities and other smuggled goods. This offers good opportunities for cooperation among the law enforcement agencies and security and intelligence services of our three countries. Bilateral Russia-Iran, Russia-Azerbaijan and Iran-Azerbaijan contacts have long developed and are quite effective. We believe that a trilateral format will lend added value to our efforts.  

    We discussed issues related to financial aspects of cooperation and have agreed that our relevant departments will provide a detailed analysis of the practical aspects of the North-South transport corridor on the western coast of the Caspian Sea. This project will involve our transport ministries, which will consider technical and financial aspects, as well as interaction between our customs and consular services. We have agreed on all of this today. Moreover, transport is not limited to railways, as there are also motorways and sea vessels. It is our common opinion that we can implement trilateral projects in these spheres to mutual benefit. We maintain bilateral cultural and sports ties, youth exchanges and contacts between our countries’ regions and provinces. A trilateral format will offer more opportunities in the best interests of our nations. My colleagues mentioned the possibility of developing tourism in the trilateral format and direct ties between business people in our three countries.

    As my colleagues pointed out, we discussed Caspian issues and agreed to step up preparations for the Fifth Caspian Summit that will be held in Astana, Kazakhstan. We hope to draft a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea in time for the summit. The foreign ministers of the five Caspian states will discuss the progress achieved by our experts at their meeting in July 2016.

    Of course, we discussed the latest burning issue, namely the escalation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, and we noted with satisfaction that a ceasefire agreement had been reached. As you know, President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke directly with the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is in Armenia today, and tomorrow he will go to Baku. Contacts were also launched between the chiefs of the general staffs of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. We did our best to help our close friends reach an agreement, and we hope they will observe and implement it, including because there are old agreements that were adopted back in the 1990s and that stipulate permanent ceasefire commitments.

    In our opinion, the current situation calls for all of us to take a closer look at the previous agreements and to suggest confidence-building measures for the line of contact. They have been discussed with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Russia, France and the United States) and with the special envoy of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. Considering the recent outbreak of violence, which we have managed to put down, we should probably resume the analysis of this issue. I’d like to say that stronger confidence [which we have achieved] in the conflict zone doesn’t mean that we can relax and stop searching for a comprehensive political solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group and a country with close relations with both Azerbaijan and Armenia, Russia will do everything in its power to promote its initiatives in keeping with the recent achievements in this sphere.

    I believe that we have reasons to be satisfied with our talks today. We’ll report on their results to our presidents, and you can read the communique that is being distributed now.

    Question (addressed to all the three ministers): Did you discuss the possibility to strengthen energy cooperation at your trilateral meeting, including in light of the upcoming Doha meeting of oil-producing countries on April 17?

    Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Mohammad Javad Zarif and Elmar Mammadyarov): We discussed energy cooperation. Our countries are actively involved in oil and gas cooperation, and we also cooperate in the sphere of electricity. As far as I know, our countries will send their energy or oil ministers to the April 17 meeting in Doha with OPEC and other oil-producing countries. We hope that participating countries will reach practical agreements on cooperation in the interests of all and on stabilising the oil markets. I am convinced that this meets the fundamental long-term interests of both oil producers and oil consumers.

    Question (addressed to Elmar Mamedyarov, via interpreter): One of the items on the agenda of the trilateral talks concerned promoting tourism between the three countries. Do you plan visa-free travel for the residents of these three countries?  

    Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Elmar Mamedyarov): I can only support the interest in developing tourism. I think a trilateral agreement on such tourism will be a major gain for tour operators. I’m convinced this step will be very popular with the residents of the three countries.

    Question (addressed to Sergey Lavrov, via interpreter): Will Russia be interested in investing in the construction of a railway that will stretch from Iran’s Rasht, linking Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia?

    Sergey Lavrov: As for the Rasht-Astara railway along the Western coast of the Caspian Sea under the North-South project, as I said, we agreed that our transport ministers and other interested parties will discuss all of the technical, financial and other aspects of its construction. Russia should be represented not only by ministries but also by railway companies. I know that Russian Railways is interested in holding a comprehensive discussion of all aspects of this project with its partners from Azerbaijan and Iran.

    Question: What do you think about the escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

    Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Elmar Mamedyarov): I’d like to thank Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov for his kind words about the efforts of the Russian Federation. President Vladimir Putin is paying personal attention to this issue. We regularly meet with the Azerbaijani and Armenian ministers in the bilateral and trilateral formats.

    I agree that practically all components of the agreement are already on the table. The point is not even how to arrange them, but how to find some formulas as we are very close on the gist of the matter. Yesterday’s and today’s talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov and my meeting tomorrow with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian are devoted to these efforts on our behalf. It goes without saying that we are interested in the settlement of this conflict, probably more than many other foreign partners of the two countries. This conflict is a source of suffering for displaced persons, residents of the region and the region itself because its integrity as a transit infrastructure territory has been undermined. Achieving a settlement as soon as possible is in our common interests. In parallel, as Mr Mamedyarov said, it is important to take measures against such splashes of violence. It won’t do any good if snipers look at each other every day and see the faces of people on the other side of the contact line. Their nerves may fail them and they may break down. I think it is necessary to pay attention to this side of the matter as well, while stepping up the efforts to achieve political settlement.

     

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