10 March 201716:21

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, March 10, 2017


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Table of contents


  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Congolese Foreign Minister Jean-Claude Gakosso
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with National Security Adviser of the President of Afghanistan Mohammad Hanif Atmar
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with representatives of Russian NGOs
  4. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in Russian-Japanese consultations in the Two Plus Two format in Tokyo
  5. The situation in Syria
  6. Statement from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on allegations of chemical weapons use in Mosul
  7.  Detention of a Russian vessel in Libyan waters
  8. European Parliament event to mark three years since the tragedies in Kiev and Odessa
  9. Canada’s decision to extend its military training mission in Ukraine
  10. The Russian chapter in the US Department of State’s latest International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
  11. Statements by Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva
  12.  Answers to media questions:
  13. Jon Huntsman’s possible appointment as US Ambassador to Russia
  14. Russia’s non-participation in the meeting of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS in Washington on March 22.
  15. The meeting of the Russian and Norwegian foreign ministers at the Arctic – Territory of Dialogue forum
  16. The Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
  17. Russian-Moldovan relations
  18. Materials of the Regnum News Agency
  19. Missile launches in North Korea
  20. The death of the North Korean leader’s brother Kim Jong-nam
  21. Hacking attacks and espionage
  22. The information war against Russia
  23. Russian-Japanese relations
  24. The US decision to send Marine Corps artillery to Syria
  25. Russian-US relations
  26. Events in South Korea

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Congolese Foreign Minister Jean-Claude Gakosso


On March 13-15, the Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Congolese Nationals Abroad Jean-Claude Gakosso will be in Moscow on a working visit.

On March 14, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with his Congolese counterpart to discuss the further development of Russian-Congolese political, trade, economic and cultural cooperation. The ministers will focus on several areas of mutual interest, such as the implementation of a pilot project to build a Pointe-Noire – Yie – Oyo – Ouesso oil product pipeline in Congo.

The officials will discuss international issues of mutual interest, such as creating a broad front against terrorism and defusing crises in Africa.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with National Security Adviser of the President of Afghanistan Mohammad Hanif Atmar


On March 17, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with National Security Adviser of the President of Afghanistan Mohammad Hanif Atmar, who will be in Moscow on a working visit.

The officials will discuss the security situation and prospects for promoting national reconciliation in Afghanistan, as well as ways to develop multilateral cooperation within the Moscow format of regional consultations on Afghanistan.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with representatives of Russian NGOs


On March 17, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with the leaders of over a hundred Russian NGOs that are implementing human rights, humanitarian, research and education, cultural and youth projects with foreign partners.

This annual event was first held in 2004 and has since become an effective platform for exchanging opinions and outlining prospective areas for cooperation between the Foreign Ministry and civil society.

We hope that the upcoming meeting will be held in a constructive spirit and will help coordinate our views on key international issues with those of the NGOs.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in Russian-Japanese consultations in the Two Plus Two format in Tokyo


On March 20, the second round of Russian-Japanese consultations in the Two Plus Two format will be held between foreign and defence ministers in Tokyo. The work of this dialogue mechanism resumed following an official visit by President of Russia Vladimir Putin to Japan in December 2016. The first round of these consultations was held in Tokyo in November 2013.

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The situation in Syria


Russia continues efforts to reach a political settlement of the conflict in Syria as soon as possible and to create additional opportunities for waging an unrelenting fight against international terrorists operating in that country and their local accomplices.

The International Meeting on Syria in Astana is scheduled for March 14-15 and will be attended by representatives of the Syrian Government and the armed opposition groups that have supported the cessation of hostilities. On the whole, we are satisfied with the progress of the Astana Process, where the driving force is the three guarantors of the cessation of hostilities – Russia, Turkey and Iran. Agreements reached in this format have made it possible to meaningfully reduce the level of violence in Syria and improve the humanitarian situation. It became possible to substantially expand and consolidate the ceasefire and involve a number of armed groups based in southern Syria in the political process. We proceed from the assumption that the new meeting in Astana will be of much help for holding the fifth round of the UN-sponsored intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, which are to begin on March 23.

We hope that preparations for the new contacts in Geneva will facilitate yet another step towards forming a broad-based and strong delegation of the Syrian opposition, which would take into account the vision and points of view of all ethnic and religious segments of Syrian society and whose willingness to negotiate is not in question. Meanwhile, the military and political situation in Syria remains tense. The government forces are building on their successes in the fight against ISIS and Nusra. As a result of their operations, a vast swathe of eastern Aleppo Province has been liberated. In the face of fierce resistance from ISIS, the Syrian army has reached the Asad reservoir on the Euphrates River, taking control of two pump stations in Al Hafsa, which supply drinking water to Aleppo and its environs. I would like to remind you that Aleppo was cut off from its main fresh water source for almost two months.

The Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria was active in brokering a truce in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.  The truce came into effect on March 6. At the same time, terrorists remaining in the enclave and groups of so-called “irreconcilables” that have actually merged with them do not support this agreement. They made a public appeal to renounce any reconciliation with the Syrian Government and resume attacks on the government forces’ positions. 

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Statement from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on allegations of chemical weapons use in Mosul


The Russian Federation fully shares the concern expressed by the OPCW and the UN regarding the alleged use of chemical weapons in Mosul, Iraq.

We have been following this situation since March 2013 when one of the first incidents involving the use of sarin gas against Syrian government troops and civilians was reported in Khan al-Assal. In this context, it is interesting what western experts are saying. They stated that after ISIS fighters occupied Mosul in the summer of 2014, they obtained access to a research library and laboratories of a local university, which greatly enhanced their capability to produce chemical weapons. ISIS counted among its members former Iraqi officers who were involved in Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons programme, as well as certified chemistry experts from abroad. As for ISIS chemical weapons production facilities in Iraq, Iraqis themselves and representatives of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition reported the discovery of these facilities.

In this connection, we suggest that journalists forward their enquiries to the Iraqi authorities and the coalition command, who had publicly announced the killing of ISIS chemical weapons experts, former Iraqi officers Suleiman Daud al-Bakkar and Abu Malik. Last year, the coalition announced the capture of an ISIS chemical weapons production facility in the city of Hit in Iraq and the bombing of another “chemical facility” of that sort.

The recurring cases of chemical terrorism in the Middle East, including in Syria and Iraq, are a matter of grave concern. Not only do fighters from ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other affiliated extremist groups have industrial and domestic toxic substances in their possession, such as chlorine, but also toxic weapons-grade agents, including mustard gas and sarin. There is no doubt whatsoever that the use of chemical weapons runs counter to the existing international rules and norms. All this confirms what we have been saying all along, that terrorists have the capability to produce and use chemical weapons.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that national security threats have become a hotly debated issue in major European countries, the United States and across the world in general. There is nothing wrong with any country having a conversation on this topic. Unfortunately, the threat of terrorists using and producing chemical weapons, which is a global, not regional, issue, is not at the centre of these discussions. Non-state actors in Syria and Iraq were able to expand their cross-border terrorist activity, making it more systematic. Unfortunately, our worst fears are about to materialise. We have warned about it on multiple occasions. There is a threat of chemical terrorism spreading across the Middle East. Even though this may sound ironic (although this would be a very sad irony), we could use a hashtag #FMknew (i.e. “the Foreign Ministry knew”). Moreover, chemical terrorism could spill over into neighbouring regions.

This is a serious threat and it is real. We have to work on it. We hope that the Iraqi authorities will be proactive in dealing with it. Of course, Russia fully supports OPCW’s commitment to provide comprehensive assistance to Baghdad in investigating this incident.

In addition, we believe that the mandate of the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism on chemical weapons use in Syria, renewed for one year under UN Security Council Resolution 2319, should be extended beyond Syria to territories exposed to the threat of chemical terrorism.

We strongly believe that those responsible for all crimes involving the use of chemical weapons should be identified and held accountable.

In broader terms, the fact that non-state actors are using chemical weapons for military and terrorist purposes with increased frequency shows that Russia came forward with a timely and urgent initiative when it proposed one year ago to draft an international convention on fighting chemical and biological terrorism as part of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. We hope that countries taking part in this Conference on Disarmament in Geneva will back this initiative.

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Detention of a Russian vessel in Libyan waters


According to information we have received, on March 5 the coast guard of Zawiya in western Libya detained the Russian cargo vessel Merle and escorted it to the port of Tripoli. The ship belongs to MT Group based in St Petersburg. The crew comprises seven people, all of them Russian citizens.

The Russian Embassy in Libya, which is temporarily located in Tunisia, as you know, is currently investigating the circumstances of the incident. Of course, all necessary measures will be taken to rapidly resolve this latest incident involving our citizens in that country.

At the same time, considering the ongoing difficult military and political situation in that country, about which we have repeatedly warned through the consular service and our agencies abroad, and given the security and other risks for Russian citizens and organisations there, we would like to again strongly advise that Russian operators that are engaged in international air, sea and car transportation, as well as Russian citizens who are members of Russian and foreign crews, abstain from visiting Libya for safety reasons until the situation returns to normal there.

We hope that the relevant Russian companies will draw conclusions from this latest incident involving a Russian ship crew in Libya.

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European Parliament event to mark three years since the tragedies in Kiev and Odessa


On February 28, the European Parliament hosted a roundtable discussion devoted to the third anniversary of the tragic events in Kiev and Odessa. Among the speakers were, besides some parliament members, opposition journalist and blogger Ruslan Kotsaba who was recently released from Ukrainian prison; one of the leaders of the Ukrainian Socialist Party Vasyl Tsushko, former minister of the interior and former head of the Ukrainian anti-monopoly committee; Alexander Hug, deputy head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine; relatives of the Odessa tragedy victims; and representatives of the media and non-governmental organisations.

It’s very telling that Ukrainian diplomats have pointedly ignored the event despite the invitations.

Participants in the roundtable discussion again demanded that the Ukrainian government stop putting off the investigation into these tragedies and finally shed light on all circumstances of the case. They emphasised that the radicals who openly admitted their complicity to the killing of law enforcement officers in Kiev and civilians in Odessa are living in freedom, while “anti-Maidan” supporters and their relatives in Odessa are harassed by Ukrainian authorities and intimidated by Ukrainian nationalists.

In this context we find it very regretful that most European Parliament members, organisations and media of the EU, which seem to be very sensitive (as we all know) about upholding human rights and combatting lawlessness, have turned a blind eye to the deliberate efforts to delay the investigation of these tragedies and other crimes of the current Ukrainian government.

We again urge the international community, including human rights defenders and non-governmental organisations, to ensure that Ukraine conducts a thorough and, of course, unbiased investigation, and brings those guilty in the Kiev and Odessa tragedies to justice.

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Canada’s decision to extend its military training mission in Ukraine


We are deeply concerned over Canada’s decision to extend its military training mission in Ukraine for two years. Within its framework, Canadian military instructors conduct training on Ukrainian shooting ranges, or, to put it differently, “coach” Ukrainian servicemen who are subsequently sent to Donbas.

We consider such decisions and actions on the part of the Government of Canada to be extremely dangerous. They are hampering a political solution to the confrontation with the Kiev government, which is to blame for the fact that it is still going on. Moreover, according to our information, this is not just a matter of training: Canada has begun ammunition supplies for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and this ammunition will, no doubt, end up in the conflict zone.

Instead of putting pressure on Kiev to get it to fulfil its commitments under the Minsk Agreements, Ottawa has been openly playing into the hands of those who favour a military solution in Donbass and encouraging further bloodshed. The Canadians must understand that the consequences of such a policy and such actions will be on their conscience.

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The Russian chapter in the US Department of State’s latest International Narcotics Control Strategy Report


We have carefully studied the chapter regarding Russia in the 2016 report.

Regrettably, this largely technical document contains hints that the Russian side is allegedly to blame for the fact that our anti-drug cooperation, which was fruitful in the past, has been curtailed. In addition to our cooperation in the bilateral format, we closely worked with Washington in international anti-drug structures, including in preparing and holding such an important event as last year’s special anti-drug session of the UN General Assembly in New York. And we also expect to cooperate with the American delegation during the 60th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which is due to open in Vienna on March 13.

We have noted that US President Donald Trump, in his March 1 speech to the Congress, repeatedly pointed to combating drugs as one of the top priorities for his Administration. We believe that his concerns over the present fairly dramatic situation with drug trafficking and drug abuse in America are paving the way for the more active involvement of the United States in a global anti-drug dialogue.

We are convinced that it is necessary to build such cooperation in order to move towards a drug-free world. This meets the vital interests of both the Russian Federation and other responsible members of the international community.

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Statements by Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva


We have noted statements made by Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva, in which he told the US Congress that Russia had allegedly deployed a land-based cruise missile that violates the “spirit and intent” of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Such statements are certainly disappointing. As you know, this is not a new story. An informed person representing the military leadership of a major country should have known better. In particular, he could have finally explained what exactly they consider our “violations” to be and how they came to this conclusion.

However, this is not the first time that public accusations of Russia’s non-compliance with the INF Treaty ​​are not backed up by any evidence. They seem to be following what has already become a familiar pattern – making claims and immediately evading any specificity.

We have repeatedly affirmed our commitment to the INF. We explained to the US side that all missile tests in Russia are in compliance with the Treaty. During all negotiations, consultations and meetings we asked them to list Russia’s specific actions that are causing concern in Washington. Invariably, we got little in response except vague proposals to guess what they meant. This hardly seems like a serious approach.

Indicatively, though, the Americans are threatening to retaliate for Russia’s mythical violations with certain steps of a military nature. The very fact that US representatives are persistently using such rhetoric, without bothering to bring any evidence or specific examples whatsoever, raises questions about the purpose of these false media narratives.

At the same time, the Americans stubbornly refuse to discuss our well-founded claims concerning their own compliance with the INF Treaty. I am referring to the Mk-41 vertical launching units in the Aegis Ashore ground-based anti-missile systems, which the United States has deployed in Romania and plans to deploy in Poland, and which can reasonably be considered cruise missile launchers. The large-scale programme of building ballistic missile targets for missile defence-related applications, with similar characteristics to intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, is also causing a lot of questions. In addition, the United States produces and uses unmanned combat air vehicles, which fit the definition of ground-based cruise missiles contained in the INF Treaty.

Once again, we suggest abandoning this unsubstantiated rhetoric and public accusations without specific examples in favour of a substantive dialogue aimed at addressing existing concerns and clarifying potential points of disagreement. All the mechanisms are there. We are open to such a dialogue through the appropriate channels.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: How do you comment on media reports about the possible appointment of Jon Huntsman to the post of US Ambassador to Russia?

Maria Zakharova: We don’t consider it necessary to comment on press reports because a standard procedure is launched whenever any country deems it necessary to have its ambassador replaced. Diplomatic practice exists for this purpose. Obviously this is a decision for the Administration in Washington to make. And the procedure is then launched via the appropriate channels.

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Question: Could you comment on Russia’s decision not to attend the March 22 meeting of countries, members of the anti-ISIS coalition, in Washington DC?

Maria Zakharova: As you know, the Syrian peace settlement has many formats. We are traditionally involved in some formats that have, among other things, been established through the efforts of the Russian Federation. We have never been involved in some formats, and this is not news or anything sensational. We simply did not take part in these meetings. I have just mentioned our efforts concerning the Syrian peace settlement. We are focusing on precisely these efforts.

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Question: What issues can the Norwegian and Russian foreign ministers raise during their meeting at the Arctic – Territory of Dialogue forum?

Maria Zakharova: We will inform you in great detail prior to the meeting. As you know, those involved in bilateral meetings discuss issues of the bilateral agenda, international issues and regional cooperation issues, with due consideration for both countries’ location.

We will inform you about forum participants and events on its sidelines in the run-up to the forum itself.

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Question: Might Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet separately with his Turkish counterpart during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Moscow visit? If so, will they touch upon the Nagorno-Karabakh peace settlement?

Maria Zakharova: As you know, we are not supposed to comment on the format of summits. I have told you about all events due to involve the Minister in the near future.

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Question: Is it possible to talk about complete mutual understanding between the countries co-chairing the OSCE’s Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace settlement, or are there any disagreements?

Maria Zakharova: Any work amounts to a process aiming to coordinate positions and to bring them to a common denominator for adopting subsequent decisions. As in any other process, we voice completely coinciding positions on certain issues, and we need to reach consensus on some others. Your question is rather vague, and my reply is also quite vague.

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Question: Yesterday, Chisinau recommended that Moldovan officials refrain from travelling to Russia. Chisinau expressed indignation and sent a note of protest over the fact that all officials from the Republic of Moldova are questioned and even searched at the Russian border. What is the way out of the situation, as you see it?

Maria Zakharova: I know that a relevant document has been sent to the Russian Foreign Ministry. We are speaking about a diplomatic note regarding the issue you’ve mentioned, which came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova. I will say frankly that this document is not easy. We are studying it and trying to understand what concrete issues Moldova is putting before us. We are ready to cooperate and address difficult issues, for which there are relevant channels. All problems can be settled in the regular course of work. Currently we are analysing the note.

I would like to reiterate that we have received a document that is not easy to understand.

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Question: Did your comment at the December 27, 2017 briefing imply that the stories by the Belarusian authors Yury Pavlovets, Dmitry Alimkin and Sergey Sheptenko published by Regnum used the words “inferior people?”

Maria Zakharova: Neither Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov, nor the Russian Foreign Ministry, nor the Foreign Ministry spokesperson have ever claimed that the words “inferior people” were used in the Regnum stories by the abovementioned authors.

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Question: How would you comment on the four North Korean missile launches on March 6?

Maria Zakharova: We proceed from the fact that we have already commented on the said launches. You know our principled position based on the UN Security Council documents.

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Question: Relations between North Korea and Malaysia have deteriorated after the assassination in Kuala Lumpur of Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader’s brother. Earlier this week, Malaysia expelled the North Korean ambassador. How does the Russian Foreign Ministry view these events in the context of efforts to stabilise the situation in Northeast Asia?

Maria Zakharova: This is a case of bilateral relations. We proceed from the assumption that the two states are using every opportunity to solve these difficult problems.    

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Question: Recently, WikiLeaks published new documents. Mr Lavrov implicitly mentioned the possibility of the CIA hacking mobile phones and other electronic devices. What measures will Russia’s Foreign Ministry take in this regard to prevent further hacking and opportunities for spying?

Maria Zakharova: The possibility of attacks by hackers, people who have mastered the latest technologies under the guidance of US intelligence agencies, or the impact of this process on mobile phones and other telecommunication devices was not so much mentioned by Mr Lavrov as it was pointed out in the WikiLeaks materials. It was these documents that made it clear that there is a strong possibility of such attacks. If this information is true, it is scary that this is what US intelligence agencies engage in and amuse themselves with. We learn about such facts from time to time, and previously this information had always been confirmed. However, there have always been attempts to remove this information from front pages, to “airbrush” it somehow and tone it down, but practically every time these facts were confirmed.

This is extremely dangerous, as first of all, it would mean undermining the existing system of international relations based on certain principles embodied in the UN Charter – namely, non-interference in internal affairs, and so on. There is a large number of documents related to information and digital security that are, among others, signed by US representatives. Therefore, if confirmed – and they had been confirmed earlier – such actions simply undermine the trust between countries that has been built with such great difficulty. Of course, this also means, to a great extent, undermining the relations between states in bilateral and multilateral formats.

But I think this is not the worst thing – because, as paradoxical as it sounds, many counties that have fallen victim to illegal wiretapping by the United States even took some pleasure in learning this information, which was a great surprise. Any state that has dignity and national interests should react to this unambiguously. I think the most horrible thing is that these hacking technologies have become public domain and may be used by the terrorist organisations we are talking about and trying to fight together (no one knows – maybe terrorists have already made use of these technologies). Earlier, the word “terrorism” meant a car rigged with explosives, suicide belts or suicide bombers. Today, the definition of international terrorism is much broader. It includes cyber-terrorism, recruiting supporters via the internet, and influencing the collective consciousness, targeting young people and children. It is scary that if confirmed, all this poses a great threat to the world and global security (and we would very much like the US intelligence community to give a comprehensive response to these documents with all the specific facts they have). The information component of international terrorism is a priority today. Of course, equally important are examples of chemical weapons use by terrorists. Today terrorists make use of the whole range of technologies to promote their ideology and reinforce their actions, and this is really scary.

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Question: Can we say that recent reports about the alleged US actions in cyberspace are reason to end the information war against Russia?

Maria Zakharova: This would have been possible if the global media – the global information corporations that call the information tune around the world – were objective. But expecting objectivity from them is absolutely unrealistic in principle. You see what is going on in the United States. The media have turned from a mechanical instrument of political struggle into an active participant of the information war. These are two different things. The information such as you mentioned is unlikely to be used for an objective analysis of the situation. We have pointed to a very dangerous trend: the public is losing trust in the global media at a time when there are objective data that need to be carefully analysed. Unfortunately, these data are often hushed up and disregarded, while fake news about hackers and their influence on elections and internal political processes are published on front pages.

Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany Sigmar Gabriel, who was in Moscow yesterday, said clearly that the federal government of Germany and German officials have never blamed Russia and never accused it of fabricating fake news and interfering in election campaigns. As he said, the responsibility for this rests with the German media. He stressed that he only speaks on behalf of the German government.

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Question: I would like to ask you about the upcoming talks in the Two Plus Two format in Tokyo. What do you think about the revival of this format after a long pause? Which subjects will be discussed at these talks?

Maria Zakharova: I thought you wanted to test my knowledge of maths. We certainly see this as a very constructive step aimed at comprehensive development of bilateral relations and capable of achieving this goal. There are issues of mutual interest we can discuss in the areas of foreign policy, defence, military policy and military cooperation. You have said correctly that there was a long pause in the work of this mechanism, but Russia is not to blame for this. We believe that it is never too late to see that suspended cooperation, interaction and, most importantly, dialogue cannot produce any positive result. We have always called for resuming a multiformat dialogue. We will thoroughly prepare for the talks, which must certainly be successful and productive.

As for the agenda, different agencies will discuss issues of interest to them. You can ask the Defence Ministry which issues they plan to discuss in Tokyo. The talks between foreign ministers will focus on bilateral relations, the international situation and regional cooperation and security. The situation in the region is on the agenda. There will also be media briefings. Anyway, we will update you on the results of these talks.

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Question: It was recently announced that the United States is about to deploy Marine Corps artillery in Syria, which is a clear departure from the previous administration's vow that there will be no boots on the ground. How will Moscow react to this?

Maria Zakharova: What previous administration? What are you talking about? It didn’t have a consistent Syrian strategy in entire eight years: one day we bomb it, the next day we don’t, one day we pull out of Syria, the next day we go in, one day we overthrow the government, the next day we establish cooperation with it. Such fluctuations occurred on a monthly basis. One branch of government did not understand what the other branch was doing. The position which had to be implemented on the international arena as a consolidated US approach (the international community was supposed to understand this policy, because the issue is about the actions on the international arena), simply was not there. First, there was one concept, then it changed. In the last six months before the elections, we witnessed agony of Washington’s Syrian policy. On the one hand, there was increased activity in the foreign policy area, and, on the other hand, there was activity which was absolutely not supported by the on-the-ground actions of the US military. Do you remember the gap between the position of certain forces in the State Department and the US military?

Then there came an even more mysterious event: they just went ahead and dropped all Syrian politics without seeing it to its logical end. Then they focused on Aleppo, but not on resolving this situation, but solely on building up hysteria and an information campaign geared exclusively to the elections. What can we talk about if we analyse the previous administration’s approach?
I suggest that we leave all that to historians and political scientists and refrain from discussing this seriously, because we can remember perfectly these endless changes and under-the-carpet fighting between US departments. It was just a political battle. Unfortunately, this political battle of the elites clearly continues. Anything goes in this fight.

We launched a dialogue with the State Department. The two ministers had their first meeting. We operate on the premise that we are ready to cooperate with the United States, including on the Syrian settlement. You may be aware that the American representatives were invited to a meeting in Astana, and they were present at the level they considered necessary. Therefore, we are ready for interaction, because it is important to articulate the concept. I reiterate that there is a sense that this post-electoral fight does not allow us to formulate approaches to such an important area of American foreign policy as politics in the Middle East and North Africa. Therefore, I repeat that we are ready to cooperate.

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Question: Do our esteemed American partners make any non-public or informal attempts to build relations or is everything limited to official events, like the meeting in Bonn?

Maria Zakharova: What do you mean?

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Question: Do representatives of the US administration and the State Department make any attempts to restore relations by acting in a non-public field?

Maria Zakharova: What do you mean by a non-public field? Foreign policy assumes a certain amount of publicity. Are you talking about behind-the-scenes talks? We are doing regular diplomatic work with regard to both the United States and other capitals and countries. We cannot keep adjusting to the fluctuations coming from Washington. We are based on the approved Foreign Policy Concept. In our work, we use methods and traditions that were laid down by the history of Russian foreign policy and are based on international law and basic principles of international relations. We are trying to work in a normal and constructive manner. Once again, the methods of our work are open and clear: negotiation diplomacy, meetings, contacts, etc.

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Question: Can you comment on the Constitutional Court in South Korea confirming the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye? You have already very harshly commented on the deployment of a missile defence system in Europe. It became known that parts for the THAAD anti-missile system were brought to South Korea. It is planned that the work to deploy this system will be completed in May. China in this regard strongly criticises the government of South Korea and is imposing sanctions. What can you say on this account?

Maria Zakharova: We closely follow the developments in South Korea, where the Constitutional Court approved the decision of the National Assembly on the impeachment of the head of state on March 10. We look forward to seeing the internal political crisis in that country overcome as soon as possible. We are confident that it is unlikely to be able to affect the level of Russian-South Korean relations in any way.

As for deploying the US missile defence system around the world, our position is known. Not so long ago we issued an additional comment on this matter. Of course, this undermines regional and international stability in many respects. Our position on this issue is clear, and we make it so to our partners, to the people with whom the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry meets. We voice it publicly. Our position is clear, and it has not changed.

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