Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Mukhtar Tleuberdi, Moscow, September 9, 2020
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have had very constructive talks as part of the regular communications between our countries’ foreign ministers. Back in June, we held several in-depth meetings via videoconference, but today we had an in-person meeting in order to prepare for the large-scale bilateral events scheduled for this year. These are to be held during the Russia-Kazakhstan Interregional Cooperation Forum and the 65th anniversary celebrations of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is our shared pride, as well as during the preparations of the upcoming meeting of the co-chairs of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation and subsequently during the plenary meeting of this important structure.
We expressed appreciation of our collaboration in the fight against the novel coronavirus infection, to which the Russian and Kazakh federal and governmental agencies, regions, members of the public and, of course, medics contributed. We supplied our Kazakh friends with the necessary testing kits, reagents, PPEs and medicine. We share the opinion that such mutual assistance will give an additional impetus to the further development of our ties in medicine and biological security in the post-coronavirus period.
When it comes to humanitarian collaboration, we are preparing a series of events, including the Days of Russia in Kazakhstan. We also discussed the strengthening of our ties in education. Last year, 74,000 Kazakh students graduated from Russian universities, and about 30,000 of them received federal scholarships. We spoke about the future humanitarian and academic exchanges and the strengthening of cooperation between our universities.
Today, we signed a protocol to the intergovernmental agreement enhancing the status of Kazakhstan’s consulate in Astrakhan and formalising the status of the Russian consulate in Uralsk. We agree with our Kazakh friends that this will enhance our bilateral relations and the provision of quality services to our citizens.
We will continue to closely coordinate our activities regarding foreign policy, including at the main international platforms, first of all the UN, where Russia and Kazakhstan traditionally co-sponsor a great number of resolutions on combating the glorification of Nazism, preventing an arms race in outer space, on confidence-building measures in outer space, as well as on international information security and on combating cybercrime. These joint efforts have been positively received at the UN as a whole.
We also discussed the OSCE. Russia and Kazakhstan are interested in strengthening this organisation. We have submitted to the OSCE reform proposals aimed at strengthening its legitimacy, which we drafted together with Kazakhstan and with the participation of other CIS countries. The organisation does not have a charter, which it needs so as to be able to have clear rules for its activities in all spheres – military-political, economic, environmental and humanitarian. These rules must be transparent and apply to all member states. In the context of the current leadership crisis at the OSCE (the Secretary General and the heads of its three basic offices have not been selected yet), we agreed that the selection of candidates for these posts, which became vacant in the summer, should take into account the interests of the countries located east of Vienna, or more precisely, CIS states. Not a single CIS member state has so far held any of the above-mentioned four key posts at the OSCE Secretariat.
We also spoke about our close collaboration within the CSTO, the EAEU, the CIS and the SCO. Fundamentally, we hold similar views. Today we discussed a number of concrete methods for strengthening our interaction in these organisations. We noted the effectiveness of the recently created CA5 + Russia format of cooperation between the five Central Asian states and Russia. We are preparing a new meeting in this format.
We exchanged views on the key international topics, including the fight against terrorism and other common threats such as drug trafficking and organised crime, plus the developments in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa.
We held an in-depth discussion on our cooperation in the Caspian region. Next year Moscow will host the second Caspian Economic Forum. At the same time, we are preparing the sixth Caspian Summit. A large package of documents is being prepared for both events. We agree with our Kazakh friends on the importance of further strengthening interaction within the group of the five Caspian states, which are ultimately responsible for security, transport connectivity, environmental protection, tourism and academic ties in the Caspian region.
Overall, we are satisfied with the outcome of our talks, which were held within the framework of the goals set by our presidents in the context of the Russia-Kazakhstan Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness and Alliance in the 21st Century.
I would like to thank my colleague for the really productive talks we have had.
Question: More than 70,000 students from Kazakhstan study in Russia. The Kazakh side has asked Russia to amend the list of foreign countries whose citizens can enter Russia to include Kazakhstan. As far as we know, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent a proposal to the Russian Government to make the changes, because the decision is to be made by the coronavirus emergency response centre led by Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova. Why hasn't this amendment been adopted yet? If you are working on it, when will students be able to enter Russia to study?
Sergey Lavrov: You just correctly described the procedure: all the relevant decisions are made by the emergency response centre. This is not even a foreign policy issue, nor is it the Education Ministry’s responsibility, but above all, it is up to the two countries’ sanitary and epidemiological authorities.
The problem with foreign students, those who have previously studied in Russia and would like to continue with their programmes, as well as those who have just been admitted to universities, has been specifically considered and a decision has been made on the basis of joint proposals from the Foreign and Education ministries. The specific timeframe will be determined in the very near future to allow students from all countries, including Kazakhstan (we want our neighbours to be among the first) to come to Russia to study. Our intention, our idea is to evenly spread out their arrivals, for example, a certain number of students a week. I hope this issue will be resolved within a month’s time.
Question: When are regular flights planned to resume between Kazakhstan and Russia? Is there an exact date and clear criteria for opening the borders?
Sergey Lavrov: This depends exclusively on the epidemiological authorities, and they are keeping in touch. At the end of August, talks were held in Moscow. There is a general understanding that we want to get life back to normal as soon as possible. I hope that the fight against the coronavirus and the general situation with the pandemic will allow us to do so in the foreseeable future.
Question: The Russian vaccine has been put into civilian circulation, and the first people have been vaccinated in Moscow. Are there any plans to supply vaccines to Kazakhstan? If so, are there any agreements yet?
Sergey Lavrov: Some agreements have been reached. At the end of August, Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Roman Sklyar visited Moscow. All of these issues were discussed, common approaches identified, and practical agreements reached on specific steps, including the supply of vaccines for clinical trials along with vaccination.
Question: I have a question on the agreement signed by Belgrade and Pristina in Washington. How does Moscow assess it? Brussels harshly criticised the transfer of the Serbian embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. What does Russia think about this? I would also like to know what Russia thinks about the signing by Israel and Kosovo of a provision on mutual recognition, executed in Washington, in the presence of the Serbian authorities. Against this backdrop, is Russia ready to continue advocating Serbia’s territorial integrity on international platforms at the request of the Serbian authorities?
Sergey Lavrov: Concerning the Washington agreements involving President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and Pristina’s representative, we view them as agreements between these two sides. We proceed from the premise that these agreements were signed for the sake of achieving a settlement, and have no reason to question Serbia’s commitment to carrying out UN Security Council Resolution 1244 in full. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has said on multiple occasions that we will continue to firmly support Serbia in the steps it deems necessary within the framework of this resolution. We will support any agreement Belgrade and Pristina reach by their free will, among other things by highlighting the need to deliver on earlier commitments.
In 2013, Belgrade and Pristina reached an agreement, with EU mediation, as Brussels should recall, establishing the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo to provide for the legitimate rights of the territory’s Serbian population. Seven years have gone by. At the time, the EU was extremely proud of this achievement. In fact, this was a major milestone. But nothing has been done to this effect. We would like to bring this to the EU’s attention. President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic visited Brussels a few days ago for further meetings on the Kosovo issue. We hope that our EU colleagues will not forget that they had mediated an arrangement that has been totally ignored by the authorities in Pristina.
As for the supplements to the documents signed in Washington, including those on the Middle East settlement, our position is extremely straightforward. Just like with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 that everyone has the obligation to comply with and implement, we stand for respecting and implementing UN Security Council resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue. Witnessing attempts to raise matters that have nothing to do with the issues in relations between Belgrade and Pristina, definitely leads us to question the sincerity and good will of the mediators. I have no doubt that the parties understand all too well the intentions behind these ideas.
Question: Moscow talked about the importance of a national dialogue in Belarus some time ago. In the meantime, practically all members of the so-called Coordination Council have been detained or left the country. What is Russia’s perspective on this situation?
Sergey Lavrov: We have consistently advocated dialogue between the Belarusian government and society, the civil activists, trade unions, students and various movements. We still believe in the prospect of creating a common platform for this dialogue. In this context, we have been highlighting the proposal by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to launch constitutional reform. It is essential that all sections of society contribute to this effort. I strongly believe that this will serve the interests of the Belarusian people and state. If it serves the Belarusians, it will also serve the interests of the Russian Federation.
Question: It was reported earlier that the German Ambassador to Russia is scheduled to visit the Foreign Ministry today. The central topic will clearly be the situation with Alexei Navalny. What do you expect from this meeting? Is there a chance that Germany will finally share some information during this meeting, which would pave the way for cooperation that Moscow has been proposing to Berlin over the past weeks?
Sergey Lavrov: It is true that we have summoned the German Ambassador to Russia to the Foreign Ministry. There will be a separate statement on this meeting once it is over.
As for the situation around Alexei Navalny, we have amassed quite a few questions for our German colleagues regarding the absolutely unacceptable way in which they have been treating our official requests, including the request for legal assistance from the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office in accordance with the agreement between our countries. For more than a week, they did not respond, and when we prompted them to answer they responded quite arrogantly by saying that “you know everything and will have to answer for all this.” A few days ago, they told us that since the samples were analysed in a Bundeswehr institute, they would not share any information with anyone, since it could enable Russia to learn how much the Bundeswehr knows about chemical substances. There is nothing to talk about here. We are dissatisfied with the way they responded to our legitimate requests to comply with intergovernmental agreements on legal assistance, and with their unacceptable tone when communicating the position of the German side to the international community.