17 August 202122:54

Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions following a visit to the Kaliningrad Region, Kaliningrad, August 17, 2021

1607-17-08-2021

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Question: You had a meeting with freight carriers today. What is the status of the Dubki-Rambinas checkpoint, when will it become operational and, in general, what problems did the carriers share with you? How can you help them?

Sergey Lavrov: I discussed the state of affairs with the Governor and the President of the Association of International Road Carriers {ASMAP). Many issues under review were highly specific and purely technical. As we reiterated today, they are being considered by a special government commission chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov. The next meeting will be held in September. Today's meeting, which made it possible to sum up all our concerns, was quite timely. In a joint effort with our colleagues from the Kaliningrad Region Government and ASMAP, we will summarise these suggestions for further consideration by this commission.

With regard to the checkpoint on the Lithuanian border, Dubki, which is our part of the international checkpoint, it was renovated and opened for business in December 2020. The Lithuanian side also planned to do its part fairly quickly, but a flood seriously damaged the road. Now, as our Lithuanian colleagues are telling us, they will need more time to finish the repairs and officially complete renovation. Unfortunately, this will take quite a long time, but they assure us that everything will be ready by next summer. We will see.

Question: Can Russia consider the option of recognising the Taliban regime unilaterally?

Sergey Lavrov: We have brought this up more than once. Just like all other countries, we are not in a hurry to recognise them. Just yesterday, I spoke with Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China Wang Yi. Our positions overlap. We are seeing encouraging signals from the Taliban, who are saying they want to have a government with the participation of other political forces. They said they stand ready to continue the processes, including the ones that involve education, education for girls and the functioning of the state machine in general, without shutting the door to the officials who worked under the previous government led by President Ashraf Ghani. We are observing positive processes on the streets of Kabul, where the situation is fairly calm and the Taliban are effectively enforcing law and order. But it is too early to talk about any unilateral political steps on our part. We support the beginning of an all-encompassing national dialogue with the participation of all Afghan political ethnic and religious forces. Former President Hamid Karzai and Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah have already spoken in favour of this process. They are in Kabul. They came up with this proposal. One of the leaders of northern Afghanistan, Mr Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has joined this initiative as well. Literally these days, as I understand, maybe even as we speak, a dialogue with a Taliban representative is going on. I hope it will lead to an agreement whereby the Afghans will form inclusive transitional bodies as an important step towards fully normalising the situation in this long-suffering country.

Question (addressed to Anton Alikhanov): Mr Alikhanov, you said ferries were an optional solution to transit. As I understand it, ASMAP representatives said it was a costly option.

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Anton Alikhanov): We told our Polish neighbours that we could stop using the permit system altogether, but they have not shown interest in that yet.

Question: Clearly, making forecasts amid the pandemic is a thankless job. However, these questions were raised today as well. When will the vaccination certificates be mutually recognised and the borders open and what are the preconditions for doing so?

Sergey Lavrov: We discussed this in depth today during a meeting in Avtotor and a meeting with the governor. The process is underway. It is fairly complicated, because it involves leaving behind the attempts to politicise this procedure, which tend to resurface now and then. This is a fairly technical process, including with regard to protecting personal data or standardising technical approaches to matters associated with presenting mutually recognised certificates. I hope the European Commission will pick up the pace of its work. On our side, the Ministry of Healthcare and the Gamaleya Institute are ready to complete this work in a short time. Also, when a fundamental decision of this kind is made, its implementation will depend on each country in particular. Under the EU rules, it is up to the national governments whether to admit people vaccinated with a vaccine that is not EU-certified. The agreement on mutual recognition of certificates does not mean that Sputnik V or our other vaccines will be certified by the EU. This is an opportunity to travel to other countries. Mutual recognition of certificates will be a major breakthrough for the people whose life plans are disrupted by the lack of it.

Question: Do you think mutual recognition of the certificates is a faster path forward than the recognition of Sputnik V in the West?

Sergey Lavrov: If I understand correctly, yes, it is a faster way to get there. Nobody knows how the recognition of Sputnik V will play out. Even before the Western vaccines were registered for use in Europe, the European Medicines Agency had already signed a bunch of contracts for the supply of these vaccines, which were then unregistered, mind you. With regard to Sputnik V, you may have heard many statements, including by Ursula von der Leyen, to the effect that they do not need Russian vaccines, and they do not need to discuss anything with us. And yet we are being accused of waging a “vaccine war” and provoking anti-vaccination demonstrations in the West. This is sad. Crises of this kind should unite people, which President Putin conveyed a year ago announcing the creation of the Sputnik V vaccine.

Question: Experts have already dubbed current developments in Afghanistan a direct consequence of global changes in international politics, in particular, the United States losing its dominant positions. Is that true? If so, what model is the world following and what role is assigned to Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: We discussed this in depth at our meeting. Of course, the world is changing. The West can no longer address all issues of international life on its own, as it did for 500 years, when it dominated militarily and economically and geographically and culturally, imposing its values on everyone. Other major global players are rising, including China and India, as well as Africa and Latin America, which are becoming increasingly aware of their national civilisational identity. Everything that we are now calling a multipolar world order that was foreseen by Yevgeny Primakov almost 20 years ago in the 1990s, is now taking place in practical terms. It is no coincidence that at a certain point the G20 was created, which includes the G7, as well as BRICS and other countries, whose international philosophy is much closer to BRICS than the G7. By taking this step, the West acknowledged that it could no longer address global economy and international finance challenges alone. The G20 is a capacious, compact and very representative forum to discuss issues, the solution to which depends not only on the West, but many other players. Forming a multipolar world will take time. This may be a short, but nonetheless a historic era. It is a painful process. The West is struggling to relinquish its hegemonic position. The idea that NATO should be used in this process has gained currency. NATO, which was created as a purely defensive alliance, has declared the expansion of its influence, including the barrier infrastructure on a global scale, as its goal. They are now talking about creating something along the lines of an “Indo-Pacific” NATO, as they once spoke of a “Middle Eastern” NATO. It is not that they are a “wounded beast,” but this group of countries finds it hard and painful to part with the positions that they used to enjoy globally for many decades. There are many clear-eyed politicians in Europe. They realise that it is much more effective to focus on a positive agenda than to build up aggressive claims and demand everyone to follow Western advice and lectures. Especially considering that the global development centre has shifted from the Euro-Atlantic region to Eurasia. Our common vast Eurasian continent provides all the countries and organisations located here with clear and obvious comparative advantages in developing new global routes, economic projects and initiatives to pair resources with technology. It is obvious to the point that it is counterproductive to ignore this. It is not accidental that the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations responded to President Putin’s initiative to form a Great Eurasian Partnership. Moreover, this initiative made it clear that its doors are open to all countries and entities located on the Eurasian continent, including the EU member states. We strive to use this unifying and proactive approach to promote our interests in the international arena. We do not want to isolate ourselves or to fall into confrontation. Certainly, we will firmly respond to any and all attempts to infringe on our legitimate interests. But this is not our choice. We stand for the unifying trends that are required by global growth, which we consider important to encourage and support.

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