Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answer to a media question during a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Bui Thanh Son, Moscow, September 28, 2021
Foreign Minister of Vietnam Bui Thanh Son and I held talks in a constructive and friendly atmosphere. We had an in-depth conversation and exchanged views on a wide range of matters of mutual interest, reaffirming our shared commitment to consistently strengthening the comprehensive strategic partnership between our countries, building on the long-standing traditions of friendship, solidarity and mutual support.
We welcomed the regular and meaningful political dialogue at the high and highest levels that has continued despite the coronavirus pandemic.
We paid special attention to carrying out the agreements by our respective leaders, including those reached during a telephone conversation between the presidents of Russia and Vietnam on September 16, 2021.
On trade and economic relations, we share the view that the Free Trade Agreement between the EAEU and Vietnam has had a really positive impact on bilateral trade. In 2020, it increased by 15 percent, and was up 24 percent in January-July 2021. We also discussed ways to address the imbalances in mutual trade, including by enabling Russian exporters to expand their foothold in the Vietnamese market.
We agreed on fast tracking the project to set up the assembly of Russian vehicles in Vietnam by moving to a practical stage in its implementation. Large-scale initiatives in industrial manufacturing, infrastructure construction and transport are also among our priorities.
We talked about opportunities to combine our efforts in spheres like information security, e-government and smart cities, banking, agribusiness, and communications.
We also praised the developments in the oil and gas sector, and decided to create favourable conditions for Gazprom, Zarubezhneft and Novatek in Vietnam, as well as for PetroVietnam in Russia.
We reaffirmed our consistent commitment to expanding our military-technical collaboration and cooperation in the defence and security sector.
It is essential that we step up efforts to build a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology in Vietnam, as well as ensure the stable operation of the Joint Russian-Vietnamese Tropical Research and Technology Centre.
We praised cooperation in education and personnel training, especially in terms of Vietnamese nationals receiving scholarships, paid for by funds from the federal budget, to study in Russia. In the 2021 academic year, one thousand Vietnamese citizens received this opportunity, while there are as many as 6,000 under- and post-graduate students and interns from Vietnam studying in Russia. According to this indicator, Vietnam is one of the leading nations among our partners.
We share convergent or very close approaches to most topical global issues. We discussed our cooperation within the United Nations, as well as developments in the Asia-Pacific Region (APR). We share the view on the need to develop an architecture of equal and indivisible security in the APR that would be in step with the times and rooted in the universally recognised principles of international law. We also share the view that attempts to draw new dividing lines within the APR would be counterproductive.
These were very useful talks. They enabled us to outline further effective efforts to carry out the agreements between our respective leaders.
Question: Yesterday was the first anniversary of the Second Karabakh War between Azerbaijan and Armenia. It took Russia an immense effort to stop this war a year ago. What do you think about the post-war period in terms of how the trilateral statement was implemented? What are the main achievements, from your perspective? Recently, our French and US partners have been proactive in pushing the idea of the need to settle the Karabakh status issue. In your opinion, could these proposals be premature, as you mentioned earlier? What are the current objectives of the Minsk Group? Can we expect the efforts to unblock transport and economic ties to yield any tangible results before the year is over?
Sergey Lavrov: With almost a year having passed since November 9, 2020, the enduring stability has been the main outcome. It is still there. The Russian peacekeeping force has helped ensure that we no longer see any violent acts. There were some minor incidents initially, but they were promptly settled. Let me emphasise that the situation there is stable. Of course, many problems have yet to be addressed, primarily in terms of getting life back to normal, completing the demining operation, freeing detainees, etc.
The main goal is to make sure that a tranquil, peaceful and stable life is restored on the ground, so that the Armenian and the Azerbaijani communities regain trust in their relations just as there was many decades ago, before the First Karabakh War, to enable refugees to return home and resolve other everyday challenges.
As for the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, just a few days ago three co-chairs representing Russia, the United States and France, had a meeting in New York with the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia. As far as I can see, they agreed to resume their trips to this region in order to visit Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives and talk to them. Some meetings are scheduled to take place in Stepanakert. I think that their main objective is to encourage and reinforce positive trends, which need to be encouraged in every possible way, while ensuring the coexistence and cooperation between the Armenian and the Azerbaijani communities. At this stage, I would stop at that in our planning.