Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova Nicolae Popescu, Moscow, November 17, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova Nicolae Popescu were held in a constructive and friendly manner. This is my Moldovan colleague’s first visit to Russia after a new government was formed following the early parliamentary elections held last July. Mr Popescu held this post a couple of years ago, and this is not his first visit to Russia. Now, in addition to being Foreign Minister, he also holds the office of Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova.
We emphasised our mutual interest in promoting our partnership across various areas in accordance with the statements made on several occasions by the new President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu. Our mutual commitment to pragmatic and mutually beneficial cooperation in the interests of our nations has been fully reaffirmed today. We listened to our colleagues, who reaffirmed their course of maintaining a balance in their interaction with Eurasian integration entities and the European Union. We reaffirmed our respect for the non-aligned status, the status of a neutral state, which is enshrined in the Moldovan constitution. We welcomed Moldova’s commitment to develop bilateral relations guided by the principles of pragmatism and mutual consideration of interests. We are meeting literally two days before the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Moldova. We agreed that this document fully retains its significance and serves as a reliable legal foundation in promoting bilateral cooperation across all areas. We signed a statement which reaffirms this treaty’s importance.
We discussed trade and economic cooperation and stated with satisfaction that trade has been recovering and steadily growing since last year's recession. We noted the importance of the October 29 gas sector agreements. We believe that the upcoming 17th meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation headed jointly by Nicolae Popescu and Dmitry Patrushev will strengthen practical cooperation.
We also reviewed the importance and value of cultural and humanitarian projects for our citizens and noted the importance of maintaining the Russian language’s standing in Moldova’s educational and informational spheres. I believe we are on the same page regarding these matters.
We agreed to maintain our joint efforts to counter the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. I confirmed Moscow's willingness to continue to provide the necessary assistance to our Moldovan friends, including supplying Russian vaccines to Moldova, and other areas of cooperation.
We paid special attention to interaction between foreign ministries. Now, in your presence, we have signed a 2022-2023 plan of ministerial consultations, which is quite meaningful, and will impart stable dynamics to our meetings.
Russia will continue to act as a mediator and guarantor of the Transnistrian settlement. We emphasised the importance of the consistent implementation of the Chisinau-Tiraspol agreements as part of confidence-building measures that are aimed at ensuring a comprehensive and lasting settlement in the Dniester problem.
We look forward to the earliest possible holding of the official 5+2 talks, which have remained inactive for two years now. We sensed the Moldovan leadership’s interest in the early resumption of this format.
We discussed the prospects for cooperation through the CIS and the EAEU. We agreed to continue interaction at other multilateral platforms such as the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the BSEC.
Mr Popescu kindly invited me to pay a return visit to Chisinau. We agreed to determine the timeline through diplomatic channels.
Question: Russia and Moldova recently extended a gas supply contract after difficult talks. Are there still problems with this, especially considering the tense situation in Europe? Where are the Moldovan people in all this?
Sergey Lavrov: Today, we briefly reviewed the gas issue. All relevant questions were agreed on October 29 of this year: the agreements on exports for another five-year period were extended and prices determined. We agreed to continue talks on previous payments for past gas supplies.
We noted the reaction of our Western colleagues, including EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, who has become more active recently. Commenting on these positive agreements, they thought it not only possible but appropriate to accuse Russia of exerting political pressure on Moldova. This is untrue. These continued attempts to interpret what is happening in our shared backyard are an exercise in futility.
I would like to emphasise that when economic entities (in this case Gazprom and Moldovagaz) agree on something, they find suitable the terms of their agreement. This is exactly how Maia Sandu commented on the agreements of October 29 of this year. I believe the companies have found a mutually beneficial algorithm for practical cooperation that they will continue.
Question: Is President of Moldova Maia Sandu going to visit Russia?
Sergey Lavrov: Now that the election cycle in Moldova has concluded, our contacts are becoming more regular and stable. The co-chairs of the Inter-Governmental Commission on Economic Cooperation met and agreed to prepare its next regular meeting. Today, we are holding talks as foreign ministers. Our other ministries also remain in contact. As soon as significant positive groundwork has been laid, and our leaders agree to meet, they will certainly see each other.
Question: The continued tensions in the Black Sea due to the unprecedented arms buildup by the West may be providing cover for Ukraine. Military solutions may be used to escalate tensions in Donbass since the Minsk Agreements are not being honoured and nobody has talked about them recently. How might this affect security in the region as a whole?
Sergey Lavrov: Everyone is talking about the Minsk Agreements, emphasising that there is no alternative to them. But the self-proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics and Russia are the only ones that are really willing to fulfil what is written in these documents and approved by the UN Security Council. This applies to Russia as a participant in the Normandy format and the talks in the Contact Group where Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk must resolve all problems directly. Obviously, the Ukrainian authorities and President Vladimir Zelensky personally have opted for a policy of undermining the Minsk Agreements and subverting everything they promised to accomplish. And in this they enjoy the not so tacit support of their partners in Berlin, Paris and Brussels.
Considering Ukraine’s problems, we are seeing a clear effort by the Kiev regime to divert attention from its policy of destroying the Minsk Package of Measures by fuelling all kinds of scare stories, including about the Russian threat. They are appealing to Berlin and Paris for protection, asking NATO to send troops to defend “free and democratic Ukraine” and discussing the construction of naval facilities with Britain. Some official has declared that the opening of Nord Stream 2 will be tantamount to a declaration of war on Ukraine by Russia. All these ideas and appeals of hotheads are falling on fertile soil. Unfortunately, this applies to the Western participants in the Normandy format as well. The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Ukraine met on November 15 of this year. Following talks, the French and German foreign ministers issued a statement parroting Kiev’s views and threatening Russia with terrible consequences if it continued to pose a threat to Ukraine’s security. Clearly, this is a trick to divert attention. President Zelensky is not averse to provoking incidents in the hope, as Ostap Bender used to say, to “get help from abroad.”
I believe all remotely knowledgeable Western experts that follow these developments are well aware of what is going on. I think our colleagues, the foreign ministers in the majority of the EU countries, also understand everything perfectly well. However, having invested in this Russophobic project that is based on an unconstitutional coup d’etat, they find it difficult to deal in truth and an objective analysis of events.