26 February 202015:59

Выступление и ответы на вопросы СМИ Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова в ходе совместной пресс-конференции по итогам переговоров с Премьер-министром, Министром европейских и иностранных дел Республики Албания, Действующим председателем ОБСЕ Э.Рамой, Москва, 26 февраля 2020 года

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I had productive talks with Prime Minister and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania Edi Rama, who arrived in Russia on a visit as the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.

We discussed the situation in Europe in the context of the OSCE’s goals. We share the belief that it can and should play a weightier role in resolving current international issues. The Organisation has the necessary tools for this, but the political will of the participating states is not always available. We both believe that in order to strengthen security on our shared continent, it is important to promote an equal dialogue, to take each other’s interests into account and generally promote a positive and unifying agenda. This will help restore the much-needed trust between the participating states.

Clearly, the Chairperson-in-Office has great responsibility. In a dialogue with our Albanian colleagues, we felt a desire to act as an “honest broker” and to stick to consensus approaches which will unite the OSCE member states, rather than ratchet up confrontation, of which, frankly, there is plenty there as it is.

We discussed our current goals in line with the three dimensions of the OSCE’s activities: security, socioeconomic development and humanitarian issues.

We confirmed Russia’s readiness to step up cooperation in areas such as fighting terrorism, drug trafficking, cyber threats, organised crime and human trafficking. We believe the OSCE can do more to harmonise integration processes in Eurasia, to ensure the rights of ethnic minorities, especially language and education rights, to counter anti-Semitism and Christiano- and Islamophobia. In light of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we believe it is important to set aside political differences and to focus our joint efforts on curbing the glorification of Nazism and attempts to revive neo-Nazi sentiments in Europe. I believe this is in our common interest. We will strongly advocate such a position at the OSCE.

We reviewed in detail the situation in Ukraine. Clearly, Albania’s OSCE chairmanship sees promoting the implementation of the Minsk agreements among its priorities. We support this approach. We will do our best to use the Contact Group and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine to move forward. We expect the SMM to provide a data summary about the casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure over the entire period of the conflict, the manifestations of aggressive nationalism, neo-Nazism and xenophobia, as well as on the position of ethnic minorities. All this is part of the OSCE SMM mandate, which should operate, in addition to Donbass, in other regions of Ukraine as well.

We discussed the Organisation’s role in facilitating the settlement of conflicts within the OSCE space, including the Balkans, in particular, Kosovo. We discussed this matter in detail. We want to promote a dialogue that will help Belgrade and Pristina reach an agreement based on the principles laid down in UNSC Resolution 1244. The solution to the Kosovo issue, which we all want, must be consistent with international law and be approved by the UN Security Council. Of course, if we want to get there, we need the consent of the negotiators who are directly involved. We believe that implementing the agreements on creating a Community of Kosovo's Serbian Municipalities, which were reached a long time ago, would be the key to achieving progress.  

Albania and Russia enjoy a certain level of bilateral relations. Last year, co-chairs of the Russian-Albanian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation met in Moscow. The meeting showed that the potential for expanding cooperation exists, but is held back by the fact that Albania had joined the EU sanctions policy. Of course, we don’t think it’s a good thing.

Cultural and people-to-people ties are expanding in addition to economic and trade ties. Prospective students in Albania are interested in studying in Russia, which we are very happy about. We are ready to provide more government funded quotas.

Overall, we are interested in promoting relations with Albania. We stand ready and willing to cooperate with Albania to whatever extent Albania wishes to cooperate with us. I want to thank my colleague for what I think were productive talks.

Question: The Contact Group on Ukraine is holding a meeting in Minsk today. Foreign Minister of Ukraine Vadim Pristaiko said recently that “it is not simply possible but necessary” to revise the Minsk agreements because they cannot be carried out in their current version, and Ukraine will try to convince the sides to do this. What is Russia’s attitude to this demand and will it block it?

Mr Pristaiko has just announced that the foreign ministers of the Normandy format countries will hold a meeting in a month. Is that true? Can you confirm this?

Sergey Lavrov: This is not the first time that we hear Mr Pristaiko and other top Ukrainian officials say that the Minsk agreements must be revised. This is not a new issue. The Ukrainian Government has been working on this for a long time – since the Petro Poroshenko regime. They demanded revision and did not implement in practice anything that was agreed upon. They completely distorted the gist of the Minsk agreements with their initiative to send a large contingent of 20,000-25,000 UN peacekeepers with heavy weapons to eastern Ukraine. All agencies formed in Donetsk and Lugansk, notably the police and administrative bodies were supposed to be dismissed and replaced with their UN counterparts. The entire perimeter was to be transferred under the control of this 20,000-strong contingent with heavy weapons. “Free and democratic” elections were supposed to be held afterwards. Those ideas are not new.

We keep urging our German and French colleagues as participants in the Normandy format to draw the attention of their Ukrainian partners to the fact that such actions completely destroy the UN Security Council resolution, which endorsed the Minsk Package of Measures. Among their arguments to buttress their initiatives to revise the Minsk agreements that we are now discussing and to support such military measures, our Ukrainian colleagues mention Eastern Slavonia, an area of Croatia where Serbs used to live there for centuries and where  the operation was pulled off by the UN  but, in point of fact, the UN supervised the process of ethnic cleansing. There are no more Serbs living there now. Our Ukrainian colleagues actively cite this example as a pattern for resolving the Donbass problem. I hope everyone understands that such initiatives are provocative, absolutely hopeless and unacceptable.

If Mr Pristaiko is going, as you said, “to try to convince the sides” to adopt some new decisions, we will be guided by the UN Security Council resolution that unanimously endorsed the Minsk agreements.

We hear many statements on Normandy format meetings at the foreign ministers level. The date and level are announced for such meetings on Ukraine and Syrian affairs. To be honest, this is news to us. We have clearly spoken about the need to work in the Normandy format to implement the decisions that were adopted earlier.

The leaders of the Normandy Four adopted several recommendations at their meeting in Paris in December 2019. They are being reviewed by the Contact Group because they can be primarily carried out via this group in which Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk are all represented. Incidentally, speaking about the need to implement the agreements, let me remind you that a document was prepared for the Paris meeting. This document recommended that the sides disengage forces and weapons on the ground along the entire contact line. President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky refused point blank to support this idea. This is not the first time the Minsk agreements are being subverted because they provide for a full disengagement of forces and weapons. I hope the Ukrainian leaders will nevertheless fulfill Mr Zelensky’s election promises. He said then that he wanted to end the war and will not take cues from the radicals and neo-Nazis who want to wreck the entire settlement process in eastern Ukraine.

I have not heard from anyone but you that a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Normandy format countries is scheduled to take place in a month. Our colleagues are saying that a regular summit in the Normandy format should be planned for April. We made our position abundantly clear: we will discuss the dates of the next summit only after everything that was agreed upon in Paris is fulfilled, including a normalisation on the ground, mine clearing, political issues linked with the Steinmeier formula and permanent inclusion of all aspects of the Donbass special status in Ukrainian legislation. Moreover, it is necessary to sign a final document to prevent new attempts to destroy the reached agreements already during the summit. I am referring to the disengagement of forces and weapons that was supposed to take place along the entire contact line but Mr Zelensky made an about-face over the agreements that were reached with his associates.  This position of ours is well known and we will be guided by it. This is the only way to ensure progress because the attempts to always take a step forward and two steps back, to quote Lenin, are beginning to obstruct the process.

Question: From which angle did you discuss bilateral affairs between Russia and Albania?

Sergey Lavrov: In my opening remarks I mentioned that we are open to develop relations as intensively as our Albanian colleagues feel happy with. The answer to this question primarily depends on Albania. Mr Prime Minister pointed out the obligations that Albania has to NATO, notably to their ally, the United States. We are aware that Albania would like to start the accession process to enter the European Union and we see that this is actually happening. There are masses of examples (I am sure Albania can be one of them) when no obligations that I mentioned prevent the development of normal, healthy relations that are above all mutually beneficial in spheres such as trade, investment and economic cooperation, and make it possible to promote people-to-people contacts in the humanitarian, cultural and educational fields, thereby facilitating good relations. I don’t see any reason that might prevent us from developing such relations.

(Adds after Edi Rama)

Mr Prime Minister,

The number of telephone calls that you mentioned reflects the reality. But as for personal meetings, soon after I was appointed foreign minister of Russia in 2004, I paid a visit to Tirana during which Foreign Minister of Albania Kastriot Islami and I initialed a Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation. It has not been signed up to this very day because Albania mothballed it and did not give it another thought. But it does exist and it is ready. We can bring this into effect and then we will have clear-cut principles when it comes to our relations.

We will regularly talk by telephone, at least this year. In addition to OSCE matters, we can discuss bilateral issues that are of interest to you as well as to us. We are quite ready for this.

Question: At the beginning of this news conference you mentioned Kosovo. I would like to know if Russia does have any new reasons not to recognise the independence of Kosovo. You are a well-known diplomat, as the Prime Minister mentioned. Judging from your experience, could Russia one day recognise the independence of Kosovo?

Sergey Lavrov: Replying to your question I would like to make a small correction. You are asking whether I can imagine that one day Russia might recognise Kosovo. This is not the point. The bottom line is what the Prime Minister said when he was commenting on the situation in Ukraine. He thinks that what was agreed upon should be carried out. Our position on Kosovo is exactly the same. There is UN Security Council Resolution 1244 on which every country agreed and which was adopted unanimously. There is a whole series of Belgrade-Pristina agreements that were reached with the EU’s mediation, including the formation of the community of Serb municipalities in Kosovo. This would be a great step towards ensuring human rights of those who live on the territory of the so-called “Serb enclaves” in Kosovo. This agreement was reached at least six years ago. However, Pristina is refusing to implement it. Therefore, we, as President Vladimir Putin said more than once, are ready to accept any solution that will be agreed upon by Belgrade and Pristina. We are active supporters of such a dialogue. Regrettably, our EU colleagues that volunteered to act as go-betweens in this dialogue and managed to produce some results, including what I already mentioned, have not yet persuaded the side to carry them out. We will insist on the resolution of the Kosovo issue exclusively on the basis of the agreements that will have to be subsequently endorsed by the UN Security Council.

 

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