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27 November 201316:22

Speech by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his answers to questions from the mass media during the press conference summarising the results of the negotiations with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Luis Fernando Carrera Castro, Moscow, 27th November 2013


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Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome my colleague Luis Fernando Carrera Castro to Moscow. It is his first visit to Russia as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala. We have conducted substantial negotiations, during which we agreed to establish bilateral cooperation in various areas, and noted respective prospective tasks.

We view the arrival of the representative of the Guatemalan delegation, headed by Luis Fernando Carrera Castro and including ministers in the fields of economics, energy and legislation, as an indication of the interest of our Guatemalan partners to establish bilateral ties in the economic and investment domains, and to diversify our trade turnover. Today, our colleagues from Guatemala will conduct negotiations in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry which will be aimed at strengthening contacts between business communities, and searching for new mutually valuable and beneficial projects which correspond with Russian interests.

The investment of about 450 million US dollars toward raw materials extraction efforts by Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel in the interest of Russia, is an example of successful investment cooperation. I am convinced that this investments in the Guatemalan economy – one of the biggest ones – will not be the last one. Today we will sign the Agreement on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Capital Investments between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of Guatemala, which will contribute to the promotion of our investment interaction.

We agreed to contribute to further improvement of the contractual and legal framework of the bilateral agreements in other areas. The work on draft agreements on reciprocal recognition of education and scientific degree documents, agreements in military and technical cooperation, and interagency documents on interaction within the scope of the Ministry of the Interior in the domain of culture, science, technology and innovations, continues.

We have mentioned the closeness of Russian approach and the Guatemalan one to the key problems of modern period. We share our commitment to the rule of international law, the strengthening of the central role of the UN, and adhering to the principles of the Charter of this Organisation, primarily with regard to respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries, non-interference in domestic affairs, settlement of disputes by peaceful means, and the work which we conduct in the UN – both within the framework of the General Assembly and in the Security Council where Guatemala is a non-permanent member. Our approaches define the positions of the parties on specific discussed questions.

We are interested in expansion of the dialogue on issues related to interaction with Latin American and Caribbean regions, whose significance in international affairs is constantly growing. This is conditioned by successful economic development and the growth of political influence of Latin America in the world today. We actively support this process, and consider it objective and fitting within the trend of the formation of a new fair democratic polycentric world order. Russia is interested in the extension of co-operation with countries of the Latin America and Caribbean region, and integration associations thereof.

Following these negotiations, we signed a Joint Statement which reflects our approaches to various international problems and formalises mutual aspiration for the purpose of promoting our interaction in various areas.

We are satisfied with these negotiations. I am convinced that they will contribute to further promotion of friendly Russian-Guatemalan ties.

Question (to both ministers): 2013 was a year of significant diplomatic successes throughout the world. We can say that a significant step to the settlement of the conflict in Syria has been accomplished thanks to the Russian Federation, as well as the situation around Iran's nuclear programme. What can you highlight in relations between Russia and Latin America in 2013?

Sergey Lavrov: You are making points based on quite positive agreements on Syria and Iran. If you are looking for similar fare in Latin America, thank God they have no such conflicts. There are disputes, of course, but they are being settled through legal mechanisms; through international courts in particular. Therefore, when we talk about major events in the existing relations between Russia and Latin American and Caribbean countries, we see positive things rather than efforts to stop certain crises.

This year was a very good one from the point of view of political contacts, including our dialogue at the summit level. The President of Russia conducted such meetings with many leaders of the region, including meetings with the presidents of Brazil, Argentina and Mexico on the side-lines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg. The President of Venezuela visited Russia, and the President of Ecuador visited it during the forum of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum. The Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation visited Latin America, and I visited Argentina and Brazil this summer. We welcomed many of our colleagues in Moscow, meeting on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly session in New York. There were contacts at the level of foreign ministers with representatives from many countries, including Cuba, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Honduras and Haiti. The Brazilian Foreign Minister visited Moscow just recently, but today we welcome our Guatemalan friend. According to my estimates (I have probably not remembered everything), the density of our contacts is much higher than last year.

The State Duma made its contribution to the development of relations with Latin America. Special hearings on the development of interaction between our parliament and the parliaments of countries of that region were held for the first time. The State Duma proposed the initiative to work out the possibility of creating a Russian-Latin American inter-parliamentary assembly. We talked about this today. We expect that parliamentarians from the countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region will show an interest in this proposition.

Luis Fernando Carrera Castro already mentioned the visit of the ministerial delegation of the extended SELAC "troika" (the structure created for the first time and uniting each and all Latin American countries), to the Russian Federation. We see a highly prospective partner in this organisation. We discussed the possibility of establishing a regular dialogue mechanism with SELAC with the "troika" of ministers today in Moscow. Luis Fernando Carrera Castro has just mentioned that the same decision is expected from the ministerial meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in January. This is another structure with which we wish to develop a sustainable and constant dialogue in the Latin America and Caribbean region, in the Central American Integration System. We proposed to create a memorandum on the main areas of our dialogue and cooperation (for which we received support from our partners). I expect that this will not take much time, and that we will be able to conduct a ministerial meeting dedicated to the Russia-Central American Integration System on which all these areas will be approved.

As such, we accomplished a lot last year, and our further plans are no less ambitious.

Question: Moscow talked about its readiness to provide a location for the meeting of the Syrian opposition before Geneva-2 conference. Has our party proposed any specific date? Has the opposition provided its answer?

Sergey Lavrov: Now we discuss the dates with representatives of various opposition forces. All the groups we turned to expressed their interest in coming to Moscow. Taking into account the announced date of the convention of the Geneva conference (22nd January 2014), we still have some time to coordinate deadlines for the meeting with Syrian opposition in Moscow. Of course, we would like this conference start earlier, but "better late than never".

We hope that the specific date of Geneva-2, which was announced by the UN Secretary-General, will allow for better preparation for this events, primarily for Syrians. All the delays (multiple postponements of expected deadlines) are to do mainly with the events inside the opposition: its readiness or lack thereof to fulfil the agreements included in the Geneva Communiqué of 30th June 2012 and to consider the need for the Syrians to sit down and search for approval as to the way they will better life in their country, without external interference: including basic principles of State order, rights of minorities, the enforcement of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious environment in the country, and the establishment of structures which will be guided by the process of the preparation of a new constitution, elections, etc.

The time we have until the proposed date (I emphasise that we wished to convene this conference earlier) allows us to work more closely and effectively with the opposition and, of course, to continue our work with the Government. Indeed, "if it weren't for bad luck we would have no luck at all". It is our joint interest to ensure the implementation of the Russian-American initiative in such a way that Syrian parties approach these very important events while being fully aware of their responsibility for their people, the fate of their country and stability in the region. This is because stabilisation of the situation in SAR will determine the general state of affairs in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the success of a combination of all healthy forces in a fight against international terrorism which attempts to settle all disputes in the region, including the Syrian crisis.

Question: Can we say that Geneva-2 will be held despite the fact that several opposition members still pose different preconditions? In your opinion, shouldn't the global community resolve all these problems with those who finance the opposition?

Sergey Lavrov: We will never have ideal conditions. Those who say that we need to wait for a military balance in this land to prevent the provision of any external help to any party, state the date of withdrawal of President Bashar al-Assad or pose any preconditions, in my opinion do it for an indecent purpose; to complicate or totally disrupt this conference.

John Kerry and I have a shared position on this issue: we talked about it again lately, when we met in connection with Iran's Nuclear Programme in Geneva; we agreed that the conference should be convened without any preconditions. Waiting for these conditions to materialise would mean leaving the situation unaddressed.

As for the composition of the participants of the conference, we are guided by the Geneva Communiqué of 30th June 2012, UNSC resolution 2118, which supported the convention of Geneva-2. These documents say that the entire spectrum of the Syrian society and all opposition layers must be represented. We should proceed in this way. Everybody would wish for the opposition to be represented by one delegation, but this primarily depends on the ability of all the leading opposition forces to agree among themselves, as well as their unity being based on a constructive platform for the full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of 30th June 2012 without any preconditions. All those who "decorate" this simple formula with any conditions, do not help to form a proper atmosphere for successful implementation of Geneva-2.

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