Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 30, 2016
- Talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines Perfecto Yasay
- Signing of a cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Transneft
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the 15th anniversary celebration of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of Young Diplomats
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in Hypocrisy vs. Diplomacy conference sponsored by the Council for Foreign and Defence Policy
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Serbia
- The situation in Syria
- The humanitarian situation in Syria
- Fake video by White Helmets
- The situation in Yemen
- Countering piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa
- Statement by Prime Minister of Montenegro Dusko Markovic
- Latvia’s entry ban for Russian religious figure Andrey Kurayev
- Norway’s decision to extradite Russian citizen Mark Vartanyan to the United States
- UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s comment that Russia should not be treated as “any kind of equal partner”
- Hannes Hofbauer’s Enemy Image Russia. A History of Demonisation
- Answers to media questions:
- Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statements on Syria and Ukrainian missile exercises
- Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with Fumio Kishida
- Russia-Azerbaijan relations
- Russia-NATO relations
- Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s upcoming visit to Russia
- The UN Security Council’s new draft resolution on North Korea
- The United States’ “mistakes”
- US plans to send humanitarian aid to Aleppo
- Russia-Libya relations
On December 5 Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Perfecto Yasay, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines, while on a working visit to Russia on December 4-6.
The officials plan to discuss the state and prospects for the development of Russian-Filipino ties with emphasis on stepping up political dialogue and cooperation in the trade, economic, scientific, military, military-technical and humanitarian areas.
They will discuss ways of promoting cooperation in the response to modern challenges and threats, including international terrorism and illegal drug trafficking.
They will also exchange opinions on pressing international and regional issues with emphasis on closer coordination of actions in the UN and other international organisations and multilateral agencies.
On December 5, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Transneft President Nikolai Tokarev will sign a cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Transneft at the Foreign Ministry mansion in Spiridonovka Street.
The ministry already has cooperation agreements with many Russian business associations and companies (we not only inform you about them but invite you to attend signing ceremonies), including those in the fuel-and-energy area, for instance, with the Union of Oil and Gas Producers of Russia, Lukoil, Rosneft and Gazpromneft. We consider them to be an important part of the Foreign Ministry’s comprehensive activities on promoting national foreign policy interests and facilitating the efforts of Russian businesses to carry out large-scale projects on foreign markets.
On December 5 Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in a gala for the 15th anniversary of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of Young Diplomats (CYD).
Today the CYD comprises over 300 employees of the Foreign Ministry in the 22-35 age range. This rapidly developing body represents the active, driven young professionals of the ministry.
The CYD’s main goals are to continuously upgrade professional skills and consolidate the corporate spirit in the best traditions of domestic diplomacy, meet with ministry veterans and maintain ties with their foreign counterparts.
One of the most prominent CYD initiatives is the development and promotion of the network cooperation format – forums of young diplomats that are unique venues for informal communication with foreign policy departments in different countries. These forums allow young diplomats to hone their professional skills. They also provide additional venues for dialogue.
On December 6 Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland during his working visit to Russia.
During the talks the officials plan to discuss a broad range of issues pertaining to Russia’s participation in the multi-sided activities of the Council of Europe. They will review issues related to the use of instruments of the Council of Europe in creating a common legal and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Mr Lavrov will continue his dialogue with Mr Jagland on urgent European issues.
On December 7, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with the participants of an international conference, Hypocrisy vs. Diplomacy, organised by the Council for Foreign and Defence Policy with the support of the Higher School of Economics and the Centre for Liberal Strategies (Sofia, Bulgaria).
The ministry welcomes the active involvement of the general public in rationalising global processes. We are building up a dialogue with the researchers, experts and political scientists from Russia and foreign countries in order to find the best answers to numerous challenges and threats. We will continue to support public diplomacy initiatives in order to build trust and mutual understanding in the international arena.
During the discussion, Minister Lavrov will share his views of the international situation, talk about Russia’s foreign policy priorities and our approaches to some key issues of the global and regional agenda, and take questions.
On December 8-9, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to participate in the 23rd session of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg.
We consider the Ministerial Council primarily as a platform for conducting a mutually respectful dialogue at a high political level, focusing on unifying issues of cooperation and key security threats within the terms of reference of this organisation. We are also counting on a candid discussion of ways to make the OSCE more effective. We wouldn’t want this meeting to become a reflection of fleeting political interests, as we have, unfortunately, witnessed in recent years, when the controversy surrounding the Ukraine crisis jeopardised almost all areas of focus of this organisation.
The upcoming ministerial meeting should give impetus to the OSCE efforts to counter common challenges, primarily, terrorism. We are actively working on the content of the anti-terrorism instruments developed by the council. Amid the increasing global drug threat, discussing OSCE capabilities in fighting drug trafficking will stand high on the ministers’ list of priorities. We are also expecting a substantive discussion on confidence-building measures in cyberspace.
We are willing to discuss a possible OSCE contribution to overcoming the migration crisis in Europe. We believe it’s important to promote the “integration of integrations” in the OSCE, and to harmonise integration processes in western and eastern Eurasia. We look forward to adopting a corresponding document.
During the meeting, the participants will review progress in resolving regional conflicts within the OSCE’s area of responsibility, and confirm the importance of the OSCE in resolving the crisis in eastern Ukraine through participation in the Contact Group and the SMM activities. The ministers will also consider settlements being pursued in Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh, and progress of the Geneva discussions on security in Transcaucasia.
Over 20 final documents are being drafted for the upcoming meeting. We are counting on the participants to support the Russian draft decisions relating to pluralism and media freedom, as well as non-discrimination in sport.
Minister Lavrov has a busy schedule of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the meeting.
On December 12-13, Minister Lavrov will pay a working visit to the Republic of Serbia. In Belgrade, he will be received by President of Serbia Tomislav Nikolic, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, and hold talks with First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic.
Minister Lavrov will discuss the entire range of bilateral relations, future joint steps in the context of further strengthening the strategic partnership between our two countries. Plans are in place to hold a thorough exchange of views on key issues on the international agenda, as well as the key problems relating to the situation in the Balkans.
With regard to Serbia assuming the chairmanship of the Organisation of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) in the second half of this year, Minister Lavrov will take part in the ministerial meeting of this organisation on December 13.
The participants will consider issues relating to BSEC activities, sum up the six-month Serbian chairmanship, discuss preparations for the 25th anniversary in 2017 and ways to improve the organisation’s effectiveness in promoting mutually beneficial cooperation between the Black Sea countries.
The Syrian army is gradually taking back control of eastern neighbourhoods of Aleppo. Hanano, Sakhour, Haydariya and Sheikh Khodr districts of northeastern Aleppo have been liberated. Illegal armed formations were dislodged from 14 residential areas of eastern Aleppo. Taking advantage of the disorderly retreat of the demoralised militants, over 8,500 civilians, including about 4,000 children, have left the areas previously controlled by the armed groups, including Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra).
Tired of living under the yoke of the militants with their extortion and violence, the Syrian people continue to stage acts of disobedience on the territories controlled by the jihadists despite the deadly risk of doing so. Thus, during an attempt by a crowd to break through to government-controlled districts of Aleppo on November 26, the terrorists shot and killed 4 people and injured 15 more.
The Syrian government had another success in its search for ways to put an end to armed confrontation. Under the agreements, the militants outside Damascus were allowed to leave the Khan al-Shih enclave in Western Ghouta southwest of Damascus. Under the terms of the agreement, about 2,000 armed persons and their families will be taken to the province of Idlib on 29 buses.
An agreement for a peaceful settlement is being drafted for the town of Al-Tel, where a 200-strong committee will be created and will engage in local governance and maintaining law and order. It will include, among other people, former members of illegal armed groups who laid down their arms and passed the amnesty procedure. The die-hards will get the chance to evacuate to other areas. The Syrian authorities have unblocked the Damascus - Al-Tel road, which will be used to supply the town with food and medicine.
The irony is that the more obvious the positive developments in Syria are, the louder are the absolutely groundless and almost hysterical accusations by certain Western politicians and officials regarding Moscow and Damascus, and their calls to impose even more restrictive measures on Russia and Syria. We can clearly see that some are experiencing, as they say, deep disappointment at the failure of their geopolitical plans in the Middle East and are trying to take it out on us, as they are now, either directly or through the media. Save your breath, because this is a historical process, and history always opts for creation over destruction, and harmony over chaos. What are we to blame for? We are to blame for being on the “right side of history”.
We share the concern about the difficult humanitarian situation in Syria. In this connection, Russia is doing as much as possible for UN humanitarian cargoes to reach those they are intended for, and for UN humanitarian plans to be implemented.
We have to acknowledge, however, a trend, mounting of late, toward politicising humanitarian aid – in particular, in designating where such aid is to go. For instance, only one per cent of the entire UN aid is intended for 200,000 people blockaded in ISIS-besieged Deir ez-Zor, while a greater part of UN aid goes to areas controlled by militants, including Jabhat al-Nusra, who use this aid to their own ends.
We have no intention of weighing human suffering on scales. We only want to call public attention to the plight of the Syrian people, especially the several million displaced persons, and the hobbling effect of the West’s unilateral sanctions which have ruined the Syrian pharmaceutical industry, leaving patients in dire shortage of medicine.
At the risk of their life, Russian soldiers are delivering food, medicine and water to Syrian towns and villages, some of them close to the frontline. We know about the plight of Syrians in the combat zone, not from fake footage from the notorious White Helmets but from our military there.
That is how we approach the humanitarian situation in eastern Aleppo. We have arranged several humanitarian ceasefires to deliver aid to local civilians held hostage by the terrorists. Such lulls are a must to take patients to safety.
However, the terrorists on their side and blundering UN officers on theirs thwarted such actions again and again because thousands of Syrian lives probably matter less to both than an avalanche of Western political allegations that the Syrian Government and Russia are to blame for the humanitarian disaster in Aleppo – that it was caused by none other than Moscow and Damascus.
True, we talk practically every day about the humanitarian disaster in Aleppo and many other locations in Syria, but we proceed from hard facts. We say what Russia is doing to ease the civilian plight at least a little bit, while the militants took advantage of the lulls to regroup their forces and receive more arms and munitions.
We cannot accept the logic of those who bracket us with the terrorists in eastern Aleppo or make it seem like we are a party to the domestic conflict in Syria. We would like to reiterate that the contingent of the Russian Aerospace Forces is in Syria legally at its Government’s request, and acts in complete coordination with its authorities, whom it supports in the fight against terrorism. Unlike many others, Russia is not interfering in Syria’s domestic affairs.
We confirm our readiness to continue the closest possible coordination with international humanitarian agencies to ease the plight of the Syrian population, including by facilitating the necessary understandings between them and the Syrian Government, as stipulated by international law. In this, we firmly proceed from the belief that humanitarian issues should not become tools of political pressure, much less a way to cosy up with terrorists or provide them with cover.
I’ve already mentioned fake videos and fake video testimonies and would like to discuss them in more detail. We didn’t comment on them last time because we wanted to understand what the video is all about and what it has to do with. Probably many of you saw this video by the White Helmets. Indeed, our concerns that this is a staged video are being confirmed. The row over this fake video is mounting. It depicts the “heroic” activities of the so-called White Helmets in the style of a popular internet meme with its own hashtag. The footage shows rescuers bending over what is supposed to look like a victim in Syria. The cameraman pans around the scene to show the setting. At the director’s signal a few moments later the actors start acting, and the person pretending to be wounded begins to howl. The video’s full version is accessible on the internet. It shows how “rescuers” and “victims” get in place for filming videos.
Employees of the BBC rushed to justify the White Helmets by saying that the video is just a play on a popular internet meme made by rank-and-file members who wanted to recreate the horrors of the Syrian war for the whole world to see. The BBC and other creative organisations do not need to recreate the horrors of the Syrian war. They can simply go there and do their jobs. Our correspondents whom you accuse of propaganda all the time do not need to recreate the horrors of the Syrian war because they are working there. It is hard to understand why this was done. Sad as it is, we are witnessing attempts to reap bloody dividends on the cheap from the tragedy affecting millions of Syrians.
I’d like to draw you attention to the nomination of the White Helmets for this year’s Nobel Prize. These people claim that they save thousands of lives while staging fake videos and posting them on the internet. What is this: stupidity, their daily routine or unhealthy ambition? How many fake videos have been made? Regrettably, we’re unlikely to ever find out how many of them were passed off as real. This video shows not only the unethical and strange conduct of its creators. It also shows how the White Helmets don’t need to be prompted to fake tragedy. It comes naturally to them. They should be nominated for an Oscar rather than a Nobel Peace Prize for skilfully staging this video.
The situation in Yemen remains extremely tense, and the trend is clearly negative. Due to the two-year armed conflict, which has claimed over 10,000 lives, according to the UN estimates, the country is nearing a humanitarian disaster. Most infrastructure has been destroyed, and the population is on the verge of famine and epidemics. All attempts by international mediators to revive talks fall flat. The truce, recently reached in Muscat by the mediation of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and US Secretary of State John Kerry, was completely unviable.
Against this background, we are receiving from Sana’a information about the creation of a “national salvation government” including representatives of the Ansar Allah Houthis movement and supporters of former president of Yemen Ali Abdallah Salih, who control the northern part of Yemen and the capital of Sana’a. According to them, they were forced to take this unexpected step due to the dire conditions in Yemen as a result of the military operation carried out by the so-called Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, and due to the need to “restore order and inner consolidation in the face of external aggression”.
We urge all sides to immediately stop the violence and abandon the quest for a military solution. We consistently emphasise the need to resume internal dialogue in Yemen aimed at achieving a stable and comprehensive political settlement of the crisis based on the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. At the same time, we would like to warn all parties to the Yemen conflict against taking unilateral steps, which would hardly contribute to the search for necessary compromises and the rapid resumption of the political process.
We continue to monitor the situation along the Somali coast and to take an active part in the international efforts to counter maritime piracy in the area. Even though the activity of pirate groups has dropped to its lowest level in the past few years, we still note the lingering danger of renewed attacks on commercial vessels in the northwestern Indian Ocean. Due to the fact that pirate infrastructure and bases have not been eliminated, a possible reduction in the naval presence of the member-states of the anti-piracy operation along the coast of the Horn of Africa is likely to aggravate the situation. Thus, three pirate attacks on foreign commercial vessels were reported at the Somali coast in October and November.
Experts around the world largely share our concerns over this matter. At the same time, the expected wrap-up of NATO’s naval operation Ocean Shield will not mean the wholesale end to anti-piracy efforts. Naval ships of the “independent participants” (Russia, China, India, Republic of Korea, Japan and others) are actively engaged in the area. The European Union Naval Force operation Atalanta is going on, as are the activities of the Combined Task Force 151 of the US and its allies. The leaders of the North Atlantic alliance claimed that if the situation along the Somali coast deteriorates, the necessary naval force will be sent there from the Mediterranean where Sea Guardian, another NATO operation, is underway. Apparently, NATO perceives a threat there which is greater than Somali pirates.
In its turn, the Russian Navy will continue, in line with instructions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and UNSC Resolution 2316 of November 9, to participate directly in patrolling the Gulf of Aden and escorting commercial convoys, including foreign vessels, free of charge.
We noted the statement by the new Prime Minister of Montenegro, Dusko Markovic, who was approved by parliament on November 28, on the need to overcome elements of misunderstanding in relations with Russia, a historical ally. We are open to constructive dialogue with all countries, including Montenegro. We’d like to hope that our bilateral relations that are going through a difficult phase through no fault of ours will be based on mutual respect and trust. We expect Podgorica to adopt a balanced approach and take practical steps to address the sources of the negative trend in bilateral relations.
Several days ago the media published a piece of news that really stood out in a bad way, unfortunately. I’m referring to Latvia’s decision to ban Russian religious figure Andrey Kurayev from entering the country.
We consider the blacklisting of Archdeacon of the Russian Orthodox Church Kurayev as yet another unfriendly action of the Latvian authorities and an arbitrary whim of Latvian intelligence. He was going to take part in the discussion “Let’s speak about soul” that was planned by the Zadornov Library on an absolutely neutral and non-political subject – a philosophical discussion of issues related to the human spirit.
As they expand restrictions now to religious figures in their rush to surpass even the ideological architects of Russia’s isolation, Latvia is beyond the reach of reason. We are clearly at the level of farce now.
This is yet another Russophobic gesture that runs counter to Riga’s officially declared aspiration to improve the information background of our relations and bilateral ties in general. Needless to say, this doesn’t conform to any international commitments assumed by Latvia on the freedom of speech. In terms of ideology Latvia is acting very much like the Soviet Union. So I have a question: why did you withdraw from the USSR if now you are recreating everything you ran away from in the past?
Some media, in particular the Dozhd television channel, asked us to comment on Norway’s decision to extradite Russian citizen Mark Vartanyan to the United States.
On November 29 Norway made a final decision to extradite Russian citizen Mark Vartanyan to the United States at the request of US law enforcement.
Norway did not consider our repeated appeals to take an unbiased and objective approach. We explained many times that this case is an element of the global hunt for Russian nationals conducted by US intelligence, which has nothing to do with the true interests of justice and is a gross violation of international law. Russia provided detailed assessments of such cases in the context of European and global conventions on human rights and freedoms. Yet our arguments went unheeded.
This decision is obviously politicised. It is at odds with the universally recognised criteria of law and justice. We perceive it as yet another attempt to ignore Russia’s opinions and concerns and, of course, the rights of its citizens.
We’ll take this into account as we move forward in relations with Norway.
As you may be aware, UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon suggested that President-elect Donald Trump should not treat Russia as an equal partner, which is what, he said, the UK is expecting from the new US administration.
In a bold statement, Mr Fallon said the following: “I think you have to distinguish between the campaign rhetoric of President-elect Trump and what he does in practice. In practice every American administration has always stood up to Russia. We’re not suggesting you shouldn’t talk to Russia but what you can’t do is treat Russia as business as usual, as any kind of equal partner.” According to this brave man, Britain is not afraid to be left in isolation as it continues its policy of confrontation with Russia, adding that the recent decision on deploying 150 British servicemen in Poland was part of a plan to respond to Russia's attempt to test NATO. “We have to make clear that NATO is a defensive alliance but equally it is prepared to come to the defence of those members who feel very vulnerable particularly on the eastern flank, countries like the three Baltic states and Poland in particular.” I know how I'm going to refer to Poland and the Baltic states from now on – vulnerable NATO members. Mr Fallon, thank you for that. You made my life much easier because now I can stop looking for the right word.
Now, let’s look at each remark separately. In general, it is totally unclear why the officials of Western states believe they can interfere with the internal affairs of not so vulnerable NATO members, but rather a fairly normal member of this organisation, such as the United States. First, look at the sheer number of statements made prior to the election of the US President. French President Hollande and German officials were openly supporting one candidate. It’s not that they went as far as making inappropriate remarks about the other candidate, but they did their best to humiliate him. Importantly, they did so not for political reasons but on a personal level, taking the low road to hurt his feelings. Why is this happening? We are talking about the internal affairs of a perfectly normal, invulnerable NATO member. Are you going to also defend Washington?
As for the next point about not treating Russia as an equal, Mr Fallon, many have tried, but none have succeeded. There’s no point in dragging the United Kingdom into another experiment which will surely fail.
I really liked it when Mr Fallon said that Britain is not afraid to be left in isolation. We have some practical advice we can share with you, do not hesitate to ask.
What are we to make of all this? Of course, it’s about creating an image of an enemy. This is another attempt, basically doomed, because no one can make it happen, even if you want the people in your country to develop a Russophobic frame of mind. I won’t say much on this.
Let me relate some points from what I see as an interesting book by an Austrian author, Hannes Hofbauer, Enemy Image Russia. A History of Demonisation, which is a look-back study of the historical process in different parts of the world and more specifically in Western Europe. It offers a comparative analysis of how it was before and how it is now. I am referring to the policy of creating a virtual enemy, casting Russia into an aggressive image, and so on. The book says that we see the effort to multiply rather than dismantle the enemy image. Moderate voices are warning about the creeping propagation of a Third World War. Where the West’s attitude to Russia is concerned, growing signs of a confrontation are in evidence.
The book is indeed interesting. It reflects the author’s point of view that doesn’t aspire to be official. But in many respects, what we are talking about can be characterised as years- or perhaps even centuries-old attempts to cast Russia into an enemy image.
The book presentation will be held at the Hermitage on December 1 at 6pm. Regrettably, I won’t be able to talk to the author, but someone will possibly have a chance to do so.
I took notice of a publication in The Chronicle, which quotes comments on Russia-US relations by former US Ambassador to the USSR Jack Matlock. In my view, his most interesting statement is that since 1991, the United States was the first to violate international law with its involvement in the 1999 North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing of Yugoslavia over Kosovo without United Nations approval. Mr Michael Fallon, incidentally, also said that Russia was an aggressive enemy and that it was necessary to defend those who were vulnerable, because it was violating international law. These materials could be compared in this indirect polemics. Mr Matlock says it was not Russia that violated international law but the United States as “we are setting precedents that come back to haunt us.” He also noted: “If you want to talk about it, aggression and violation of international law, nothing Russia has done approaches the seriousness of the American invasion of Iraq.” How do you like that, Mr Fallon?
As for Ukraine, Mr Matlock believes that the US is getting into a fight where it does not belong, making the situation more difficult. According to him, “for several centuries of history, it had no relevance to American national security whether Ukraine was in Russia or some other place.” But now for some reason this has been a priority issue in the United States for some time and allegedly well-nigh a threat to national security.
Mr Matlock commented on tensions in Russian-US relations by saying that “the genie we thought we put in a pretty tight bottle in 1991 is beginning to grow again.” It is in both nations’ interests to avoid conflict, as nuclear war could lead to the destruction of both nations and potentially humanity as a whole. Our shared national interests, he added, include dealing with health issues, environmental issues and terrorism. I am telling you this to illustrate the variety of opinions.
Question: Can you comment on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s words on the Turkish army entering Syria to end the rule of Bashar al-Assad? And what do you think about Ukraine’s plan to hold missile exercises near Crimea on December 1 and 2?
Maria Zakharova: In light of the efforts to settle the Syrian crisis and bilateral relations with Turkey, we have been acting in accordance with our official agreements and arrangements with the Turkish authorities. I am referring to official documents and official agreements, which we regard as fundamental in the context of the Syrian settlement and bilateral relations with Turkey.
I would like to say that we considered this issue yesterday, because the quote you mentioned has caused quite a stir, and it is obvious why. As far as we know, it is not a direct quote but President Erdogan was reported to have said this. Therefore, we are proceeding from the statements which the Turkish authorities, including the President of Turkey, have made publicly and which constitute the basis of agreements with Turkey. I would like to remind you that this concerns not only bilateral agreements signed following talks, but also the documents of the ISSG, where Turkey is a member. These documents say clearly that there is no alternative to a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis. There is no military solution to the situation in Syria, as ISSG documents and the binding UN Security Council resolutions say.
I would like to say that we are firmly committed to our stance regarding the Syrian settlement, which we have proclaimed and are maintaining. Our position is based on UN Security Council resolutions, ISSG documents and our bilateral agreements that are in keeping with the above international legal documents. As I said, we proceed from agreements and commitments, not quotations, which could be misinterpreted or cited out of context.
As for Ukraine’s missile exercises, we regard it as yet another large-scale Ukrainian provocation designed to escalate the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Kiev tries to keep this issue on the front burner, and its latest decision is an open provocation aimed at provoking Russia into taking a harsh stand.
It cannot be ruled out that Kiev wants the United States to remain its main sponsor after Donald Trump’s victory. Provocations are a means of achieving this goal. Unfortunately, it is a classical method used by those countries and politicians who place their personal interests and ambitions above the interests and lives of their people. It appears that keeping this sponsorship is a big challenge for the Kiev authorities, who were uncivilised and rude towards President-elect Donald Trump when he was a presidential candidate. You probably remember that Ukrainian officials and diplomatic representatives abroad did not express their views or political assessments but openly insulted the person whom the American people elected their president. You may remember that they later tried to delete these statements from their social networks accounts and their sites, saying that they had been wrong and had rushed to conclusions. This is a separate story, though. The question is that people who cannot be expected to answer for what they write on their social networks accounts are members of the Ukrainian government. I can continue to recite the Ukrainian authorities’ attacks on this particular presidential candidate, but the list is too long.
Moreover, Ukraine seriously complicated the work of Trump’s election campaign headquarters by planting information according to which Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, allegedly accepted money from Ukrainian oligarchs. All of you have heard this remarkable story. The Ukrainian authorities’ attempt to play the victim is an old trick, which usually brings good dividends. It worked for years, and they decided to use it again. It appears that they have decided to stage this provocation so as to yet again present Ukraine as a victim that should be pitied, including by the new US establishment, and to which sponsor assistance should be continued, including from the United States. Of course, Kiev needs this new complication to draw public attention away from the growing political, economic and social crisis in the country. I would like you to take note of the comment which the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) made yesterday. I suggest that you take your lead from it.
Question: On December 3, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida. What issues have been included on the agenda for their meeting? What agreements does the Foreign Ministry plan to reach?
Maria Zakharova: We’ve already issued a short announcement to this effect and spoke about issues that are likely to be discussed. These include, of course, bilateral relations, contacts at various levels – up to the highest level. The ministers will discuss the international agenda and the situation in the region. Please note that shortly before the talks we’ll release a document with details of the event.
Question: In recent weeks, there were several high-level visits from Azerbaijan to Moscow. First Lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva unveiled an exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery and Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims Clerical Board Allahshukur Pashazade attended the birthday celebration for Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. This week Education Minister Olga Vasilyeva visited Baku. What do you think these visits mean? How would you characterise the current level of Russian-Azerbaijani relations?
Maria Zakharova: I don’t think we should speak of the visits as an indication of the level of relations. Our relations with Azerbaijan remain stable. The foundation of these relations created by our leaders is supported by relevant documents and cemented by the long-standing friendship between our peoples. I would say that these visits are a practical demonstration, in our daily life, of this high level of relations.
You were right when you referred to cultural, humanitarian events. We’re particularly pleased that in these far from easy times for the whole world we are holding interesting events of public importance that are strengthening bilateral relations and also helping develop a positive international agenda that we need so badly.
Question: Frants Klintsevich, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Defence and Security Committee, has said that Russia will aim its nuclear missiles at NATO in response for the bloc’s aggressive actions. Which NATO actions look hostile to Moscow?
Maria Zakharova: The Presidential Executive Office has already commented and provided explanations regarding this statement. There is nothing more I can say.
In principle, setting aside statements by any particular politicians, we raise the issue of NATO’s aggressive actions at each briefing. These actions include the bloc’s expansion, severance of relations with Russia even at the Russia-NATO Council, the suspension of any cooperation, the absence of any dialogue on important issues, such as the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, as well as Afghanistan. We are also talking about aggressive rhetoric and the intention to prevent other bloc members and countries from interacting with Russia on issues of mutual interest.
In principle, everything the alliance and some of its senior representatives have done with regard to Russia is an unprecedented sequence of aggressive actions taken by a bloc that was created, as they claim, for purely defensive purposes. Meanwhile, there is a host of measures various military-political organisations can take to settle crisis situations. But NATO is creating a situation and circumstances that are only complicating global problems. We have not seen a constructive NATO agenda regarding Russia for a long time, although we keep saying that we are open to dialogue and cooperation on the condition of equal partnership and in compliance with international law.
I do not want you to link this answer to Mr Klintsevich’s statements, which have been commented upon. I have simply told you about the regrettable situation in our relationship with the alliance and our desire to have a completely different level of cooperation with it.
Question: What do you expect from the upcoming talks with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Moscow? What agenda will you propose to him?
Maria Zakharova: I will have an answer to your question at a later time. I don’t have the details now.
Question: You said that Russia needed more time for the interdepartmental coordination of a draft UN Security Council resolution on North Korea. How far have you progressed in this? The resolution proposes restricting coal exports from North Korea. Don’t you think this will be a heavy blow for the people of North Korea? How can this affect the Russian economy?
Maria Zakharova: Work on the draft resolution continued until today, including in cooperation with the concerned Russian agencies.
As for the target of this resolution, you know that our position of principle is that sanctions should be formulated so as to attain their goal, which is to do everything in our power to prevent any country from again acting in violation of international law. These resolutions must not cause harm to the public, the ordinary people and the given country’s citizens. These resolutions must preclude and prevent rather than persecute the people who are not responsible for this situation. This is our position of principle, and we have been proceeding from it.
As for our practical work at the UN Security Council, more detailed comments will be provided by our Permanent Mission to the UN in line with the Security Council’s schedule.
Question: The United States has admitted that the accidental strikes on Syrian forces in September were the result of human error. They also appear to understand that the number of victims would have been larger if not for the information they received from Russia. And then, after they admitted to making a mistake at Deir ez-Zor, a Pentagon representative has said they would not coordinate their activities with Russia. Where is the logic? What conclusions can you make from these facts?
Maria Zakharova: The problem is that there is no logic, or the logic contradicts public and official statements. We highlighted this discrepancy between statements and actions, the public plans and the subsequent practical steps. We have again come to the same situation. You may recall that we said they would admit to making yet another mistake after they take some time to consider it. This is exactly what has happened. They mostly make “small” mistakes: after all, only a few dozen people were killed. In case of “larger” mistakes, in which more lives are claimed, they immediately attribute them to human error.
Unfortunately, it is said that you have to endure 15 minutes of shame before you can return to doing whatever you want. This has been the prevalent concept in Washington for the past few years, and it continues to prevail.
Question: The UN Security Council will vote today on the new draft resolution regarding North Korea’s September nuclear tests. What is Russia’s position on this resolution? Will Russia propose any amendments? Or do you support it as it is?
Maria Zakharova: I have commented on this resolution in one of my previous answers.
Question: Perhaps you could be more specific?
Maria Zakharova: There is nothing to be more specific about. We are working on the draft that was submitted by our American colleagues on November 25 and disseminated as a draft resolution. We have taken time for the interdepartmental coordination of this document. This is the accepted procedure. Interdepartmental coordination does not provide for public debates but only for interdepartmental work.
Question: Last week the United States said it would send a hundred trucks with humanitarian aid to Aleppo. Today we see that they do not want to send any aid after the liberation of the northern part of the city. Can you explain their position?
Maria Zakharova: Happily, they have their own press services, which will be able to answer your question. I have no information on US trucks with humanitarian aid. I can only report on Russian trucks with Russian humanitarian aid. You should address your questions about US assistance to our American partners.
Question: These trucks should have been sent to other addressees, to the people.
Maria Zakharova: I have just mentioned the strange logic, when many statements do not correspond to actions on the ground. Washington has said many times that terrorism is bad and they will separate the “bad” terrorists from the “good” opposition, but it has not lived up to its word. The separation epic has lasted for nearly a year, but things have not moved an inch. The presidential election is over, and the White House has issued instructions to seize, kill or isolate Jabhat al-Nusra leaders. But the separation has not been completed. This is what we see. First they say that the situation in Syria must be settled, and then they say they will not cooperate with Russia. They say that Russia is an important partner and a key player in the region, and that only Russia can solve the problem. Each US agency has its own version and repeats it several times over. What can we do about this?
Question: Some Arab sources have reported that the other day Commander of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar visited Moscow, where he met with Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. What was the goal of his visit? Is Russia planning actions to settle the situation in Libya?
Maria Zakharova: Why are you referring to local press reports? The Russian Foreign Ministry has a website, where it posted a detailed comment on the results of the meeting you have mentioned. Yesterday’s press release on Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov’s telephone conversation with Vice-Chairman of the Presidential Council and Deputy Prime Minister of the Libyan Government of National Accord Ahmed Maiteeq provided details about Russia’s actions and views on the situation. Also yesterday we posted a press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Commander of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar, where you can also read about our views on the situation. We do not try to hide anything. Once again, do not rely on regional sources but rather seek information from the primary source, the Foreign Ministry of Russia.