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3 November 202118:11

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, November 3, 2021

2239-03-11-2021

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  Table of contents

 

  1. The upcoming joint meeting of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s Сollegiums
  2. Sergey Lavrov's forthcoming participation in the presentation of an integrated investment project Yenisei Siberia to be held at the Foreign Ministry
  3. Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat
  4. Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration of Moldova Nicu Popescu
  5. Update on Afghanistan
  6. Developments in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region
  7. Outcome of the 4th Russia-ASEAN Summit
  8. Russia and China sponsor "political and humanitarian" draft resolution on North Korea
  9. UN Security Council extending the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara
  10. Articles in the US media speculating on Russia allegedly placing troops on the border with Ukraine
  11. UNESCO-Russia Mendeleev International Prize in the Basic Sciences ceremony
  12. Geographical Dictation 2021, an international educational event

Answers to media questions:

  1. Anniversary of trilateral Statement on Nagorno-Karabakh
  2. Three Plus Three format in South Caucasus
  3. Russia and US information security cooperation
  4. North Korea’s nuclear programme
  5. Russia’s position on climate
  6. Normandy format foreign ministers’ meeting
  7. Developments in Lebanon
  8. CSTO peacekeeping exercises
  9. Russia-Kazakhstan interaction
  10. Sudan update
  11. Afghanistan update
  12. National Unity Day

 

The upcoming joint meeting of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s Сollegiums

 

At the invitation of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Belarus Vladimir Makei will pay a working visit to Moscow on November 9-10 to participate in an annual joint meeting of the two foreign ministries’ сollegiums.

The programme provides for talks between the foreign ministers to discuss bilateral and pressing international and regional issues.

The participants in a joint meeting on November 10 will review progress in the implementation of the 2020-2021 Programme of Coordinated Actions in Foreign Policy of the Union State and the draft of a new Programme for the next two-year period and will outline goals pertaining to foreign policy support and diplomatic support of the implementation of integration decisions of the Supreme State Council and the Council of Ministers of the Union State. The participants will discuss interaction between Russia and Belarus at international human rights venues with an emphasis on the unacceptability of interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign states, as well as UN cooperation with the CSTO and the CIS. The parties will pay special attention to the state of affairs in non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control, as well as Russia-Belarus interaction on this matter at specialised multilateral agencies.

A number of joint documents will be signed at the end of the meeting, including a 2022-2023 Programme for Coordinated Actions in Foreign Policy of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State, the Plan of Inter-Ministerial Consultations for 2022 and the Resolution of the Collegiums, which will include the agreements reached on the reviewed issues.

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Sergey Lavrov's forthcoming participation in the presentation of an integrated investment project Yenisei Siberia to be held at the Foreign Ministry

 

On November 11, a presentation of an integrated investment project, Yenisei Siberia, will be held for the diplomatic corps, business circles, and Russian and foreign media at the Main Administration for Service to the Diplomatic Corps (GlavUpDK) at the Foreign Ministry’s Cultural Centre. For the first time ever, the economic, infrastructural, cultural and tourist potential of three Siberian regions – the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Republic of Tyva and the Republic of Khakassia - will be presented at one go.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the leaders of the above regions will speak to the audience.

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Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat

 

On November 16, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat who will pay a working visit to Moscow on November 16-18.

The officials will focus on implementing the memorandum of understanding between the Government of the Russian Federation and the African Union on the foundations of relations and cooperation. It was signed on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on October 23-24, 2019.

Mr Lavrov and Mr Faki Mahamat plan to discuss ways to further promote the strategic partnership between Russia and the African Union, including efforts to maintain peace, ensure security, train personnel and develop education, science and technology.

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Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration of Moldova Nicu Popescu

 

On November 17, Mr Lavrov plans to hold talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration of the Republic of Moldova Nicu Popescu. He will pay a working visit to Moscow on November 16-17 at Mr Lavrov’s invitation.

During the talks, the ministers will review pressing issues of bilateral cooperation with an emphasis on cooperation between foreign ministries.

They plan to exchange views on major global and regional issues of common interest. They will focus on cooperation in key international organisations, primarily, the UN and regional integration formats, including the CIS, the EAEU and the Organisation of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC).

The ministers will also focus on the status of and prospects for settlement in Transnistria.

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Update on Afghanistan

 

We resolutely condemn the November 2 terror acts committed by ISIS near a military hospital in Kabul. According to available information, about 20 people were killed and over 40 wounded as a result. We convey condolences to the families and friends of the dead and wish early recovery to the injured.

We note the measures taken by the transitional Afghan Government to ensure security and a normal peaceful life. Over 60 ISIS militants laid down weapons and surrendered to the Taliban authorities in the eastern province of Nangarhar. Since the West has frozen Afghanistan’s national assets, the Central Bank of Afghanistan announced a plan to introduce an Islamic banking system that implies among other things the sharing of profits and losses between bank investors and borrowers and the absence of interest on loans and collateral. The transitional authorities have appointed a new president to the Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan.

The media is reporting that the National Resistance Front is preparing to resume hostilities against the Taliban. It is reported that the front’s leader, Ahmad Massoud, is in Tajikistan. We believe that the various ethnic and political forces in the country should refrain from actions that provoke the intra-Afghan conflict. They should look for ways to facilitate mutual understanding and national reconciliation, to restore a sustainable peace, stability and security in Afghanistan and around it.

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Developments in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

 

We are concerned about developments in Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions, where government troops are fighting the Tigray Defence Forces. Continued fighting near the towns of Dessie and Kombolcha is claiming more lives and has had grave humanitarian consequences for the people in the affected regions.

We believe that the sides in this internal Ethiopian conflict should summon the political will to reach a ceasefire agreement as soon as possible and ultimately restore peace and gradually achieve socioeconomic stabilisation throughout Ethiopia.

We believe maintaining Ethiopia’s unity and territorial integrity to be the only way to settle these disputes.

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Outcome of the 4th Russia-ASEAN Summit

 

I would like to once again say a few words about the outcome of the 4th Russia-ASEAN Summit, as I promised to do during the previous briefing. The summit was held on October 28 and was dedicated to the 30th anniversary of Russian-ASEAN relations. President Vladimir Putin held talks, via videoconference, with the leaders of the ten member states.

The development of a dialogue with ASEAN, which reached the strategic partnership level in 2018, is one of Russia’s consistent priorities in the Asia-Pacific region. The philosophy of multifaceted, equal and inclusive cooperation, which Russia and ASEAN have in common, formed the basis of the leaders’ joint statement in support of the regional security architecture ASEAN is creating, which is currently seeing serious pressure. That document is focused on the preservation of the Asian-Pacific Region as a common space of cooperation without dividing lines and stipulates the continued development of geographically broad-based synergy in the integration potential of Greater Eurasia. The decisions adopted at the summit and the leaders’ substantive dialogue reaffirmed the importance of accelerating the rapprochement of such venues as ASEAN, the EAEU and the SCO with the aim of creating a seamless, binding contour of both existing platforms and applied initiatives that are aimed at ensuring the region’s sustainable development.

Positive and pragmatic cooperation in a broad range of areas is the essence of the Comprehensive Plan of Action for 2021-2025 that our leaders adopted at the Russia-ASEAN summit, which stipulates practical joint actions in the foreseeable future. It also includes political and security measures, a substantial trade and economic section, as well as objectives in energy, transport, environmental protection, efforts against the pandemic, emergency response, culture, youth contacts and much more. The document highlights the development of science-intensive and high-tech sectors, including the digital economy and information and communications technologies (ICT). 2022 will be significant in this sense because it was designated at the summit as the ASEAN-Russia Year of Science and Technology Cooperation.

It has become traditional for Russia-ASEAN summit meetings to hold in-depth discussions on cooperative responses against new challenges and threats. This time the leaders focused on the fight against the global drug threat based on common approaches, which were set out in a final statement. I would like to remind everyone that during their 3rd summit, the leaders of Russia and ASEAN emphasised ICT-related security issues.

The summit participants also discussed Russia-ASEAN cooperation in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the bilateral format and within the framework of multilateral organisations.

We intend to continue updating you on the implementation of the agreements reached at the summit.

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Russia and China sponsor "political and humanitarian" draft resolution on North Korea

 

On October 29, 2021, Russia and China circulated a joint “political and humanitarian” draft resolution on North Korea among the members of the UN Security Council. The resolution calls on the UN Security Council to ease international sanctions in the humanitarian sphere and other civilian areas not related to the North Korean nuclear programme. It repeatedly notes that the need to revise these restrictions is long overdue, given the steps taken by Pyongyang on the de-nuclearisation track since 2018, including the observance of a moratorium on nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as amid the difficult humanitarian situation in the country. We are confident that the adoption of the resolution will help restore confidence among the states involved, and will serve as an incentive to revive the multilateral political dialogue, which is the only way to comprehensively resolve the problems on the Korean Peninsula.

The Russian-Chinese document aims to facilitate international efforts to help North Korea as it is struggling with the novel coronavirus infection. The UN Security Council is expected to react appropriately to a situation where certain countries’ biased and overreaching interpretation of its decisions is hurting North Korea's healthcare system.

We are open to collaboration on the text of the resolution. We expect constructive proposals from our colleagues in the Security Council. We hope they are also interested in mobilising humanitarian aid to the North Korean people without any preconditions, as well as an early resumption of the negotiation process on the peninsula.

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UN Security Council extending the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara

 

On October 29, the Russian Federation abstained from voting on the draft UN Security Council resolution prepared by the United States on extending the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara until October 31, 2022. The delegation from Tunisia did the same. The resolution was eventually adopted and the mandate was extended.

Unfortunately, this time again, the draft included language that is a departure from an impartial and unbiased position on a Western Sahara settlement by the UN Security Council. Our comments and proposals seeking a middle-ground solution were ignored. We consider it misguided to erode the basic UNSC-approved parameters of the Western Sahara settlement. It is important to find mutually acceptable solutions for the parties, which would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara within the framework of the procedures that are consistent with UN Charter principles and goals.

At the same time, we reaffirm our support for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, which plays an important stabilising role in the region and helps advance the peace process and the resumption of the dialogue between the parties.

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Articles in the US media speculating on Russia allegedly placing troops on the border with Ukraine

 

An information volley in the US media regarding the fact that Russia was allegedly moving troops to the border with Ukraine has come to our attention.

It was not just one piece of fabricated information, but a full-blown fresh fake campaign in the US media. At least three major media outlets – Politico, The Washington Post and Foreign Policy – published, as if on cue, panic attack-imbued materials to the effect that Russia was deploying troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

The commentary, as reporters say, are “from trustworthy sources,” and the leaks are purely confidential and come from off-limits Pentagon, White House and State Department offices, since these sources are allegedly “not authorised to speak publicly.” This is an interesting approach. I can explain why they are not authorised to speak publicly. If they do, they will have to come up with clarifications, and the only way to clarify things here is to simply admit that it isn’t true.

The only “named” source is Department of Defence spokesman Anton Semelroth. What did he say? He told reporters the following: “We… cannot speak to Russian intentions.” At least a sliver of truth can be found there.

At the same time, the Defence Ministry of Ukraine is cited. This is where the fun begins. Clearly, the US-issued guidelines hadn’t reached Ukraine by that time, so perhaps they were not aware of this new trend in the media. So, the Ukrainian military simply decided to “do it their way,” and perhaps they were not duly notified. It is hard to understand what happened here. As a result, the Defence Ministry of Ukraine outright dismissed the US journalists’ speculations on moving troops to their borders. I would like to say a big thank you to the publications that have retained professional ethics or had enough courage to publish these statements, even though they destroy the entire conspiracy “picture” created by other publications.

Politico went the farthest of them all. Politico’s Betsy Swan and Paul McLeary posted photographs which, they thought, would be a scoop and would prove Moscow’s aggressive plans. As Russian journalists have found out (you can do it, too, if you have access to the atlas of Russia or at least the internet), these images of “tanks near the Ukrainian border” turned out to be satellite images of the territory outside the city of Yelnya which lies hundreds of kilometres from Ukraine. Maslovka Station, to which Foreign Policy refers, is also far from the border with Ukraine.

These US journalists gleefully posted fake material and illustrated it with photographs and videos that they pulled from Tik-Tok accounts of Voronezh bloggers which in fact questions their ability to think critically. Nobody contacted us. We are positive that they did not talk with anyone who represents our country. This is the classic approach for the genre: whenever such publications are being prepared, the country in question is not asked to provide an official position. These media are well aware that we prepare our materials promptly and would gladly help them figure out what is true and what is not, especially when using photo and video materials.

Based on the developments unfolding in the US media, I would not be surprised to see images of a T-34 tank column near the maritime borders of Belarus published soon.

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UNESCO-Russia Mendeleev International Prize in the Basic Sciences ceremony

 

The first UNESCO-Russia Mendeleyev International Prize ceremony will take place on the sidelines of the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on November 15. The award is given for achievements in the basic sciences. 

The UNESCO prize was launched after the UN-declared International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements-2019, initiated by Russia. The prize is the biggest joint prize with UNESCO, and the award fund totals $500,000.

The institution of this prize was designed to promote the achievements of this outstanding Russian scientist for world science and to emphasise the importance of international cooperation in resolving the most urgent problems of our time.

This year the prize goes to two prominent scientists – Academician Yuri Oganessian (Russia) and Professor Vincenzo Balzani (Italy). This selection was based on the recommendations of an international jury consisting of seven renowned scientists.

Academician Oganessian is the surviving scientist to have an element in the periodic table named after him (118 – Oganesson, Og).

The award ceremony will be a key event on the sidelines of the UNESCO General Conference. UNESCO Secretary-General Audrey Azoulay is expected to present the award.

We hope you will attend this ceremony and give it extensive coverage.

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Geographical Dictation 2021, an international educational event

 

On November 14, the Russian Geographical Society (RGS) will conduct a large-scale international educational event, “Geographical Dictation 2021” with support from the Foreign Ministry and Rossotrudnichestvo. It was initiated by President of Russia and Chair of the RGS Board of Trustees Vladimir Putin.

The test has been held every year since 2015. It is aimed at promoting a knowledge of geography and increasing interest in science and national heritage. The participants answer questions on geography anonymously. Their marks are not important.

About 2 million people have taken part in this event over the past six years. In 2017, it went international for the first time. People from 25 countries took part. In 2020, the number of participating countries, including Russia, reached 110. The event took place on all continents except the Antarctic, and even in outer space, aboard the International Space Station. In addition, for the first time, online version assignments were translated into 10 languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Turkish and Hindi.

This year, the most unusual venues for the event were the Academician Lomonosov nuclear-powered floating energy unit, the Aurora Cruiser, the Russian Space Agency’s Mission Control Centre, oil-producing platforms in the Caspian Sea and the Katun Nature Reserve.

The test can be taken online. The online version can be found at dictant.rgo.ru, and it starts the same day as the offline venues. It runs for several days to provide enough opportunity for all participants to test their knowledge. This year, the online test will start at 2 pm on November 14 and run through 2 pm on November 24 Moscow time.

We invite all those who are interested to take part in the test and check their knowledge of geography.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: November 9 will mark the first anniversary of the signing of the historic trilateral Statement on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. How does the Russian Foreign Ministry assess the degree of implementation of the Statement over the past year and what does it consider the main achievements in the settlement process since the Statement had been signed? Can we expect any new documents to be signed at any level by the end of the year?

Maria Zakharova: We will provide a detailed comment on this next week when the Leaders' November 9, 2020 Trilateral Statement will mark its first anniversary.

What I can convey to you now is that work in all areas continues. The fast-approaching anniversary of the adoption by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia of the Statement of November 9, 2020 on complete ceasefire and cessation of all hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area was discussed during telephone conversations between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan on November 1 and Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov on November 2.

The ministers were unanimous in their assessments that the situation in the region had stabilised over the past year. The ceasefire is being complied with overall. Baku and Yerevan highly value the role of the Russian peacekeepers. Isolated incidents will be dealt with through the established channels of interaction from both sides.

Efforts are being made to unblock transport routes. The 8th meeting of the Trilateral Working Group co-chaired by deputy prime ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia was held in Moscow on October 20.

The foreign ministries, the defence ministries and the border services of the three countries maintain contacts in order to resolve border incidents. We see a comprehensive solution to the problem in starting the process of delimitation of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border as soon as possible with its subsequent demarcation.

Much is being done by the OSCE Minsk Group, and its co-chairs provide regular updates in their press releases.

I have no update on the likelihood of having more documents signed. Let's leave this to the press services of the leaders of the three countries. If they have this information, they will share it. At this point, the departments I have mentioned work daily as they act upon the documents that have already been adopted.

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Question: On the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, the foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey discussed prospects for launching the 3+3 mechanism in South Caucasus. Can we say that Russia and Turkey are of the same view on this matter? Are there any plans or agreements on when this format can be implemented? Should we expect consultations at the level of Russia, Turkey and Iran as large neighbours of the South Caucasus states? In general, is there a general understanding of the path forward towards getting this format implemented?

Maria Zakharova: I dug deep into that matter during the October 21 briefing. We support the idea put forward by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of Turkey Recep Erdogan to create a 3+3 consultative regional mechanism uniting the South Caucasus countries and its neighbours (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Turkey and Iran). We believe it’s time to make these plans a reality.

Multilateral regional cooperation meets the interests of all prospective participants in this format. We believe that if launched it would help boost trust between the states, overcome existing differences and tap the region’s economic and transport potential. There are many questions, all the more so since new problems in the form of pandemic-related challenges have arisen which changed the situation. The format can and should offer solutions to old problems and overcome new challenges.

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Question: Could you tell us about the Russian-US dialogue on cyber security? The United States seems to have given Russia the information about hackers. Does it expect a response? In late October, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev spoke about cyber-attacks on Russian facilities, including nuclear power plants. What are the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US Department of State  discussing in this context?

Maria Zakharova: Indeed, Russia and the United States are conducting a dialogue on cyber security, primarily, under the aegis of their security councils. I cannot reveal details of their dialogue and information exchanges due to the specific features of this issue. As soon and if there appears an opportunity to report on the work done, we will do this either in the Security Council or at the instruction of relevant agencies. I would like to emphasise that dialogue on this issue is conducted with our American partners (according to representatives of the Presidential Executive Office and the Security Council of Russia).

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Question: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said recently that NATO planners are looking to the East. They are saying that the NATO mission should expand to the Indo-Pacific Region. Is it possible to assume that in addition to Russia and China, NATO has its sights also set on North Korea with its nuclear programme? The DPRK calls its nuclear tests and missile launches a “response to the decades of US military blackmail.” What is your view of the Russian position on these issues? What do you think about Pyongyang’s nuclear programme in the context of the review conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons? Is North Korea a de facto nuclear country?

Maria Zakharova: Your question contains enough for a scientific dissertation. You asked multi-faceted questions, so I will divide my answers into parts.

It would be wrong to talk about NATO’s striving to expand its functions related to “enhancing security” to the East, to the Asia-Pacific Region because they are linked solely with the nuclear problems of the Korean Peninsula.  

You have heard repeated statements by NATO officials, primarily Secretary-General Yens Stoltenberg on the intention to redeploy NATO capacity to East Asia after the withdrawal from Afghanistan. For instance, this is what he said at the US Council on Foreign Relations in March: “And then we had this famous discussion of whether NATO should go beyond our territory, and we went beyond NATO territory first in the Balkans, then later on into Afghanistan, and I have an opened mind to also do more with Asia-Pacific partners…”

Many people remember the outcome of NATO’s decision to go beyond its zone of responsibility in the Balkans. It led to a massacre, a tragedy that lasted not for days or months in 1999 but for years, considering the consequences that the region still lives with. In this case, I’m talking not just about geopolitics but simply about the consequences of this tragedy for the people. After the bombings, whole generations, not just Serbs, but also people from the NATO contingent suffered from various diseases because of the weapons that were used.

Apparently, speaking about this last March, and having mentioned the Balkans operation and the situation in Afghanistan, Stoltenberg could not expect his words to be so prophetic. After all, both cases ended in complete failure for the countries concerned. The outcome was different in each case but the end was, alas, similar.

Such announcements of an “uninvited visit” to the Asia-Pacific Region – contrary to all rules of diplomatic etiquette – were made in the centre of that region, in its heart. Speaking at the India-organised annual international conference “the Raisina Dialogue” last April, Jens Stoltenberg had no compunction about saying that China required collective attention and action by NATO.

According to Stoltenberg, “NATO is an important platform for building convergence in responding to the rising security implications of China.” This is exactly what he said. So, Stoltenberg thinks NATO should do that not to counter challenges of terrorist activity, drug trafficking, organised crime and industrial disasters but because of China’s growing strength, as if a sovereign state has no right to increase its influence within the bounds of the law.

Last April Stoltenberg also defined NATO’s global ambitions in the Indian press. He described the alliance as a solid foundation of the international community of democracies and support for the rules-based world order. Who authorised him and his organisation to become a solid foundation for the international community of democracies? Who issued a mandate for this? Did some anonymous people take part in a secret vote somewhere in Brussels or beyond it? What is this new “rules-based order”? Who endorsed it? And where can we see the code of these rules?  In the process, Stoltenberg clearly outlines a circle of partners important for implementing these tasks. Speaking on the sidelines of the 76th UN General Assembly in September, he said that new challenges and threats require closer coordination of the alliance with its Asian associates such as Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand. How does this relate to his previous statements about the solid foundation of the international community of democracies? How should one interpret this?

New Delhi that is outside any military-political alliances is also listed among these associates for some reason. NATO’s Brussels would like to develop cooperation with it in many strategic areas.

The Euro-Atlantic alliance is taking serious practical steps against the backdrop of these far-reaching statements. It backs them by deeds. The United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands sent their ships, including even a carrier-based attack group, to the Asia-Pacific Region almost at the same time. The programme includes combat training together with Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand, while the United States, Canada and France are also becoming increasingly active on the naval track. Regional experts believe that the participation of the latter two in the naval drills of the Quad (the US-Japan-Australia-India) last January (Sea Dragon) and last April (Laperouse) amounts to their de facto inclusion in the military dimension of the Indo-Pacific Quartet.

All this work is carried out by the most active NATO members. Washington and London have agreements with Australia on upgrading its military infrastructure and building its nuclear-powered submarine fleet. In this context, the geopolitical puzzle posed to the region by NATO is becoming less and less mysterious. A relevant picture is taking shape.

It is no accident that the regional expert community is becoming increasingly apprehensive about the current situation. Following their Western colleagues, regional experts are beginning to think about the consequences of the arrival of NATO or its elements in the Asia-Pacific Region, primarily for ASEAN. Even American analysts sometimes question the expedience of NATO’s turn to this region.

It is important to understand what concepts underlie these actions. What decisions on inviting NATO to the region lead to such actions? What is the response to this activity on the part of the countries that have traditionally handled regional security?

To increase its role in global military and political processes, NATO is trying to expand its influence in different parts of the world. This is perfectly obvious. To implement these plans, the members of the alliance are creating new formats of inter-state military cooperation. We believe NATO’s attempts to impose its vision for the security architecture of the region are destructive and threaten to seriously destabilise the Asia-Pacific Region. The main question remains unanswered. Is this being done to enhance security and, hence, counter existing challenges and threats or to expand military presence in the region with a view to achieving some potential strategic goals? You will agree that these are different things. In the first case, it would be necessary to coordinate theories and practices of all those who are traditionally part of the Asia-Pacific Region, who are located there. In the second case, it would be important to see whether the goals set by the alliance itself or for the alliance by someone correspond to international law. But this obviously does not match the high-flown statements by the NATO leaders. So we believe that NATO’s attempts to impose its vision for security in the Asia-Pacific Region may seriously destabilise the situation there.

We believe that the problems of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia must be settled exclusively by political and diplomatic means and in a comprehensive, multilateral way. To normalise the situation in the sub-region, the states concerned should display restraint and take concrete measures aimed at considering each other’s legitimate concerns within the framework of the Russian-Chinese initiatives based on a step-by-step, synchronised approach.

As for Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, North Korea is not a nuclear country from the viewpoint of international law. A number of Russia-supported UN Security Council resolutions have enshrined this understanding.

The nuclear programme of the Korean Peninsula is likely to be discussed at the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in January 2022 because Pyongyang’s steps aimed at developing this type of WMD are a serious challenge to the non-proliferation regime.

We believe that the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula should be settled through negotiation with this treaty as the basis.

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Question: What can you say about US President Joe Biden urging the G20 to focus on Russia and China’s climate commitments, which, according to him, they are not acting upon?

Maria Zakharova: Unlike its US partners, the Russian Federation is working energetically and consistently to honour its obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. It is strange to hear such claims coming from the United States given Washington’s unsystematic and erratic policies in this area. At some point the Americans insisted on concluding the agreement, but then they withdrew from it. For us, this matter is not tied to the political situation. The list of measures implemented by our country is long and comprehensive.

Russia is taking major steps to achieve carbon neutrality. In fact, we are among the global decarbonisation leaders and have set a specific benchmark to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. As President Vladimir Putin noted in his speech at the G20 summit, our economy’s carbon intensity has been decreasing by 2.7 percent on average annually over the past 20 years. This is more than in the world in general and more than in the G7 countries. I wonder how one could have not heard this statement.

Under the Paris Agreement, on October 29, the Government approved a new Strategy for the Socioeconomic Development of the Russian Federation with a low level of greenhouse gas emissions to 2050.

In addition to reducing emissions, we are constantly striving to increase the capture of greenhouse gases and to expand the absorption potential of our forests and other natural ecosystems. In 2022, we plan to launch large-scale climate projects in this area, and in 2023 we will introduce mandatory corporate carbon reporting. We have announced our plans, and everything is stated in our official doctrines, documents and programmes.

Low-carbon energy is making strides in Russia. President Vladimir Putin said at the G20 summit that the share of energy from practically carbon-free sources (nuclear power plants, hydroelectric power plants, and wind and solar power plants) exceeds 40 percent in Russia. With natural gas, which is the lowest-carbon fuel among hydrocarbons, this share increases to 86 percent. This is one of the best numbers worldwide. More will be done under the state programme for energy conservation and energy efficiency of the economy to reduce the burden on the environment to 2035.

As is commonly known, climate warming in Russia is going at a faster pace than in the rest of the world. This has a negative effect on the thawing of the permafrost, desertification and soil erosion. We are interested in mitigating the dangerous impacts of climate change as part of a collaborative effort, but with account taken of the socioeconomic situation in different countries. The statements in this regard have been made. I think every international venue is using its potential to reaffirm our position. With the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties underway in Glasgow, we should engage in joint work on the climate track rather than in mutual attacks. Can there be any doubt that Russia has consistently advocated approaching this matter jointly? I don’t think so. We haven’t given any cause for that.

In his G20 summit speech, the US president accused our Chinese colleagues of being insufficiently active on the climate agenda. Of course, they will respond to that themselves, and it’s not our job to comment on their position. However, according to our estimates, China has a highly constructive and responsible approach to the global climate agenda.

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Question: How are preparations going for the foreign ministers’ meeting in the Normandy format? When can it take place?

Maria Zakharova: Russia's position on holding a ministerial meeting in the Normandy format is well known and hasn't changed. We are adamant that preparations for such an event need to be thorough, including on the final document. It should reflect the current state of the negotiation process, including the progress toward implementing the decisions of the Normandy Four Summit held in Paris on December 9, 2019 and the new guidelines for promoting an internal Ukrainian settlement on the basis of the Minsk Agreements. Do we have such a document or a draft to date? No, we do not. There is no such document, not even a draft. We have timely conveyed our own vision for the outcome of a possible meeting to the Normandy Four participants.

Has there been a reaction to Russian proposals? We have not received a response yet. Without a clear understanding of the possible results of such a meeting, it simply makes no sense to discuss any dates for holding it. Our colleagues are well aware of this position. It has been officially brought to the attention of our German and French partners. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov voiced it in a conversation with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome on October 30. The Russian minister asked his French counterpart directly if our partners had any understanding regarding the outcome of the potential Normandy format meeting at the ministerial level. There was no clear answer then. Sergey Lavrov’s French colleague was also informed that the Russian minister’s work schedule did not allow him to take part in the proposed Normandy Four meeting.

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Question: A diplomatic crisis continues between Lebanon and the Persian Gulf countries, triggered by the Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi’s criticism of the Arab coalition’s actions in Yemen. Does Russia intend to use its mediation potential to resolve this dispute between regional players? Does Moscow see this as a necessity at this stage?

Maria Zakharova: Russia is firmly committed to supporting the sovereignty of the friendly Lebanese Republic. We support the recently formed government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati in its policies to overcome the economic and social crisis and address other problems on the national agenda. We are interested in maintaining stability in that country, which is special and unique in its ethno-religious diversity. We have always urged Lebanese politicians and are calling on to prioritise mutual respect and harmony, taking into account the interests of all groups of the population.

As for the diplomatic aggravation caused by a number of Arab states of the Persian Gulf reacting to Information Minister George Kordahi’s statements about the Arab coalition’s actions in Yemen, we hope that it will be resolved as soon as possible. For the sake of objectivity, I would have to clarify that George Kordahi expressed his personal opinion on this score before his appointment as minister.

We hope that the parties will be able to resolve this controversy without harming interstate relations or Arab solidarity. And no one has requested Russia mediate a solution. 

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Question: It was earlier reported that the CSTO would be holding a peacemaking exercise near Kazan during which military personnel would be trained in building refugee camps, among other things. Do these drills have anything to do with the current situation in Afghanistan? Is Russia or its CSTO partners concerned about an inflow of Afghan refugees? What measures are being taken in this area in addition to the exercise? 

Maria Zakharova: The upcoming CSTO peacemaking drills in Russia, Indestructible Brotherhood, is a scheduled event and the final stage in Combat Brotherhood 2021, which is a comprehensive operation and a strategic exercise that also includes drills on the territory of Tajikistan, including Cooperation with the CSTO Early Response Forces, Search for intelligence personnel and resources, and Echelon for logistics support groups. Previously the Frontier exercise had been held in Kyrgyzstan for the CSTO Rapid Deployment Forces in Central Asia. Obviously, current developments in the organisation’s area of responsibility were considered during the planning of these events – especially the situation in Central Asia, including the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. 

We have established effective cooperation with our CSTO partners and strive to prevent those common challenges and threats that we face coming from Afghanistan, such as terrorism and drug trafficking, in addition to curbing migration. We are particularly concerned about the risk posed by individuals involved in terrorist and criminal activities who cross over into Central Asian countries and then further on to Russia as Afghan refugees. 

We proceed from the premise that containing migration from Afghanistan is directly related to the domestic political and economic situation in the country. Creating normal living conditions and guaranteeing security and stability in Afghanistan itself should result in Afghan citizens’ no longer needing to seek shelter outside their homeland. We firmly believe this is primarily the responsibility of those countries whose 20-year military presence brought about the current devastating state of affairs in Afghanistan. It is their area of responsibility, and here actual deeds must speak louder than words.

These regular exercises tend to draw the attention of those foreign partners of ours who are not members of the CSTO, as well as international organisations. The Russian Foreign Ministry has sent out invitations to observe the Indestructible Brotherhood 2021 to the UN, the OSCE and the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

I would advise you to contact the CSTO Press Centre with questions regarding preparations for and media coverage of the exercise. 

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Question: Late last summer, the media reported the appearance of “language patrols” in Kazakhstan. Despite the Russian Foreign Ministry’s reaction to this news, on the day Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin came to the republic on a visit, pro-Russian activist Yermek Taichibekov was sentenced to seven years in prison, and yesterday the Kazakh Prosecutor’s Office requested an 11-year sentence for Russian businessman Viktor Balashov. Will the ministry react to these cases in any way?

Maria Zakharova: This subject has also provoked questions from other media outlets.

Relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan are privileged and allied. At the same time, we are closely monitoring any signs of ethnic intolerance in everyday life. We are at one with the leadership of Kazakhstan – there should be no doubt regarding this – on the importance of redoubling joint efforts to prevent and react to such provocations, conducting targeted work with young people and promoting interaction between our scientists and experts, as well as making use of any other aspects of our [cooperation] potential.

The indivisible fabric of our cultural and social space gives our countries their competitive advantage on the global stage.

The Kazakh authorities and law enforcement agencies will respond to the activities of those who are responsible for planting information about “language patrols.” 

On September 1, 2021, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev pointed out in his address to the nation that the Russian language is an official language in the country and its use must not be prevented. He justly noted that the country would only benefit from young people speaking various languages, including Russian. This is true. It also applies to all other countries around the world. President Tokayev also spoke about “zero tolerance for nationalism” and the authorities’ readiness to cut short any manifestation of “caveman nationalism” at the October 21 meeting of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan. We wholeheartedly support this position.

It is true that the media are writing about Yermek Taichibekov, who has been given a seven-year prison term (Article 174 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the incitement of national hatred). The first time he was sentenced for a similar crime was in 2015. Taichibekov has submitted, via his lawyers, an application for Russian citizenship. The response he received says that under the Federal Law No. 62-FZ On Citizenship of the Russian Federation, dated May 31, 2002, citizenship applications shall be rejected if their applicants have an unexpunged or unspent conviction for crimes committed in the Russian Federation or beyond it, or are being prosecuted in other countries for actions that are regarded as crimes under Russian law. Therefore, Taichibekov’s application cannot be satisfied at present.

Russian citizen Viktor Balashov has been charged by the Interior Ministry Department for Almaty for conducting actions, while holding the position of head of a joint venture, that are punishable under Article 189 (misappropriation or embezzlement of entrusted property) and Article 389 (abuse of rights) of Kazakhstan’s Criminal Code. The republican Prosecutor’s Office later reclassified his offences under Article 194 (extortion).

Representatives of the Russian Consulate General in Almaty met with Balashov, who said he had no complaints regarding prison conditions and did not report any violations of his rights and legitimate interests. When asked about his health, he responded that his eyesight had begun to fail and complained about the low quality of the medicines provided to him at the detention facility’s medical department.

Our diplomats have notified the chief investigator of the Interior Ministry Department for Almaty of the importance of strictly respecting the Russian citizen’s rights and legitimate interests, including with regard to medical services and prison conditions. The chief investigator assured the diplomats that all the necessary medical assistance would be provided upon the receipt of a request from his lawyer. Balashov later withdrew his request for a medical examination.

Upon receiving the lawyer’s information about Balashov’s health and the violation of several legal procedures, the Consulate General sent a note to the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan and a letter to the Almaty Prosecutor, as the result of which the Prosecutor’s Office assumed control of the case and some of the lawyer’s complaints were granted.

The Russian Consulate General has sent a number of requests to the legal agencies of Kazakhstan regarding the change in the status of the pretrial detention and medical treatment. Some of these requests have been granted,

The pretrial investigation into the case of Viktor Balashov has been completed and the matter has been sent to court, which held the first hearing on July 12. According to Balashov’s lawyers, the trial is proceeding in strict compliance with the Kazakh legislation. The next hearing has been schedule for early November. The Consulate General is maintaining contact with Balashov’s relatives and lawyer.

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Question: In your comment on the developments in Sudan, you did not qualify these events as a coup. How would you interpret a situation in a country where the military seize power? You also spoke about large-scale foreign interference in Sudan’s domestic affairs. What countries were you referring to? Given these developments, will Moscow and Khartoum retain their agreements on the Russian Navy’s military-technical and logistics support facility?  

Maria Zakharova: With regard to the last part of your question, Sudan has issued exhaustive statements on this matter. If there are any details that remain unclear, you should contact the Russian Defence Ministry’s press service.

As for the first part of your question, I would like to once again draw your attention to the Foreign Ministry’s detailed comment of October 25, 2021, which deals with developments in Sudan. 

We don’t think it would be correct to make any public assessments of these events because, in this context, we perceive this as a purely domestic affair of Sudan. As the de facto head of state, Chairman of the Supreme Sovereign Council and Supreme Commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), Lieutenant General Abdelfattah Al-Burhan, made the decision to dissolve the interim government. We should take note of this aspect.

As far as Russia’s military and military-technical cooperation with foreign states is concerned, we do not disclose details because such information is rather sensitive. Please send your questions to us, and we will consult our colleagues from the Defence Ministry.

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Question: In his interview with the Rossiya 24 television channel, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia prioritised efforts to prevent the destabilisation of neighbouring Central Asian countries, as well as to curb the spread of the terrorist and drug threat inside Afghanistan and beyond. Just recently, Moscow was the venue of multilateral talks involving a Taliban delegation. Did the parties discuss interaction on these aspects at this meeting?

Maria Zakharova: I can confirm that we continue to view the terrorist and drug threats emanating from Afghanistan, as well as the situation in that country in this area, as topical issues. We regret to note that the situation has not changed drastically following the Taliban takeover. This is proved by the terrorist attacks organised by the ISIS terrorist group in Afghan cities.  

US attempts to deploy the American military infrastructure in countries neighbouring on Afghanistan, as well as Afghan personnel providing services to them, are another destabilising factor. We consider these attempts to be unacceptable, and we believe that such actions are fraught with serious risks of undermining regional stability.

Increasing migration flows from Afghanistan are another challenge. The problem is that members of terrorist groups, criminals, militants, etc. can infiltrate neighbouring countries, including Central Asia, while posing as refugees.

On October 20, 2021, all these matters were discussed at the Third Meeting of the Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan. The joint statement of the participants is posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website. We can note with satisfaction that members of a delegation of the interim Afghan government who attended this event reaffirmed their obligation to prevent the use of Afghan territory against the interests of third countries, as well as their intention to continue fighting terrorism and illegal drug trafficking.

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Question (retranslated from English): What joint role can Russia, Pakistan, China and Iran play in reaching a settlement in Afghanistan? 

Maria Zakharova: We think it extremely important to coordinate regional efforts intended to facilitate a settlement in Afghanistan and to counteract common challenges and threats coming from Afghanistan. We have established collaboration on the Afghan agenda with China, Pakistan and Iran at various regional and international venues. I am referring to the Regional Four – Russia- China-Pakistan-Iran (its first meeting was held on the sidelines of the SCO and CSTO summits in Dushanbe on September 16, 2021); the Moscow Format consultations on Afghanistan (its third meeting was held in Moscow on October 20, 2021);  the extended Troika of Russia-China-USA-Pakistan (its latest meeting took place in Moscow on October 19, 2021, without the US); and the regional meeting of countries bordering on Afghanistan (its second meeting was held in Tehran on  October 27, 2021). 

The sides coordinate their approaches to facilitating Afghan settlement and maintaining durable peace, stability and security in the region within the above mechanisms. Russia’s contacts with Beijing, Islamabad and Tehran focus on the post-conflict revival of Afghanistan and on practical aspects of rendering humanitarian aid to the Afghan people in order to prevent the country’s slide into an economic and social collapse.

These are the regional ad hoc formats on the Afghan agenda.  I am not going to talk about the UN Security Council, the global mechanism, within which the said subject is also discussed with the countries I have just mentioned, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the countries active at the UN. We are developing common approaches.

I would like to stress that Afghanistan’s post-conflict revival is the responsibility of the nations that spent 20 years “laying down the law” there. The situation as it is now must not be “bequeathed” either to the people of Afghanistan or, as a problem, to other countries in the region. The US-led NATO and Western countries should bear full responsibility (financial included) for what they did during the 20 years that they were in Afghanistan.  

***

I would like to wish you all a happy holiday on November 4. For us, it is a relatively new red-letter day, but each passing year fills it with new meaning and a special spirit. 

So, let me give you my best wishes for the upcoming Unity Day and express my hope that everyone can feel and understand its full meaning and significance for all of us and for each one of us in particular.  

Happy Holidays! I wish you health!

 

 

 

 

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