Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov, Baku, May 11, 2021
First, I would like to thank you for expressing condolences and sympathy over the tragedy in Kazan. The authorities in Tatarstan have declared tomorrow a day of mourning. We appreciate the solidarity of our Azerbaijani friends.
This is taking place during a visit that was largely devoted to the confirmation of our common commitment to the results of World War II and the Great Patriotic War. We discussed this in detail during talks with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev yesterday and with you today. The leaders talked about this issue during yesterday’s conversation.
We appreciate that people in Azerbaijan, like in Russia, hold the memory of the events of these years and of those who gave up their lives for our freedom, the future of the world and for ridding Europe of Nazism.
We reviewed the entire range of our relations during yesterday’s detailed talks with President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and in today’s talks with Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov. We noted the steady character of our strategic cooperation and the good prospects for further development both as regards our bilateral agenda as well as regional and international issues.
It is difficult to overrate the importance of a regular dialogue at the top level. In the four months of this year, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev have already met and had five telephone conversations during which they compared the results of implementing the current important agreements.
We also maintain regular contact with Mr Bayramov. We held a regular meeting in Moscow just a month ago. Today, we signed a plan for consultations between our foreign ministries in 2021-2022. It is intensive and covers all major international and regional issues.
We hope relations between our countries will return to normal face-to-face interaction. Incidentally, this is how our foreign ministers work, as well as the co-chairs of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation. I am referring to Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Alexey Overchuk and Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan Shahin Mustafayev. Our prime ministers will also meet in person this month. The head of the Azerbaijani Government will visit the Russian capital.
Inter-parliamentary work is an important part of our dialogue, our cooperation. We support contact at this level and between all ministries and departments of our governments.
The plan of action to 2024 is a general document that determines our current tasks. It includes six roadmaps on trade, transport, infrastructure, science-intensive production, innovation, the digital economy, ways to enhance the efficiency of economic processes, and tourism.
Our trade is going well. It dropped a bit during the pandemic but still amounted to $3 billion last year. We have reached an understanding on ways to restore the steady trend in the framework of the intergovernmental commission. We are confident that expanding cooperation on major projects will facilitate these efforts. Speaking about these projects, I would like to mention the production of GAZ trucks in Azerbaijan. This has already been established. The Helicopters of Russia service centre is under construction. The Russian Export Centre has provided $2 billion in financial aid for bilateral projects. I’d also like to note that the assembly of Rostselmash harvesters is about to be launched in Azerbaijan. Our companies are willing to take an active part in the privatisation programme started by the Azerbaijani leaders, and are generally interested in the closest cooperation.
We also continue to develop cooperation in countering the coronavirus infection. The first consignment of the Sputnik V vaccine was delivered this month. The second shipment will also arrive in Azerbaijan before the end of May. We are discussing the possibility of producing our vaccine in the republic.
Humanitarian contacts, cultural and educational exchanges are important factors in relations between the two nations. We have a common language space. We appreciate the attitude towards the Russian language shown by the Azerbaijani leaders.
Last year, some of the events we are now planning had to be cancelled due to the pandemic – the Interregional Forum (to be held in Baku), the Days of Azerbaijani Culture in Russia and the Forum of Youth Initiatives.
We have strong potential for greater cooperation in higher education, expanding the presence of Russia’s leading universities in Azerbaijan. We can feel the support from the republic’s government, and more than that, their direct and enthusiastic interest.
Next year, we will mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. We agreed to compile a list of events to celebrate this important date with due solemnity. We believe it will be a solid milestone in the development of our relations, and will give them a new quality.
We spoke in detail about the progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. We have a shared opinion that the key to further normalisation in the region is full compliance with the agreements reached by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia on November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021. These agreements provide all the necessary mechanisms to support the cessation of all hostilities and are aimed at unblocking transport and other links. This situation has been hampering the high transit and economic potential of this geopolitically important region for years.
We are grateful to our Azerbaijani friends for their appreciation of the Russian peacekeeping contingent’s efforts. Our service members operate in close contact with their Azerbaijani counterparts. We generally assess their activities very positively. They are really contributing to the restoration of a peaceful life.
The Trilateral Working Group co-chaired by the Deputy Prime Ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia is making an important contribution to the implementation of our agreements. It is dedicatedly working on ways to unblock transport and economic ties. This will make it possible to unite the South Caucasus states and their neighbours into a single transport and logistics network.
The activity of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs remains relevant, primarily in helping resolve humanitarian problems and promoting confidence-building measures between the parties.
We discussed the main regional and international topics. I would especially like to note that our Azerbaijani friends support all the key draft resolutions that Russia is promoting at the UN General Assembly. In turn, we are always attentive to Baku’s initiatives.
We agreed to deepen coordination at all multilateral associations such as the UN, the CIS, the OSCE, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Council of Europe, and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation (BSEC).
As Jeyhun Bayramov mentioned, Russia applied for observer status in the Non-Aligned Movement during Azerbaijan’s chairmanship; the decision is almost ready and will be adopted at the earliest opportunity. We are sincerely grateful to our Azerbaijani friends for this support.
We noted with satisfaction the dynamic development of interaction between the Caspian states on the implementation of the agreements concluded in the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea and the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment in the region.
We reaffirmed our commitment to a consistent, progressive development of relations and giving them a new quality. I believe we made serious progress on this path during yesterday's and today's talks.
We are deeply grateful to our Azerbaijani hosts for their traditional hospitality.
Question: Last week President of the United States Joe Biden reaffirmed his wish to hold a summit with President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, the United States has adopted another set of anti-Russian sanctions. It looks like Washington is sending Moscow conflicting signals. If the meeting takes place, could it become, in your opinion, the start of a complete reset in relations between Russia and the United States? Have you got a good feeling about it?
Sergey Lavrov: We regarded this proposal favourably. President Vladimir Putin repeatedly underscored that Russia and the United States, as two leading nuclear powers, bear special responsibility for the situation in the world. At a time when Washington has practically destroyed all mechanisms of arms control, one after another (leaving only the new START), a dialogue is necessary.
We told our US colleagues about the need to draw up an agenda. We believe that the issues that I have just mentioned should be given priority. Our suggestion is to consider the problems of strategic stability taking into account all factors and systems without exception, offensive and defensive, which have a direct influence on this strategic stability. Our proposals were conveyed way back in the last year of Donald Trump’s tenure and were reaffirmed when the White House changed hands. We are waiting for the reaction. However, judging by the first signs, the Americans would like to considerably narrow the agenda of discussion on strategic stability and include far from all the factors that dramatically affect the current situation in this area.
We would also like to understand how our US colleagues are going to proceed. We asked this question. We have received no answer on the sequence of steps. First, Washington suggested that the presidents should meet without preparation and determine the main areas of our subsequent work. Later they mentioned that it would be better for experts to meet before the summit. A lot is still unclear. Given the generally favourable attitude to this initiative, we are studying all the related aspects.
Question: What about the implementation of the items in the November 9, 2020 joint statement, specifically, those on the opening of communications? Are there any obstacles in the way of completing them?
Sergey Lavrov: We very much value the efforts of the Trilateral Group made up of the deputy prime ministers of the three countries. I won’t jump ahead and speak on their behalf. They are doing a good job. There is every reason to hope that we will soon see the first results of these efforts.
Question: Is there an understanding on when the sides will be able to move from discussing ways of unblocking communications in the Trilateral Group, and at other levels, to the actual work on the ground, specific projects with estimated costs, deadlines and routes, that have not been completely agreed on yet?
Sergey Lavrov: I can confirm what Mr Bayramov said. If the sides have not yet decided how to do this and on what routes, it is not very productive to indulge in guesswork on when this will happen. This issue is being resolved as a package with due account for the interests of the parties concerned, not just Armenia and Azerbaijan but also Russia, Turkey and Iran as the neighbouring countries that would also like to see a package reflecting a balance of interests of the states in the region. We believe there is progress, it is very specific and it is going in the right direction.
Question: What is Russia doing to obtain the maps of minefields as a mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement?
Sergey Lavrov: We want the humanitarian issues (live mines kill people) to be resolved as soon as possible and without any preconditions. I am referring to the need to return the POWs and bodies of the dead, find out what happened with the missing and settle problems related to the war’s material leftovers including mines.
This issue was discussed in Yerevan on May 5-6, 2021. I believe the Armenian leaders are aware of the need to resolve this problem. The first tentative steps in this area have already been taken. I have also informed the Azerbaijani leaders about them. We hope this process will be expedited quickly and the problem will be fully resolved.
Question: The world celebrated the anniversary of the Great Victory over Nazism on May 9. What do you think about the attempts to glorify the Nazis in Armenia?
Sergey Lavrov: We have a very clear and explicit position on manifestations of Nazism and attempts to glorify the Nazis. We resolutely denounce them no matter where they are taking place. In this context, we are seeing special problems in the European Union and NATO, especially the Baltic states, Ukraine and some other countries.
It is Russia that initiates a resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism every year, which is adopted by the UN General Assembly. We hope all those who vote for it – the overwhelming majority – will strictly follow its requirements. Azerbaijan and Armenia are co-authors of this resolution. There is no need for further explanation.
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