22 November 200516:34

Transcript of Remarks and Replies to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov Following Ministerial Conference on Northern Dimension, Brussels, November 21, 2005


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Unofficial translation from Russian

Foreign Minister Lavrov: A ministerial conference has been held in Brussels within the framework of the so called Northern Dimension. This program was developed at the end of the 90s in the European Union and was conceived as a method of tackling a number of problems in Northern Europe on the basis of the projects being carried out in the EU. Other Northern countries were invited to participate in these projects. It is clear that such an approach did not quite suit the Russian side, and over the course of the last few years negotiations were being conducted for a new basis on which to develop Northern Dimension cooperation. I'm pleased to say that today such a basis has been endorsed. It presupposes further cooperation within the Northern Dimension framework on an equal basis with the participation of Russia, the European Union, Norway and Iceland.

The decision adopted today charges experts with preparing legal documents which, most likely, will be approved in the second half of the next year, when Finland will hold the EU Presidency.

We are satisfied with the work done. In the directives which will determine the areas of activity for the experts is reflected the concept for developing so called partnerships. The environmental partnership is already working quite well, there already exist some ideas and suggestions for developing the partnership in public health and social wellbeing and themes will also be worked through that relate to trade, investment, and economic cooperation in various forms, in the elimination of the consequences of natural disasters, in the prevention of technogenic catastrophes, in science and education and in people-to-people contacts.

It is of fundamental importance that, with common consent, an approach has been laid down which presupposes that the Northern Dimension projects between Russia and the European Union will be fitted into the general Russia-EU cooperation framework in the context of the implementation of the roadmaps for the four common spaces, endorsed at the Russia-European Union Summit in Moscow. So that there will be no duplication here. Many speakers today emphasized the necessity to conjugate efforts within the Northern Dimension framework with the activities of other Northern formats, including such organizations as the Arctic Council, and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.

Many today noted that Russia is a key participant in Northern Dimension projects. Our contribution and constructive approach to the preparation of the new principles for cooperation have received a high assessment. We are also satisfied with the fact that from now on the Northern Dimension will be developing on an equal, collective basis through the joint implementation of reciprocally beneficial projects.

Question: If I may, a little bit more to the south. What is the position of Russia in connection with the decision of Iran's parliament on possible blocking of IAEA inspections?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: I haven't heard that there was a decision to block IAEA inspections. I've heard that the Iranian parliament spoke out to the effect that the nuclear dossier of Iran should not be referred to the Security Council, otherwise Iran will start uranium enrichment activities. That is what I managed to hear today as I flew off from Moscow. We do not rule out the possibility that the Iranian question may be referred to the Security Council if a real threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction should arise. But we perceive no such threat at this stage. We consider that, with the present situation continuing, where Iran conducts no uranium enrichment activities, we ought to continue acting through the IAEA. The inspectors are working, they have access to all the facilities to which Iran is obliged to provide it as per Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and pursuant to the Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement. The inspectors expect to obtain additional information, and the latest report which the IAEA Director General has submitted to the Board of Governors again attests to supplementary progress in the direction of closing the issues that are still open. I repeat it, with such dynamics continuing, if not very rapid but steady, we see no grounds to change the present format of considering this question. As regards the various statements which politicians, public figures and parliaments are making - after all, this is not the policy of executive authority.

Question: What Northern Dimension projects are planned to be carried out in Russia?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: There are quite a few projects which are being carried out in Russia. So far, basically, they are projects within the framework of the environmental partnership and the incipient partnership in the area of social wellbeing and public health.

Question: Belarus is mentioned in the Declaration adopted today. What is its participation in the Northern Dimension?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: All the countries of the European Union participate in the Northern Dimension, and, as I have already said, EU nonmembers - Russia, Iceland and Norway. Belarus is a potential candidate for participation in the expert elaboration of the questions reflected in the document which was today adopted as guidelines handling future cooperation. We welcome such an approach. We hold that it is important to draw all interested countries into cooperation within the Northern Dimension framework. Let me recall that taking part in the work of the ministerial conference today were quite a few observers representing countries located in considerably more southern latitudes than Belarus.

Question: Can Northern Dimension cooperation really facilitate implementing the Russia-EU four common spaces?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: I have already said about that. It was we who advocated that the Northern Dimension should be planned and realized in such a context as to fit into the roadmaps. And all these four roadmaps, if you'll take a look, are mentioned in the Declaration which was adopted today. The long-term Northern Dimension projects are fitted to each specific area concerning the four roadmaps.

Question: Six years have after all passed since this initiative was put forward and then adopted by the European Union. How do you assess its results for Russia? Was it effective, and how beneficial?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We did not especially participate in it in practical terms, because we sought a change of the principles on which this initiative is being implemented. There were some concrete projects, but I have already spoken about this: we, most importantly, have today achieved a change of the conceptual basis on which to develop this cooperation further.

November 22, 2005

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