Ministers’ speeches

4 February 201911:29

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, Bishkek, February 4, 2019

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Mr Nifadyev,

Friends,

I am delighted to have this opportunity to once again visit the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, one of Kyrgyzstan’s leading institutions that is also highly respected across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Last year President of Russia Vladimir Putin sent a message of appreciation to the faculty and staff of the university to mark its 25th anniversary, as a sign of gratitude for their major contribution to preserving and promoting the Russian language and culture in Kyrgyzstan and across Central Asia.

Today’s meeting testifies to the high level of mutual understanding between the two countries. Russia and Kyrgyzstan are reliable allies as well as strategic partners. Our relations are underpinned by the principles of equality, mutual benefit and consideration of each other’s interests, and are immune to momentary shifts and fluctuations on the international arena. Maintaining regular, trust-based dialogue at the top level is decisive for ensuring steady progress in our relations. Preparing President of Russia Vladimir Putin’s state visit to the Kyrgyz Republic in the spring of 2019 is on today’s agenda.

Moscow is Bishkek’s leading trade and economic partner. Mutual trade is expanding steadily, having increased by more than 30 per cent in the first eleven months of 2018. Major Russian companies such as Gazprom, Russian Railways, Rosneft, Rosatom and more than 680 joint ventures operate effectively in Kyrgyzstan. Of course, inter-regional ties play an important role with more than 40 Russian regions maintaining contacts in this framework.

There is also momentum in cultural and educational ties. We are delighted by the fact that more and more people in Kyrgyzstan want to learn Russian, and your university exemplifies this trend. More than 16,000 students from Kyrgyzstan currently study in Russia. As many as 350 state scholarships were allocated to the citizens of Kyrgyzstan for the current academic year alone.

I have just had a meeting with President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov, who reaffirmed the commitment by the country’s leadership to promote Russian as a means of interethnic communication and an official language.

Last year we marked the 90th birthday of a remarkable writer and public figure Chinghiz Aitmatov, whose creative career was inseparable from the Russian language, as well as diplomacy, as we all know. On December 6, President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin unveiled a monument to this great son of the Kyrgyz people.

Maintaining an intense dialogue on foreign policy matters is an essential factor of Russia-Kyrgyzstan allied relations. Our two countries are committed to a peaceful, neighbourly policy based on the single principles and norms enshrined in the UN Charter. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia goes to great lengths to strengthen global and regional stability, facilitating the emergence of an architecture based on equal and indivisible security. We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to working together with all foreign partners, in all fields and formats, but based on international law, mutual respect and a balance of interests.

Our absolute priorities include efforts to further strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation with countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Kyrgyzstan is an active member of the CIS and leads the way in the number of signed CIS documents. We praise the joint efforts to further unlock the large-scale potential of the CIS.

The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) is making a substantial contribution to maintaining Eurasian security. The Russian air base in Kyrgyzstan is an inalienable component of the Organisation’s collective rapid response forces and reliably shields the entire region from external threats. The CSTO’s operations Channel and Illegal Immigrant to counter illegal drug trafficking and illegal migration have received broad international acclaim, including on the part of the UN. Kyrgyzstan presides over the CSTO this year. Bishkek’s stated priorities meet the interests of all CSTO member states; and we also discussed this with President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov today.

I would like to single out our cooperation within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union. From the very beginning, Russia has provided financial and technical support to Kyrgyzstan for adapting its economy to the Eurasian Economic Union’s environment as soon as possible, and it continues to provide such assistance.

Today, the Union which functions in line with WTO principles has a total GDP of $2.2 trillion and over 182 million consumers. It is an organic factor of global politics and economics. Common commodity, service, capital and workforce markets have been established and function successfully. The Eurasian Economic Union’s Customs Code was approved and enacted in January last year.

Last year, when Russia presided in this integration association, we mostly aimed to boost practical results of its activities for business circles and ordinary citizens of our countries. In the first three quarters of 2018,  trade within the Union  increased by 12 per cent and reached $44 billion. They totaled $55 billion in January-November 2018. Trade with external partners soared by 21 per cent, to reach $548 billion, mostly by boosting exports of Union member countries.

The EAEU continues to strengthen its external contacts. A free trade area with Vietnam functions successfully. Talks are underway to sign similar agreements with Israel, Serbia and Singapore. A temporary agreement, signed with Iran, is a step towards establishing a free trade area. There are plans to hold the relevant consultations with Egypt and India. In all, various countries and associations have submitted about 50 proposals on establishing partner ties with the EAEU.

Regulations on the status of the Union’s observer state were passed last year. This allows states that are interested in Eurasian integration to directly evaluate the benefits of such cooperation. The Republic of Moldova has already obtained the relevant status.

The EAEU’s expanded external ties fit nicely into broader efforts to streamline the Eurasian infrastructure. Work is underway to merge our Union’s plans with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In May 2018, the EAEU and the People’s Republic of China signed a trade and economic cooperation agreement. Russia and China are drafting an agreement that will be open for signing by other interested countries. We are discussing prospects for merging Eurasian infrastructure projects with the Northern Sea Route.  

Harmonising two integration initiatives lays the foundation for forming a progressive model of economic cooperation in Eurasia that is based on the UN Charter, the WTO regulations, mutually complementary national growth strategies and shared potential of multilateral projects.

This is exactly the vector proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to create the Greater Eurasian Partnership, a space free from various barriers, for extensive cooperation involving member states of the EAEU, the SCO and ASEAN.

Important documents were adopted in favour of this approach following a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council on December 6, 2018 in St Petersburg, the summit in Qingdao last June, and the Russia-ASEAN summit in November 2018 in Singapore where a memorandum was signed between the Eurasian Economic Commission and ASEAN.

We are interested in engaging EU countries in these processes, which would objectively facilitate forming a common economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok based on the common continental architecture of equal and indivisible security.

Most importantly, we need to finally abandon the zero-sum game logic according to which our Western colleagues try to force an artificial choice on former Soviet states: Russia or the West. We must not allow the “strategists” promoting this logic to continue this potentially explosive neocolonial course which has already resulted in an extremely serious crisis in Ukraine.

We support improving contacts between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the European Commission, between the CIS and the European Union, between the CSTO and NATO. We can see that our Western colleagues are not willing to communicate in these formats on equal terms. We are taking this easy. The arrogance and the feeling of superiority never served anybody well. Time will come and life will set things straight.

We expect that the OSCE will make its contribution to harmonising the economic, military, political and humanitarian processes across the Euroatlantic region since it was initially created to eliminate the old and to prevent any new dividing lines. 

Colleagues,

Friends,

The tasks for our countries and for the organisations in which Moscow and Bishkek are involved are indeed ambitious. We can only succeed together. I would like to quote the words of Chinghiz Aitmatov: “We have lived side by side with the Russian people for over 100 years. There is nothing that could divide us. On the contrary, we are united in everything, in labour, in fighting and in our dreams.” I believe that Chinghiz Aitmatov’s words of wisdom are just as relevant in the current historical circumstances. We can overcome even the most complicated problems, as long as the friendship between the fraternal peoples of Russia and the Kyrgyz Republic remains unshakable.

Thank you. I am ready to take your questions.

Question: Please comment on the statement by newly appointed Kyrgyz Ambassador to Russia Alikbek Jekshenkulov about the possible opening of a new Russian military base here.

Sergey Lavrov: Mr Jekshenkulov is here and can answer this question himself. It was not Russia’s initiative, and this is the first time we are hearing about it. We are always ready to discuss ideas related to security and the economy that our Kyrgyz friends have.

Question: We always think of Russian-Kyrgyz cooperation when we speak about the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University. But the abbreviation also contains the letter S, for “Slavic” university. What are the prospects for involving other Slavic countries to improve the university’s educational activity? For instance, Belarus could also be part of the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University.

Sergey Lavrov: It is a bit awkward to comment on a question for the Belarusian party or other Slavic countries. I can only say that this is not the only Slavic university. There are similar ones in Tajikistan and Armenia. If their leaders and teaching staff see added value in it, then coordination and exchange of experience between them would be quite useful.

As for the financial side, the university does not lack funding. We are interested in its efficiency, and as co-founders, we will ensure that it remains well funded. If there are other countries involved that are able to co-finance this project, we would appreciate it. If you have concrete proposals, we are ready to discuss them.

Question: Is there any progress within the international community in restoring infrastructure in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa and securing funding to this effect from Western countries?

Sergey Lavrov: There is little I can add regarding the policy carried out by the leading Western countries in the Middle East and North Africa: in Iraq, Syria, Libya and a number of other countries. Of course, this policy is irresponsible and destructive. President of the United States Donald Trump said yesterday that the invasion of Iraq was one of the greatest mistakes. Nevertheless, they persist with their policy of invading countries ruled by regimes the US disfavours. Restoring a single cohesive state has been extremely challenging in Iraq, and major problems have yet to be resolved there. The US occupiers assumed the control over the entire country, dissolved Baath, a Sunni party, and disbanded the country’s security forces and the army, where Sunnis had almost all the command posts. Now we have to face the consequences of this US-sponsored outrage along ethnic lines. The Shias were placed at the helm following the occupation and the war, and now they face the extremely challenging task of establishing ties with the Sunnis. In addition to this, Sunni officers who were expelled from the security forces, the army and the police have become one of the most effective elements of the so-called Islamic State, and all this just because they lost their jobs. These people are not driven by ideology, they are not religious fanatics, but they have to earn a living. Everyone who works on these matters recognises that it is the former officers from Saddam Hussein’s army who were behind almost all the successful operations by ISIS. This does not mean that the fight against ISIS is over. Its backbone has been broken, but sparse units are still out there, and we must prevent them from uniting; they must be destroyed.

In Libya, UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was grossly violated. The resolution provided for the creation of a no-fly zone in Libya in order to prevent Muammar Qaddafi’s air force from shelling civilians. After its adoption there were no planes in the Libyan air space. However, NATO decided that it would be a good pretext for doing away with this government. Muammar Qaddafi and his government were literally wiped out. We can now see what came out of it. Libya has become a black hole. Unlike Iraq, the state was destroyed almost entirely, and efforts to piece it back together again have been unsuccessful so far. Criminals, terrorists and arms and drug dealers are heading south through the Libyan territory. Terrorist groups such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko-Haram, Al-Shabab and other terrorist groups have begun establishing contacts with each other. They are now coordinating their operations very effectively across a vast territory from North Africa to the Sahara-Sahel Region. South-north migrant waves are heading to Europe through Libyan territory, and have already caused a serious crisis in Europe, becoming an apple of discord within the European Union. It is unclear how all this can be regulated at this stage. I fully agree with you that those who “broke pots” as “bulls in a china shop” must also piece these pots back together. When last year the international community had to agree on migration-related problems, and the Global Compact on Migration was adopted to this effect, our Western colleagues focused their efforts on inserting into the document the note that “all countries share responsibility for the consequences of the migration crisis.” We strongly opposed this notion of “shared responsibility.” We were not the ones who intervened in Libya, destroyed the state and created problems that I have just mentioned. We will not agree to attempts to shift the blame on someone else.

You are also aware of how Syria was also on the brink of finding itself in the same situation as Iraq and Libya. Russia supported the legitimate government, and it is this support that paved the way to disrupting the terrorist core. There are still things to be done, including to defeat a terrorist hotbed in Idlib and ensure that the legitimate government restores control over the Euphrates’ eastern bank, while also agreeing on measures to ensure safety on the Syria-Iraq border, as well as measures that would not only ensure humanitarian access to Syria, but also help restore infrastructure and prepare it for the return of refugees and internally displaced people.

There is also a political track in these efforts whereby Russia, Turkey and Iran came forward with the initiative to establish a Constitutional Committee based on the resolutions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress that took place in Sochi one year ago. This work is almost complete. The Syrian settlement will be reviewed in all its aspects in ten-days-time at the regular summit meeting of Russian, Turkish and Iranian presidents in Sochi.

Question: Will Russia take any radical measures in case of military interference in Venezuela?

Sergey Lavrov: Speaking about Venezuela, the United States makes no secret of its intention to replace its government at all costs. President Donald Trump said in his comments yesterday that the option of sending US military to Venezuela was still on the table. I believe it is clear to everyone that this policy is undermining the very foundations of international law. But it is surprising that the EU has promptly lined up and is emulating the United States by advancing ultimatums and claiming that the election of Nicolas Maduro for a second presidential term was illegitimate. Let us look at the matter from the viewpoint of common logic. The election was held in May 2018. As per the Venezuelan tradition, the elected president should be inaugurated on January 10, 2019. Why have they declared Maduro’s election illegitimate only now? Why didn’t they do this in May 2018? The current situation was clearly inspired and orchestrated. We will continue to uphold international law and the initiatives some Latin American countries, for example, Mexico and Uruguay, have advanced. These initiatives aim to create conditions for an inclusive national dialogue among all political forces in Venezuela.

We have taken note, with satisfaction, that President Nicolas Maduro has said more than once that he is ready for a dialogue without any ultimatums or preconditions. Regrettably, the Venezuelan opposition led by Juan Guaido has rejected Maduro’s offer and has issued an ultimatum to the president to step down and cede his powers to the opposition. This is not a dialogue but the enforcement of one’s will on the other side. That this is being done with direct incitement from Washington and, recently, Europe is evidence of our Western colleagues’ values in the sphere of international politics.

I have mentioned the initiative advanced by Uruguay and Mexico, which have offered to act as mediators between all Venezuela’s political forces. I also said that we support this idea. Unfortunately, Europe, not Latin America, is peddling a different form of international mediation. The EU has proposed establishing a contact group comprising eight EU member countries and eight Latin American countries. The criteria for the choice of group members are perfectly obscure. Russia, China and the United States have not been invited to join this group. What makes the EU think that it has the right to dictate the terms of international mediation? I don’t know. I think it would be more civilised and more effective if all those who want to find a solution to the Venezuelan crisis got together to discuss ways to help the country before announcing any decisions.

The EU’s claim to the role of the leading mediator invites questions, because the idea of mediation has been advanced by the countries from the contact group the majority of which, if not all of them, support the ultimatum that expires today. Eight days ago they demanded that Nicolas Maduro call a new presidential election. This means that today these intermediaries will recognise his opponent as the new legitimate acting president. This is not what mediation is about. This is an ultimatum, not an attempt to find a common denominator.

Question: Many graduates of the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University would like to get established in Russia, but they face problems. They say that our diplomas are not recognised in Russia. I would like to hear from you if it is really so?

Sergey Lavrov: I haven’t heard about any employment problems of a systemic nature. Life is life. Most probably it did happen that someone could not get the job that he wanted. But it does not mean that everything should be attributed to an inferiority of education or diploma.

Just today my Kyrgyz colleagues and I discussed a situation that arose at the University in the medical sphere. As a result of educational reform in Kyrgyzstan medical residency will develop here differently than in Russia. It was decided at once to set up a working group to find a solution which would deal with the problem. So I do not see any serious issues in the question you just asked me.

Question: Several years ago Vesti FM broadcasting was cancelled in Kyrgyzstan under the pretext that half of broadcasting should be in Russian and half in Kyrgyz. Does it seem to you that the Russian Federation made a mistake because it lost a platform for advancing its political positions?

Sergey Lavrov: You know, it wasn’t our decision. Probably, the more sources of information, the wider is the choice for those interested in politics and life in the neighbouring countries. I don’t know the reasons. They were probably financial. Still I do not think that the authorities in Kyrgyzstan are interested in curtailing the Russian-language space.

Today at our meeting with President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov he stated clearly that the Russian language was an asset to the Kyrgyz people and represented an additional employment opportunity in the CIS. The President has reaffirmed his interest in consolidating and expanding the Russian-language space. We have agreed on some measures.

When a certain situation arises, the relevant agencies should come to terms with each other. Hopefully, this won’t affect the possibility for communicating information about Russia to Kyrgyz citizens.

Question: What steps will Russia take on the Kuril Islands?

Sergey Lavrov: And what should Russia do? We want our Japanese colleagues to clearly recognise the obvious, that is, the results of World War II, including full recognition of and respect for the sovereignty of the Russian Federation, including the Kuril Islands you mentioned. We will not be able to start any conversation without this.

Question: Your Ministry has a wonderful literary association called Otdushina (Release). Does it have your books in it?

Sergey Lavrov: No, but it publishes almanacs that include my verse.

Question: Is your poem “Embassy” the anthem of your literary association or the Ministry?

Sergey Lavrov: It was not designed to be an anthem of anything. It was written for the 200th anniversary of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Question: The prospect of a cold war in the current conditions has again become topical due to the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty. What could you say about this?

Sergey Lavrov: There were plenty of comments on this. President of Russia Vladimir Putin also commented on this situation.

I don’t think the stakes are a cold war, as you said. We have entered a new era where the US has embarked on a course towards destroying the entire arms control system, including the limitation of strategic offensive weapons. This is unfortunate. Experts on the US are already predicting the end of the last treaty in this area – the 2010 Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that expires in 2021.

We do not seek the arms race that characterised the Cold War era. President of Russia Vladimir Putin made a very clear statement in this regard. Needless to say, we will take military-technical measures to counter the threats created by the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty and the US plans to develop low-yield nuclear warheads that, in the unanimous estimate of experts from the West, Russia and other countries, will sharply lower the threshold for the use of nuclear arms and make a nuclear conflict more likely. We will carry out these measures using funds already included in the Defence Ministry budget.

Another important point that many noted but I would like to emphasise again – there is no shortage of initiatives covering problems related to arms, production of new types of weapons and strategic stability in the modern world. In the past few years the Russian Federation has repeatedly put forward such initiatives, inviting the US to start talking about these issues and to discuss these topics in NATO. The last time these proposals were made was during the meeting between Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump in Helsinki in July 2018. We suggested an incremental approach to setting up new arms limitation talks, starting, for instance, with a joint Russian-US declaration on the unacceptability of nuclear war. All of our proposals were either rejected or ignored. As you probably know, President Vladimir Putin announced on Saturday that these initiatives are still on the table but we are not going to rush to remind our Western partners about them. When they come to realise their responsibility for the problems created by US policy we will welcome them – the doors are open. Come and we will talk as equals, taking into account each other's lawful interests rather than far-fetched ones. For example, the US said it does not want to have opponents with comparable capabilities but this is a dictatorial rather than legitimate interest.

We are always open to talk as equals based on the security concerns of the relevant countries and the rest of humankind.

Question: I did not plan on turning this into an Aytysh poetic battle, but my two questions are actually rhymed. Since you are interested in poetry, allow me to speak poetically to you. Our road often lies across thin ice; we move not knowing how we could achieve compliance with all the laws and rules adopted in Russia and Kyrgyzstan. But this disaster is becoming graver and spreading by the hour. I have been ordered by my faculty to tell you we consider sadly this dark cleft where we are to fall inevitably, perhaps in months or in another year. But, if this school is truly interstate, can there be a chance that you would find it proper to give us rights to modestly decide which model to comply with? While being so fed up with this predicament, we’re humbly asking for an official document that could help us.

My second question concerns our military department. There’s no impediment to military medicine in Kyrgyzstan; but Russia, we hear, has cancelled it. What is there to do? We deem it reasonable when a doctor could join the service, and not shy away from being invited to serve in Kyrgyzstan or Russia.

Sergey Lavrov: I have one answer to both questions. Unlike what I have heard so far, if there really are difficulties with the legal registration of education in this institution, which I greatly respect, then send them to us.

It is not the Foreign Ministry’s job but we will definitely figure this out, involving the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Healthcare, the Ministry of Defence, and find the reasons for the problems you formulated.

Today, a young man asked me why employers refuse to hire people with degrees from the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University. I have not heard of such situations. I admit that they could happen. But surely, there were many cases when employers refused people with degrees from MGIMO University of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Moscow State University. It depends on the person, whether they did not just get a formal paper, but meet the requirements for the position they seek in the public service or in the private sector. If there are problems, and we start talking about all of them now, the time will run out.

I am not a professional in this matter. Please, send your proposals to Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kyrgyz Republic Andrey Krutko. I presume that the Rector should also see them. If there are actually any things there that require changing the intergovernmental agreement, we will definitely do it and see what can be done.

Vladimir Nifadyev (rector of KRSU): I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kyrgyz Republic, Andrey Krutko, for giving his time and making the effort to figure out our complex problems and personally addressing them.

Question: As far as diplomacy is concerned, Japan and Korea are closer to the United States. How is trade carried out between Russia and the EAEU, on the one hand, and Korea and Japan, on the other hand, in particular for companies like RUSAL? Are they allowed to trade at full scale? For example, if a Korean company orders delivery of one tonne or ten tonnes of products, and Russia is unable to carry out…

Sergey Lavrov: What do you mean Russia is unable to do something? For what reason?

Question: RUSAL has faced this problem recently.

Sergey Lavrov: RUSAL is interested in higher sales, and has said so publicly. It is true that there were issues with deliveries when the company was targeted by the US and faced unacceptable measures that undermined the entire aluminium market. However, it was not that RUSAL did not want to make money in Japan or South Korea.

Question: So there are no bans there and everything is possible?

Sergey Lavrov: I have not heard about any bans. A company cannot face any bans by definition when trading with partners from any country. The Russian government did not introduce any bans to this effect. We seek to encourage business activity instead of undermining it, unlike the US.

Question: You work in a very responsible position. How does it feel every time you have to take big decisions?

Sergey Lavrov: I have never thought about it. But since you are asking, I can thank you for your compassion.

Question: How effective is Russia’s soft power in Central Asia in general and in Kyrgyzstan in particular?

Sergey Lavrov: It is not up to us to judge the effectiveness of Russia’s soft power. It is up to those who want to be friends with Russia, who live in this region and aspire to good, close and friendly relations.

To put some numbers to this matter, investment in this region has been in the billions of US dollars over the past years. In addition, we are creating channels for providing financial grants. For Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and partly Uzbekistan, we are talking about several hundred million dollars over the past ten years. But that is far from all.

Russian media outlets work here despite some specific cases when some of them decided to scale down their operations. Media interchange is a more or less established channel of communication.

There is also the mechanism offered by the Eurasian Fund for Stabilisation within the EAEU. Russia contributes just under $600 million to this fund, which is another important source for obtaining loans.

Some 50,000 students from Central Asia are currently enrolled in Russian universities, and many of them benefit from scholarships financed from the state budget.

Question: Four Central Asian countries are about to adopt Latin script. What is the future for the Russian language in this region?

Sergey Lavrov: During our meeting today, President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov assured me that the country’s leadership is interested in preserving, expanding and developing the Russian-language space. Neighbouring Tajikistan has some experience in this field, since it has been running a skills upgrade programme for Russian language teachers by sending them to take training courses in Russian universities, as well as having experienced teachers come to Tajikistan from Russia. I had the impression that President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov expressed interest in an initiative of this kind. If Kyrgyzstan is really interested, we will definitely develop a programme of this kind. I know that the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University does a great deal in this regard. However, this is much broader in scope, and could be designed to reach remote mountain areas where teachers are in short supply.

Question: There have been reports about political re-education camps in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Can you confirm these reports or are they inaccurate?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not aware of this. I read only recently that the US has been actively raising this issue, including through its embassy in Beijing. We do not interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries and do not try to look for stumbling blocks in our relations with China that have never been as good as they are at this point in time. We maintain a mutually respectful dialogue.

We are aware of the fact that there is a sense of urgency to deal with extremism in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. We also know that several hundred or even a thousand extremists from this region joined the ranks of ISIS and other terrorist organisations in Syria and other countries in the Middle East. We are interested in coordinating our actions in this sphere not just between Russia and China, but also with other CSTO and SCO countries so as to deal in a more effective manner with the issue of terrorists coming to the Middle East from Central Asia, Russia and China. As they are pushed out of the Middle East, what remains of these groups seek to return to their countries of origin or reach third countries. It is essential that we prevent travel of this kind.

Question: The EAEU is becoming an increasingly important factor in the global economy with other countries beginning to notice and show interest in it. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are the two Central Asian countries that are part of this integration association. Could other Central Asian countries join this union?

Sergey Lavrov: We would certainly welcome it. One of the options is to become an EAEU observer, as Moldova did. We are interested in having Central Asian countries and other CIS members that are not part of the EAEU become observers in order to get a better insight into how this association operates and what benefits it offers. Based on this information they can decide on whether joining the EAEU makes sense for them.

Question: Would it be possible to create a summer exchange programme for medical students?

Sergey Lavrov: Promoting exchanges is always a good idea. If you were to ask me whether an exchange programme could be created for diplomats, I would say that we are ready to arrange internships of this kind.

As for medical students, all exchanges are beneficial, but it is not up to me to decide whether this is possible.

Question: What opportunities does Russia offer in Central Asia in terms of education?

Sergey Lavrov: There are two universities: one in Bishkek, and the other in Dushanbe. A Russian school named after Alexander Pushkin opened in Ashgabat, and its curriculum is based on Russian educational standards. Many people are learning Russian there, just like here or in Tajikistan. We would like Russian schools offering Russian educational standards to operate not only in each country in Central Asia, but also in the CIS in order to expand educational opportunities. Graduates will have two diplomas, and this interoperability and complementarity are very important.

In education, our options include faculty exchanges, internships and Russian language courses. We see how this corresponds with the interests of Kyrgyzstan’s leadership.

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