Russian Foreign Secretary S.V. Lavrov’s speech and answers to mass media questions during the joint press conference on results of negotiations with Belgian Foreign Secretary D. Reynders, Moscow, January 28, 2013

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

We have conducted really profound talks on bilateral questions, the situation in Europe, Middle-East, North Africa, and other international problems. We have arrived at a consensus view that relations between Russia and Belgium are developing quite well, primarily in the field of economics We have a wide agenda in the humanitarian field and a good political dialogue. Speaking of economics, Belgium is a permanent and reliable business partner, and in spite of economic crisis we are able to keep the trade turnover at a good level which exceeded 10 billion dollars in the last year. Investment cooperation is developing rapidly. Belgian companies are actively settling in the  Russian Federation. I would like to note their activity in the regions of our country. Our companies are also expanding into Belgium and encounter a reasonable approach to their plans.. We expect that any questions which may arise with regard to investment cooperation will be resolved on the basis of mutually acceptable agreements with the necessary political support and encouragement from our governments.

We proceed from the fact that a regular 9th session of joint commission on economic cooperation between Russian Federation and Belgium-Luxembourg economic union, headed by D. Reynders on Belgium’s part, will be held in Brussels this autumn. Before my colleague became the Foreign Secretary, he had headed the Ministry of Finance for almost 10 years. That’s why we are interested to hear his assessment of the prospects to overcome Eurozone problems.

We have discussed the cooperation  between Russia and European Union. We appreciate the constructive stand of Belgium in favour of intensifying our partnership and advancement with the  visa-free dialogue. We have examined the state of affairs in the Russia-NATO Council. We have a mutual understanding of the necessity to consolidate relations on the principle of equal and indivisible security, which was proclaimed upon the  Council’s  creation, and the execution of relations between Russia and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Among regional problems, the events in Syria, Mali, and the Great Lakes region alarm us the most. We deem that it is necessary to seek solutions that will facilitate the quickest calming of the situation and move quickly to effectively help end violence and solve humanitarian problems that are multiplying in all of these hot points.

Undoubtedly, we have compared notes on a number of other questions, including Iranian Nuclear Program, persisting conflict situations, including the Transdniestria’s  problem, and the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. We share a mutual interest in this search for solutions which, I repeat, will be in the interest   of  all parties concerned and based on correct  principles.

I deem that overall  the negotiations were productive and I expect our dialogue to continue. My colleague has invited me to visit Belgium and I gladly receive this invitation. The terms of the visit will be agreed later.

Question: Lately the US Secretary of State nominee J. Kerry commented on  the situation in Syria by saying that the settlement of conflict is impossible without Russia. Does this mean that the Americans understand the necessity of the return to the Geneva communiqué or that they search for other solution?

S.V. Lavrov: I hope that USA understands the necessity of doing everything possible to implement the  Geneva communiqué. When my future colleague mentions the necessity of help on part of Russia, I may answer that we are already rendering such help by supporting efforts on the settlement. It was Russia together with K. Annan who initiated a meeting in Geneva on June 30, 2012, at which within the scope of the conference marathon, which lasted for more than 8 hours, we were able to agree  the said communiqué. The key main content of this document are the responsibilities of all the Geneva meeting participants, to demand an end to the bloodshed from all Syrian parties, and from the  government and the opposition  and the – assignment of negotiators who should reach a consensus regarding the  composition and responsibilities  of “transitional governing body”. This is the heart of Geneva agreements. Why  they are not implemented now is still a riddle for me. We are actively helping their progress by working with both the Syrian government and all opposition groups without exception, whereas most of the other Geneva meeting participants, only work with the opposition, and in one direction.

At the present point our help should aim at convincing all Geneva meeting participants to realize the existing sad truth in Syria, and stop supporting war “till final victory”, because that is the position of those who demand the removal  of President B. Asada, somehow or other. It is necessary to help them join our work with both opposition and government so that the key elements of the Geneva scheme is nevertheless implemented.

Taking this opportunity I would like to comment on  its other aspect. Recently in answer to requests of Russian citizens (mostly female) who permanently reside in Syria, have  we helped them move to Russia on aircrafts of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, which were delivering humanitarian aid in the region, I heard another comment from an US State Department official representative. She stated that she perceives evidence of Russia’s disappointment in the regime and discontinuation of its support. We have never been “fascinated” by the regime and have never supported it. All our activities that were aimed at assisting the implementation of the Geneva agreement on “transitional governing body” formation, confirm that we seek the stabilization of the situation and the creation of conditions that will allow the Syrians themselves to decide the fate of their people, country, and  governing body. That is the basis of our position, not the support of one or another “personage” of this tragedy. I hope that our colleagues from other countries will more properly comment on  the events in Syria with respect to  Russia’s activities.

Question: Last week the USA announced its withdrawal from the Civil Society Working Group of Russian-American Presidential Commission. Has the Russian party received an official notice with this regard? How can you comment the situation?

S.V. Lavrov: American representatives told us that they had made a decision to close down the activity of this working group. We have initially learnt  of this in the  public arena s. Officially the representatives of the US State Department have conveyed this to us not on paper, but by word of mouth.

The creation of the Civil Society Group within the Presidential Commission framework was initiated by USA. We have supported this initiative, considering a direct channel of dialogue between the Administrations in Moscow and Washington to be useful. If at present the Americans  has lost interest in such a direct channel, then it is their choice. We cannot  save the group if they are no longer interested in it.

It is possible that USA’s position is explained by the fact, that a report of Russian MFA’s Authorized representative for human rights, democracy and supremacy of law, K.K. Dolgov, regarding human rights status in USA appeared last year. Perhaps our American colleagues considered that this report would be enough for them to understand Russia’s position. I can tell you no more.

Question: According to some statements, on January 28-29 a meeting of the “Six” of international mediators with the representatives of Teheran on the Iranian nuclear dossier should have taken place. As far as I know, the meeting has not taken place. Is there any comprehension of when and where may it be held?

S.V. Lavrov: The meeting is indeed postponed . To my great regret, the reasons for such delays are absolutely unsatisfactory. Some of the “Six” partners and Iranian party still cannot come to an agreement on exactly where to meet – in what country, on what city. An ideological dispute is underway over  the location of  the meeting. I see no reason in continuing such a “viscous” talk on trivial matter at large. We are ready to meet at any place, as soon as possible. We deem that the essence of negotiations to be more important than the entourage that one or another settlement may create. I hope that common sense will prevail and we will stop being capricious like little children.