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Transcript of Remarks and Response to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Joint Press Conference Following Talks with Palestinian National Authority Minister of Foreign Affairs Riad Malki, Moscow, December 9, 2009


We devoted the main attention in the talks with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki to the situation in the Middle East. The situation causes us concern and we stressed that Russia is firmly committed to the task of realizing the lawful rights of the Palestinian people to establish an independent viable state which would live side by side with Israel in peace and security. There exists a strong international legal basis for that in the form of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map.

Russia vigorously assists efforts to overcome the obstacles on the path to peace in the region. We do this both in the framework of the activity of the international mediators in the UN Security Council and in our contacts with the parties, including the Palestinian leadership headed by Mahmoud Abbas, whom we regard as a universally recognized leader of the Palestinian people.

Today's most acute task is to halt Israeli settlement activity in Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, and this is not somebody's whim, it is a demand of the Security Council resolutions, a demand of international law, which all the parties, all the participants in this process have endorsed. In principle, all the stakeholders have also endorsed the need to avoid any unilateral action that would prejudice final status issues before mutually acceptable solutions are found through direct talks.

We are convinced that the extremely difficult situation in the Middle East peace process now requires the political will of the leaders of Israel and Palestine in order to resume negotiations. This would create conditions for convening the Moscow Middle East Conference, as agreed in the UN Security Council and within the Quartet. We are grateful to our Palestinian friends, who today reiterated their support for this approach. Clearly, the Quartet of international mediators should play an important role in establishing the conditions for resuming the peace process. We believe that it could at this stage be more active and we will think how to do it.

We also discussed the situation with respect to the restoration of Palestinian unity, which is an essential condition for progress of peace efforts; we actively support the work being undertaken by Egypt towards achieving reconciliation among the Palestinians. We contribute to those efforts, and in particular, will continue to work with Hamas.

The urgent humanitarian task at present is to lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip, whose ordinary residents cannot be in a hostage situation. It is also necessary to eliminate all the remaining obstacles to the movement of people and goods within the West Bank. Russia actively supports the need for increased international donor assistance to the Palestinians by taking part in the provision of humanitarian aid and financial grants. We are providing food, medicine and daily necessities, and will continue this support.

In general, our bilateral relations are close and friendly; we assist the Palestinians in building efficient state institutions and law enforcement agencies, help them overcome the acute socioeconomic problems. Last month saw the first meeting of the Russian-Palestinian Business Council in Moscow, which outlined very specific plans in this direction. Today we again reiterated our appreciation to our Palestinian friends for the assistance in strengthening the Russian presence in the Holy Land, and shared our plans for the development of the sites that were provided to us.

As to foreign policy cooperation, today we have just signed a Memorandum of Consultations between the Foreign Ministries of Russia and Palestine. We are pleased with how this cooperation is developing, we will strengthen it. Thank you.

Question: The European Union has stated its position on the status of Jerusalem. Could you comment on that?

Minister Lavrov: You know the European Union statement contains nothing new compared with what has long been enshrined in the United Nations Security Council resolutions, in the Madrid principles and in the statements of the Quartet. So, frankly, I do not particularly understand the excitement around this EU statement.

Question: Could you clarify when the Peace Conference will be held in Moscow and what are the obstacles in the way of this conference?

Minister Lavrov: I have already said that the International Middle East Conference in Moscow, by common consent, will be convened immediately after the resumption of negotiations. Its chief purpose is for the resumed negotiation process to be powerfully backed by the international community. We have such an understanding with the parties, including our Palestinian friends, and such an understanding exists in both the Quartet and the UN Security Council.

(Speaks after Malki): I can confirm that Russia recognized and continues to recognize the State of Palestine. The Ambassador of the State of Palestine in Moscow is absolutely a full-fledged ambassador, the same as the ambassador of any foreign state in the Russian Federation. As to the re-confirmation of this matter in the Security Council, because the Security Council has already stated its view on this subject, here, of course, it is up to our Palestinian friends. I can’t vouch for all members of the Security Council.

Question: A question on strategic offensive arms. Do you think that President Medvedev and President Obama could sign a new treaty this month, for example, in Copenhagen, before the end of the international conference on December 19?

Minister Lavrov: The question is simple. The treaty will be signed soon.

December 9, 2009