Transcript of Remarks and Replies to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Joint Press Conference with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Manila, August 3, 2007
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I would like to express my gratitude on my personal behalf and on behalf of our entire delegation to the leadership of the Philippines for the cordial welcome and hospitality.
The peoples of Russia and the Philippines are bound by feelings of friendship and mutual sympathy. We are satisfied that, in our common estimation, the visit to the Philippines, the meeting with President Gloria Arroyo and today’s talks with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo have helped advance our partnership further.
We are mutually satisfied with the high level of political dialogue and we have agreed to streamline the juridical base of our relations.
The agreements to be signed today will help enhance the effectiveness of, and practical dividends from our official contacts, broaden the possibilities for communication between our citizens and concretize the joint work on combating the narco-threat. A number of other agreements are being prepared. We agreed to accelerate the work on these documents.
We are keen on developing economic, commercial and investment cooperation. In the first place, through facilitation of direct contacts between businessmen of the two countries.
Good prospects exist for mutually advantageous cooperation in many fields, including energy, agriculture, education, culture, sport and tourism.
We are grateful to the Philippine leadership for the decision to grant Russians the possibility of visiting the Philippines for tourist purposes without visas for up to 21 days.
There is the reciprocal interest in a direct air link being resumed between the two countries.
It is gratifying to again state the identity or similarity of the two countries’ positions on a majority of regional and international issues.
We are convinced of the necessity to settle lingering conflicts in the region and the world as a whole on the basis of international law, with the UN playing a central role.
In conclusion I would like to thank my friend and colleague, the Foreign Affairs Secretary of the Philippines, for the excellent conduct of the events in the framework of cooperation between ASEAN and its partners. We stand for enhancing further the effectiveness of the ASEAN Regional Forum on security while preserving ASEAN’s central and consolidating role in this process.
Thanks also to the Philippines and Alberto Romulo personally for the contribution to developing our partnership with ASEAN, which he makes as coordinator of the Russian-ASEAN partnership.
Question: A quite tough statement came today from Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay regarding our successfully concluded expedition to the North Pole. Look, he said, this isn't the 14th or 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and claim a territory. It is known that the US State Department’s reaction is likewise not very positive. Could you comment on these statements?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I read reports of the statements made by my Canadian colleague, Peter MacKay. I know him quite well – it’s very unlike him. I was sincerely astonished by “flag planting.” No one engages in flag planting. When pioneers reach a point hitherto unexplored by anybody, it is customary to leave flags there. Such was the case on the Moon, by the way.
As to the legal aspect of the matter, we from the outset said that this expedition was part of the big work being carried out under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, within the international authority where Russia’s claim to submerged ridges which we believe to be an extension of our shelf is being considered. We know that this has to be proved. The ground samples that were taken will serve the work to prepare that evidence.
Question: In the light of the latest disagreement between Russia and Belarus over Russian gas supplies the European Commission issued a statement declaring that they were convening the Coordination Committee and that they were seriously concerned by this situation. How could you comment on this, especially considering the fact that, as you’ve already said, Russia is a reliable supplier and has never breached any of its obligations?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I can only reaffirm that we have indeed never breached a single contract. In this case the question is also one of implementing a contract that was concluded between Russian and Belarusian companies, including aspects of payment. I would not dramatize the situation. The representatives of the two sides are meeting today, and I think, by the time you go on air, there will already be clarity in this matter.
As for the concern being felt in the EU, they there know perfectly well that we conscientiously make gas deliveries to consumers who, in their turn, fulfill the contractual provisions. We have long since invited the EU as part of the energy dialogue to create a mechanism which would make it possible to include suppliers, consumer and transit countries in the process. Then the concern expressed by the EU, as also the calls to create a mechanism of early warning about possible supply interruptions will be satisfied. So far we have been unable to receive the EU’s consent to such a triple approach.
August 4, 2007