Transcript of Remarks and Replies to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov Following His Participation in the 14th Session of the ASEAN Regional Forum on Security, Manila, Philippines, August 2, 2007
Foreign Minister Lavrov: The concluded 14th meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum on security has borne out the fact that this entity remains the key multilateral mechanism for political dialogue and cooperation in the region. It continues to exert a stabilizing influence on the political process taking place here. The overwhelming majority of participants spoke in favor of tackling all problems on the basis of an equal political dialogue, via reaching generally acceptable solutions.
It was in this vein that the situation with the problem of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula was examined. Everybody welcomed the progress achieved in the framework of the six-party talks, the first and concrete moves on the road towards implementing the agreements, and spoke for subsequent stages to be covered as successfully, with all the parties fulfilling their commitments. Many mentioned that the flexibility shown by the participants in the six-way talks could serve as an example for solving the Iranian nuclear problem. Support was expressed for the proposals which the six countries maintaining contacts with Iran made through European Union High Commissioner Javier Solana. He also attended the meeting I mentioned and reaffirmed his orientation towards further contacts with his Iranian partners. First and foremost, to induce them to translate into the language of practical actions the positive shifts that have now appeared in relations between Iran and the IAEA, close all the questions the IAEA still has about Iran’s nuclear activities and arrive at full-scale cooperation. It will be recalled that the lack of such cooperation with the IAEA on the part of Iran served, in fact, as the reason for this entire situation that we are now trying to resolve. We will hope that the cautious optimism which many now feel in this regard will grow stronger as Iran fulfills its promises to cooperate with the IAEA.
The situations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East were examined. Although these regions lie far from the Asia-Pacific region, what’s happening there is of direct concern to Muslim countries, which are quite a few among the ASEAN members and partners. A unanimous thought was voiced in favor of trying to find solutions that would rest on mutual agreements between the sides, on the consolidation of national consensus in Afghanistan and in Iraq and in the Palestinian territories, where a schism is currently being observed.
Apart from these problems, the meeting participants considered mechanisms for the further strengthening of cooperation within the framework of the security forum in the AP region. Counterterrorism stood out as the top priority among them. A document was approved, concretizing the forms and methods of further joint work on antiterrorist problems. Also at the Russian Federation’s initiative, an important statement was adopted that orients the participants of this forum toward promoting intercivilizational dialogue and harmony. This theme is fairly new. It was included in the agenda on our proposal. We thank all who actively backed up this important new area of our joint activity.
Another question on which a concrete decision was made is the recommendations on the principles for cooperation on natural disaster prevention and management. We know how exposed this region is to all kinds of natural cataclysms. I am convinced that arranging systemic work in this area, which Russia has long since been advocating, will also help to prepare better for surprises.
Apart from this, a whole array of decisions concerns other current work programs. Organizational matters were also examined, including applications from new states for membership in this process. We actively supported the application from Kazakhstan. A decision was made to return to its consideration as soon as possible.
By and large, the outcomes of the meeting permit us to reaffirm the conclusion that the regional forum for cooperation by ASEAN with its partners is an important entity, and that the Russian presence here is welcomed and seen now as a matter of course, as an integral part of the process of integration and the creation of security systems.
Question: At what stage are consultations on the deployment of MD systems in Europe at present?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: The first round of consultations was held, a second round will take place in Moscow in about a month’s time. At the first round we presented our detailed written proposals concretizing the initiatives that Russian President Putin put forward at the meeting with US President Bush. The American side took these proposals to study. Their first discussion took place so as to be able to get ready better for the second round. In turn, the American colleagues stated their reasons for the plans they have for deploying a third national missile defense position area in Eastern Europe. Honestly speaking, we did not hear any new convincing proofs that to repulse the threats which this area is intended to fight it is necessary to place it precisely there and precisely the way the American partners suggest. We again and in greater detail than before showed that the initiative of President Putin corresponded best to the objective assessment of the threats that now exist. I repeat the American side will also give us an official written answer to our proposal. We, at least, are ready for a conscientious, honest negotiation process at subsequent rounds as well.
In parallel, as you know, we explain our position on this question in the framework of pan-European cooperation, in particular, in the Russia-NATO Council. Since to a decisive degree it is a question of protecting Europe from missile threats European countries must, of course, be direct participants of this process, which ideally is designed to lead in the end to the formation of a pool of interested states, united by a common understanding of threats and jointly elaborated collective agreements on how to deal with those threats. The Russian President spoke in favor of this, it was an integral part of his proposal. All our initiatives represent a package from which it is difficult and indeed impossible to tear away any individual part, since in just this shape, in our deep conviction, it offers the most effective response to real, now existing challenges.
Question: Regarding our Arctic expedition. It is known that its aim is to widen the Russian border zone. Other countries are also laying claims to the Arctic shelf. How are these questions going to be tackled from the diplomacy point of view?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: From the diplomacy point of view these questions can be tackled solely on the basis of international law, the International Convention on the Law of the Sea and in the framework of the mechanisms that have in accordance with it been created for determining the borders of states which have a continental shelf – in cases where some country is interested that its shelf would extend beyond the established 200-mile zone. The aim of this expedition is not to stake a claim to the rights of Russia, but to prove that our shelf extends to the Arctic Pole. There are concrete scientific methods for that. I think that the carrying out of the expedition, including the descent of a bathyscaphe to the Arctic floor under the North Pole, will help to obtain additional scientific proofs of what we are going to achieve.
Question: Did you discuss at the meeting with Alexander Downer the theme of the upcoming first visit by Russian President Putin to Sydney? Are any agreements being prepared for signing?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: We surely discussed with my Australian counterpart the upcoming visit of President Putin to Sydney to attend an APEC summit and hold bilateral talks with the Australian Prime Minister. Several different agreements are being prepared towards this visit. I hope they will all be ready for signing. So far the work is in its concluding stage.
August 3, 2007