26 April 2018
Moscow: 10:42
London: 08:42

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Alfonso Dastis Quecedo

Ladies and gentlemen,

We had very productive talks during which we discussed the entire range of bilateral relations.

Spain is an old and reliable partner for Russia. As you know, this year we marked 40 years of the actual resumption of diplomatic relations between our countries. It is a fact that our bilateral relations go back centuries. Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich sent the first Russian embassy led by Pyotr Potyomkin to Spain 350 years ago.

We stated with mutual regret today that Russian-Spanish cooperation, which we want to develop to the best of our ability, is negatively influenced by the difficult situation in Europe. In this context, we are doing our utmost to preserve and protect the potential of our partnership. We are pleased to say that our bilateral trade, which was declining at a dramatic rate, has increased by 50 per cent in January-March 2017 compared to the same period last year. We will do our utmost to maintain this positive trend. 

The Intergovernmental Commission on Economic and Industrial Cooperation, which held its ninth meeting in Moscow in late May, has a special role in this. A large delegation of Spanish business people, who attended the meeting, also met with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The meeting participants expressed the resolve to look for new opportunities to promote investment projects.

We have agreed to work to step up our ties in other spheres as well. We plan to hold a meeting of the bilateral interagency working group on opposing new challenges and threats in the near term. The group has been working actively and held meetings in 2015 and 2016. This is extremely important in light of the unprecedented increase in international terrorism and extremism. Regrettably, we see daily evidence of continuing terrorist activity, such as the terrorist attacks in Iran today, responsibility for which ISIS has claimed.

We also expressed interest in signing agreements on the mutual recognition and exchange of national driver licences and on the mutual recognition of diplomas and academic degrees as soon as possible. Both agreements concern issues that have a direct bearing on the life of Russians in Spain and Spaniards in Russia.   

We expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the Russian-Spanish Year of Tourism, which was held in 2016-2017. The closing ceremony took place in late May. We hope that the events and the potential we have accumulated during this project will strengthen mutual trust and understanding between our nations. One result of this project is the signing of a joint tourism development programme for 2017-2019. We pointed out that the number of Russian tourists in Spain started growing again last year. Over 800,000 Russians visited Spain and some 110,000 Spanish people visited Russia. I am sure that these figures will grow.  

We also discussed international issues, primarily the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. These conflicts have a direct negative impact on regional security, international stability, and the spread of the terrorist threat and other forms of organised crime. Illegal migration is, of course, directly connected to the developments in these countries. We recalled in this connection that the situation in the region was triggered off by the external interference in the affairs of sovereign states with the aim of changing their governments. I hope that while working to settle these conflicts and prevent new crises, we will draw the right conclusions from what happened in Iraq and Libya and what has almost happened in Syria.    

We discussed prospects of promoting cooperation on all international issues, primarily in the United Nations, the OSCE and other international forums.

We share the view that the current state of Russia-EU relations cannot be described as satisfactory. We consider it necessary to return them to the normal path of steady development. For our part we are ready for this. We hope constructive approaches will also prevail in the EU, considering the proposals submitted during President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in St Petersburg a year ago.   

We emphasised that the escalation of NATO’s activities in the regions bordering on Russia remains a serious destabilising factor. We reiterated that instead of exchanging unilateral statements as our NATO partners tend to do, we suggest a serious discussion of current military-political security in the Russia-NATO Council. Let us see with facts and maps in hand how the current situation compares with our joint commitments during the signing of the Russia-NATO Founding Act.    

Naturally, we spoke a lot about Ukraine. For all the nuances in the assessment of the genesis and further development of the crisis, Russia and Spain still believe that there is no alternative to implementing all provisions of the Minsk Agreements without exception with a view to reaching a peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. Today we described how Russia works on a daily basis in the Normandy format and the Contact Group to achieve the required results. We are exerting influence on our partners in Donetsk and Lugansk while working in the Contact Group. We assume other participants in the Normandy format – Germany and France – will also exert positive influence on its work and will not allow Kiev to artificially impede the fulfilment its commitments, which is the case today.

We noted the absolutely disgraceful blockade of Donbass, which is aggravating the already grave humanitarian situation and undermining Kiev’s obligation under the Minsk Agreements to ensure the economic interconnectedness of all areas of Ukraine. We will continue this line. Literally in the next few days experts will continue compiling the roadmap for implementing the Minsk Agreements. I would like to emphasise again that I hope that the necessary influence will be exerted on Kiev because in private conversations the majority of our partners that are watching developments in Ukraine know very well who is blocking the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures.

 We are satisfied with the exchange of views.


To be continued...



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