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1577 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1569 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities



Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and responses to questions at a joint news conference regarding Russia-Gabon relations and Ukraine

Ladies and gentlemen,

My Gabonese colleague, Mr Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, and I have held talks, which were very useful, intensive and meaningful.

Gabon is a promising partner in Africa, with which Russia traditionally maintains relations of friendship. Both Russia and Gabon agree, as we have reaffirmed at the talks today, that bilateral relations should benefit both sides in the interests of our people and with the goal of ensuring peace and stability in Africa.

We discussed the current state and the future of our bilateral relations, and pointed to the high standards of our political dialogue. We have agreed that other areas of our cooperation, above all trade and economic relations, should be scaled up to this level too. Our military technical relations look promising, and our cultural and educational ties have been developing actively. We have agreed to support the interests of our business communities in developing and promoting ties, including with a view to implementing economic and investment projects in Gabon in the exploration, production and processing of hydrocarbons, in mining and in other sectors.

We have agreed to continue our cooperation in training Gabonese students at Russian universities. The number of scholarships, all of which have been rendered, has grown. We also discussed the possibility of increasing the number of government scholarships for students from Gabon.

Discussions of international issues showed that our views on current aspects of the world order coincide. We believe that collective actions should be taken to settle conflicts on the basis of international law with the UN playing a central role and with respect for the unique character of nations.

We focused in particular on the situation in Africa and expressed Russia’s high appreciation of Gabon’s active contribution to integration in Central Africa and in African and UN peacekeeping efforts. Russia believes, and our friends in Gabon appreciate this, that Africans must be free to choose political solutions to the persisting conflicts in Africa, and that the international community should support African efforts through the African Union and subregional organisations. Russia will be working in the UN Security Council to encourage this attitude toward stabilisation efforts in the troubled areas of Africa. We will continue to contribute to strengthening the peacekeeping capabilities of African countries, including by training their peacekeepers in Russia and by supplying the necessary equipment to African peacekeepers.

We have expressed our appreciation for Gabon’s efforts to ensure security in the Gulf of Guinea. We share a common assessment with regard to the tasks of increasing the efficiency of international legal support for the fight against piracy.

We have discussed the steps undertaken by the international community, African countries themselves and their partners from abroad, including the Russian Federation, which have made it possible to neutralise the Ebola virus at the current stage.

Such is, on the whole, the content of our negotiations which, I repeat, have been quite useful for maintaining contacts on all aspects of Russian-Gabonese relations. I thank my colleague for our very good joint work.

Question: What, in your view, are the prospects for settlement of the Ukrainian crisis in light of the Donbass law that the Verkhovna Rada approved yesterday and the statements by the heads of the DPR and the LPR to the effect that no political dialogue with Kiev is possible until these laws are repealed?

Sergey Lavrov: I regret that I have to comment on this situation. It seemed to me that the steps that needed to be taken were explicitly defined in Minsk on February 12. The document known as the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements was signed by all members of the Contact Group, including the authorised representatives of Kiev, Lugansk and Donetsk, and the representatives of Russia and the OSCE, who helped them in this process. The document reads word-for-word as follows: Immediately after the pullback of heavy weapons, a dialogue should start on the modalities of local municipal elections in the relevant districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. The dialogue should concern how these elections are to be held (even though they will be based on Ukrainian law), but the Minsk Agreements stipulate that the modalities of the electoral process should be coordinated with Donetsk and Lugansk. No one has even attempted to do that.

It says furthermore that on the 30th day following the signing of the February 12 Minsk document, the Verkhovna Rada should approve a resolution identifying the populated localities in territories to be covered by the law on self-government or, as it is also called, on the special status. The Verkhovna Rada passed the law last autumn but it lacked a description of the territories that it was supposed to cover and therefore the law could not be put into effect. This is the reason for the agreement in Minsk that the size of territories and the populated localities to which this law would apply should become clear on the 30th day after the signing of the February 12 Package of Measures. This is all that the Verkhovna Rada was required to do and what Ukraine undersigned.

Instead, the Verkhovna Rada, acting on President Poroshenko’s proposal (a circumstance that confused me in particular, because the Ukrainian President had supported the Minsk package of February 12), approved decisions that, in effect, rewrite the agreements, or, plainly speaking, grossly violate them by making the enactment of the law on the special status conditional on vacating what they described as occupied territories and replacing practically all officials elected by the population in these territories by someone else. It follows from the Verkhovna Rada’s resolution that the law on the special status will enter into effect only when these territories are managed by people who are acceptable for Kiev. This is an attempt to turn all the understandings upside down.

A confidence-building compromise consisted of introducing special status in territories where people had voted for their leaders. No one compelled the Ukrainian side to officially recognise the election results, but respecting these processes and implementing what has been agreed upon is the minimum of what the Ukrainian authorities should have done. Let me repeat that there were no additional terms for putting the law into effect. It was only necessary to identify the populated localities and the concrete territories.

I don’t know how the political process will play out now. Yesterday I sent special messages to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and my French counterpart Laurent Fabius to draw their attention to the flagrant violation of the first political measures of the Minsk Package. I also urged them to make a joint trilateral demarche to our Ukrainian colleagues to compel them to comply with the commitments they assumed with the support of the leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia.

Question: At a joint news conference with the Romanian President in Kiev on March 17, Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko spoke about the need to “unfreeze” the Transnistrian conflict. Meanwhile, it is Kiev and Moscow that are the guarantors of peace and stability in the region. Considering this departure from previous agreements, do you think this conflict is likely to be resumed?

Sergey Lavrov: Honestly, I didn’t hear what exactly Mr Poroshenko said. The term “unfreeze” could have several meanings. Considering that the Transnistrian conflict has been “frozen” for a long time, I don’t think Ukraine is interested in making it “hot” again by “unfreezing” it. That would hardly be acceptable to anyone. If he meant invigorating the negotiating process, we’ve always supported this. Indeed, as you said, Russia and Ukraine play a unique role in this process because we are not only the mediators but also the guarantors on a par with the sides of the conflict – Chisinau and Tiraspol – and observers from the United States, the European Union and the OSCE.

I won’t comment on the meaning of Mr Poroshenko’s statement, but I must say that at this stage, during the past year, Ukraine’s role in promoting a settlement in Transnistria was not as balanced as its status as a mediator and guarantor requires. In effect, Ukraine assisted (and continues to assist) the efforts to set up a kind of economic blockade of Transnistria. In my view, it is playing up to those who would like to use the prospects of Moldova’s association with the EU as an ultimatum in order to compel Tiraspol to accept Chisinau’s terms.

We’re convinced that unilateral decisions cannot work here. You know that the fundamental positions of the sides are poles apart. In 2005 Moldova passed a law that rules out Transnistria’s special status and allows local self-government only in some villages on the left bank of the Dniester. In response, Transnistria held a referendum to proclaim its independence. We must collectively seek the golden mean between these polar opposite positions in order to convince the key players to come to terms on the basis of the principles proclaimed earlier. Notably, we want to affirm Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which would include special status for Transnistria, with the understanding that Moldova will remain a self-sufficient, independent and neutral state.

Progress has been made recently on this road. At the meetings between Moldova’s new Prime Minister and the Transnistria leader, they discussed practical issues related to normalising economic, social and cultural ties between the two banks of the Dniester. We are ready to facilitate this process. It provides for steps that will immediately improve the life of ordinary people, thereby promoting trust between the sides, which is very important for creating conditions required to reach agreements on Transnistria’s political status within Moldova. Such an agreement should envisage substantial delegation of powers. The recent events in Moldova demonstrate the need to consider the interests of its other parts, for instance, Gagauzia.

Problems are piling up and it is unreasonable to hope that they can be resolved by ultimatums. And yet some politicians in Moldova and beyond are tempted to try by concluding a Moldova-EU Association Agreement. I am hoping that our European colleagues will accept their responsibility for ensuring a fair Transnistrian settlement and help the sides find mutually acceptable solutions instead of trying to impose their views on each other.


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