Speech by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, during the joint press conference, summarising the results of the negotiations with the Angolan Foreign Minister, George Chicoti, Moscow, 8 April 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We had some very productive negotiations with my Angolan colleague George Chicoti, which were held in the traditionalatmosphere of trust and mutual understanding between our countries.
We appreciate the high level of relations with Angola – Russia’s time-proven friend and partner. We are glad that this country has convincingly settled down to a course of independent and sustainable national development.
We discussed issues on our bilateral agenda, having devoted special attention to the development of trade and economic ties, which have gained in good dynamics and are developing according to the agreements, including high-level agreements, which were concluded in 2009.
Our turnover of goods is growing, but we wish to accelerate this process. The interest of Russian business circles wishing to work in the Angolan market is evident. The results of last year’s visit to Luanda by the Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Rogozin, whose delegation included representatives of many Russian companies, are vivid evidence of this.
The number of joint projects, including in high tech areas, is growing. In particular, this refers to the creation of satellite communication and broadcasting network ANGOSAT. We agreed to give an additional impulse to faster launching of mutually beneficial projects in the areas of energy, geological exploration, mining, industrial construction, fishing, telecommunications and other areas. We are convinced that we need to thoroughly prepare specific propositions in all these areas for the forthcoming third session of the bilateral Intergovernmental Commission for trade and economic cooperation, which is scheduled for the second half of this year.
We also agreed to accelerate the preparation of several intergovernmental documents, aimed at easing our interaction within the ambit of business circles, development of scientific and technical ties, contacts between people.
Our discussion of international problems confirmed that our approaches match on the majority of issues on the agenda of the world community, including the need to respect the rule of law in international affairs, the strengthening of the UN’s central role, and the peaceful settlement of disputes on the basis of collective actions.
We are satisfied with the cooperation between our representatives in the UN and other international structures. The Memorandum on political consultations between foreign policy agencies, which we signed today, will contribute to further improvement of the foreign policy interaction between Russia and Angola.
We exchanged opinions on the situation on the African continent. We support Angola’s consistent efforts in regional affairs. We believe that the assistance of the international community in the efforts of African states to settle conflicts and crisis situations and prevent the appearance of new ones is a priority.
We agree that the efforts of the Africans must be supported by the UN, we welcome the processes between the UN, the African Union and subregional associations in Africa to set up close interaction, and complementary assistance in the settlement of different crises.
Our negotiations confirmed yet again the mutual disposition of Russia and Angola to deepen cooperation in all areas. We will continue to activate our efforts to implement everything, we have agreed about.
Question (to both ministers): Could you tell us about the joint Russian-Angolan project for the geostationary satellite ANGOSAT? At what stage is its implementation and when is its launch scheduled?
Sergey Lavrov (answers after George Chicoti): I confirm the information provided by my colleague (George Chicoti earlier stated that Angola is at the stage of preparing for the implementation of this project: a team of professionals is being gathered, many of whom are people who studied in Russia, and within three years they hope to create the necessary conditions for the successful implementation of the project; all professionals will be properly educated and prepared by that time).
Question: You had a phone conversation with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, yesterday, after which the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, Jen Psaki, stated that you discussed the possibility of conducting a four-party meeting with the participation of the US, the EU, Ukraine and Russia on the events in Ukraine. Is that so? When and where can such a meeting take place? Jen Psaki also said that the events of the last few days in Ukraine were prepared by Russia. What can you say in answer to her?
Sergey Lavrov: With regard to those who prepared and keep preparing the events in Ukraine, our US partners probably attempt to analyse the situation by “fitting” their own habits to others. Apart from these statements by Jen Psaki, I have also heard statements by the spokesman for the White House, Jay Carney, that some demonstrations in the East and South of Ukraine are paid for, people who are not part of the local population are their participants and external forces are behind these events. It sounded like he had returned to five months ago and was describing the events on the Maidan in the centre of Kiev.
There was a sufficient amount of information available regarding who paid and what was paid, and this information has never been refuted by anybody. These “payments” are related to the profound course of the current internal Ukrainian crisis. Let such statements by our US partners be on their conscience. We call it “unfairly shifting the blame” in Russian.
As to our discussions with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, as well as our German partners (I had a contact with the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, yesterday), we are ready to consider a multilateral format, in which European countries, the US, Russia and Ukraine would be represented. Jen Psaki said that the Americans believe that such a meeting is expected to be held in ten days. We did not discuss any specific date with John Kerry, because, according to our agreement, we should first understand the format of this meeting, its agenda and the rules of the procedure.
As to the prospects of implementation of this initiative (I repeat that we are ready for it), we should consider two aspects. First, what is the Ukrainian party? Our US colleagues say that these are the current Kiev authorities. We are not refusing contacts with them. Several weeks ago the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, ordered the Chairman of the Government, Dmitry Medvedev, and members of the Government of the Russian Federation to make contacts on current issues, which require resolution in the area of economics, social affairs and foreign policy. (Yesterday I had a talk with the Acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine Andrii Deshchytsia).
We are deeply convinced (and nobody has refuted this conviction yet) that it is not possible to pacify the situation and to transfer it to a national dialogue, if the Ukrainian authorities continue to ignore the interests of the South-East regions of the country. No positive steps in the direction of a Ukrainian South and East have been made since they seized power. On the contrary, there were mostly negative gestures, starting from the story about the cancellation of the law on regional languages (although no documents were signed, but the signal sent to the South and East of the country was clear) and ending with statements that there would be no federalisation, or special status for Russian, but ethnic Russians had nothing to do with Ukrainian national identity. Lacking elementary respect for the South and East of Ukraine, in these parts of the country such statements were perceived as ignoring legal interests, but the refusal of a dialogue was perceived as a signal that if they do not take care of their rights themselves, nobody will take care of them. Only when an absolutely understandable outrage over the ignoring of their interests turned into protests, did the authorities start to fuss and send their emissaries to southern and eastern regions. This should have been done weeks, if not months ago, taking into account the fact that those who seized power, have been leading Kiev since the 22 February. In this regard, ignoring the legal interests of the South and the East, as well as the indignation of these regions about the Kiev authorities’ actions towards them, does not allow us to work effectively in any multilateral formats. We speak in favour of representation of the South and the East of Ukraine at the forthcoming events.
The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, also asked me, how this could be done and who will represent the southern and eastern regions, because there are governors, and meetings of nationals announcing the creation of their own authorities? How to get out of this situation? I do not believe that oligarchs, who are appointed governors of several regions, will properly represent the South and the East of Ukraine. However, there is another criterion – candidates for the presidency. Almost all the leading political forces approved the candidates for the presidential elections. No matter what our attitude to them is, candidates approved by political parties represent legitimate political forces of the Ukrainian state. I do not mean all the candidates (there are over 20 of them), but candidates from the leading political parties and regions of the country might certainly be the leading politicians, who could be invited to multilateral meetings and, promoted by the “external players” (Russia, EU and the United States) they could start a national dialogue with the Kiev authorities or start a process, which will lead to such a dialogue, which should result in a constitutional reform.
Such an approach to the range of Ukrainian participants in this process would fully correspond to the joint statement, which we adopted with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, on the 30 March in Kiev. May I remind you that in this statement we expressed readiness to work with the current Ukrainian government and more largely – the Ukrainian people (each political party proposing its candidates to be president represents a certain part of the people), to achieve resolution of the tasks, including enforcement of the rights of national minorities, language rights, disarmament of irregular formations and provokers and, to be noted, organisation of an inclusive constitutional reform. Inclusiveness is a borrowed word in Russian, which means that all the leading community groups must be represented in this process.
Now I will explain the second aspect related to the prospects of convening a multilateral meeting. For the time being, the constitutional reform is being carried out in private. At the beginning of March, a message was distributed that the Verkhovna Rada has formed a special group or commission, which has been working on the new draft constitution. However, there is no information regarding specific discussions and concepts included inanother draft fundamental law of Ukraine. I attempted to receive respective explanations from Andrii Deshchytsia during our recent meeting on friendly terms on the side-lines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague and from John Kerry, because as far as I understand, the Americans are the most closely involved inthe process of the preparations for the new Ukrainian constitution through their influence on the current Kiev leaders. We have not received any clear explanations, we only hear from Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleksandr Turchynov that there will be no federalisation, regions will only be provided with some new authorisations. This is another “look down one’s nose” approach. If you are truly ready to provide authorisations to regions, invite them, sit together with them, listen to them and then start negotiations. Many Russian, as well as European and Ukrainian politicians, speak in favour of this.
If the ten days, which according to the American representatives are required to convene this multilateral meeting, are related to the fact that Arseniy Yatsenyuk promised in public to complete the preparation of a draft constitution by the 15 April, I have a question: don’t they plan to convene a multilateral meeting when the draft constitution will already be presented to the Verkhovna Rada, and all the regions having no trust in the current authorities, will just have to face the fact, but Russia will be invited to this meeting to make it “bless” the draft constitution, which nobody has seen yet, by its very presence and so legitimise it?
These are our considerations. I talk honestly about this, because the American representatives frequently publicly distort the content of our negotiations. I repeat, we need clarity about the composition of the Ukrainian participants and the work on the Ukrainian constitution, when this process will be truly inclusive and transparent, as we agreed with John Kerry and announced to the entire world. I think that it makes sense to receive answers to these questions.
Question: Will Russia support a referendum on independence in south-eastern Ukrainian regions? What will Russia’s reaction be, if the majority votes for separation from Ukraine?
Sergey Lavrov: I would prefer to avoid “ifs”. Everybody knows that they are not very productive, especially in the foreign policy area during crises. We would not like the situation to be repeated, when from the very beginning of the Ukrainian crisis we warned our European and US partners that it was devastating to connive at anti-constitutional actions, about destructive consequences of such playing with members of anti-government manifestations, including open radicals and extremists. After the constitutional coup, we also appealed to return to the implementation of the agreements of the 21 February. These appeals were ignored. They say to us now: “that was in the past, when it’s done, it’s done, let us think how to act based on past events”. This is not serious and not a very fair policy of “established facts”, which came true with the help of those who propose not to rake up the past.
Instead of “what if” guessing, we wish our partners would do what was agreed, including return to the implementation of the agreements of the 21 February, the implementation of an inclusive constitutional reform with full respect for the rights and interests of all regions, according to the agreement which we announced with John Kerry a week ago.
I would prefer to act in this way rather than wait for the development of events according to negative scenarios.
Question: How will relations between Russia and Afghanistan develop after the latest NATO statements and actions, including on the “helicopter” project? Doesn’t Russia plan to withdraw its contribution from the trust funds?
Sergey Lavrov: This will not affect relations between Russia and Afghanistan. We received a notice from the leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that having thought over and discussed everything among themselves, they decided to freeze several areas of our practical interaction: anti-terrorist cooperation, which alone points to the readiness of the West to use double standards in the fight against terrorism, anti-drug projects, which demonstrate the attention devoted by the West to our constant requests to stop heroin aggression from the Afghanistan territory taking into account the 40 times growth of drug production and drug trafficking in the period of NATO’s presence in the territory of the country. An announcement was also made about the freezing of the “helicopter package” for Afghanistan, which envisaged the supply of spare parts for Soviet and Russian helicopters, which are used by Afghan military and security forces, and the training of pilots for these machines.
In this notice they announced to us that this project has been stopped within the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), and contributions will not get to the trust fund. It was also said that individual NATO member states will be ready to continue cooperation with us outside the NRC. This is hypocritical and an “ostrich’s” position.
I will not comment, because I do not have any details of the implementation of this project, I can only say that the spare parts supplied to Afghanistan within the framework of the “helicopter package” were made in Russia and supplied by Russian companies. Pilots were trained in our training camp in Novosibirsk.
I think that the money allocated by the Russian Government for these purposes, for the -at that time- joint NATO-Russia helicopter project, can be used to provide direct aid to the Afghan security forces in the same forms – supply of spare parts, maintenance and preparation of staff – as a Russian contribution to stabilisation in Afghanistan.