Prevention of nuclear terrorist acts is clearly a success

Excerpts from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s TV interview.

Question: What would you call successes of Russian diplomacy in 2005? What will be the Interior Ministry’s priorities in 2006?

Sergei Lavrov: Convention on prevention of nuclear terrorist acts is clearly a success. It was our idea, the first Russian initiative that took the form of an international treaty unanimously endorsed by the UN. Presidents Putin and Bush were the first heads of states to sign it. Initiated by Russia alone or Russia and other countries, some important resolutions of the UN Security Council were endorsed. Say, a resolution calling instigation of terrorism a crime. This was an important step indeed, demanding from all countries a stiffer attitude with regard to the people who call themselves freedom fighters but call for terrorism.

As for regional affairs, I’d like to mention what we did within the framework of the Commonwealth, and first and foremost the CIS summit in Kazan.

Question: Here is a question then. Will the Commonwealth survive?

Sergei Lavrov: Its survival is predetermined by the very decision concerning its reorganization. All participants of the Kazan summit signed it. Other processes of integration are under way on different levels.

Question: What about relations with EU countries? Do they satisfy you entirely?

Sergei Lavrov: We intensively cooperated with EU structures and the leading EU countries on a bilateral level. I mean Germany, France, Italy. These countries became locomotive forces of advancement of our partnership with Europe. There is also some interesting – and positive – trend in our contacts with East European countries including new members of the EU and NATO. The impression is that these countries discovered additional reasons to promote closer contacts with Russia. The interest is mutual because we are interested in expansion into the markets in these countries.

Question: What effect did the episode with Pilot Tarakanov have on the relations between Russia and NATO?

Sergei Lavrov: We’ve suggested close interaction in the matters of air traffic and air control since the very first days of NATO expansion (I mean its latest wave of expansion). Precisely in order to avoid unforeseen emergencies. I can only hope that the episode with Major Tarakanov will persuade our partners to give more thought to our proposals.

Question: What about development of our relations with America in 2005?

Sergei Lavrov: Despite the discord on certain matters, our relations with the United States are a vital factor of international stability. As for discord, it has always been and will always be. Our partnership advanced in 2005, first and foremost in the spheres of the war on terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, energy dialogue, and mutual investments.

Question: A few words on public debates in Russia over the law on non-government organizations. Have they made dealing with the West more difficult for you?

Sergei Lavrov: We are already used to the idea that every now and then our partners (and not only partners in the West) become suddenly interested in whatever is happening in our country. Even though analogous events in other countries remain unnoticed. When the draft document turned up in the Duma, the Justice Ministry acting on behalf of the government of Russia sent it to the Council of Europe where local experts studied it. Shortly speaking, CE experts ruled that the draft law in its initial form did not collide with the principles of status of non-government organizations worked out there a couple of years ago. When the document was criticized in the Duma itself and in the Public House and even abroad, the president suggested certain corrections that were incorporated into the draft law before the second reading. Lawyers of the Foreign Ministry analyzed similar legislations in the so-called advanced democracies and discovered that our law did not differ from the norms and practices used in the West. Non-government organizations in Russia are not to apply for obligatory registration. Whatever organizations choose to do so because of certain privileges that go with the registration may do so. Whoever does not want it – all right, the organization will only have to notify state structures of its existence.

As for foreign non-government organizations, registration as Russian ones will not be required from them. They will retain their current status which is what they wanted all along. Just honor the Russian legislation and everything will be fine. In other words, their activities should be in line with the proclaimed objectives. And of course, their financial activities should be concurrent with what goals are proclaimed in the charter.

Question: Let us talk Iran now if you do not mind. Our correspondent has just returned from Israel with fresh newspapers. Headlines in them scream that the Iranians are making a nuclear bomb under the Russian “umbrella”…

Sergei Lavrov: I’ll begin by saying that our contacts with Iran do not violate any international accord or treaty. Neither do they violate the Russian legislation pertaining to export control, for that matter. By the way, the Russian legislation in this sphere is one of the most stringent in the world.

Secondly, in all our dealings with Iran we consider existence of real threats and real risks the major criterion. We keep a watchful eye on the situation in this country on different levels and through different channels. For the time being, we do not have any evidence that Iran is mocking the nonproliferation regime.

We consider it wrong when attempts are made to bring some political considerations into the matter of the Iranian nuclear program. The considerations I may add that do not have anything to do with the real problem, that of prevention of violations of the nonproliferation regime.

As for the statements, we hear from Iran (on the Holocaust, Israel, etc.), we have already made our stand on the matter plain. We consider them unacceptable as colliding with the international standards and incompatible with the UN Charter.

Question: Syria is another difficult partner. Russia has a lot of contracts with this country. Will Russia continue its struggle against introduction of sanctions?

Sergei Lavrov: What I said with regard to Iran goes for Syria too. Russia is developing its relations with Damascus in accordance with international law. No commitments or laws are broken. Moreover, we always bear in mind the strategic parity in this region of the world. All arms deliveries to Syria take the matter into consideration. We are convinced that the Syrian authorities must cooperate with the UN panel investigating assassination of ex-premier of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri. And Syria does cooperate as the commission itself pointed out in its report. The commission insists on fuller cooperation and we agree with it. Russia voted for the appropriate resolutions of the UN Security Council. Russia is sending signals to Damascus and hopes that they will be understood and taken into consideration.

Question: Gas price debates with Kyiv are the talk of the day. The Ukrainians claim that political considerations interfere with solutions to economic problems. The Russians maintain that there is no politics involved, only economics…

Sergei Lavrov: I do not perceive any politics in the gas talks with Ukraine. I said more than once already – and I can repeat it again – that I myself had heard President Yuschenko at his meeting with President Putin suggest abandonment of the “old Socialist model” in favor of market principles of commerce. I know for a fact that Gazprom has been suggesting negotiations over the matter to the Ukrainians since March 2005.

What politics can there be here? That’s pure economics. There is the price European consumers are paying and the price Ukrainians are paying. And by the way, the latter are paying less than consumers in Russia itself.