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Saturday, 04 May 2013 00:00

Speech of and answers to questions by Sergey Lavrov during joint press conference summarizing the results of negotiations with Deputy Chairman of the Government and Foreign Minister of Slovenia Karl Erjavec, Ljubljana, 3 May 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I share assessments of my colleague Foreign Minister of Slovenia Karl Erjavec about the state of our relations. They are, in fact, exemplary. We have no unsolvable problems, but rather a mutual wish to move on in all lines, inducing the political dialog that is regularly conducted at the level of heads of states and governments, constant contacts between Ministries of Foreign Affairs and other ministries and agencies of Russia and Slovenia, as well as parliaments, prosecutor’s offices, supreme courts, etc. are maintained.

I will particularly note large interest of Russian and Slovenian regions to the development of direct links on the implementation of economic and investment projects of interest to the both parties. We highly evaluate the role of Minister Erjavec as a co-chair of the Intergovernmental commission for trade and economic, and science and technical cooperation. We think that the agreements reached at the session of the commission in November 2012 open up new prospects for the implementation of provisions of the Memorandum about partnership for modernisation between our countries and the Memorandum about the most important trade and economic projects – there are more than 30 of them, and all are being implemented well.

We value the commitment of the Slovenian government – as the President and the Prime Minister confirmed today – to the implementation of the project “South Stream”. We hope that the status of the priority national project of Slovenia will be granted to it in the nearest time.

We signed important documents today. One is related to military burials. I would like to express my deep gratitude to our Slovenian friends for their care to the memory of our nationals that have fallen in the territory of Slovenia during the First and Second World War. Another document is an Intergovernmental program for cooperation in the sphere of culture, science, education and sports for the nearest three years – our traditional document in the sphere of humanitarian links. I am convinced that it will further assist us in bringing together our peoples, consolidate their spiritual and moral unity.

Today we also talked about the mutual Russian-Slovenian initiative – the Forum of Slavic Cultures that is growing in strength, becoming more and more important project aimed at the preservation of spiritual, historical roots of Slavic countries.

We certainly examined international issues, including our interaction in the context of strategic partnership between Russia and the EU, within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council. We value the position of Slovenia in favour of faster transfer to the visa free regime in respect of mutual travels of citizens of Russia and the EU. As to international problems, we always feel the benefit of exchanging opinions with our Slovenian friends about problems of Afghanistan, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, in particular Syria, as my colleague has said.

I think that my current visit may be considered very valuable. We have a shared vision of the opportunities for further deepening of our partnership, and, the main thing, there is a mutual trust to fully enable these opportunities.

I am thankful to Karl Erjavec for his hospitality; I thank all Slovenian colleagues for the organization of our work and invite Mr Minister to conduct our next negotiations in the Russian Federation.

Question: In your opinion, what is the role of Russian businessmen in the investment into Slovenian economics, primarily, into “Petrol” and Slovenian banks?

Sergey Lavrov: We discussed it today. The Prime Minister and the President of Slovenia confirmed that Russian business circles would be invited to participate in the relevant tenders. This concerns industrial companies, energy, etc., as well as banking spheres. Naturally, I cannot talk for our businessmen, but I am convinced somehow that they will certainly show interest in this. I expect deepening our investment cooperation. For now, Slovenia twice exceeds indicators of Russian investments into the economy of Slovenia or even more. Therefore, there is a place for competition

Question: How could you comment on the recent statement of the Commander-In-Chief of the Free Syrian Army in mass media that he is ready to meet Russian official personalities immediately to discuss ways of stopping the conflict in Syria?

Messages about another massacre in a Syrian village of al-Bayda appeared in press, and, at the same time, the head of Pentagon Chuck Hagel is talking about the possibility of reconsideration of the American position about armament of the Syrian opposition. Do you see any connection here?

Sergey Lavrov: As to the first question, as far as I understand, you are talking about the statement of some General Idris. If it is so, frankly speaking I have not heard such statements. In principle, I may say that we are open for conversation with all Syrian opposition members, but I think that the ways for stopping violence need to be searched not in Moscow or any other foreign capital city, but within the framework of direct negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the government, as it was agreed in the known Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012.

As to the other question, I will say that armament of non-state players is contrary to the international law. We do not need to “add fuel to the flames” of the Syrian conflict, but, as I have already said, as it was agreed in Geneva. Namely, to make all external players “to press” on each and all Syrian parties and the government, and different opposition groups (political and military detachments) – to make them declare an armistice and to sit at the negotiation table. It is put “in black and white” in the Geneva Communiqué, and it should be fulfilled. However, starting conversations about supplying opposition with armaments, lethal and non-lethal military products is a stake on a military scenario, not political settlement. Those who talk about the need for a military solution to the problem must understand that new victims among Syrian people will be the price for their geopolitical aspirations in overthrowing the regime. To avoid these victims, we need to do what we agreed on in Geneva.

I will have a meeting with the US Secretary of State John Kerry, who comes to the Russian Federation in a few days. I hope we will continue our conversation that showed at our recent meetings the interest of Washington on the search for a political rather than military solution to the Syrian problem.

Question: Currently, UNSC discusses the possibility of visit of UN experts to camps of Syrian refugees in Jordan. There are data that Russia and China were against their visit. What is the position of Russia in respect of this possible visit?

Sergey Lavrov: I think there is some misunderstanding here. Visits to refugee camps deployed in the line of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are an obligation of this Office. On the contrary, when first refugee camps appeared in the territory of Turkey, we encouraged UNHCR that its experts need to visit these camps and make an impression about them. I think there are no obstacles here. The UN Security Council should have nothing to do with it, this is the duty of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. And this is all.

If UNSC tried to use the situation with Syrian refugees to advance the idea of creating some humanitarian corridors, safe regions, no-fly zones, in this situation Russia, China and the whole range of other countries would see an attempt to prepare the ground for external intervention in such ideas. However, I will repeat, visits to refugee camps cannot cause any questions, if it is done in the line of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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