Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, Vladivostok, 2:09:2016

2       September 201616:48
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, Vladivostok, September 2, 2016
I will say a few words about the talks between President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The talks addressed all aspects of the relationship without exception: political dialogue, the economy in all of its dimensions, interparliamentary contacts, cultural ties and cooperation on foreign policy issues. In the economic sphere, the conversation focused on the ideas that were put forward during Shinzo Abe’s May 6 visit to Sochi, when, in addition to the existing forms of cooperation, he proposed developing an eight-point plan covering various spheres: energy, healthcare, urban development and high technology, among many others. Today, our Japanese colleagues laid out in detail their ideas on how to collaborate in these eight areas in a more effective and targeted way. For our part, we expressed support for this approach.
Between the Sochi meeting and today’s summit, numerous meetings have taken place between experts from economic development, industry, trade and other ministries, as well as at the level of government experts. I can say that an array of promising major projects are at an advanced stage of development and are ready for implementation. We have agreed to do all we can to ensure that some of these projects are announced in the course of President Putin’s upcoming visit to Japan, which, as our leaders have agreed, is due to take place before the end of the year.

Another economic event will take place this autumn: the next meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation. The mechanism to coordinate investment and financial aspects of our interaction will be maintained. So, as I said, there are concrete, comprehensive plans in place.

(after a break)

We just had additional discussions with our Japanese colleagues to clarify certain details. Apart from an intensive discussion of the economic aspect of our collaboration, including investment, finance, trade and the preparation of major joint projects, we addressed all other spheres. We noted the intensive development of interparliamentary ties. State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin last visited Tokyo in June 2016 to attend a Russian culture festival. Contacts are expected between the upper houses of parliament. We noted the mutual interest in intensifying cultural ties, including the possibility of holding large-scale cultural and education events in the near future.
The foreign policy aspects of our cooperation also received our leaders’ close attention. It was noted that despite this difficult period in our relations, contacts between Russian and Japanese foreign ministries and security councils have intensified. This year, several months after Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Sochi, a series of consultations between our foreign ministries on strategic stability and resolving various conflicts took place. Exchanges of visits by national security council secretaries have become regular.
We closely collaborate with Japan at the UN. In 2016-2017, our Japanese neighbours are nonpermanent members of the UN Security Council, so additional avenues for cooperation have emerged. We addressed issues that are on the agenda of the UN and its Security Council, including the Syria crisis. As is known, with our support, Japan became a member of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and in this capacity became closely involved in working out the decisions that were subsequently approved by the UN Security Council and now essentially provide a foundation for all actions by the world community to overcome the current crisis in and around Syria.
We also discussed issues related to the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime. Apart from helping to draft UN Security Council decisions on these issues, we have a number of specific projects with our Japanese neighbours. In particular, under the auspices of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, we are implementing a joint project, co-financed by Japan, that is aimed at enhancing the qualifications and proficiency of drug police officers from Afghanistan and Central Asian countries at the Interior Ministry’s training centre in Domodedovo [just outside Moscow]. In addition, we are now discussing possible additional actions to strengthen the Afghan authorities’ capacity to counter drug trafficking, including the creation, through joint Russian-Japanese efforts, of a police dog training centre in Kabul. Under the auspices of the UN International Development Organisation (UNIDO), we are also discussing with our Japanese colleagues the possibility of participating in projects that Russia is preparing for the Central Asian countries, including projects aimed at developing national capabilities in the economic and infrastructural spheres.
Naturally, our leaders have addressed the issue of a peace treaty. In keeping with the agreements that were reached on May 6 in Sochi, there have been two rounds of consultations at the level of deputy foreign ministers. Issues related to the instructions issues by President Putin and Prime Minister Abe in Sochi following their meeting were discussed. We agreed to continue these consultations. Their results will be announced in the course of President Putin’s visit to Japan, which, as I said, will take place before the end of the year.
Question: Have Japan and Russia indeed begun discussing joint economic activities on the Kuril Islands, in particular on the four islands?
Sergey Lavrov: As you know, we have long urged our Japanese colleagues to address these matters. Some time ago (under the previous cabinet of ministers) the approach toward this was more cautious. Today we feel that our Japanese partners are willing to discuss not only matters concerning joint economic activity on the islands but also exchanges between people, cultural ties. In the course of the consultations that I mentioned, as well as during future rounds, many important aspects of a peace treaty will naturally be addressed.
Question: How do you assess the current situation in Syria? How much longer can the Russian Aerospace Forces’ operation in Syria last?
Sergey Lavrov: The question is not how long the operation may last. We are fighting against terrorism, working to create a truly universal antiterrorism front, as President Putin proposed at last year’s session of the UN General Assembly.
For several weeks now, in conjunction with the United States, as two co-chairs of the ISSG, as two countries that are effectively engaging terrorist targets in Syria, we have been conducting intensive consultations to develop a single plan of action based on the coordination of antiterrorist efforts. This was the focus of my meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on August 26 in Geneva, as well as of our numerous telephone conversations. This issue began to be addressed in a substantive way after Mr Kerry visited Moscow on July 15 and was received by President Putin.
Daily and weekly contacts between the Russian and US militaries and special services continue in order to develop such a plan. We expect this work to be finished in the near future. Practically all components of this task are already clear. Mutual understanding has been reached on most issues. The most important thing, however, is that none of our agreements with the Americans on practical actions and the coordination of operations against terrorists and the coordination of Aerospace Forces operations with the USAF and the US-led coalition will be implemented unless our US partners fulfill the promise they made a long time ago to separate opposition groups working with the United States from terrorists, primarily Jabhat al-Nusra. Many groups, which the Americans deem to be acceptable for negotiations, have effectively teamed up with Jabhat al-Nusra (or whatever it is called now). Jabhat al-Nusra is using them to avoid being attacked. This situation cannot go on forever. To reiterate, the resolution of this major problem is crucial for the implementation of plans for an anti terrorist operation that have already been largely coordinated between us and the Americans.

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