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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Briefing by official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia Alexander Lukashevich, 13 November 2014

13 November 201419:42

Joint meeting of the foreign ministry boards of Russia and Belarus

On November 17-18, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will make a working visit to Minsk, during which the boards of the two countries' foreign ministries will hold a joint meeting.

This practice has become an important factor for coordinating the actions of Russia and Belarus on the international stage. Nearly all Russian and Belarusian ministries and departments use this method to coordinate their positions on current issues of cooperation.

Issues on the meeting agenda include the promotion of joint initiatives on the 70th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War on the international stage; continued coordination of positions within the OSCE and prospects for the further development of relations with the European Union; coordination of approaches to arms control at the current stage; work with compatriots around the world.

The programme of the visit also includes talks between Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei of Belarus. We hope this traditionally constructive and confidential exchange of opinions will cover a broad range of issues and allow us to outline joint actions towards their solution.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

On 18 November, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be in Moscow for a working visit.

The two foreign ministers will discuss current international issues as well as practical issues on the bilateral agenda.

They will continue to exchange opinions on the situation in and around Ukraine, the possibility of settling the internal Ukrainian conflict with international assistance, and the need to take additional measures without delay to ensure an early end to the bloodshed and to satisfy the survival needs of people in southeast Ukraine in view of the approaching winter.

The ministers also plan to discuss the development of relations between Russia and the EU; modernisation of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, including in the context of the OSCE Ministerial Council that will take place on 4 and 5 December 2014 in Basel, Switzerland; disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and efforts against international terrorism and other common challenges and threats.

The priority issues on their agenda also include progress towards a settlement in Syria; Iran's nuclear programme and Iran's talks with the six-nation group of countries; the situation in Afghanistan in view of the upcoming end of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan in 2014; as well as the situation in the Middle East.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó

On 19 November, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet in Moscow with visiting Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó.

The talks will focus on the current and future aspects of bilateral relations and priority joint economic projects. The two officials will consider their respective positions on important issues of the regional and European agenda.

Russian-Hungarian relations rely on a solid basis of pragmatism and respect for the parties' mutual interests; they have considerable growth potential and expand in a consistent progressive manner. The key areas of longterm bilateral cooperation have been identified during President Vladimir Putin's meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on 14 January 2014 in Moscow.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend Government Hour at the State Duma

On 19 November, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend the Government Hour, a regular discussion session held as part of the State Duma plenary meeting, involving Government members. Mr Lavrov will speak about important international issues and Russia's foreign policy priorities and answer questions from representatives of parliamentary parties.

The Foreign Minister attends the lower house meetings every year. His meetings with the State Duma members have become a tradition and help coordinate their respective positions for more effective promotion of Russia's interests on the international stage and develop a unified foreign policy line.

Presentation of ‘Russian Foreign Ministry during World War I' documents collection

On 20 November, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend the presentation of documents collection Russian Foreign Ministry during World War I, released on the occasion of the centenary of the war, to be held at the Foreign Ministry building. The documents included in the collection come from the Russian Empire's Foreign Policy Archive and reveal the multifaceted achievements of the Russian Foreign Ministry to create a favourable international environment for winning the war and for attaining the country's crucial political, military, strategic, economic, cultural and other goals.

The collection also covers the details of the Foreign Ministry's work in times of war, in addition to Russia's foreign policy during the difficult period of a major international conflict.

This is the first publication on this scale to give researchers and the general public access to these sources of information, to archive materials that give an unbiased account of the most important events of WWI, and to explore the personal and professional qualities of the Foreign Ministry workers who defend Russia's interests.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to attend a meeting of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy

On 22 November, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with political analysts and members of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy (Russian abbreviation SVOP) during the 22nd annual meeting of the Council's Assembly. This year, the assembly will discuss future development scenarios and a strategy for Russia. The event will be held at the World Trade Centre on Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Membe

On 23-25 November, Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Membe will come to Moscow on a working visit at the invitation of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Tanzania is a valuable member of the international community and many regional associations that are actively involved in integration processes in East Africa and contribute to peacekeeping and conflict settlement operations in Africa.

During their talks on 24 November, Mr Lavrov and Mr Membe will discuss a wide range of issues pertaining to further development of Russian-Tanzanian cooperation in various areas. They will also exchange opinions on global political issues, including the reform of the UN and the UN Security Council, current challenges and threats, and the situation in the Middle East and North Africa. The ministers will also focus on crises in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and South Sudan.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Burundi Minister of External Relations and International Cooperation Laurent Kavakure

On 25 November, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Burundi Minister of External Relations and International Cooperation Laurent Kavakure, who will be in Russia on a working visit on 24-26 November.

The Republic of Burundi is actively involved in African affairs, including peacekeeping operations, and is one of Russia's most promising partners in East Africa.

The agenda of the talks includes a detailed exchange of opinions on international and regional issues, including conflict settlement in Africa. The ministers will also discuss the promising areas of bilateral cooperation, primarily the possibility of expanding trade, economic and education cooperation.

Meeting of the Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

On 26 November, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will chair the 24th meeting of the Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This advisory agency was established in 2003 upon an instruction by the President. The main task of the Council is to promote the efficiency of the regions' contribution to serving Russia's foreign policy interests and to further develop the international and foreign economic ties of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

The meeting agendas take into account the opinions of the regions' heads. The upcoming meeting will focus on intensifying interregional and crossborder ties of the regions amid the financial and economic pressure put on Russia.

In accordance with the Regulations on the Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation, the heads of the constituent entities (one head per federal district) sit on it on a rotational basis. This year, the head of the Republic of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, will for the first time join the Council as representative of the Crimean Federal District.

The Council meetings end with approval of recommendation for the President and the Russian Government, the heads of constituent entities, as well as Foreign Ministry representatives in the regions.

The situation in Ukraine

The official results of the early elections to the Verkhovna Rada have been announced in Ukraine.

We hope the creation of the new bodies of authority will not take long and the new government will address the practical issues facing the country, adopt a responsible stance to peaceful restoration of national unity and respect the rights of all Ukrainians irrespective of their language, political views or place of residence.

We hope that the new Ukrainian government will include representatives of those political forces that are interested in and are willing to develop constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia.

With regard to the situation in southeast Ukraine, hoping to restore national accord while disregarding the opinions of people in the country's southeast appears completely unpromising. Negotiations cannot be effective if not all sides in the conflict are directly involved at them.

Considering the adversities in the humanitarian situation in southeast Ukraine, Russia plans to send a new, seventh, humanitarian aid convoy to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in cooperation with Kiev. It is planned that 82 Emergency Ministry lorries carrying a total of 625 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including electrical equipment, food, medicines, fuel and lubricants and construction materials, will cross into Ukraine via the Matveyev Kurgan and Donetsk checkpoints in the Rostov Region.

We have sent an official request to Ukraine to provide the necessary assistance to deliver this humanitarian aid, including in terms of security. We also hope for the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The settlement process in Ukraine

Russia supports the OSCE contribution to promoting political settlement in Ukraine. The first direct meetings between representatives of the conflicting sides within the OSCE Contact Group – Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk – were productive.

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) continues its work in Ukraine. Discussions are underway on sending it personnel and material reinforcements, including unmanned aerial vehicles. Russia has informed the OSCE Swiss presidency of our willingness to supply Russian-made UAVs, Tigr armoured vehicles and experts to the SMM.

Unfortunately, recent events have cast doubt on the objectivity of SMM's reports, in particular its report of 7 November on the examination of the area of Donetsk School No. 63, where two children died and several more were gravely wounded as a result of shelling. SMM observers said that their inspection of shell-holes in the school's football patch clearly indicated that the shells came from the northwest, which is Ukrainian-controlled territory. However, the SMM information for the media does not include the indication of the direction from which the school was shelled.

This is unlikely to be an unfortunate omission. This is a relapse of the old "disease" when observers distorted facts to suit Kiev even if it damaged their reputation and was contrary to the standards of objectivity. Moreover, they have forgotten about the priority task of the OSCE observers, which is to promote national dialogue in Ukraine.

We urge the SMM to stop acting like prosecution witnesses and to resume objective efforts in the name of peace and stability in Ukraine.

Ukraine's accusations regarding an alleged OSCE information leak about the deployment of Ukrainian military units

We have taken note of the attempts by the Ukrainian Defence Ministry staff members to provoke a media scandal by accusing Russian observers on the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission of spreading information about the deployment of Ukrainian military units.

As far as we know, these claims were later denied. We hope that our Ukrainian partners will refrain from using such emotional accusations that can hamper the operation of the OSCE observers in the conflict zone.

For our part, we urge the leadership of the OSCE SMM to work objectively with regard to all of the conflicting sides and in strict compliance with its mandate, which is "to contribute to reducing tensions and to help foster peace, stability and security" in Ukraine.

We have to point out in this connection the increasing one-sidedness of the OSCE mission's information materials about the situation in Donbass. How else can one interpret the hasty distribution of special reports on the military convoys of the Donetsk People's Republic and almost complete omission of any information on the movement and concentration of the Ukrainian military? Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak informed the cabinet meeting of 12 November about the ongoing preparations to resume hostilities and related redeployment of troops. The one-sided provision of information by the SMM about the situation in the disengagement area hardly meets the goal of creating an atmosphere of trust in Ukraine.

Expert consultations on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine

The consultations are being held in Vienna as part of the top-level agreement reached in Milan. The OSCE's Swiss Chairmanship is actively facilitating its implementation.

There are two principal areas of activity. The first is the harmonisation of a draft framework decision by the OSCE Permanent Council, which should serve as a basis for the future "UAV mission" that will support the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM). The second is addressing the full range of organisational, technical, legal, and other practical aspects of the "UAV mission." Work on both areas is proceeding simultaneously.

Considering the significant scope and complexity of the problems facing the negotiators, it is premature to speak about the results of the consultations, let alone any breakthroughs.

Russia operates on the premise that the use of drones can significantly facilitate implementation of the SMM's task of monitoring the implementation of the Minsk Memorandum's provision on the withdrawal of troops and weapons by the warring sides to a distance of 15 kilometres from the line of disengagement. Needless to say, safe UAV flights in this zone are only possible with close collaboration between both parties to the conflict.

Incident in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone

We are extremely concerned by the extremely serious incident in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone that resulted in fatalities. We express our deep condolences to the bereaved families.

The Russian position is reflected in a statement by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs on 12 November. We urge the parties to the conflict to refrain from steps that could escalate tensions in the region.

We remind the leadership of Azerbaijan and Armenia of their responsibility to seek a peaceful settlement of the conflict under the obligations they assumed at meetings in Sochi, Newport, and Paris.

In conjunction with other OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs – the US and France – Russia will continue its focused efforts to help the parties resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme

Negotiations and meetings in various formats were held on 9-11 November in Muscat (the Sultanate of Oman). In particular, the Iranian delegation had bilateral and multilateral contacts with the US and the EU, and there was a full-format round of negotiations. The Russian side also had meetings with all the participants in the six-party format. The results are as follows.

Breakthroughs remain elusive on all the key problems that are still on the agenda. This is somewhat worrying, especially considering that the deadline – 24 November – is fast approaching.

At the same time, progress was made in Muscat on all issues that are still dividing the parties, for which mutually acceptable solutions are needed. Negotiations are not at a standstill. The process of closing the remaining gaps in positions and the search for effective solutions continue. The most important thing is that all the participants have the political will to ensure the success of the negotiations by 24 November.

Russia continued to take a constructive approach, working honestly, without any hidden agenda, in the interest of achieving results. We are still confident that a successful outcome will benefit regional stabilisation, improve international relations, and make it possible to normalise the situation around Iran's nuclear programme.

The situation in Syria

The situation in Syria remains extremely tense. Government forces are actively combating terrorists in all parts of the country. The US-led antiterrorist coalition is also continuing operations against the forces of the so-called Islamic State (IS). But without coordination with the Syrian government, they are unable to turn the situation around and roll back the terrorist groups.

Against this backdrop, a meeting of senior officials of the Core Group of the Friends of Syria in London on 10 November produced noteworthy results. The participants reaffirmed their support for the US Train and Equip Programme for "moderate" opposition groups, and declared their intention to contribute to its implementation on a practical level. Instead of searching for ways to promote coordination in anti-terror efforts, the so called Friends of Syria groundlessly accused official Damascus of being unwilling to negotiate a political settlement. An agreement was reached to ratchet up the sanctions pressure on the "Syrian regime."

In this regard, it may be recalled that back in April 2013, the European Union "eased" the set of restrictions on Syria and allowed Syrian oil to be bought from private traders. Thus, the EU indirectly aided the financial consolidation of IS and Jabhat al-Nusra, which control hydrocarbon deposits in northeastern Syria.

For our part, we would like to reiterate that while prioritising the anti-terror effort, Russia is consistently working toward the speedy resumption of efforts to achieve a political settlement in the country, based on the 30 June, 2012 Geneva Communiquй. We support the ideas advocated by Staffan de Mistura, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Syria, in particular, that this process should be based on an inclusive inter-Syrian dialogue in line with the aforementioned Geneva Communiquй, and without any preconditions. We are urging our international and regional partners to join Russia in these efforts.

Eliminating chemical weapons in Syria

We note with satisfaction that the process of destroying Syria's chemical weapons is nearing its logical conclusion. According to a recent report by the general director of the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), around 98 percent of precursor chemicals and chemical weapon components removed from Syria have been destroyed. The destruction of the remaining chemicals, which are now in the UK and the US, is due to be completed in the first half of 2015.

The report notes the significant progress made on implementing the OPCW Executive Council's decision regarding the destruction of the 12 former chemical weapon manufacturing facilities declared by Syria in 2013. It stresses that in the course of bilateral contacts between Syria and representatives of the OPCW Technical Secretariat, most of the logistical issues have been resolved, and the dismantlement of these facilities should start before the end of November 2014.

The OPCW Technical Secretariat states that Damascus is continuing to provide all assistance necessary to the Organisation's work on its chemical dossier, in full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2118.

The progress made toward eliminating Syria's chemical weapon capability is truly impressive and unprecedented in the OPCW's history. The efforts both by Syria and by the international community are praiseworthy. We are confident that the remaining problems related to Syria's chemical dossier will be successful resolved, and the issue itself will soon lose its urgency. We are calling on all countries concerned to work in a constructive spirit to make Syria's chemical disarmament a landmark event that reinvigorates the effort to secure universal adoption of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and rid humankind of one of the most dangerous types of weapons of mass destruction.

Palestinian-Israeli relations

The situation in Palestinian-Israeli affairs remains complicated: so far, there are no signs of a way out of the impasse. Tensions are still heightened in the occupied Palestinian territories, especially in East Jerusalem.

Following the 29 October assassination attempt on Rabbi Yehudah Glick, the Israeli government imposed restrictions on entry to the Al Aqsa Mosque. This decision, as well as the ongoing attempts by Israeli right-wing activists to access the Temple Mount, where the mosque is located, have provoked numerous clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security services.

Meanwhile, there have been increasing instances of violence by Palestinian extremists against Israeli citizens. One of the most high-profile incidents was the 5 November attack by Palestinian drivers who struck and killed two Israelis and injured 12 others.

On 10 November, a Palestinian attacked and fatally wounded an Israeli soldier with a knife in Tel Aviv. On the same day, an Israeli woman was stabbed to death in the Israeli town of Alon-Gush.

On 11 November, a 22-year old Palestinian was shot dead in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police on the West Bank near Hebron. On 12 November, Israeli settlers set fire to a mosque in the village of Ein-M'rar, northeast of Ramallah.

These and other acts of violence cause grave concern in Moscow. We condemn the criminal acts, especially terrorist acts directed against civilians. We urge Israelis and Palestinians to put an end to provocations that are greatly adding to the difficulties in Palestinian-Israeli relations. This was the main focus of discussions during the 5 November teleconference between special envoys of the Middle East "quartet" of international mediators (Russia, the US, the EU, and the UN). Russia will continue its proactive efforts, through bilateral channels and in various international formats, to deescalate the situation.

The situation in the Republic of Yemen

The situation remains tense in the Republic of Yemen. Continuing terrorist attacks and armed clashes between Houthi fighters and Al-Qaeda undermine security in the metropolitan district of Sanaa and other provinces, causing civilian casualties and suffering and negatively affecting the socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in Yemen.

The formation and swearing-in on 9 November of a new Yemeni government headed by Khalid Bahah was an important political event. The Cabinet, which now includes several technocrats, will base its work on the results of the National Dialogue Conference and the agreements reached by the main political forces in Yemen that are consistent with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

We operate on the premise that forming a new government in the Republic of Yemen opens doors to pulling this friendly nation out of the dangerous military and political crisis and stabilising the situation with due account taken of the interests of all Yemenis. This opportunity must not be squandered. We call upon all political forces in Yemen to guide themselves by the best interests of the state to preserve its independence, unity and territorial integrity.

Question: On 11 November, the OSCE observation mission to Ukraine detected a lorry designated as Cargo 200 crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border and returning a few hours later to Russia through the Donetsk checkpoint. Do you concede that the Russian military is present in eastern Ukraine and soldiers die there?

Answer: No, I do not. We are discussing this report with the OSCE mission. I think you've read the statement by the Russian Defence Ministry and our envoy to the UN Security Council during yesterday's (12 November) open session on Ukraine regarding such horror stories about the presence of Russian armed forces on Ukrainian territory.

I'm here to announce absolutely officially that no Russian troops are present in southeastern Ukraine, and that the Russian military have never crossed the border with Ukraine.

Question: Are the Minsk Agreements still valid? Can they still be considered the basis for the Ukrainian settlement?

Answer:  The Minsk Agreements provide an important framework that opened the path to settling and de-escalating the conflict and separating the parties. However, the issue is whether the parties involved are honouring their commitments. We are concerned that the Kiev authorities do not fulfil their obligations. We openly stated this during yesterday's UN Security Council meeting.

I have already mentioned today the public statements by the Minister of Defence of Ukraine to the effect that Ukraine is getting ready to resume hostilities and that the Ukrainian military must accomplish their mission. There were other statements that the Russian representative brought up during yesterday's UN Security Council meeting. For example, a representative of the Security Council of Ukraine openly admitted that the ceasefire was supposed to help the Ukrainian side to redeploy its troops and build up its military forces in various Ukrainian regions. This scenario must be prevented at all costs, which is what the Russian side is trying to accomplish as it urges the international actors to help Kiev renounce its plans to resume large-scale hostilities. Such a scenario would be disastrous for Ukraine and the entire region.

I reiterate that the Minsk Agreements, which were signed with assistance from Russia and the OSCE, remain the cornerstone of a political settlement.

Question: Is there a mutual understanding between Russia and the United States over the Iranian nuclear programme, which could lead to signing agreements on 24 November?

Answer:  The key point that I would like to make is that the fully fledged round of talks in Muscat as well as tripartite and other consultations have once again confirmed that all negotiating parties have the political will to try to achieve the result before 24 November. In addition to Ukraine, this issue was central during yesterday's telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State Kerry. This indicates that the parties will continue to work to promote rapprochement and early settlement. Let's hope that our wise negotiators will manage to work out agreements that would suit all the parties and bring a lasting solution to this issue.

Question: What do you think about the proposal by the special UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to "freeze" hostilities in certain regions, as was the case in Homs. Who can act as a guarantor on behalf of the opposition forces fighting "on the ground"?

Answer:  We believe de Mistura's ideas hold a lot of common sense. At the time, we actively encouraged the practice of "local peace deals" paving the way for a broader dialogue between the opposition and the government. Under this approach, the UN could become a party that would promote the preservation of "local peace deals." The UN involvement is quite acceptable, and we would certainly welcome it.

The big question is who would guarantee such agreements on behalf of the opposition. The notion of opposition is not clear, either. There's one in Homs, and one in Aleppo.

Question: Can you confirm the information about the upcoming visit to Moscow by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem? Who will he meet with, and what is the programme of his visit?

Answer:  Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov already told reporters that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Syrian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Walid Muallem on 26 November. I confirm that this visit and negotiations are part of our plans.

Question: How reliable is the information that Moscow will host a meeting of representatives of the Syrian opposition to draft a document on establishing a dialogue with the Syrian government?

Answer: There is a basic document, the 2012 Geneva Communiqué, which the sides must use to resume a dialogue and move forward.

Frankly, the Russian side has long proposed the idea of setting up a meeting between the opposition and the Syrian government in order to find common ground in preparation for a broad-based dialogue on implementing the Geneva Communiqué provisions. However, this is easier said than done, because we are not too clear about the opposition. The Syrian government is the only side to this conflict that we have a clear idea about. It's unclear who will represent the other side. Based on the Geneva Communiqué, we presume that the opposition must be represented by a wide range of groups, both external and internal. It's not so much about the National Coalition as it is about other opposition groups with more moderate positions that seek to resolve the situation. Let's wait and see how the process unfolds.

Moscow talks with Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Walid Muallem may provide certain impulses. We will hear out the Syrian side. I won't hide the fact that we maintain active contacts with various opposition groups in Syria. We hold meetings not only in Moscow, but in Western Europe and the Middle East as well. We are positive that this process would contribute to establishing confidence-building measures and creating an atmosphere that would turn the situation around from military confrontation to a political dialogue. This is our primary goal.

" rel="111">Question: Let's assume that the six international mediators and Iran won't be able to reach an agreement by 24 November. Is there a plan B?

Answer: I'm not going to speculate on the outcome. We said right away that there's a signal date – 24 November – and all parties shall strive to meet this deadline. But the question is what is more important: the date or the actual agreements? We may well need more time to reach mutually acceptable compromises. This is a complex issue. I don't want to make any rash forecasts to the effect that there's no end in sight and the sides are mired in contradictions. Of course, the contradictions are still there, but we are making progress on all matters, and we put special emphasis on this. Perhaps, the progress is not as significant as we would like, but we have a sense that with proper political will (which is in place) we can adopt difficult decisions that would lead to a settlement.

Reaching a compromise on such a complex issue further complicated by such contradictory approaches is not an easy task. Let's not get ahead of ourselves and talk about Plan B. The current goal is to try to meet the deadline, which is what the negotiators are working on. The talks will resume discussions in Vienna on 18 November.

Question: Recently, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said that on 17 November, the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU will once again meet to discuss new sanctions on Russia. What is Russia's reaction to this statement? Are we going to respond?

Yesterday, Switzerland expanded its sanctions package with respect to Russia. When will Russia respond?

Answer: We aren't evil, and we always try to be polite with our international partners. Once again, I would like to emphasise that the unilateral sanctions which are introduced by our partners are absolutely illegitimate and lead the situation to a dead end. First, there are economic reasons for such methods being ineffective, and they are being discussed by business communities in many capitals. There are calculations made by the IMF and other reputable organisations to corroborate this fact. Speaking at a press conference in Myanmar following the East Asia Summit, Prime Minister Medvedev also noted that restrictive measures aggravate the global economic situation.

Sanctions against Russia were introduced by the United States and European countries, and it's up to them to decide how to go about their business now. At the same time, nobody cancelled the practice of "mirror" responses to such unfriendly moves. Let's see how the "landmark" EU Foreign Affairs Council will end on 17 November. We hope that common sense (you can't build partnership with Russia based on pressure in the form of sanctions) and good judgment will prevail. The nations and the peoples will benefit from such real politics.

I reiterate: we consider sanctions illegitimate and totally counterproductive from the viewpoint of promoting bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Question: What's your take on the situation in Libya after the results of the parliamentary elections were declared illegal?

Terrorist attacks in Egypt have taken on a new dimension. Yesterday, airstrikes were conducted simultaneously from the sea and inland. What do you say?

Answer:  The situation in Libya causes many concerns. It's an unpleasant, but logical outcome of the recent developments. The countries that made everyone think that after Gaddafi was toppled, an "era of democracy and stability" would come to Libya are now unlikely to find any arguments to disprove the fact that the situation is so bad that the Libyan state may split up. Everyone can see that. I'm not going to provide political assessments. We hope that the process will not go that far, and ways will be found to settle the situation and establish a pan-Libyan dialogue to preserve that country's statehood.

I don't have proper information about the situation in Egypt. Our contacts with our Egyptian colleagues confirm that the terrorist threat is quite real. The fact that it is now coming even from the sea indicates once again a present challenge to national security. I can confirm that we are actively engaged in a dialogue with the Egyptian leadership and provide practical assistance to Egypt as it fights back the terrorist threat. We supply special equipment and provide training to Egyptian specialists engaged in combating terrorism.

Question: How would you respond to numerous accusations of Russia having its troops deployed in Ukraine? Why are these accusations even made?

Abkhazia submitted its proposals regarding a new bilateral treaty with Russia. Will this document be acted upon? When will it be signed?

Answer:  Regarding accusations against Russia, it would be better to ask the people who publicly come up with the "facts." The purpose of the accusations is very simple: stir up tensions and justify their actions (large-scale military exercises and building up NATO's military capability near the Russian border). Military always need excuses. This time they didn't think too long and just released such unsubstantiated and false accusations.

We analyse and take account of these statements in our military planning and our relations with our Western partners. There's way too much hype about this issue. We posted Minister Lavrov's remarks on our ministry's website prior to his recent talks in Beijing with US Secretary of State John Kerry for a reason. At yesterday's briefing, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki didn't confirm the availability of an "independent," as she put it, confirmation of the Russian military presence in Ukraine.

We have always said that if you have such facts, put them on the table. But our partners never go beyond presenting false claims, which, of course, doesn't make them look good and doesn't add optimism about the speedy normalisation of the situation. The practice of stove-piping creates an impression that the Minsk Agreements and all the loud statements in favour of a political settlement mean nothing, while someone is taking advantage of the situation in order to achieve their own geopolitical goals. This is sad. We say: be based on the assumption that there are no such facts. It's a shame that influential politicians make statements that do absolutely nothing to reduce tension in the region.

Regarding your second question, I'm not sure about the details, and hardly any of the politicians will let the reporters know about them. This document is being worked on thoroughly. As is known, the international practice involves the exchange of texts and approaches. At this stage, we are conducting regular talks which, we hope, will lead us to developing a holistic document. I hope it will be released similarly to the recently signed agreements with Iran in the field of peaceful use of the atomic power. To avoid rumours (as mentioned by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov) and attempts to misinterpret the agreement, you can read the document which states everything in a clear and straightforward manner.

Question: Has the the meeting between State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin with Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Georgia for Relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze in connection with the recent developments in Georgia, in particular, the resignation of three ministers, been scheduled already?

Answer:  As far as I can recall, the meeting is scheduled for early December. I'll have to ask Mr Karasin about the specific date.

Question: What can you say about the interception of Russian weapons at the Baghdad airport?

Answer:  Please find out who reported this news. We will look into it and answer your question later.

Question: Yesterday, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Russian bombers will patrol the space over the Gulf of Mexico. How would you comment on this information?

Answer: I must clarify this to see whether the Defence Minister was quoted accurately. Please speak to the Defence Ministry's press service for clarification.

Question: On 6 June, in an interview to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Special Presidential Envoy to the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov came up with an intermediate solution to stabilise the situation in Syria, suggesting that the Syrian government should establish a coalition government after the elections which would include moderate Syrian opposition. Does Russia have any new initiatives regarding the establishment of a coalition government in Syria?

Answer: I'm not sure whether Mr Bogdanov made such a statement. Rather, it's not about a coalition government, but some form of a caretaker governing authority, which was agreed upon by the sides in the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012. The form of such an authority will have to be discussed by the parties. I believe that the issue is about a form of agreement between the opposing sides concerning this caretaker governing authority.

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