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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, October 22, 2020

22 October 202018:31

Table of contents

  1. Coronavirus update
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan Ruslan Kazakbayev to be held on October 23
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's working visit to the Hellenic Republic
  4. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's working visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina
  5. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to the Republic of Serbia
  6. 75th anniversary of the UN
  7. Update on a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
  8. Update on Syria
  9. Results of the general election in Bolivia
  10. Developments in Mali
  11. US threats against countries with defence industry ties to Iran
  12. US charging six Russian nationals with hacking and UK's Foreign Office statement on Russian security services' attempts to undermine Tokyo Olympics by using cyberattacks
  13. Military exercises held in Germany as part of NATO's "joint nuclear missions"
  14. Statements by CDU Chairperson and German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on the upcoming presidential election in Moldova
  15. Update on Afghanistan
  16. Attack on the Baghdad headquarters of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan
  17. Uzbekistan's programme to upgrade the quality of teaching the Russian language and general education subjects in Russian
  18. The arrival of Russian teachers in Tajikistan
  19. The Forum Coupling of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative
  20. Independence Day of St Vincent and the Grenadines

Answers to media questions:

  1. Turkey's statement about OSCE Minsk Group work
  2. The anti-terrorist operation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. Militants from the Middle East fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh
  4. A peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
  5. The impact of coronavirus on Russian-Iranian political and economic cooperation
  6. Russian-Iranian cooperation in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution effort
  7. Russia's position on normalisation of relations between the UAE and Israel
  8. Developments in Afghanistan


Coronavirus update


Today's briefing is being held during a new and sharp escalation of the sanitary and epidemiological situation in the world, something that cannot help but raise concerns. It looks like the second wave of the pandemic will be stronger and more dangerous than the first one. Explosive growth in incidence rates everywhere, as we see from the morbidity statistics (over 40 million cases in the world as of today), increases the load on medical institutions marshalled to treat the coronavirus in all countries. A lot of international experts predict another serious impact on national economies that have just begun to recover from the spring downturn.

Several days ago Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Ghebreyesus emphasised the increased risks of COVID-19's quick spread that is coinciding with the usual seasonal respiratory diseases on an increasing scale. The European office of the WHO also warns that the current outbreak is largely due to weakening restrictions on maintaining physical distancing.

In this context, the WHO is once again calling for a consolidated effort to fight another wave of the pandemic, which will determine whether the incidence rate will decline or will result in further serious impact. UN experts believe that anti-coronavirus measures must be taken with consideration for the specific epidemic background, be tailored and localised and serve both to protect the population and the economy. The search for such smart formulas and flexible solutions is the main task for most states' governments today.

Deterioration of the sanitary situation in several countries that are traditionally popular among Russian tourists, as noted lately, raises special concern. For example, according to the data from the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), large outbreaks of COVID-19 are being recorded in the UAE, Croatia and Slovenia. Even in countries that are relatively safe today, such as Egypt, Thailand, the Seychelles, Maldives and Turkey, a decline cannot be ruled out; and the risks of a worst case scenario are there. Once again, we ask Russians to carefully consider the circumstances when deciding on a foreign trip, and to calculate all possible risks up to the point of perhaps cancelling the trip.

Please once again, note the recommendations of the emergency response centre to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Russia.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan Ruslan Kazakbayev to be held on October 23


As we have already announced, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic Ruslan Kazakbayev as part of his working visit to Moscow on October 23.

The sides are expected to discuss opportunities for further bilateral cooperation, their participation in Eurasian integration associations, as well as progress in implementing bilateral and multilateral agreements reached earlier at the top and high levels.

The foreign ministers will pay special attention to holding events as part of the Year of Russia in Kyrgyzstan and the Year of Kyrgyzstan in Russia. They will cover many other topics as well.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's working visit to the Hellenic Republic


On October 26, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will travel to the Hellenic Republic on a working visit.

In Athens, the Russian Foreign Minister will have talks with Foreign Minister of Greece Nikos Dendias, will be received by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and will meet with Alexis Tsipras, chairman of the Coalition of the Radical Left, the leading opposition party.

During his contacts with the Greek leadership, Sergey Lavrov is expected to discuss ways of stepping up their political dialogue, deepening bilateral economic interaction and building up cultural and educational ties. They will also exchange views on international and regional issues, including developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa, the Balkans and the Caucasus.

The sides plan to sign a joint memorandum on holding the Russia-Greece Year of History in 2021.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's working visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina


On October 28, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will make a working visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet with the country's Presidency, as well as Deputy Chair of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly Dragan Covic and Deputy Chair of the Council of Ministers and Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic. Lavrov will also meet with Milorad Dodik, member of the Presidency representing the Serbian people, and take part in signing the plan of consultations between the two countries' foreign ministries for 2021 and 2022.  

The agenda includes exchange of views on further development of bilateral relations and discussion of the prospects for expanding cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, culture, healthcare, education and other fields. 

The visit will take place ahead of the 25th anniversary of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina of 1995, which was initialed in Dayton, US, on November 21, and signed in Paris on December 14, with the view to considering a set of issues relating to the post-conflict settlement, while focusing on the principles of the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as equal rights for the three peoples who form the country and two entities ‚Äď Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina ‚Äď having broad constitutional powers.

The officials are expected to touch on the developments in the Balkans and current issues relating to international relations.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to the Republic of Serbia


On October 28-29, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay a visit to the Republic of Serbia. He is expected to meet with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and take part in a ceremony to mark the completion of interior restoration work on the Church of St Sava and another ceremony to light an eternal flame at the Cemetery of Belgrade Liberators.

The talks are expected to focus on an in-depth discussion on cooperation between Russia and Serbia, as well as important international and regional matters, including the situation regarding the Kosovo settlement. 

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 75th anniversary of the UN


October 24 marks the 75th anniversary of the UN Charter coming into effect, which initiated the activities of this global organisation. This anniversary is inextricably connected with another landmark event, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. 

Seventy-five years ago, the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition, driven by a commitment to prevent a repetition of one of the most terrible tragedies in the history of humankind, united around the idea of building a fair world order rooted in respect for the sovereignty, the interests and concerns of all nations and peoples. The central pillar of the post-war world order was assigned to the UN, and its Charter carried the basic standards for international law including the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in internal affairs, and settling crises through political and diplomatic means.

Throughout its existence the UN has faced a number of serious challenges which to a certain extent impeded its performance. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that it has fulfilled its major goal and prevented a new world conflict.

The UN General Assembly held a high level event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the organisation on September 21, 2020, whereby a video address by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was presented on behalf of the CSTO member states. A declaration was adopted following the event with a focus on the need to enhance true multi-polarity and the imperative of strict compliance with the UN Charter and other provisions of international law. A number of other festive and related events, which included Russia's participation, had been scheduled on the UN platforms, however, they had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The anniversary initiatives in New York were to be accompanied by commemorative events in Russia. In part, the United Nations Association of Russia with support from the UN Information Centre in Moscow was supposed to hold a series of scientific and practical conferences, forums and roundtable discussions as well as a gala event at Zaryadye Concert Hall. The bulk of events had to be rescheduled to later dates in view of the health related restrictions.

Meanwhile, on October 10, MGIMO University held an opening ceremony for the Churkin Moscow International Model of the UN timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary. The opening ceremony was held via videoconference.

Today, October 22, the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation held a themed roundtable discussion with key speaker Sergey Vershinin, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister. Among other things, he outlined the major stages in UN development and highlighted its paramount significance in the contemporary world.

A month earlier, the Russian Federation's State Duma of the Federal Assembly issued a special statement on the 75th anniversary of the UN. The statement expressed invariable support for the UN as the central coordinating element in international affairs. It underscored that the domination of certain countries in its Secretariat is unacceptable as it undermines the principle of multilateral cooperation.

In addition, a commemorative postage stamp and a coin devoted to the organisation's anniversary were issued in Russia.

As a UN co-founder and a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia will continue to contribute to enhancing the authority of the UN as the only universal platform for finding collective solutions to modern challenges and threats. We are open to constructive efforts on this track with any like-minded partners. 

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Update on a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement


We continue our mediation aimed at the cessation of bloodshed in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. The issues of this conflict settlement were discussed, in part, in Moscow on October 20 and 21 during Sergey Lavrov's separate meetings with Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov and Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.

As one of the co-chairs in the OSCE Minsk Group, we continue to work in this format. The next meeting of mediators is scheduled to take place in Washington tomorrow.

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Update on Syria


Differing trends continue in Syria. On one hand, the efforts to normalise the situation are gradually producing results, but on the other, destructive forces are working to undermine these processes.

The sides continue to implement the provisions of the Russian-Turkish additional protocol to the memorandum on stabilising the Idlib de-escalation zone of September 17, 2018, which was signed in Moscow on March 5. In accordance with the existing agreements, the Turkish military has started withdrawing their units from a number of observation posts on Syrian territory, in particular, in the town of Morek in the west of the Hama Province.

Meanwhile, developments in the northeast of Syria are a source of growing concern. Thus, we noted the recent provocative statement by Ilham Ahmed, a co-chair of the Executive Board of the Syrian Democratic Council. She said Russia had allegedly failed to perform its "guarantor mission" of the Rojava's talks with the Syrian Government. Indicatively, immediately after her accusations against Russia, on October 16 another big US convoy with combat hardware arrived in northeastern Syria from Iraqi territory. Washington is obviously trying to tear the Kurds away from the multi-religious Syrian state by fueling separatist attitudes.

Last week's decision by the self-proclaimed autonomous administration of North and East Syria to release about 600 ISIS fighters from prisons gives rise to many questions. Obviously, the Kurds could not make this decision without US prompting. The dangerous consequences of this hard-to-explain move were revealed shortly afterward. There are incoming reports of the stepped-up activities of the Islamist radicals that are penetrating regions controlled by the lawful Syrian authorities and engage in local armed clashes with the Syrian military.  

We would like to emphasise Russia's invariable position of principle in support of Syria's unity, and respect for its territorial integrity and sovereignty. We consistently urge Damascus and the self-proclaimed administration of the North and East Syria to engage in a constructive dialogue with a view to finding mutually acceptable solutions in the interests of the local population and the entire country.

We note the efforts of the Syrian government to facilitate the return of refugees to their homes. The campaign on the repatriation of Syrians has been carried out since 2018. It is actively supported by the Russian Federation. As part of this process, President of Syria Bashar al-Assad has signed several executive orders on amnesty. The Syrian authorities have carried out procedures for granting legal status to its citizens that had to flee the country because of the war. Although the task of creating conditions for a safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to the places of their residence and restoring the damaged regions has been clearly set in UN Security Council Resolution 2254, the international contribution to this process remains relatively modest.

The Syrian authorities plan to hold an international conference on facilitating the return of refugees and IDPs in Damascus on November 11-12. Syria has already invited many states and international organisations to take part in this event. Russia is a co-organiser of this forum. We consider it a venue at which the participants will be able to discuss in detail the entire package of issues aimed at helping Syrians come home and restore their unity. We hope the international community will actively join the efforts to resolve this humanitarian issue.

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Results of the general election in Bolivia


The general election held on October 18 in the Plurinational State of Bolivia passed without incident and in a calm and peaceful atmosphere. As a result, the opposition party Movement to Socialism, headed by Luis Alberto Arce Catacora, won.

On October 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a congratulatory message to Mr Arce Catacora.

The election has drawn a line under a period of political instability and legal uncertainty that began in Bolivia almost a year ago after the forced removal of President Evo Morales by actions that included the features of a coup.

The indisputable and convincing results of this vote showed that the political process that has been underway in Bolivia over the past 15 years and which is adjusting to the current domestic political and socioeconomic realities, enjoys the support of the majority of the country's population. Of fundamental importance in this context is the new Bolivian leadership's call to find common ground between various political forces and overcome the split that has occurred in the country over the past year.

The results of the election in Bolivia allow us to reach another important conclusion: national interests and popular wisdom are able to overcome any attempts at political engineering, including that imposed from the outside. And this lesson that the Bolivians have taught us today has a meaning that reaches far beyond their country.

We congratulate Mr Arce Catacora on his victory and the Bolivian people on a peaceful and democratic vote. We wish them further progressive development and prosperity. We confirm our readiness to strengthen our political dialogue and mutually beneficial trade, economic and investment cooperation in fuel and energy, science and technology, agriculture, education, culture and other areas of mutual interest.

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Developments in Mali


We continue to monitor the situation in Mali. We are pleased to note the significant progress achieved at talks between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the military in Bamako on the transition period procedures. This, in particular, has resulted in the appointment of an interim president and an interim prime minister, and a government being formed with the involvement of Mali's leading public and political forces and the lifting of the sanctions imposed by the ECOWAS on Mali. Work is underway to form a National Council that will perform the functions of the country's parliament during the transitional period.

As before, we believe the new Malian authorities will take all the necessary measures to normalise the domestic political situation and bring it back to a constitutional track and will also ensure that civil government in Mali is restored as soon as possible through a general election with support from the ECOWAS and the African Union. 

At the same time we are very concerned about the worsening situation with security in Mali. Given the negative implications of the spread of COVID-19, numerous extremist groups affiliated with ISIS and al-Qaeda have taken advantage of the power vacuum to step up their activities, especially in the country's central and northern provinces, which are battered by persistent acts of terror, against both the military and civilians. 

On October 16, the UN Security Council finalised a statement for the press, following the death at the hands of the terrorists of an Egyptian peace-keeper from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in the vicinity of Kidal and the attack against the mission's camp near Timbuktu. We would like to express our condolences to and sympathy for the victim's family, Egypt and the UN Mission.

We very much appreciate the activities of the UN Mission, which has remained one of the main pillars ensuring security in Mali. Unfortunately, the UN blue helmets, along with the armed forces of the countries in the Sahel area and civilians, are still being subjected to persistent terrorist attacks. This year alone, 23 UN peace-keepers were killed in clashes with militants and in terrorist attacks.

We resolutely condemn any attacks on UN blue helmets and call on Malian authorities to find and punish those who committed these crimes. The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission has become the most dangerous UN operation for peace-keepers. In this context, the effective performance by peacekeepers of their duties requires that additional security measures be taken. 

Russia will continue to be effectively involved, including as a permanent UN Security Council member, in the collective efforts to stabilise the situation in Mali, and in the Sahara-Sahel area in general, and also to provide support to countries in the region on a bilateral basis, including support for boosting their armed forces' fighting capacity and training their military and law-enforcement officers.

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US threats against countries with defence industry ties to Iran


Having lost twice at the UN Security Council, the United States still persists in its completely misguided anti-Iran policies, promising to severely punish countries that do not agree with its failed policy of exerting "maximum pressure" on Tehran.

As we see it, out of revenge, Washington turned to its usual method of imposing unilateral sanctions on countries cooperating with Iran. The defence sphere is only the beginning. Judging by Secretary Pompeo's remarks at a briefing on October 21, the United States' goal is to cut off international cooperation with the Islamic Republic.

Unfortunately, US attacks and threats against various countries and international organisations, including the UN and the IAEA, have become commonplace. Washington values its animus for Iran far greater than international law and Security Council resolutions. Just consider its promises to impose sanctions on those who engage in implementing projects envisaged by UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Iranian nuclear programme. This behaviour is beneath a great power and absolutely unacceptable.

We believe that the world will not let the United States replace international law with fleeting political constructs. Clearly, the selfish interests of the US military-industrial complex are behind the inflation of the Iranian threat, which is intended as a cover to flood the Gulf countries with its weapons.

If the Americans want to fence themselves off from the rest of the world with a gigantic sanctions divider, concealing their poor dealmaking, prejudices and complexes, that is their business. Other countries, including Russia, continue to pursue an independent foreign policy, choosing partners and cooperating with them in areas that are of mutual interest and benefit. This applies to Iran as well. We have been partners with that country for decades. Our partnership is multi-tiered and relies on a solid foundation of trust, neighbourliness and concern for each other's needs and views.

With regard to defence industry cooperation, Russia's policy is entirely consistent with international law and is carried out in full compliance with Russian laws, which are among the toughest and, unlike in the United States, do not depend on political whims or attachments.

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US charging six Russian nationals with hacking and UK's Foreign Office statement on Russian security services' attempts to undermine Tokyo Olympics by using cyberattacks


The coronavirus pandemic revealed even more the vulnerability of all countries, regardless of their political orientation and economic level, to global problems related to the use of digital instruments.

While the sensible part of the international community is working to promote constructive cooperation in issues of global information security and find ways to overcome the "cyber pandemic," some states continue to make unsubstantiated accusations against Russia of committing illegal actions in the information space. 

This is how we view US authorities' charges of hacking against Russian citizens, as well as the October 19 statement  published on the official website of the British Foreign Office on attempts by Russian security services to use cyberattacks so as to undermine the forthcoming Olympics in Tokyo. It will not surprise me if they come up with a theory proving that the Olympics were also rescheduled because of Russian hackers. Regretfully, we live in the world of an infodemic, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. Such fakes, unfortunately, are routine nowadays.

Our repeated proposals on holding an expert meeting to consider the backlog of grievances and controversies remain unanswered against the background of the West incessantly telling bogus stories about almighty "Russian hackers."  

Regretfully, instead of launching a pragmatic dialogue among cyber experts, the United States and its allies would rather have false and far-etched stories about Russia's alleged interference, ratcheting up their grievances to the point of absurdity.

We would like to once again remind the masterminds of this campaign who whip up the narrative about "Russian hackers" that under the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic it is crucial to focus on the issues of international interaction in fighting the "cyber pandemic" rather than act in the opposite direction, deepening mistrust in the global cyberspace which, in turn, gives free rein to real hackers.

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Military exercises held in Germany as part of NATO's "joint nuclear missions"


Media reports on NATO exercises in Germany in mid-October with a terrific title, Steadfast Noon, have come to our attention. Reportedly, these exercises involved the fine-tuning of skills for using nuclear weapons as part of the alliance's "joint nuclear missions." Fighter-bombers from a number of countries equipped to use American nuclear weapons that are deployed in Europe were involved in the exercises. Deployed US nuclear weapons will remain not only in Germany, but also in Belgium, Holland, Italy and Turkey. The Americans will upgrade their nuclear bombs, and European NATO members will upgrade the aircraft carrying these weapons.

Once again, we are compelled to point out that amidst the crisis in arms control, the unlimited buildup by certain states and their allies, as well as their alliances, of their military capabilities and, especially, the provocative training in carrying out nuclear missions harm international security, destabilise the international situation and could well lead to disastrous consequences.

By the way, the very NATO agencies that engage in countering a so-called Russian information threat could use their resources to tell the Europeans about these exercises in more detail, so that they understand what kind of exercises are taking place on their respective territories or their airspace. They could even show some pictures and infographics and also use computer graphics for the Europeans to get a better idea of what kind of strikes were being practiced on their territory, albeit in a test mode. Our NATO colleagues usually do this with regard to Russia, so this time they are welcome to do so with regard to themselves. Go ahead and show your people what kind of scenarios you are working on, because these are practical scenarios after all.

The US practice of exercises related to preparing and using nuclear weapons by the personnel of the armed forces of states that do not possess such weapons is an outright and flagrant violation of articles 1 and 2 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which significantly undermines its viability.

There can be only one solution to this problem, namely, to return all US nuclear weapons to US national territory, to eliminate the corresponding infrastructure which provides for rapid deployment of these weapons on the territories of other states, as well as a refusal to conduct exercises involving the preparation and use of nuclear weapons by personnel of the armed forces of the states that do not possess such weapons.

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Statements by CDU Chairperson and German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on the upcoming presidential election in Moldova


We noted the October 12 publication in the official twitter account of the CDU party of a video address by its Chairperson and German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on the eve of the presidential election in Moldova on November 1. This member of the German Government unequivocally supported the nominee of the Action and Solidarity Party Maia Sandu in the election.

We consider these appeals from a high-ranking German official as a direct interference in the internal affairs of the Republic of Moldova. Her assertions of the link of the choice in favour of Ms Sandu with the country's European future are beyond the pale and cannot be qualified as anything other than an attempt at the little-disguised blackmail of Moldovan voters. We consider such statements unacceptable because they contradict universally accepted international practice.

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Update on Afghanistan


A growth in violence was recently recorded in Afghanistan against the backdrop of the complete stalemate on technical issues at the talks on national reconciliation. Hostilities continue in a substantial part of Afghan territory. Tensions have recently escalated in the south, in the Helmand Province. Active hostilities are waged around the administrative centre of the province, the city of Lashkargah. The military-political situation in other regions of Afghanistan remains complicated. Civilians are perishing and the number of refugees is growing.

We urge the confronting parties in Afghanistan to reduce the level of violence in the country and focus on the talks. We hope that delegations from official Kabul and the Taliban in Doha will soon reach a consensus on the disputed procedural issues and start discussing the key items on the national reconciliation agenda.

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Attack on the Baghdad headquarters of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan


We are concerned about the October 17 attack on the Baghdad headquarters of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan. The building was subjected to a pogrom and set on fire.

We are convinced that the differences accumulated in Iraqi society cannot be resolved by force. They can only be settled by conducting a mutually respectful dialogue and achieving national reconciliation.

In this respect, we urge the political forces in Iraq to display restraint and search for solutions that meet the interests of all ethnic and religious groups in the country at the negotiating table.

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Uzbekistan's programme to upgrade the quality of teaching the Russian language and general education subjects in Russian


The first group of 31 Russian school guidance counselors arrived in Tashkent on October 6 under Russian-Uzbekistani agreements on measures to improve the quality of teaching the Russian language and instruction in general subjects in Russian in the Republic of Uzbekistan. The tasks include the initial monitoring of the level of Russian language competence among teachers and students in the republic's regions with a view to determining the subsequent steps.

On October 11, the Ministry of Education of Russia, the Ministry of Public Education of Uzbekistan and the Art, Science and Sports non-profit charity foundation signed in Tashkent  a memorandum on adopting a joint project and a basic step-by-step programme for its implementation. Under the plan, after the monitoring is completed and coordination centres are established in Uzbekistan, 100 Russian specialists will be sent to organise professional retraining courses and work in schools. The presence of Russian teachers is to gradually increase to 1,000 by 2030. Up to 30,000 local teachers will receive various forms of education.

The project will be funded from the federal budget of the Russian Federation with contributions from Uzbekistan, as well as sponsorship by noted Russian businessman and philanthropist Alisher Usmanov.

The opening of an affiliate of the Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University (St Petersburg) in Tashkent in 2020 is expected to be a major step in the development of bilateral cooperation. On October 8, the leaders of Uzbekistan made a decision to this effect. In addition to educating bachelor and masters degree holders, the affiliate will conduct professional upgrading courses for teachers.

We consider this project to be a real step towards consolidating humanitarian ties between the peoples of Russia and Uzbekistan.

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The arrival of Russian teachers in Tajikistan


On October 15, 50 teachers from 18 regions of Russia arrived in Dushanbe to teach disciplines in Russian at local schools, the event being part of a project to send Russian teachers to the Republic of Tajikistan.  

The aim of the initiative is to help the country's students to improve their command of the Russian language. The plan has already been implemented successfully for four years now and has involved 173 teachers from Russia specialising in the Russian language and literature, physics, maths, chemistry, biology and IT. They taught at more than 20 schools in seven cities and six districts of Tajikistan. The project has been praised highly by Tajikistan's leaders and received a positive public response.

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The Forum Coupling of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative


On October 26-27, the Forum Coupling of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative will be held in an online format. The event is intended for the EAEU business circles interested in promoting contacts with Chinese partners. Its organiser is the Eurasian Economic Commission, with general support coming from the EAEU Business Council, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and the All Russia Public Organisation Business Russia.

The forum participants will discuss global economic challenges, post-pandemic economic revival, EAEU-China practical collaboration in spheres such as agricultural exports, environment, sustainable development, and introduction of digital solutions to logistics and transit. They will also focus on how to promote sovereign financial systems and national currency settlements and to ensure mutual complementarity in the agro-industrial sector.

The forum will be attended by heads of trade, economic and foreign policy agencies from China and EAEU member countries, representatives of business communities, and experts. Russia will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.  

We invite all those interested in this matter, primarily representatives of the Russian and foreign media, to take part in covering the forum. The details of its programme can be found on the event's official website. This briefing's transcript will have the relevant hyperlink. 

In addition to this, a special open-connectivity telegram channel has been created that will flash up key quotes by forum participants. The transcript will also contain a hyperlink to the channel.

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Independence Day of St Vincent and the Grenadines


I would like to say a few words about a happy and festive occasion: on October 27, the youngest Latin American state, St Vincent and the Grenadines, marks its Independence Day (1979).

This country has grown into one of the brightest examples of real sovereignty and independence. Firm defence of the UN Charter, the norms of principles of international law and the interests of small countries, including its Caribbean Basin neighbours, has earned Kingstown the unconditional support of a large group of countries: 185 countries supported its nomination to the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member in 2020-2021. Kingstown's voice remains loud and clear in any external circumstances, and does not waver in the face of foreign pressure.

We are pleased to note the high level of coordination of our positions in the UN Security Council and General Assembly. We will certainly continue working in this constructive spirit.

St Vincent and the Grenadines is one of Russia's closest partners in the Caribbean Basin. We have very warm memories of the Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves' Moscow visit early this year. It has boosted our bilateral relations and our cooperation on international venues.

Speaking on behalf of the Foreign Ministry, I would like to use this occasion to congratulate the government and people of this wonderful country on Independence Day and to wish peace, prosperity and wellbeing to our friends.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said in a statement he made in the Azerbaijani Parliament, Milli Majlis, that the OSCE's Minsk Group is "brain dead" and that it has failed to come up with a sustainable solution to the conflict. What is the Russian Foreign Ministry's opinion of this Turkish statement at a time when energetic efforts are being taken towards a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh?

Maria Zakharova: Many statements have been made about a settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh. It would be impossible to comment on all of them. I believe we should look at it from a different angle: there is an official Moscow position on the matter. It has not changed, and all of you are well aware of it. It has also been reinforced by practical steps and actions.

As for the OSCE Minsk Group, we have announced today its latest move forward. This is better than commenting on any statements.

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Question: My question is about the counterterrorist operation. Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Konstantin Kosachev has said that Armenia should submit an official request to Russia for holding a counterterrorist operation in Nagorno-Karabakh in light of the involvement of foreign terrorist fighters in the conflict, a potential terrorist threat and the necessity of holding a peacekeeping operation in Nagorno-Karabakh. What will Russia do, considering its huge experience of combating international terrorism?

Maria Zakharova: It is not clear what you mean by your question. What exactly do you want me to comment? I don't believe that we need to comment on Mr Kosachev's statements. They are always carefully worded and do not need to be topped up. Maybe you will rephrase your question so that it is addressed to me personally?

Question: I mean, what will you do if the transfer of terrorists creates a direct threat of the proliferation of terrorism?

Maria Zakharova: I can say that our military experts and representatives of other concerned agencies are closely monitoring this issue. We are very concerned. We have said so publicly. I would like you to know that that we have been working very actively outside public view. It is a very serious problem indeed.

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Question: How would you assess the situation with militants from the Middle East fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh? Who is taking them there? What is the idea of Russia's appeals to the countries that help them move around? What is Russian diplomacy counting on ‚Äď that those who are bringing them in will also recall them?

Maria Zakharova: Russian diplomacy counts on the tools that it has and uses in its work. This isn't about any speculative hopes, or dreams. It's about down-to-earth work, where public statements actually come second, while applied work and practical actions come first.

We maintain contact with our colleagues who are involved in the situation in the region. Once again, I would like to say that, with regard to militants being transferred to Nagorno-Karabakh, we are using foreign policy tools, diplomatic channels, and Russian military experts, specialists, and representatives of relevant agencies are also involved in this activity.

As you must realise, attracting excessive public attention to this work is the last thing we need. But the public must be confident that this issue is being handled. Let me emphasise once again that for us, it is not some speculative problem, but a very specific one. We are perfectly aware of the possible consequences and can predict them.

Why did we speak about this publicly? Among other things, to give these efforts a dimension and further underscore their importance for our country because we are well aware of the consequences this can lead to. But the public side of this matter is secondary. Specific work is primary, and it is being done.

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Question: Yesterday, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan said the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has no peaceful solution. At the same time, Russia is setting up bilateral and trilateral meetings to find a peaceful solution, which, as it appears, Armenia does not believe in. How could you comment on this statement?

Maria Zakharova: I would like to reiterate that at this stage, many statements are being made, and we perfectly understand why. The situation is tense; the conflict is in an active phase, which unfortunately, involves bloodshed: people, service members and civilians are dying. Furthermore, you are perfectly familiar with Russia's position. It has been repeatedly stated by the leaders of our country, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This position enjoys broad support in society ‚Äď to end the bloodshed and immediately start the negotiation process. Our position has not changed, of course. You know that it is consistent.

Question: Has the coronavirus pandemic influenced Iranian-Russian political and economic cooperation?

Maria Zakharova: Despite the pandemic, bilateral ties continue to develop vigorously in all directions at the high and highest levels and also between the regions. This year, the presidents of both countries had four telephone conversations. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov received his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif three times in Moscow. In addition to this, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin had a telephone conversation with Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the new Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.

Moscow and Tehran are expanding cooperation at international venues as well. They are working closely in the Astana format to facilitate Syrian settlement. On July 1, 2020, its online summit took place at the initiative of the Iranians. The heads of guarantor states are to meet face to face in Tehran after the sanitary and epidemiological situation is normalised.

Russian and Iranian leaders are constantly focusing on ways to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, including prospects for practical cooperation on Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. The concerned agencies have launched professional dialogue on this.

We are noting positive trends in bilateral business ties and growth in trade even in the conditions brought about by the pandemic which is hitting the global economy hard. We plan to continue encouraging mutually beneficial partnership between our countries and to help realise the impressive potential that has accumulated here.

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Question: Can Iran and Russia cooperate in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? Are the two countries working together on security in the South Caucasus?

Maria Zakharova: The Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran maintain longtime friendly and diverse ties and a relationship that has always been aimed at creating the required conditions for regional peace and stability. Both countries are vitally interested in neighbours living in peace and addressing mutual problems at the negotiating table and on the basis of international law and principles formalised by the UN Charter.

Since the resumption of hostilities, Russian and Iranian leaders have repeatedly discussed the conflict's escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh at the high and highest levels. We are noting the parties' coinciding positions on key aspects of resolving the situation, including the most important current aspect, namely, the lack of an alternative to a truce and the beginning of the negotiating process.

We know that Tehran supports and praises Russia's daily efforts as a nation, as well as those within the OSCE's Minsk Group.

We hope to continue the current exchange of opinions with our Iranian friends whose assessments and ideas remain in high demand; and we heed them attentively in our work.

We can see that the well-balanced position of the Islamic Republic of Iran is important for the parties to the conflict, and we are convinced that it will help them realise that continued hostility and bloodshed have no future and spell out nothing but bloodshed.

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Question: What is Russia's position on the normalisation of relations between the UAE and Israel and the resumption of flights between them?

Maria Zakharova: We would like to note that the documents on the normalisation of Israel's relations with the UAE and Bahrain reaffirm their commitment to continued efforts towards a fair, comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. These intentions must now be complemented with practical action. This would certainly help improve the overall situation in the Middle East.

We believe that the Palestinian problem remains acute and that its settlement would help coordinate a unifying agenda based on the mutual respect of sovereign states and their non-interference in the internal affairs of each other. We have been consistently urging all Middle Eastern countries to develop their relations on this basis.

In the given context, we would like to express our grave concern over the Israeli government's decision to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which was taken after the above mentioned agreements on normalisation were signed in Washington on September 15. We would like to point out that some of these new settlements provide for building additional sections of the security (separation) fence in East Jerusalem. This essentially amounts to the annexation of Palestinian territories in accordance with the "deal of the century" promoted by the US administration.

In this connection, we would like to reaffirm Russia's principled approach in support of the two-state solution to the Palestinian problem based on the universally recognised norms of international law. We call for launching direct UN-led talks between Israel and Palestine to find a mutually acceptable solution to all issues of the permanent status and to attain a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the conflict.

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Question: Some Afghan politicians believe that a civil war will start in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops. What is Russia's position on this score?

Maria Zakharova: We believe that the deployment of foreign troops in Afghanistan is not helping to stabilise the military and political situation in the country but rather serves as an additional irritant to the armed opposition as a party to the conflict. As you are likely aware, the Taliban views the US and NATO troops in Afghanistan as an occupation army.

In this connection, we believe that a full withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, complemented with agreements to be reached through an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue, is an essential condition for a lasting peace in the country.


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