Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, September 17, 2015
70th session of the UN General Assembly
On September 15, the 70th anniversary session of the UN General Assembly opened in New York City. At this major international forum, UN member states will address a wide range of pressing global and regional issues.
We attach great importance to the UN anniversary in terms of the assessment of the organisation’s 70 years of work and the setting of its development priorities for the upcoming period. To this end, a large number of heads of state and government are expected to attend the events at the UN headquarters in New York City as part of the General Assembly session in September. President Vladimir Putin will participate in the work of the session. The president is expected to address the session during a general political discussion at a plenary meeting of the General Assembly.
On October 23, ahead of UN Day, a special meeting devoted to the 70th anniversary of the UN Charter will take place in New York City.
A number of high-level events have been planned as part of the current session, primarily the UN Summit on the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda, which will set strategic guidelines and specific parametres of multilateral interaction in the economic, social and environmental spheres for the next 15 years.
In addition, the 70th Session President, Danish representative Mogens Lykketoft, has announced high-level thematic meetings within the framework of the session on compliance with international obligations in the context of sustainable development and climate change, strengthening the UN role in maintaining international peace and security and improving work to promote human rights, rule of law, effective governance and state institution building.
The Russian Federation will continue to work actively on UN General Assembly agenda issues that are a matter of priority to us.
Foreign Ministry’s statement following the dismantling of the monument to Ivan Chernyakhovsky in the town of Pieniężno (Poland) and the defilement of the Monument of Gratitude to the Red Army Soldiers in Warsaw’s Skaryszewski Park
According to reports from Poland, the “war” against the monuments to Soviet soldiers who laid down their lives to free the Polish state and people from Nazism, unleashed by the country’s authorities, has reached a new round of escalation. Despite our repeated protests and warnings, the monument to Army General, Twice Hero of the Soviet Union Ivan Chernyakhovsky, installed at the site of this death in the town of Pieniężno (Województwo warmińsko-mazurskie), is being dismantled. The Monument of Gratitude to the Red Army Soldiers in Warsaw has again been defaced.
In the past year alone, there have been at least 10 instances of defacement or destruction of Soviet memorials in Poland. In July 2014, the Limanowa city authorities dismantled a monument of gratitude to Soviet soldiers. In September, monuments in the towns of Pruszcz Gdańsk and Nowy Sącz were defiled. In October, slabs on the graves of our soldiers in Gdansk were smashed. In November, the Nowy Sącz authorities made the unilateral decision to remove a number of architectural elements from the Monument of Gratitude to the Red Army. In December, slabs at the tomb of Soviet soldiers in Białystok were upturned. In February 2015, Red Army soldiers’ graves at a cemetery in the city of Kalisz were desecrated, a memorial to soldier-liberators in the city of Aleksandrów Łódzki was smashed, and a monument to Polish and Soviet paratroopers in the Lubasz region was defaced. Just a few days ago, a monument to the Polish Armed Forces and Red Army comradeship in arms in Nowa Sól was dismantled. There has been no official comment from Warsaw on these acts of vandalism, while Russian objections over all of these outrageous cases were ignored.
The Foreign Ministry expresses a strong protest and urges the Polish authorities to stop the bacchanalia that is at odds with all reasonable perceptions of modern civilisation, end the destruction of Soviet monuments, guarantee their preservation and ensure the search and punishment of those guilty of defiling the monuments.
We insist that the Polish side faithfully comply with the obligations arising from the February 22, 1994 bilateral intergovernmental agreement on burials and memorials to victims of war and repression.
Work on thematic resolutions and other documents during Russia’s UN Security Council presidency
So far, two resolutions have been adopted during Russia’s Security Council presidency.
The first, approved on September 2 (2237), concerns the Security Council’s sanctions on Liberia. A long overdue decision was adopted to cancel the Security Council’s targeted measures with regard to individuals and corporations.
Given certain difficulties faced by the Liberian authorities in monitoring arms traffic, the arms embargo will continue to be in place with regard to the country (until June 2016).
Currently, the Foreign Ministry is drafting a presidential executive order on bringing Russian legislation in line with this Security Council resolution.
The second document — Security Council Resolution 2238 — was adopted on September 10. It renews the UN Support Mission in Libya until March 2016. It confirms that the current situation in Libya — given the split between the two opposing groups (Tripoli and Tobruk), the expansion of the territories occupied by ISIS, the influx of migrants from neighbouring countries and the large number of internally displaced persons — requires increasingly decisive efforts on behalf of the international community to find political and diplomatic solutions to the crisis, including by way of forming a national-consensus government.
With regard to the draft Security Council resolution on combating illegal migration through Libya in the Mediterranean Sea, we maintain close consultations in the Security Council to bring its content in line with applicable international law (1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime), and with the earlier-adopted Security Council documents, primarily on Somalia.
The key points for us include the best possible protection of migrants’ lives and precluding any possibility of a broad interpretation on the part of those who undertake to implement the operation in the Mediterranean. Freedom of navigation should not be exposed to additional risks.
We are also conducting consultations on a possible draft final document of the Security Council ministerial meeting slated for September 30, "Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Settling Conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and Fighting the Terrorist Threat in the Region."
In September, the council will extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). We note the overall stable situation in that country and support the recommendations contained in the UN Secretary General's latest report on further reductions in its numbers with a view to end its activities. We welcome the further transfer of the mission’s functions in the security sphere to the Liberian security forces.
We support extending the UNMIL mandate for next year. We expect to receive the UN Secretary General's recommendations on reformatting the UN presence in that country.
Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic steps related to Ukraine’s ‘sanctions list’ concerning Russia
On September 16, President Petr Poroshenko signed an executive order to expand sanctions against Russian individuals and corporations.
The list now includes Russian politicians and companies.
In this regard, on September 17, the Foreign Ministry summoned Charge d'Affaires of Ukraine in the Russian Federation Ruslan Nimchinsky to express resolute protest regarding yet another unfriendly act made by the Ukrainian side. Moscow is entitled to detailed explanations regarding this controversial decision.
It was noted that such provocative acts by official Kiev are not conducive to normalising Russian-Ukrainian relations and undermine the implementation of the Minsk Agreements of February 12.
Opening the Russian Consulate General in Hurghada, Egypt
A principled agreement has been reached with the Egyptian side to open the Russian Consulate General in Hurghada, Arab Republic of Egypt. A draft directive by the Russian Government to that effect is in the final stages of being coordinated by the respective departments. We hope the documents will soon be submitted in the prescribed manner to the Government, after which the Foreign Ministry will proceed with organisational work leading to the opening of the Consulate General.
Formation and activities of UN working groups on Syria
We commend the efforts by UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to establish an inter-Syrian dialogue based on the Geneva communiqué of June 30, 2012. We supported his initiative to form working groups to address various aspects of the settlement, consisting of representatives of the government and opposition in four thematic blocks — political issues, security issues, military and counter-terrorism issues, and reconstruction and development issues. We operate on the premise that such an important issue as the appointment of facilitators or coordinators of working groups and their deputies should be addressed based on the principle of fair geographical representation. Clearly, the intermediaries must be impartial and honest.
US claims regarding isolating Russia in connection with military and technical assistance to Syria
In relation to the continuing assaults on Russia by US official representatives, including in the Syrian context, we would like to point out that the United States has been speaking about isolating us for about 18 months. So, we must say again — such an approach ensues from the isolation of the United States from the realities of the modern world. Again, speaking the language of sanctions and threats with Russia is nonsensical. It will not help to resolve the conflict in Syria.
We have never hidden the fact that we have cooperated and continue to cooperate with Syria, including in the military sphere. Contrary to what Washington says about the merits of the anti-ISIS coalition that it leads, the regular Syrian army has been bearing the brunt of fighting terrorists on its soil for several years now. Until recently, the West generally turned a blind eye to the bloody crimes perpetrated by ISIS and similar groups, hoping to use the latter in its foreign policy ploys.
It is a good thing that the United States has finally realised with whom it is dealing. However, our American partners also need to understand that we can defeat terrorism only if we are united. There is no way to do so in Syria without the participation of the legitimate Syrian government.
Incident with a Russian tanker off Libyan shores
According to the information available, the Russian tanker “Mechanic Chebotaryov” was detained by a warship under a Libyan flag off Libya’s territorial waters at 10.50 am (Moscow time) on September 16 at a distance of 17 miles off Libya’s shores, that it, outside its territorial waters. Its crew consisted of 12 people, all of Russian nationality. The tanker is owned by the Russian company Oil Marine Group from St Petersburg.
The tanker’s owner reported that the tanker had no cargo and was escorted to the port of Tripoli. The documents and cell phones of the crew members were confiscated and the tanker’s papers were seized.
At present, our Embassy in Libya (temporarily based in Tunisia) is trying to clear up the circumstances of the incident.
We consider the seizure of the Russian tanker to be illegal, and demand that the Tripoli authorities free it immediately and without any preconditions.
At the same time we are again strongly urging the Russian operators of international shipments and Russian citizens that are members of Russian and foreign crews of aircraft and ships to refrain from visiting Libya out of security considerations until the situation in that country is normalised.
Humanitarian situation in Yemen
We are seriously concerned over the humanitarian situation in the Republic of Yemen. The continued military actions and air raids by the Saudi-led coalition on the positions of Houthis and their supporters are increasing the human losses of the conflict, including civilian casualties. According to UN humanitarian organisations, the number of dead and wounded has exceeded 4,500 and 24,000 respectively since the start of the coalition’s operation. The number of people requiring humanitarian aid has reached 21 million, which is over 80 percent of the country’s population. More than 1.5 million have been displaced domestically, while part of the population has fled to neighbouring countries, primarily Djibouti and Somalia. About 13 million are exposed to food risks, including 6.5 million who are chronically starving.
Ground hostilities, indiscriminate shelling and massive air attacks are destroying vital infrastructure facilities, including schools, hospitals and water towers.
All humanitarian agencies are noting a disastrous fuel shortage, which impedes the delivery of relief into remote areas of the country. Water and medicines are in short supply as well. The condition of the Yemeni agriculture is a source of grave concern. Only recently it provided jobs for half of all population but this year grain production is expected to fall by 30 percent and fish production by 50-70 percent. This will further aggravate the already catastrophic food situation.
We hope that the recently established UN mechanism for the verification and inspection of trade cargo for Yemen will help alleviate the consequences of the coalition-imposed trade blockade and ensure safe delivery of commercial cargo to the country.
For our part, we are doing what we can to help the Yemeni people, and regularly send essential humanitarian aid through the Emergencies Ministry’s special flights.
At present, Russia is analysing the possibility of sending food to Yemen under the UN World Food Programme.
We are convinced that the degrading humanitarian situation in Yemen can be drastically redressed only if the conflict is settled by peaceful means. We are urging all sides of the conflict to cease all hostilities, which are only aggravating the suffering of Yemeni civilians, and to resume the search for consensus at the negotiating table with the participation of all political forces of the country and with mediation from the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen Ould Cheikh Ahmed, whose efforts we support.
Refugee situation in Europe
We are watching with serious concern the developments related to the massive exodus to Europe of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.
We note that the efforts of the EU member-countries to resolve this crisis have failed to achieve the desired effect so far. Matters are being left to take their own course. The reasons for this are not limited to the massive nature of this phenomenon. They also lie in the lack of consensus in the EU as regards practical measures on resolving this complicated and long overdue issue.
All this is seriously affecting the position of refugees who are already on the territory of the European Union. We see this in the sporadic crises that are breaking out on the domestic borders of an increasing number of EU states. These crises are fraught with the loss of government control over the situation. We have not yet seen any signs of real progress along this path, behind the loud declarations by European politicians on the need for a humane attitude toward these people.
In this context, we would like to note the efforts of the states (Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and some European countries) that are bearing the brunt of the humanitarian, material and financial burden for the destinies of tens and hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of people.
We are calling on the European Union and its member states to display a more responsible approach to their international commitments on ensuring and protecting refugee rights.
The situation in Burkina Faso
According to news reports, on September 16, in Burkina Faso, the presidential guard interrupted a transitional government meeting to arrest Acting President Michel Kafando, Acting Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida and cabinet ministers. The military issued a statement on removing the head of state from office and dissolving the government and the parliament. A curfew was introduced in the capital city of Ouagadougou, and the borders were closed.
UN representatives and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) stepped in to help resolve the situation.
We are closely following the developments in Burkina Faso. We operate on the premise that the resolution of internal political problems must be peaceful.
We recommend to Russian citizens to temporarily refrain from travelling to Burkina Faso.
The situation on the Korean Peninsula
We have noted the statements by the head of the DPRK National Aerospace Agency on September 14 about the forthcoming launch of a booster rocket with an artificial satellite. The time and location of the launch will be determined by the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. We also took note of North Korea’s confirmation of the resumption of full-scale work at the Yongbyon nuclear facility.
We express concern over the possibility of a new rocket launch in the DPRK and continuing work to create nuclear weapons, which is prohibited by the corresponding UNSC resolutions.
We hope that all the parties concerned will exercise maximum restraint and responsibility in order to prevent aggravation of the situation in Northeast Asia.
We operate on the belief that there exists no alternative to resolving nuclear and other problems faced by the Korean Peninsula other than through political and diplomatic means. It is necessary to gradually dismantle the remaining confrontational dividing lines, to build a system of regional ties based on respect and legitimate interests and security concerns of each state and to use this as a basis for forming a peace and cooperation mechanism in Northeast Asia. This is the only realistic way to normalise the situation on the Korean peninsula.
The Eurasian Women’s Forum
At the initiative of Chair of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko, a Eurasian Women's Forum will be held in St Petersburg on September 24–25, sponsored by the Interparliamentary Assembly of the CIS Member Nations and the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
This platform could become a permanent venue for interaction and dialogue between influential women in social, political and economic decision-making. It will contribute to a better use of the potential of international women’s movements to discuss and address global problems, and will significantly expand the opportunities for promoting Eurasian humanitarian cooperation.
The forum is expected to involve heads of parliaments and executive authorities, MPs, representatives of business communities, international organisations, academia, public and charitable organisations, and prominent figures of the international women's movement from 90 countries.
The participants will discuss a wide range of contemporary development issues, including gender inequality, demography, education, healthcare and entrepreneurship. Included on the forum’s agenda are round table discussions on topics such as “Women in Media”, “Dialogue in the World – Peace on Earth”, as well as panels, such as “Women and Power: The Agenda of Sustainable Development” and “Women in a Changing Economy: New Opportunities and Challenges”, to name a few.
Much focus is going into making this event a success, properly organising it and creating a comfortable environment for fruitful work by its participants.
We believe that this forum will be a major high-profile international event.
From answers to media questions:
Question: What is happening to the crew of the ship seized in Libya?
Maria Zakharova: I can only confirm that the Russian Embassy is in contact with the local authorities and is trying to clarify the fate of the crew. Our diplomats are doing everything to ensure that the crew is released and the incident is closed.
Question: Is it true that the crew has received threats?
Maria Zakharova: I have no such information. If it arrives we’ll make it known.
Question: A German blogger, whose angry comments towards German media are being widely discussed on the Internet, has accused the press of suppressing the truth about the causes of the flow of refugees. He asserts that the coverage of everything related to Russia is one-sided. Can you comment on this?
Maria Zakharova: The German blogger may or may not accuse the media – this is up to him; it’s his personal opinion.
I can only speak about our assessment. We not simply observe but are regularly faced with stove-piping and inadequate, biased assessments of what is going on. This refers not only to Ukraine but also to Syria, when most media stories are based on the discussion of certain leaks attributed to high-ranking representatives or official agencies in other countries. You should not fall for this. If you see regular leaks, you should understand that you are becoming a propaganda “tool.” We would like to see an objective view of things, so that the information that is officially provided by Russia is cited, among other sources.
Yesterday, I responded in detail to questions from a Western newspaper and I was told that extensive quotes on Syria would be included; but then I was informed late at night that the story would not be published, as “it is not as relevant as other topics.” I don’t know what can be more relevant for the world section of a Western newspaper than the Syria issue but that is what I was told. I promptly responded to their question, doing all I could. Doesn’t this show that they simply don’t want to listen to us? The problem is not that we don’t say enough but that they don’t want to hear us.
Look at how many Russian journalists today are not allowed to travel to EU countries to attend news conferences to prepare their stories. This seemed impossible only a few year ago, but now EU countries, which have for years been urging us to observe meticulously everything that has to do with freedom of expression and describing propaganda as “a global evil,” are beginning to build their information policy and create special organisations and associations to prevent the spread of information from Russian media. Given what is happening now, how is it possible to speak about the freedom of expression and the unacceptability of erecting barriers to the dissemination of information? Moreover, all of this is being discussed in EU and NATO; funding is being provided for this and significant sums are being earmarked in the budget. There is only one formula, i.e., to prevent the dissemination of information from Russian media.
Special Russian-language TV networks to counter Russian information are being created in the Baltic and East European countries. Consider the paradox. For 20 years, we have been asking for the rights of Russian speakers in these countries to be ensured. We were told either that there were no problems with the Russian language in their countries or that they had no intention of doing anything about it. Now, however, special Russian-language media outlets are being created and it turns out that there is enough money for this, while Russian speakers are becoming relevant. This is not even double standards or hypocrisy but the erosion of the foundations on which Europe relies and we, too, want to rely. Why turn all of this into a “theatre of the absurd”? Over 20 years, preventing Russian speakers in the Baltic and other countries from speaking their native language or developing it and now creating information systems broadcasting in Russian!
Question: Please comment on the Russian proposal to the United States, which, as explained by US Secretary of State John Kerry, consists of ensuring safety during military strikes by the coalition and Russian fighter jets. Please, specify whether this is true, or is the issue is about coordinating the work of Russian military experts helping the Syrian army to perform military strikes against the ISIS positions?
Maria Zakharova: I think you framed your question more technically than the American side. By and large, it can be formulated as follows: “What’s going on with military-technical cooperation in Syria?”
As a Foreign Ministry, we engage in political and foreign policy issues, but as the Foreign Ministry of the Russian side, we reaffirm that if the United States has any concerns about military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Damascus, we are willing to provide corresponding information. Everything is limited only to the United States’ desire to show its interest and establish contact with Russian specialists. If there are questions, we will have our military department answer them. That’s the essence of what appears to be a complex discussion, but in fact, everything is quite simple. We are open to providing answers to the questions that appear to be tormenting the American side, regarding military-technical cooperation, which Russia carries out with Syria on legal grounds.
Question: Yesterday, the DPR head Alexander Zakharchenko signed an executive order to hold elections in the republic on October 18. What is the position of the Russian Foreign Ministry in this regard? Does it pose a threat to the Minsk agreements?
Maria Zakharova: Indeed, on September 16, Mr Zakharchenko signed an executive order to hold local elections in Donetsk on October 18. In accordance with this order, the elections of the heads of cities and districts will be held in a month.
We consider that this forced step by the Donetsk authorities was caused by violation of the Minsk agreements by official Kiev, which faked compliance, especially in taking unilateral steps in matters regarding a political settlement, rather than on the basis of direct dialogue between Kiev and Donbass. All this is outlined in paragraphs 4, 9, 11 and 12 of the Package of Measures for compliance with the Minsk agreements.
With regard to the Russian side, we believe it’s important to continue to act in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Minsk agreements, to which, we firmly believe, there is no alternative as a basis for restoring peace and stability in southeastern Ukraine.
Kiev’s reluctance to engage in direct dialogue with the representatives of Donbass is the cornerstone of the implementation of the Minsk agreements. As we hear – and this was once again confirmed in Berlin and is not our interpretation, but a direct quote from the Ukrainian officialdom – Kiev refuses to conduct direct negotiations and maintain contacts with Donbass, as it “doesn’t consider them legitimate.” This is highly reminiscent of their never-ending tricks and desire to read the Minsk agreement in a way they were not written, while ignoring what was indeed written there.
I want to remind you that Minsk agreements were signed by the very representatives of Donbass, whom today Kiev considers illegitimate. The irony is that in February 2015, not only the Ukrainian government, but also Western states, such as France and Germany, without any qualms, affixed their signatures to and spoke in favour of the documents signed by representatives of Donbass.
After that, this document became part of international law, since it was backed by a UN Security Council resolution. It has become part of the international legal system in the same way with these signatures. Sometime later, these same people somehow lost their legitimacy in the eyes of Kiev. This is the problem. I reiterate that the Minsk agreements clearly, without any double meaning, state that there should be direct contact, a dialogue between Kiev and Donbass.
Question: How do you access the current stage of Russia-Azerbaijan relations? Does Moscow expect any progress in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh issue?
Maria Zakharova: We see our relations as dynamically developing. Azerbaijan is Russia’s partner, not only in the political but also in the economic and other spheres. Our countries have maintained an active dialogue at all levels – from the highest and high level of foreign ministers to humanitarian links. We hope the intensity of our relations will persist and grow.
Russia is actively involved in settling the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh. Moscow is a responsible participant in this process. We will make every effort to facilitate the settlement.
Question: While addressing a US Senate meeting, Commander of United States Central Command Lloyd Austin claimed that the US special operations units are taking part in special operations in Syria, acting on the side of the Syrian self-defence forces, the opposition to the authorities in Damascus. How would you comment on the statements by US authorities regarding US servicemen fighting together with opposition troops in Syria?
Maria Zakharova: This all relates to the observance of international law. Russia’s humanitarian aid to Syria is raising concern as it allegedly fails to correspond to some “general principles” agreed upon by Western countries on an obscure basis. Meanwhile, US representatives admit that the US special operations forces are acting on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. I can neither confirm nor deny this information. The actions of the so-called coalition are not coordinated with Damascus, which is a violation of international law. Emerging reports of the US presence on the ground fall in the same category. It is necessary to coordinate efforts with Damascus, gain support and request permission from the Syrian government to perform military operations on the territory of this Arab republic.
In the past two years, Western countries have “ridden the wave” of fighting ISIS, but the question is what their true intention is. If it is fighting ISIS, what prevents them from joining efforts with Damascus and other parties that are fighting terrorism? If it is not counteracting ISIS, then indeed some questions arise.
Question: I would like to revisit the issue of the monument to General Ivan Chernyakhovsky. You say that it is important to respect each other’s national history. General Chernyakhovsky is responsible for the death of Polish Army generals and officers in Vilnius. The Polish authorities tried to come to terms with Russia on dismantling the monument, as the case was in Vilnius, when the general’s tomb, monument and ashes were removed for similar reasons. How, in your opinion, can we tolerate the presence on our territory of a monument to a person who doomed hundreds of Polish soldiers to death and regard him as a hero?
Maria Zakharova: You don’t think that this person saved hundreds and thousands of Polish lives?
Question: You said that it is necessary to respect history. I would like to expand your outlook. We simply wanted to give this monument to you, as was the case in Vilnius at the time. Do we have to tolerate the presence on our territory of a monument to a person who is guilty of the death of many Poles?
Maria Zakharova: History should be looked at not only through your own eyes, the eyes of an individual. It should be looked at through the eyes of society. When such decisions are made, the Polish people should also be asked for their opinion. If I were in the Polish authorities’ shoes I would primarily seek the opinion of Polish veterans who fought side by side with Soviet soldiers. I have never seen or heard reports about consultations in Poland on this issue with people who look at history not through a politicised prism but as participants in those events.
The horrible, unjust accusations that were hurled at our country over the 70th anniversary of Victory and the Victory Parade in Moscow are telling. Everyone in the West spoke about this – politicians, journalists and public figures. Veterans were the only people who for some reason were not given the floor in those countries; no one asked them to state their opinion. For some reason, those who study history from modern textbooks without putting questions to people who took part in those events start talking about history in categorical terms. Why has this issue become so acute in recent years? The answer is simple: Because almost no veterans have been left and they no longer constitute a significant public force. So there is no need to ask them. Had they been asked 15 or 20 years ago, they would surely have had something to say. This is why discussions are in progress now, when there is no one left in Poland to stand up for General Chernyakhovsky. This is why the assertions made by people who believe that history can be “recalibrated” and “rewritten” to suit the present situation are gaining ground.
Question: Can you confirm the report that Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida plans to visit Moscow on September 21-22?
Maria Zakharova: As of right now, we cannot provide specific information regarding the visit you have just mentioned. We advise you against following leaks and speculation. If and when the relevant agreements are achieved this information will be made public.
Question: Has a meeting been planned between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev during his visit to Japan?
Maria Zakharova: Regarding Mr Patrushev’s visit to Japan or foreign visits by other Russian officials, I advise you to contact the press services of the government agencies that they represent.
Question: Recently Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had a sharp reaction to the European Parliament’s resolution regarding his country and described it as “an obviously deceitful provocation.” Two weeks ago, he said that foreign forces were preparing another Maidan there. What could you say about this? Is the West exerting pressure on former Soviet republics?
Maria Zakharova: Let the polemics between the head of state and international organisations remain their bilateral issue. If there are specific grievances against a specific state, this problem should be resolved on the basis of a mutually respectful dialogue rather than by politicised methods.
Question: What do you think about the Cypriot settlement? The United States, Britain and some other countries have representative offices in Northern Cyprus. Is Russia going to open one as well?
Maria Zakharova: Russia welcomed the resumption of the talks on the Cypriot settlement between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on May 15 under the leadership of their heads — Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akıncı. During several meetings, the last of which took place this September 1, the sides reached certain progress although their approaches are still considerably different. We hope they will do everything that they can to bring their positions closer together, with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable solution meeting the interests of both communities of the island.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia will continue supporting the efforts to achieve a comprehensive, fair and durable settlement on the island on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions on Cyprus.
As for opening a representative office in Northern Cyprus, we don’t have such plans for the time being.
Question: What will be discussed with the Polish ambassador in the Foreign Ministry? What are the expectations?
Maria Zakharova: Polish Ambassador to Moscow Katarzyna Pelczynska-Nalecz has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry today. She will be informed about the details that were mentioned earlier today. No doubt, we’ll keep you posted on the results of this meeting.
Question: The updated Ukraine sanctions list contains names of many airlines that still conduct regular flights today. Will Russia react in any specific way?
Maria Zakharova: Let me repeat that this situation does not help normalise bilateral relations. All of this concerns not only their top managers but also citizens of our countries who are their customers. Let me emphasise again that these are not just Russian citizens but also Ukrainian nationals. In my opinion, this is another round of tensions.
Question: North Korea declared that it may launch a missile and intensify its nuclear programme by October 10. What can Russia do under these circumstances?
Maria Zakharova: Russia maintains contacts both with North Korea and with other countries involved in the settlement on the Korean peninsula. Political contacts, discussions, meetings and negotiations are taking place and we regularly inform the public about them. Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and Ambassador-at-Large Grigory Logvinov, representing Moscow in the talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, are involved in this and maintain regular contacts, dialogue and debates in multilateral formats on this issue.
Question: Could you comment on the report that Tokyo protested to Moscow yesterday over the violation of Japanese airspace by Russian warplanes?
Maria Zakharova: If, as some media outlets have reported, a Russian warplane is involved, I recommend that you contact the Defence Ministry press service.
I would like to note that, as a general rule, such issues are addressed at the annual Russian-Japanese consultations to review the implementation of the 1993 agreement on the prevention of incidents on the high seas beyond territorial waters and in the airspace above them. In addition, Russia has repeatedly raised the question with Japan of the need for signing a bilateral agreement on the prevention of dangerous military activity, which, in Russia’s opinion, would be an effective tool for dealing with such situations. Perhaps the Defence Ministry has details on this particular case.
Question: You just spoke about resolving the situation on the Korean Peninsula. This problem arises from the United States’ hostile policy towards North Korea. It is well-known worldwide that military exercises with the participation of US and South Korean troops are held on the Korean Peninsula each year. If the US ends its hostile policy, then a peace agreement with North Korea could be signed and the long-running problem would resolve itself. How do you assess the US’ hostile policy towards North Korea?
Maria Zakharova: We view any hostile policy as a bad policy. We believe that the situation around the Korean settlement is complicated. From our perspective, all states that are involved in the settlement process should be making maximum efforts to facilitate its progress, not impede or roll it back.
Question: Could you comment on Russia’s proposal for India to become a member of the UN Security Council?
Maria Zakharova: Are you referring to the expansion of the UN Security Council? Russia cannot propose for any country to become a UN Security Council member, as it has no such powers. As you know, talk and discussions around the possible expansion of the Security Council has been going on for many years. Needless to say, this issue has legal, analytic and philosophical dimensions, i.e., everything should be combined here: compliance with international law and at the same time an understanding of the parties’ goals, tasks and interests. This is not about a proposal, but rather, the fact that the international community is studying how to reform the UN Security Council in the most effective way.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressed this issue in detail in an interview with TASS news agency, which was posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website on September 14. He laid out Russia’s approaches to the expansion of the UN Security Council. This is a matter for the future. This process should take into account everyone’s interests. The most important task is that the Security Council should become more effective, taking into account the preferences not only of individual players, but global interests, and working at least as effectively as it does now.