Question: Mr Meshkov, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini is expected to come to Russia soon. What would be the ideal outcome of this visit from Moscow’s perspective? What do we want it to produce?
Alexey Meshkov: We expect it to be an extension of contacts the Russian Foreign Minister and the EU High Representative had during various international events.
The Mogherini visit provides an opportunity for an in-depth discussion of, firstly, the entire range of Russia-EU relations and, secondly, international problems of interest for both parties. It should be noted that our positions – I mean those of Russia and the EU – on a number of major international problems, primarily a Middle East settlement and the Libya crisis, are quite close.
We will have a chance to better understand each other’s positions on other issues, specifically the Syrian problem and so we expect a constructive and business-like dialogue. For our part, we are prepared for this.
Question: Is it likely that the upcoming talks will result in a roadmap for step-by-step normalisation of Russia-EU relations?
Alexey Meshkov: At this moment in time, it is not on the agenda. However, it will be recalled that Russia has submitted to Brussels relevant proposals in areas, where, as we see it, we could make some headway. We hope to hear the EU’s substantive reply to this during the upcoming Mogherini visit.
Question: It was announced today that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey would pay a visit to Russia on May 3. Why does he visit Russia so often?
Alexey Meshkov: Russia and Turkey are gradually normalising the entire gamut of their relations. A very constructive bilateral meeting at the level of Deputy Prime Ministers was held just a few days ago. The parties discussed economic matters, including measures in the agricultural area, which had been unexpectedly introduced by Turkey.
The parties reached an agreement that relevant consultations at deputy ministerial level will be held as soon as possible. Russia will be represented by a deputy minister of economic development.
As far as the Foreign Ministry is concerned, the visa issue was discussed. We reiterated that Russia was prepared to move towards easing visa formalities for holders of service passports and for big businesses, primarily those working with Russia.
It’s important that the visa formalities for lorry drivers be eased; our consultations on easing visa formalities for civil aviation crews are actually at the final stage. Thus, the Russian consular service is ready to work with our Turkish partners.
As is only natural, much will depend on whether Turkey is ready to make progress on the entire range of relations.
Question: Mr Meshkov, what about the Turkish referendum? What do we think about the results? Will President Erdogan’s victory help improve relations between Russia and Turkey??
Alexey Meshkov: We think that the Turkish people have the right to decide what kind of legislation is preferable for them. The Turkish people have voted in the referendum and the referendum results must be respected.
Question: Will its outcome affect our bilateral relations?
Alexey Meshkov: I don’t see any direct connection.
Question: Given that Donald Trump approved Montenegro’s membership into NATO and that the Montenegrin parliament will hold a vote, on April 28, on the country’s accession to the alliance, do we think that this is a threat to Russian security? How does Moscow assess this and what measures are being prepared?
Alexey Meshkov: It is no secret and it was repeatedly stated that the most important issues in the life of this or that country should be decided by their peoples. This is what the democratic process is all about. In this case, it is the Montenegrin people’s right to decide in a referendum whether they want their country to join NATO or not.
As far as our relations are concerned, not only their accession to NATO as such but also a number of steps taken by the Montenegrin leaders – that they joined the anti-Russian sanctions and the anti-Russian smear campaigns in the local media – are certainly having and will inevitably have a negative effect on the entire range of Russia-Montenegro ties.
Question: Ahead of the next NATO summit in May, what remarks would you make concerning NATO’s advance towards Russian borders and the stationing of the NATO military, specifically a contingent from Germany, within 100 kilometers of the Russian border for the first time since the end of World War II? How far is Russia ready to go in its response to these steps?
Alexey Meshkov: As we look at NATO’s multinational military preparations close to our borders, we involuntarily recall the events that happened 100 years ago, when preparations were being made for a foreign military intervention during the Civil War in Russia. Of course, we live in a different world today, but our Western colleagues should remember that the main threat to international security comes from our common enemy, international terrorism.