By Anisimov Sergey and Denisova Olga
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke in a live interview with the Voice of Russia, Ekho Moskvy and Radio Russia on Friday, commenting on the situation in North Africa, the Middle East, on missile defense, on Russia’s relations with the US and the EU and answering questions from compatriots abroad.
Few could foresee in March what would be the outcome of foreign intervention in Libya, when the UN Security Council authorized a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians. Now that Gaddafi is dead, Libya and other volatile countries of the region are in limbo. The West quickly described the Libyan revolution as a model for the future. Russia believes that meddling in internal conflicts is fraught with danger and the attempts to portray the Libyan scenario as an example to follow may trigger more violence in the region, Sergei Lavrov said.
“Such a policy will surely set off other nations. This is what we’re witnessing in Egypt. If the world community follows the principle of getting rid of “bad” rulers, it will face more unrest and more violence. Russia urges all nations that are torn by domestic conflict to sit down at the negotiating table and be guided by their countries’ interests, not their own ones.”
Moscow has recognized Libya’s National Transitional Council as the only legitimate government. NTC representatives assured Russia that they would comply with all Russian-Libyan agreements signed under Gaddafi. As required by UN Security Council resolutions on Libya, the country’s new authorities should honor its international commitments.
Sergei Lavrov pointed out serious differences on Syria among members of the UN Security Council. Russia and China voted down a resolution which threatened Syria with sanctions and put the blame on President Bashar al-Assad’s government. In the opinion of Russia, Lavrov said, this is one-sided thinking.
Russia and its western partners differ on missile defense as well. If the US sees through its plans to build a European missile defense shield, by 2018-2020 this system will pose a serious threat to Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, Lavrov said.
“Russia and the US should become strategic partners in building such a system. Russia, the United States and other members of the Russia-NATO Council should join their efforts in creating a system which would not threaten any countries on the Euro-Atlantic space, would be verifiable and would be used to repulse threats coming from the outside. In that case, we’d bury the Cold War hatchet for ever.”
The legacy of the Cold War is still felt and can be described as the “separation line”. The philosophy under which NATO was seen as a counteracting structure has long become obsolete.
After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, thousands of Russians in former Soviet republics found themselves living in foreign countries. Lavrov says that the law on Russian compatriots abroad adopted in the early 90s was amended recently.
“We’ve founded the councils of Russian compatriots in all countries with Russian-speaking communities. These councils issue visas on the basis of much simpler procedures. So far, there have been no complaints regarding visas from Russians living on the post-Soviet space.”
The Fund in Support of Russian Compatriots Abroad, established on orders from President Medvedev will start working on January 1st 2012. It will cover the expenditures for legal services and measures to guarantee the rights of Russians in foreign countries. Sergei Lavrov recalled cases of breaches of the rights of Russians abroad, particularly in connection with mixed marriages and child custody disputes. Moscow, he said, will insist on signing agreements on mutual legal assistance with countries concerned.
Russia has also been worried about its companies operating abroad. Sergei Lavrov said that measures to protect Russian companies against discrimination in foreign markets, such as in the European gas market, were a major priority.
Russia is the EU’s major energy partner. According to bilateral agreements, both parties should provide comfortable conditions for Russian and EU businesses operating on each other’s territories. However, the Third Energy Package is at odds with this principle.
“Russia hopes that talks between its Energy Ministry officials and the EU energy commissioner will bear fruit. These talks are designed to prevent applying the provisions of the Third Energy Package to projects which have been completed or are under implementation. Taking it all to court is highly undesirable, it’d be better to settle it all through negotiation. Particularly since the energy situation in Europe is problematic the wake of the recent decisions concerning nuclear energy.”
Even though Lavrov’s interview lasted two hours, many issues remained uncovered. The Russian foreign minister agreed to a second interview, so the three radio stations expect to host the second part in the near future.