Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov's Working Visit to Canada
On March 5-6, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov stayed on a working visit to Canada, during which he met with the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, and held talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter MacKay.
Lavrov's visit came shortly after the new government, formed by the Conservative Party which won the recent elections, was sworn in.
Both sides attach great importance to the further development of partner relations between Russia and Canada in the most diverse fields, it was borne out by the conversations. In particular, development ways and thrusts in trade-and-economic, investment and scientific-technological collaboration were discussed in this context, singling out among growth areas of cooperation engagement in the fields of energy and transport, including routes across Arctic and Northern waters, as well as the implementation of the Global Partnership.
Lavrov informed Harper and MacKay about the activities being pursued by the Russian Presidency of the G8. The sides spoke for close engagement in the G8, where Russia and Canada have quite a few common priorities. Among them: international energy security, considering that Russia and Canada are energy exporting countries; combating dangerous infectious diseases; education development, and assistance to Africa.
In discussing international and regional problems the sides focused mainly on the situation around Iran's nuclear program and in Middle East settlement and on the state of affairs in Afghanistan and Iraq. Lavrov briefed on the outcome of the Moscow talks with the delegation of the Hamas leadership, the results of which were highly evaluated by the Canadian side.
Mutual readiness for continued buildup of engagement in the fields of international security and the combating of terrorism, drug trafficking and other threats and challenges was reiterated and further steps to expand the Russian-Canadian partnership and strengthen the two countries' engagement in international affairs were outlined.
Transcript of Remarks and Replies to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Joint Press Conference Following Talks with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter MacKay, Ottawa, March 6, 2006
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I am grateful to Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay for the invitation, of which I took advantage with pleasure. We attach great importance to relations with Canada. It is not only geography and climate that unite our peoples, but also the multinational character of society and our federal systems of government.
Undoubtedly, this visit is a good opportunity for starting a dialogue with the new government of Canada. We count on dynamic, without pauses, advance in all areas of our cooperation, both on the bilateral agenda and in international affairs. In this connection it is appropriate to recall that the foundation of the Russian-Canadian partnership was laid at the beginning of the 90s by the government of the Conservative Party, whose leader at the time was Brian Mulroney.
Canada is our important partner in the world arena. Mr. MacKay has just listed the issues that we discussed and on which we agreed to build on our engagement.
We are united by a commitment to the UN's central role in world affairs, multilateral diplomacy and the observance of the rules of international law. Our countries act by adhering to coinciding or very close positions on most international security and disarmament issues.
We are actively cooperating in the preparations for the G8 summit in St. Petersburg in July this year. Today we examined in detail the themes which are being submitted for discussion by the G8 leaders.
From among regional problems we devoted fairly much attention to Iraq, Middle East settlement, primarily in the context of Palestinian-Israeli relations, the situation around Iran's nuclear program and conditions in Afghanistan.
We regret the losses Canadian troops have sustained in Afghanistan and highly value the efforts Ottawa is making to help stabilize the situation in that long-suffering country.
On bilateral affairs we want to back the positive trade growth trend and reinforce investment cooperation. In this connection we support the interest of Canadian companies, in particular Petro-Canada, in lending assistance with the mastering of a new product for Russia - liquefied natural gas.
In the middle of this month a high-ranking delegation of Gazprom is expected to visit Canada, who will discuss with their Canadian colleagues the prospects for supplies of liquefied natural gas to the North American market. We hope for success of these talks. For the further development of our trade-and-economic cooperation it would be important to back up the recently created Russian-Canadian Business Council.
We are grateful to Canada for the active work which it has been carrying out in performance of its Global Partnership obligations. We also noted the not bad specific projects for our Northern and Arctic cooperation.
I had great pleasure in making the acquaintance of my Canadian counterpart. I conveyed to Mr. MacKay an invitation to visit the Russian Federation at any time convenient to him.
Question: What result of the session of the IAEA Board of Governors now being held in Vienna appears most acceptable to Russia? Is there still a possibility to conclude an agreement on setting up a joint venture with Iran for enrichment so as to avoid referral of Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Only a result can suit us all which, on the one hand, will give the IAEA the possibility to fully clear up issues still outstanding about Iran's past nuclear program, and at the same time will not create a situation engendering a real danger of the nuclear nonproliferation regime being breached.
This calls for a number of measures, including Iran's coming back to the moratorium and observance of the Additional Protocol, as well as its ratification. In the context of all these measures, of the package which may be formed, there remains on the table, of course, the offer to establish a joint venture for enrichment in Russia. It will be able to supply all thinkable requirements of Iran in fuel for a peaceful nuclear industry in a guaranteed way.
Question: Russia was in Afghanistan for a long time and with sad results. Do you have some advice for Canada?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: No. The most important lesson that was learned from the recent and sad events in Afghanistan is that the international community must cooperate with a view to helping the Afghans themselves unite efforts and concentrate on rehabilitating the country and restoring order in it. Some members of the international community are beginning to use Afghanistan as an arena for mutual rivalry. In this case we are all in danger.
Question: Regarding Transnistria. The president of the unrecognized republic has called the actions of Moldova an economic attack. It is about the new customs regime which was imposed a few days ago. Does this not violate the existing agreements at this point and how is it going to influence settlement in the region?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Assessments have already been made. There is the memorandum of 1997, envisaging the right of Transnistria to free economic activity. What is now happening, according to our information, looks like an economic blockade. If so, then, undoubtedly, urgent measures are needed to end it. Through our representatives we are actively contacting the parties. I am convinced that this kind of things are not helpful towards settlement. We are for the soonest convocation of existing formats, primarily - the Joint Control Commission - in order to sort out this situation and return to the position when the 1997 memorandum was respected.
Question: Will Canada continue adhering to its obligations under the Global Partnership?
Foreign Minister Lavrov (adds after Peter MacKay): As I already said in my opening remarks, we highly value the contribution of Canada to implementing this program. I shall say more that of the G8 countries our engagement with Canada and Germany under the Global Partnership is exemplary.
Question: The representatives of Hamas who visited Moscow did not like what you said about their non-recognition of Israel. What will be the next steps of the Russian leadership with regard to Hamas? What efforts are being made?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: We did not try to do so that they would like or would not like what we were saying. We wanted to convey to them that the Quartet's message would not remain on paper only, but would be realized. In this mission we were helped by a number of Arab capitals which the Hamas leaders had visited before coming to Russia. The ideas which we did our best to convey to them coincide with those reflected in the last document of the Quartet. It is important that Hamas does not rule out the possibility of restarting the negotiation process. The leadership of the movement is considering the possibility of taking a position in support of the Roadmap. They are concerned by the fact that Israel has made numerous reservations concerning the Roadmap, which essentially prejudge final status issues. These issues, however, under the Roadmap, must be dealt with at the very end of the process. But Hamas does not rule out the possibility of restarting the negotiation process based on the Roadmap as prepared by the Quartet. The movement's leadership also promised to ensure that all of the assistance being supplied to the Palestinians from abroad is transparent. In response to my question the Hamas representatives said that in the case of the establishment of a mechanism of international monitoring they would be ready to guarantee that the assistance is really used for the benefit of the Palestinian people, not in military or other such spheres. They reaffirmed that they respect the authorities and recognize the sphere of responsibility of Mahmoud Abbas. I am certain that this meeting in Moscow was extremely useful. I think that we shall be continuing contacts. I hope that all who have the possibility will make a contribution to implementing the statement of the Quartet.
Unofficial translation from Russian