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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sergey Lavrov’s television interview with 360 Gradusov Podmoskovie, Odintsovo, June 3, 2016

3 June 201617:41
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s television interview with 360 Gradusov Podmoskovie, Odintsovo, June 3, 2016

Question: How is the Russia-US dialogue on Syria going?
Sergey Lavrov: It is fairly intensive. I can’t say that the intensity of our meetings translates into the number of specific agreements, because the situation is complex. The biggest snag is that we are convinced of the need to take concrete, more effective and stronger action against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. We believe that everything else is of secondary importance. To be sure, it is important to ensure humanitarian access to all locations that are blocked by either party, to maintain the ceasefire, and to deal with violations. It is important to launch a political process, which the radical opposition is impeding by refusing to sit at the negotiating table and laying out preliminary requirements. As important as these things are, terrorism represents a common threat, and there should be no doubt about it. Most of our Western partners acknowledge in private conversations that there should be no excuses when it comes to defeating ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, which, to make matters worse, is trying to link up with other groups. We are told that we should not attack them, because there’s also the “normal” opposition there. However, this part of the opposition should withdraw from the terrorist positions, and this has long since been agreed.
Our American partners are still leaning towards those who put forward preconditions. Today I spoke with US State Secretary Kerry again. It was, I believe, our 34th conversation since January. We discuss these matters in detail. In addition, there’s a Russian-American video conferencing channel at our base in Hmeymim. We have a communication channel with the US representatives sitting in the Jordanian capital. They talk on an almost daily basis. As you may be aware, a joint Russian-American Centre for Syria Truce Monitoring was set up in Geneva.
So, the communications infrastructure is in place. Most importantly, we should try to get past the preconditions, which need to be put on the back burner, and get down to fighting terrorists.
Question: Are there any concerns that Kiev might take unilateral steps towards political reform without agreeing them with Donbass?
Sergey Lavrov: There were rumours a few days ago that a package of documents may be submitted to Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada. That is to say, they will appear to meet the requirements of the Minsk agreements, but in fact these documents, unless they are agreed upon with Donbass, will undermine the Minsk agreements.
We asked our Normandy format partners – the French and the Germans – to prevent this from happening, because it could create a major additional impediment to implementing the Minsk agreements. They clearly stipulate that the constitutional reform, the law on local elections, and the law on the special status of Donbass must be coordinated with the representatives of Lugansk and Donetsk. The next step should include a complete amnesty for the participants of these events on both sides – exactly as was done with regard to the participants of the Maidan protests in February 2014. That sums up the current situation.
Question: Will we meet more often now that a branch of MGIMO University opened in Odintsovo? Can we hope for a longer and more in-depth interview with you?

Sergey Lavrov: Let's make a deal. I would certainly be willing to. It’s important. A branch doesn’t have to open in Odintsovo for that to happen. However, once the branch opens, I’m convinced that the Foreign Ministry staff, my deputies, directors of departments and especially former diplomats will gladly accept an invitation to carry out additional functions, seminars, lectures, or round table discussions. We will see each other more often, no doubt about it.


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