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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Portugal Augusto Santos Silva, Moscow, July 18, 2016


18 July 201615:41
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Portugal Augusto Santos Silva, Moscow, July 18, 2016
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are pleased to welcome Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal Augusto Santos Silva and his delegation to Moscow. We had a busy day of productive talks, which took place in a businesslike atmosphere, which allowed us to discuss a wide range of important bilateral issues and the most pressing international issues.
Portugal is our long-time partner. Unfortunately, our bilateral cooperation is going through a difficult phase for well-known reasons. We are concerned about the continuing decline in our trade. However, we agreed that these difficulties must be dealt with. The current situation can be quickly overcome.
Following the elections in Portugal in October 2015, there is now a new government and a new president in that country. Elections to the State Duma will be held in Russia in September. We look forward to resuming contacts between the parliaments of our two countries after these elections. We know that a Parliamentary Group of Friendship with Russia has already been set up in the parliament of Portugal. Our parliament traditionally has a similar mechanism. I am confident that it will be part of the new State Duma as well.
In addition, we have resumed a political dialogue between foreign ministers. Our deputies have already met and held productive consultations.
Today, we discussed separately the fifth session of the Russian-Portuguese Joint Commission on Economic, Industrial and Technical Cooperation held in Lisbon in June. The participants adopted a decision designed to help restore trade, economic and investment cooperation between our countries in areas such as high technology, infrastructure, housing, transport, agriculture, and nanotechnology.  
We took note of the intensified direct contacts between our respective businessmen. A business forum attended by 70 corporate leaders from Russia and Portugal took place this year.
We plan to continue to improve the legal framework underlying our relations. We agreed to put together and sign in the near future an agreement on economic and technical cooperation, which will supersede the existing one signed in 1987. We agreed to "give a nudge" to the process of agreeing a number of other documents, including on matters relating to cooperation in the sphere of education and mutual recognition of education certificates.
We focused particularly on the humanitarian and cultural sphere, which continues to expand dynamically, involving more and more participants who take part in festivals and exhibitions of fine art. This year, the town of Porto – the hometown of the Foreign Minister of Portugal – is hosting the Year of Russian Music.
We also expressed our gratitude to our Portuguese colleagues for supporting the study of the Russian language in Portugal. Our guests were pleased to note the growing interest in the Portuguese language in Russia.
We discussed at length the need to improve the situation in Europe as part of our conversation on international politics. Russia is interested in relations with the countries of Europe and the EU that are based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit, and that are focused on the common strategic goal of all European countries. We see a growing awareness in the EU that this is the only possible approach and that resolving major international issues is possible only through joint efforts.
We approach our relations with NATO from the same standpoint. We are willing to do some serious work together on military and political security in the Euro-Atlantic region and Europe, and to coordinate our capabilities and interests as we search for answers to real, rather than artificially created, dangers. Clearly, terrorism and related activities are one such a common threat for us.
At a recent meeting of the Russia-NATO Council, Russia confirmed its willingness to resume dialogue between militaries on an equal footing. A number of specific proposals were made that are currently being considered by our NATO colleagues. Of course, increasing NATO activity on our borders and moving military infrastructure closer to Russia is not conducive to promoting our cooperation in combating terrorism, or other areas. We also discussed this at the recent Russia-NATO Council meeting. In this regard, I would like to emphasise that Russia will always be able to uphold its interests and ensure the safety of its citizens.
We talked about Ukraine. We told our partners about the work that we are doing in order to ensure the implementation of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements of February 12, 2015 and its political section, which depends entirely on the actions of the Ukrainian government. We also discussed this in the Normandy format between the representatives of Russia, France, Germany, and Ukraine. I discussed the same issues at the recent talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Russia. We share an understanding that we need to move in tandem in order to improve security. In this respect, we have specific proposals for disengaging the opposing sides and ensuring OSCE monitoring of storage facilities with heavy weapons. In addition to security measures, it is imperative to have the Ukrainian government and parliament meet their obligations regarding the adoption of relevant laws concerning the special status of Donbass, amnesty, amendments to the constitution and holding, in coordination with the Donbass authorities, elections in the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
Regarding other current issues, we exchanged views on the efforts of the international community to overcome the crises in Syria and Libya, and discussed ways to step up our cooperation in fighting ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. We touched on our cooperation in the UN.
Overall, we are very pleased with the outcome of the talks, which confirmed our mutual willingness to promote cooperation. Once again, we noted our appreciation of the balanced foreign policy of Portugal, including its European policy. Of course, we congratulated our Portuguese friends on their victory in the European Cup. We are looking forward to seeing them at the FIFA Confederations Cup to be held in Russia next year.
The Foreign Minister has kindly invited me to come to Portugal on a return visit, which I will gladly do next year.
Question (to both ministers): What do you think about recent events in Turkey and the measures taken by the Turkish authorities after the failed coup?
Sergey Lavrov: As you may be aware, President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a telephone conversation yesterday. President Putin made clear that Russia maintains its principled position that anti-constitutional coups are unacceptable, whether in Turkey, Ukraine, Yemen, or anywhere else. For us, it is also important that in yesterday's conversation President Erdogan confirmed that everything will be done to ensure the safety of the Russian citizens in Turkey. Now, as we are bringing home our tourists, we can feel the full cooperation of the Turkish authorities.
With regard to the current situation, our position that all issues must be resolved exclusively by constitutional means applies as well.
Question: To what extent can such unprecedented events as a several-hour blockade of the NATO airbase in Incirlik worsen or improve the situation surrounding the Russian military’s anti-terrorist campaign? Will Russia revise its assessment of the reliability of its partner?
Sergey Lavrov: With regard to what happened in Turkey, in particular, at the air base in Incirlik, this issue probably has more to do with the activities of the coalition led by the United States, of which Turkey is part of.
We can be held accountable for the mechanisms created with our participation, and the conditions for the Russian Aerospace Forces activities in the Syrian Arab Republic, which are based on an agreement signed by us and Damascus following the direct request by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for Russia’s assistance in Syria’s fight against terrorism. There are no issues with regard to fulfilment of this agreement.
Question: What about Russian citizen Sergei Pozdnyakov, whom Italy refused to extradite to Portugal? Was this issue raised during the talks?
Sergei Lavrov: No, it wasn’t. I can also say that we haven’t received any formal requests on this issue from the Portuguese authorities.

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