Question: Can you comment on the results of the 59th session of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space that ended in Vienna on June 17?
Maria Zakharova: I would like to remind you that I spoke on this issue at my briefing in February this year, when I commented on a conflict of interests during the drafting of a set of guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. Russia submitted practical proposals so that the document would include the necessary set of regulations on the safety of outer space activities. Our American colleagues were only prepared to consider a much shorter set of issues. In February, the United States attempted to remove the Russian initiatives from the negotiating process, suggesting that they be discussed later. However, they failed to attain their goal thanks to the persistent and even hard stance of our negotiators and our Chinese partners’ view on the unacceptability of such “fragmentation” of the discussion.
It should be said that the hard line we took at the beginning of this year has benefited the process and encouraged the development of a more constructive attitude among many delegations in time for the Vienna session. This is very good, because it has helped us achieve reasonable, compromise solutions. Our main achievement is that the consultations will continue until 2018 and the Russian initiatives will be taken into account.
The safety of outer space activities is a priority issue on Russia’s internal agenda. We are focused on the practical aspects of the initiative that Russia submitted in 2014, for creating a UN-backed information platform that would rally international efforts to monitor space objects and events. This platform could motivate the monitoring states, spacecraft operators and authorised organisations working with information about space objects and events to develop common rules on the interpretation, fusion and joint use of better quality and more reliable information.
While proposing this concept to the international community, we have become aware of the importance of creating an information service in Russia that will provide free access to the results of monitoring of space objects and events.
The initiative on the information platform and the idea of an open information service in Russia have attracted the attention of the media. I consider it necessary to comment on them.
On June 22, the newspaper Izvestia wrote incorrectly that Russia allegedly “plans to provide a catalogue of space objects to the international community”. Catalogues of space objects, which few countries have, are huge databases. The orbital data, which is necessary for the proposed UN-backed platform and Russian information service, comprise part of the catalogue. It should be noted that orbital data are vital for the safety of outer space in view of the increasingly intensive use of outer space and the great amount of space debris. In other words, we have not proposed combining catalogues. What we have proposed is the creation of an international database that would be composed of space-related information from different sources.
Russian working papers and a technical presentation on the information platform are available on the website of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space www.unoosa.org.