Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 10, 2016

Thursday, 17 November 2016 06:33

    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with the expanded CELAC Quartet of foreign ministers
    Joint foreign and trade ministers meeting in Peru
    Opening of an exhibition of archives for the 95th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Mongolia
    The situation in Syria
    Resolution condemning UN Aleppo mission attack blocked
    The situation around Mosul
    US cyber threats against Russia
    Developments in South Africa
    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement on a regular ambassadorial meeting of the Russia-NATO Council
    Russia-China cooperation within the SCO
    SCO expansion
    Toughening the entry procedure for foreign nationals arriving in Russia from Belarus
    Moldovan authorities prevent Russian journalist Igor Korotchenko from entering the country
    Answers to media questions:
    Donald Trump’s election as US president and Russian-American relations
    The Russian-US agreement on Syria
    US Secretary of State John Kerry’s contacts with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
    Assessment of the international response to Donald Trump’s election as US president
    The arrival of a Russian carrier task force to the Mediterranean
    The proposal to hold Palestinian-Israeli talks in Moscow
    Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election and his criticism of US foreign policy
    Russian-Turkish relations
    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with CELAC foreign ministers
    Protests in the US against Donald Trump’s election as president
    The operation to liberate Raqqa in Syria
    Interior Ministry Personnel Day in the Russian Federation


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with the expanded CELAC Quartet of foreign ministers


On November 14-15, the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, Miguel Vargas; the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Ecuador, Guillaume Long; the Foreign Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Francine Baron; Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of El Salvador Carlos Castaneda; and Special Representative of the Nicaraguan Prime Minister, Siddhartha Marin, will come to Russia on a working visit at the invitation of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. On November 14, Mr Lavrov will meet with the foreign ministers of the expanded Quartet of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Sochi.

We attach great importance to cooperation with CELAC, the most influential and representative integration association that unites all countries of the Latin American region. We have a shared understanding of the need to establish a just multipolar world order based on the supremacy of international law, the central, coordinating role of the UN, and the unacceptability of any attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states. We are faced with largely similar challenges in today’s global world.

The event will result in a joint statement that is a roadmap for concrete areas of practical cooperation in the Russia-CELAC format.

In Sochi, Mr Lavrov will also have bilateral meetings with Miguel Vargas, Francine Baron and Guillaume Long. As part of the general course toward a deeper strategic partnership, joint ministerial statements will be signed with the Republic of Ecuador, including on preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space.


Joint foreign and trade ministers meeting in Peru


On November 17-18, a joint meeting of foreign and trade ministers will take place in Lima, Peru, which will be the final stage in the preparation of the next meeting of heads of state and government of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, set for November 19-20.

The meeting will review the results of APEC’s priority activities in 2016: the promotion of regional economic integration, assistance to small businesses, the development of human resources and the food market, and will also outline tasks for the future.

Russia intends to take an active part in discussions, including issues on the agenda, with a focus on the need to ensure comprehensive growth in the Asia Pacific Region. We will put special emphasis on the importance of intensifying cooperation on the counterterrorism track in the interest of securing economic development in the Asia Pacific Region.

The meeting will adopt a joint ministerial statement and coordinate a draft leaders’ declaration.


Opening of an exhibition of archives for the 95th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Mongolia


This year, Russia and Mongolia will celebrate the 95th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations, which is an important milestone in the history of our traditionally friendly, neighbourly, and partnership-based relations.

On November 5, 1921, an agreement was signed between the Government of the RSFSR and the People's Government of Mongolia on establishing neighbourly relations, which, for decades, has determined the nature of bilateral cooperation based on partnership and respect for each other's interests.

On November 11, in accordance with the approved plan of activities, a special exhibition of archival documents and photographs devoted to this memorable date will open in the building of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Carefully selected exhibits chronicle the history of Russian-Mongolian cooperation beginning with signing the 1921 Agreement through mutual assistance and support during the difficult years of World War II, and on to peaceful construction and close coordination.

Particular attention is paid to the current stage of cooperation between Russia and Mongolia, which is based on the Treaty on Friendly Relations and Cooperation of January 20, 1993, as well as a number of other bilateral documents, including the Declaration on the Development of Strategic Partnership signed in Ulaanbaatar in August 2009.


The situation in Syria


The situation in and around Aleppo remains the most critical. The jihadists continue to attack from the southwest, trying to build a corridor towards the eastern quarters of the city. According to various estimates, up to 6,000 rebels are involved in the operation, whose operational and tactical command is performed by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) through a central command unit.

Nusra acts in close coordination with other anti-government units on other fronts, such as in Hama and outside Damascus in Eastern and Western Ghouta.

Everywhere terrorists are met with decisive resistance. On November 8-9, the Syrian armed forces and the national militia took several strategic heights outside western Aleppo, including Tel Ruham, Tel Mouata, and Al-Hikma school. These heights make it possible to monitor the surrounding area and to prevent terrorist attempts to shell residential areas and infrastructure.

At the same time, I would like to draw your attention to the Defence Ministry denying reports of alleged strikes by the Russian aircraft against residential areas in the suburbs of Damascus, such as Eastern Ghouta and Douma, as well as outside the town of Idlib near Khan Shaykhun. These bogus stories are another attempt to divert attention from the actual victims and the suffering of Syrians caused by the terrorist groups, which continue to launch indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks on residential areas in Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Damascus, and other Syrian cities. Unfortunately, lately the Western media has kept silent about certain facts and are reporting nothing about what's going on there, are not providing any facts or evidence, despite the fact that they used to do so customarily. Their goal is clear, and it is to protect the terrorists, passing them of as “moderates.” We also understand that this doesn’t help the victims of the militants in any way.

Western media are also keeping silent about the fact that in order to avoid needless casualties, neither the Russian, nor the Syrian air forces, starting October 18, attacked eastern Aleppo, where several thousand fighters have been trapped. For our part, we believe it is important to remind everyone that neither the Russian air force, nor the Syrian air force have carried out any strikes on eastern Aleppo since October 18.

We highly value the willingness of the Syrian government to talk with the opposition and its plans to expand the practice of using local ceasefires, which has already made it possible to normalise the situation in individual localities. A broad-based political process with the involvement of all Syrians is the only way to resolve the conflict, to provide guarantees that Syrian statehood will be preserved, and to create an environment where the interests of all ethnic and religious groups of Syrian society are taken into account.

However, as we know from practice, the effectiveness of the political process directly depends on the success of efforts to counter terrorists, to prevent their inhumane ideology and violent practices.


Resolution condemning UN Aleppo mission attack blocked


As you know, a statement condemning the shelling of the UN mission in Aleppo was blocked at the UN Security Council. On October 30, a building where the missions of UN agencies were accommodated in western Aleppo was shelled by tank artillery. As a result, the UN decided to evacuate all its international personnel from Aleppo. There is conclusive evidence that the attack was carried out by militants from the Fastaqim Kama Umirt group based in eastern Aleppo. The attack was strongly condemned by the UN Secretariat.

The Russian delegation to the UN Security Council proposed issuing a brief statement condemning the attack. It may be recalled that this is standard practice at the UN Security Council, which never ignores any aggressive actions against UN representatives or missions. Unfortunately, our initiative was blocked by the United States with support from its allies, which inappropriately tried to blur the issue and shift points of emphasis. The underlying cause of their moves is obvious to us. Washington has once again tried to shield the “moderates” under its care, which is to say extremists, by turning a blind eye to the crimes they commit.


The situation around Mosul


The situation around Mosul remains extremely tense.

A large-scale operation by Iraqi security forces is in progress there with the use of heavy weapons and with support from Kurdish detachments and aviation of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition. Mopping-up operations are underway in areas leading to the city as well as near Mosul. Yesterday, Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of an ISIS stronghold, the city of Bashiqa, 30 km northeast of Mosul.

ISIS forces are putting up fierce resistance, taking advantage of densely built-up urban areas and using local residents as a human shield.

In this connection, we note the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation around Mosul. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), about 34,000 people have fled the city and areas around it since the outbreak of hostilities. And their numbers continue to grow. People are fleeing not only ISIS atrocities but also the bombing by the US-led coalition. Reports of casualties resulting from its airstrikes are coming with disturbing regularity. It is pointless trying to deny, let alone hide these facts. However, our Western, primarily US partners are trying to ignore the consequences of such actions so that they do not mar the media narrative that they have been cultivating recently, focusing on Aleppo.

In this connection, it is important to take note of the statement made yesterday by the ICRC regional director for the Middle East, Robert Mardini, that the humanitarian crisis around Mosul is potentially more dangerous than the present situation in Aleppo while all parties to the Mosul confrontation should adhere to the basic rules of warfare. We would like to hope that the operation – which many regarded as a small victorious war, designed to provide grist for the mill of certain political forces in Washington ahead of well-known events – will, as aid agencies have noted, finally move into civilised boundaries for a counterterrorist operation.


US cyber threats against Russia


I would like to revisit the cyber threats that Washington has made against Russia. As is known, in October, US Vice President Joe Biden, not a retired politician but an incumbent state leader, in an interview with the NBC network, made unprecedented cyber threats against Russia. We would like to draw attention to a noteworthy fact that for some reason is unknown to Mr Biden (a great deal is unknown to people who were at the US helm recently). To reiterate, at their May meeting in Japan, the G7 leaders adopted a document with the so-called Principles and Actions on Cyber. One of its key points states that the club members “affirm that international law, including the United Nations Charter, is applicable in cyberspace.” Therefore, “states may exercise their inherent right of individual or collective self-defence as recognized in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law, in response to an armed attack through cyberspace.”

Obviously, Mr Biden’s odious remarks are deeply at odds with these “G7 principles,” which were formulated with the active participation of, among others, the United States. This is a revealing comment on the professionalism of those now in the US administration.


Developments in South Africa


According to the available information, students in South Africa are holding protests over tuition fees. These rallies are especially aggressive in Cape Town and Pretoria. The South African government has been trying to negotiate a solution with student representatives.

Several opposition political parties and civil society groups held protests in Pretoria on November 2. The police assessed the number of participants at some 7,000 people. Overall, there were no violations of the law, although there were several clashes between the police and members of the left-wing radical Economic Freedom Fighters party who committed acts of vandalism. The police managed to get the situation under control and to prevent large-scale riots.

The Russian Embassy in Pretoria and the Consulate General in Cape Town have posted caution recommendations for Russian citizens in South Africa via their internet sites and social media accounts.


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement on a regular ambassadorial meeting of the Russia-NATO Council


We have taken note of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement on the allies’ readiness to hold an ambassadorial meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in the near future.

Consultations are underway in Brussels on the agenda for the upcoming meeting. For our part, we hope to continue a substantive discussion of issues that were on the agenda of the April and July meetings. The date of the meeting will be determined after its agenda is coordinated. We will keep you informed.


Russia-China cooperation within the SCO


There was a question about Russia-China interaction within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation at the previous meeting. I promised to speak in greater detail on this issue, which I will be pleased to do at this briefing.

I can say that the packed schedule of Russia-China cooperation within the SCO is evidence of the high level of their strategic partnership. Moscow and Beijing have coinciding or close views on all the main aspects of SCO activities. They worked together on the SCO Development Strategy towards 2025, which was adopted at the SCO summit in Ufa in 2015, and the Action Plan for the strategy’s implementation.

We are cooperating closely on issues of regional security, primarily in order to neutralise the challenges and threats coming from Afghanistan. In this context, Russia and China are working to enhance the effectiveness of the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), including by assigning anti-narcotics functions to it. Russia and China also support the idea of creating a universal centre at the RATS to combat any challenges and threats to the member states’ security.

Economically, our countries proceed from the need to focus on the implementation of large projects. We are now working to determine the best financial support system for the SCO’s projects.

We see the SCO as a useful platform for deepening regional economic cooperation and as a future bridge towards broad Eurasian partnership involving the EAEU, the SCO and ASEAN countries, in accordance with the joint statement on the results of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to China on June 25, 2016. A major element of our work at this stage is the alignment of the Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative.

One of the SCO countries’ priorities, according to its Charter, is to foster a favourable environment for trade and investments with a view to gradually achieving free flow of goods, capitals, services and technologies. Other priorities include the development of transport routes and multimodal logistic centres within the SCO based on the intergovernmental agreement for facilitating international road transportation, as well as food and energy security.

In the cultural area, Russia and China are supporting the efforts of the SCO Youth Council to develop direct ties between our young people. The focus in education is on the SCO network university. Russia and China are ready to sign an intergovernmental agreement on the establishment and operation of this university.

The meeting of the SCO Council of Heads of Government, which was held in Bishkek on November 2-3, and the 21th regular meeting of the prime ministers of Russia and China, which was held in St Petersburg on November 7, reaffirmed our countries’ coinciding views on cooperation on all of the above mentioned tracks.


SCO expansion


It is important to note that expanding the SCO membership is one of the topical and priority instruments to strengthen the role and influence of this regional body, and build up its political and economic potential. The substantial number of requests to join the SCO in one of the available roles testifies to the organisation’s growing influence in the world.

I would like to remind you that the SCO Heads of State Council meeting in Ufa in 2015 made a decision to start the admission process for India and Pakistan. Last June, at the summit in Tashkent marking 15 years since the SCO’s inception, the organisation made another important step and signed memorandums on India’s and Pakistan’s commitments leading to full membership. This process is progressing and we have every reason to believe that these two countries will be granted a new status at the next meeting of SCO leaders in June 2017 in Astana.

Iran has been actively involved with the SCO as an observer since 2005. This country has also been waiting for the decision on its request since 2008. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear programme, which was adopted in Geneva in July 2015, lifted any legal obstacles to Teheran’s SCO membership.

Afghanistan is another candidate that applied for membership in the organisation last year.

As you are aware, there are other ways to participate in and cooperate with the SCO for the interested states. Currently, SCO observers, besides India, Pakistan and Iran, include Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia. The stable of partners in the dialogue include Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal and Sri Lanka. There are also numerous humanitarian and cultural projects implemented both among the members and with the involvement of observer and cooperating states.


Toughening the entry procedure for foreign nationals arriving in Russia from Belarus


We have received a large number of queries – particularly, from the Belarusian media – requesting comments on the arrival of foreign nationals in Russia via the Russian-Belarusian border.

As you know, for many years, foreign nationals crossed the Russian-Belarusian border freely bypassing passport control. Historically, due to the integration of Russia and Belarus within the Union State neither country raised an issue of equipping the Russian-Belarusian border with checkpoints. However, the situation in the world has changed dramatically. I don’t need to remind you about the risks related to terrorism and immigration problems. Russian authorities have repeatedly detained individuals at this border who did not have any grounds for entering the Russian Federation and posed a security threat.

Russia’s bilateral agreements with foreign states, as well as Russian laws, including the law On the State Border of the Russian Federation and the Federal Law on Entry to and Exit from the Russian Federation stipulate that foreign nationals must enter Russia only through international checkpoints.

There are no international checkpoints at the Russian-Belarusian border; therefore, there is no border control of individuals and vehicles at this section of the state border. Therefore, there are no grounds for nationals of other countries to cross the Russian-Belarusian border. Violators will be penalised according to the Russian laws.

Russian officials are currently looking for a solution to this problem. We are also cooperating with Belarus on the entire range of issues related to establishing a common migration space, including cooperation within the Inter-State Inter-Agency Working Group on Developing Recommendations for Russia-Belarus Common Immigration Policy.


Moldovan authorities prevent Russian journalist Igor Korotchenko from entering the country


It was reported yesterday that the Moldovan authorities, without explaining the reasons, had barred Russian journalist and editor-in-chief of Natsionalnaya Oborona Igor Korotchenko from entering the country. We regard this as yet another confirmation of Chisinau’s continued practice of using discriminatory measures against Russian media.

Using these “sanction-like” methods against Russian journalists cannot be estimated as anything other than a gross violation of the European democratic principles of freedom of expression. As is to be regretted, we see the present Moldovan authorities emerge as fervent supporters of a discriminatory media policy.

We hope that yet another instance of Moldova trampling underfoot its international commitment to guarantee the freedom of expression will not pass unnoticed and will be given a relevant appraisal by the related international institutions, primarily the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and by influential human rights organisations.


Answers to media questions:

Question: Does Russia feel optimistic or, perhaps, cautiously optimistic in connection with Donald Trump’s election as US President? Will this lead to an improvement in Russian-American relations?

Maria Zakharova: The election per se was and is of immense importance for the United States itself. We are talking about a US president elected by the American people. As for an improvement in our bilateral relations and the foreign policy course, the team is just being put together. It will take some time. Next, by tradition, foreign policy priorities, aims and objectives should be announced.

Of course, we heard his pre-election statements. Many of them, as you have just said, indeed inspire optimism. But we should understand that improving bilateral relations (and in this case we are speaking not so much about improving relations as about leading them out of a deadlock) means an immense amount of work to be done by professionals. Of course, a dismissive and amateurish approach is out of the question here, because it is indeed a serious task that must be addressed. We are fully ready for this. Moreover, despite all the electioneering, before the vote and the declaration of the returns, we not just sent signals through our representatives or passed unofficial messages, we had a clear position ready, which consisted in that we were ready for cooperation and for developing normal relations and, most importantly, that we understood it was simply criminal to let this runaway train continue on its downhill plunge and watch it gain speed. I am referring not only to the ambitions of certain overseas politicians, who may have felt offended by something, although lacking any real reasons for that. The thing is that it is other people who fall hostage to these ambitions. You can see the slow-down in humanitarian projects (and “slow-down” is a mild word in this context). We see our Western colleagues pay a lot of attention to issues of culture and cultural cooperation. But was there any cultural cooperation in recent years? There were neither the prerequisites, nor the right atmosphere. Neither was there the relevant infrastructure, including legal guarantees. This is just one aspect out of many. I think that people are tired and want to “shed the old skin” of aggression and lies.       

Question: Could you provide an update on the Russia-US agreement on Syria? Are any negotiations underway, maybe at the expert level, to start implementing the agreement or at least to find ways to move in this direction?

Maria Zakharova: Nobody has cancelled anything. As a matter of fact, a relationship is always work in progress, and this work has to be done. We are totally ready to move in this direction and reaffirm our commitment to all obligations we have assumed, be it in the UN Security Council, ISSG or over the course of bilateral contacts with the US on this issue.

Question: Are there any contacts planned for the near future between Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov? They tend to speak over the telephone or meet quite frequently.

Maria Zakharova: Are you getting bored? Regarding the contacts, I’m sure you realise that it is not our fault that there are no more telephone conversations. It was the US who initiated them. It is true that over the last few days there were requests coming from the US Department of State to arrange a telephone conversation, but the Americans themselves backed out about three times. Our telephones are working properly.

Question: What is your perspective on the international response to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, including the rather restrained response from the German and French leaders?

Maria Zakharova: It is their business, although I do believe that maintaining dignity and calm is always very important. I think that the ability to act with dignity after the election depends on whether there was dignity before the election. I believe that these things are interrelated.

Question: The Russian Navy’s aircraft carrier group has arrived in the Mediterranean, causing quite a stir not only in the Western media, but also among Western politicians. For example, NATO Secretary-General has spoken on this matter. Spain first authorised the group to make a stop in its ports, but later withdrew its permission, and so did Malta. The Russian vessels had to stop in Spanish and Maltese ports for refuelling and getting supplies. What do you make of these steps? Is the West pressuring these countries?

Maria Zakharova: Of course, we are talking here about global pressure coming from all fronts. In the atmosphere that has been created countries that lack their own vision of the current developments or an independent foreign policy pick up these signals and engage in outright self-censorship. They are toeing the line not so much because of some outside pressure but to conform to the notions advanced in media publications, just to be on the safe side. The creation of a media environment of this kind profoundly distorts reality. You have to bear this in mind. It is true, however, that in some cases there is direct pressure. We are aware of such facts as well.

As for the comments that were made, we have to be very clear that we cannot expect everyone to heroically insist on an independent foreign policy. Not everybody has the capability to do so. Another important aspect to keep in mind is how these actions are presented.

To be honest, the statement by Malta’s Foreign Minister George Vella went beyond the ordinary diplomatic routine. He explained on a number of occasions and publicly stated that the decision was taken without any outside pressure, independently and with full understanding of the objectives pursued by the Russian military, including the Russian Navy personnel in Syria. Here is what he said. The Maltese Foreign Minister believes that the Russian military machine is committing atrocities in Syria, especially against women and children. I am sorry that I have to quote these words when there are Syrians in this audience. But this is what he said. You know, I get a feeling that they are victims of Western propaganda. If they read Western newspapers and magazines, there is nothing surprising about it. This is what happens. However, we are talking about a foreign minister. He could have relied on different kinds of information.

There is no secret about what Russia is doing in Syria. The Russian foreign and defence ministries regularly provide detailed reports on our activities, unlike by the way the Western coalition in Iraq or the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The objective for the Russian military in Syria is to fight terrorists, no matter the names or labels they use. Everyone is also fully aware of Russia’s humanitarian efforts.

It is easy to make statements like the one you and I referred to when not facing an immediate terrorist threat and when your country is not subject to a terrorist aggression. I would like to ask Malta’s Foreign Minister George Vella a history question. Imagine that a country that did not act as an aggressor in the Second World War refused to provide technical assistance to the British Navy or Air Force during the effort to fend off attacks by the Third Reich and its acolytes. We know all too well what happened in Malta during the Second World War. Does Malta’s Foreign Minister know the history of his own country? This is a question for him. If the allies who liberated Malta were refused technical assistance, how would the current foreign minister of this country now feel? Don’t the current Maltese authorities understand that terrorism presents the same kind of evil today as Nazism did back then.

Question: Today, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev began his visit to the Middle East. Does the proposal by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov to hold Palestinian-Israeli talks in Moscow remain relevant?

Maria Zakharova: We praise any steps that would make headway towards a peace settlement, and we will support any such efforts. Therefore, this proposal remains relevant. We are always ready to provide assistance if these or similar actions are capable of launching or resetting the negotiating process.

Question: Do you believe that Donald Trump’s victory means that Russia was right in criticising the US foreign policy because Trump also criticised it?

Maria Zakharova: I would rather keep these aspects separate, and I would analyse the pre-election situation and the elections themselves from the standpoint of experts on electoral processes, including PR experts, media experts, sociologists, psychologists and political analysis. And I would analyse foreign policy based on current developments on the ground. As I see it, a terrible and dangerous thing took place in the heat of the pre-election race: the main Western media heavyweights preferred not to analyse the real foreign policy situation, the mistakes or successes of US diplomacy and instead engaged in campaigning for one of the candidates. In reality, this is both a complicated and topical aspect. It is possible that something will change if we, and most importantly, they, understand this.

One had the impression that media outlets completely stopped objectively assessing the real-life situation for the sake of securing the victory of a specific candidate. In fact, they created a kind of virtual reality only to reinforce the positions of their chosen candidate. They made excuses for mistakes and passed off media leaks for news. The experts invited by a particular media outlet voiced absolutely biased opinions with regard to the candidates’ performance. Quite possibly, this became the main reason for the fact that election returns came as such a huge surprise for the Western media and their audiences. It is very strange that, as yesterday shows, no one had even predicted these returns. This shows a lack of real and objective expert assessments on the part of the media, as well as work in favour of one candidate.

Let me give you an example. All our colleagues and I follow Western media news, as presented by news agencies, television channels and newspapers. Not 24 hours a day, but where it concerns foreign policy issues and international relations. In late September 2016, I arrived in New York with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s delegation. After switching on a TV set at the hotel, I felt the power of media outlets’ bias and their influence in the context of the electoral cycle. While watching CNN, one got the impression that Hillary Clinton was the only person capable of saving the planet. Switch to Fox News, and you get a dose of diametrically opposing publicity, claiming that Donald Trump was the only person who could really save the planet. One got the feeling that all media outlets were completely biased. They did not even conceal their party affiliation. This is a very important warning and a dangerous trend.

I would like to draw your attention to one more thing. A number of articles, including those by Democratic candidates, were published in the run-up to the election, analysing US foreign policy over the past period. These stories completely distorted everything. Instead of making assessments, their authors merely wanted to use the events of the last few years as argumentation for their election campaigns. It is also a dangerous trend when no one analyses the real-life situation but, rather, perceives an imaginary virtual reality. A normal and sober assessment of successes and setbacks is essential.

I repeat, this assessment should not serve the election cycles in the United States because elections to various agencies and government branches are held every two years and it is impossible to expect any serious analysis during those periods. This constantly plays into the hands of either party. What we need is a very serious and objective assessment of current developments, which should steer clear of inter-party squabbles, rather than be guided by them.

Question: You recently met with a Turkish spokesperson. What did you discuss? Did you talk about the issue of misinformation? The Turkish media write that Russian aircraft are bombing peaceful Syrians. A Russian aircraft was shot down and its pilot was killed over Turkey almost a year ago. Did you talk about what has happened over this period? What conclusions has Russia made?

Maria Zakharova: We analysed the situation immediately after the tragedy. We would not have taken such serious steps otherwise. The measures such as we took in late 2015 can be only taken after a very serious and thorough analysis. We carried out such an analysis. Did Turkey analyse the situation too? This is a question for our Turkish partners. I cannot speak on their behalf or comment on their position – there are people in Turkey who are authorised to do this, but I would like to say that I believe that they analysed the situation, as evidenced by the apology they have made. We have updated you on this more than once. Was it a thorough and detailed analysis? Again, this is a question for Ankara.

As for consultations with our Turkish colleagues, which were held in the Russian Foreign Ministry, we have informed you about them too. I commented on their results to the media immediately afterwards. I know that our Turkish colleagues have done likewise.

The consultations focused on ways to normalise bilateral relations, which includes the information sphere, the resumption of direct contacts, which were suspended almost a year ago, and the possibility of cooperation or exchange of experience between our foreign ministries in the information sphere. We also discussed practical plans.

These consultations cannot be viewed as extraordinary. We hold consultations on information issues with many countries. But I agree that your interest in these particular consultations is justified, considering what happened to our bilateral relations.

As I have said, we hold such consultations with very many of our colleagues. For example, right now a deputy director of the ministry’s Information and Press Department is conducting such consultations in Yerevan.

Question: What issues will be on the agenda of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with the CELAC foreign ministers? Will they discuss Latin America’s response to the election of Donald Trump as US president?

Maria Zakharova: Earlier today I mentioned our priorities. These are both global problems – the promotion of a multipolar world order, international legal issues and UN-coordinated compliance with international law, and bilateral cooperation with Latin American states – and cooperation in various integration formats. Of course, a broad agenda will be considered within the CELAC framework – the entire Russia-CELAC cooperation track, including economy, finance, and humanitarian projects.

Bilateral meetings with each country I have mentioned will be held on the sidelines of this event. There will be an additional consideration of bilateral aspects of Russia’s cooperation with this or that Latin American state.

As far as the US elections are concerned, this subject is certain to be actively discussed as people watch the coming administration draft its post-election strategies, plans and objectives and as they analyse the campaign and statements that were made in its course. It is also worth analysing the destructive impact of many of these statements, the US electoral system as a whole and the election campaigns conducted by the nominees on international stability and how the international factor has been vigorously involved in America’s domestic political games.

I think that very many aspects will be broached and reviewed in discussions on current international issues. Let me emphasise it once again: this is the United States’ internal affair. But since its electoral cycles impact on world developments so heavily, there is nothing surprising in that everyone discusses their results.

Question: In the United States, thousands of people are protesting against Donald Trump’s election as president. Could these protests infringe the law and spill over into full-scale rioting?

Maria Zakharova: Their elections, their people, their protests. As you rightly said, the important thing is to keep within the law. If these protests are lawful, there is nothing surprising about them. The campaign was a tough affair; many political scientists believe it revolved around an antagonism (this is also a key point) of teams, candidates and positions on a number of issues. People were energised and actively involved in the process. It should be understood that the candidates have created two different and highly hostile camps, although themselves declared love for each other a couple of hours after the returns were announced. They spent a huge amount of money. And this is yet another controversial and dangerous element in this campaign. To reiterate: this is their internal affair. The important thing is that everything should be within the law.

Question: Why isn’t Russia involved in the operation to liberate   Raqqa?

Maria Zakharova: Participation in military counterterrorist operations in Syria falls within the Russian Defence Ministry’s purview. Therefore, all questions about our participation in this or that campaign or liberation of this or that area should better be addressed to them as professionals.

Question: Today is November 10, Interior Ministry Personnel Day in Russia. What would you like to wish to them?

Maria Zakharova: I would like to congratulate our colleagues at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia from the bottom of my heart and wish them success and being able to cope with challenges facing them at the highest level. I think they are doing everything possible for this and sometimes the impossible as well, as Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said today citing concrete examples of heroism and courage displayed by the ministry’s staff. Let me once again congratulate them on this festive occasion and wish success and prosperity to them and their families.

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