Question: What was the outcome of the talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry?
Sergey Lavrov: Talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry were held in line with agreements between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama, reached during their telephone conversation. The presidents agreed to focus on the growing terrorist threat in the Middle East and North Africa, primarily in the context of the Syrian crisis. Mr Kerry and I were instructed to meet and to discuss in detail the opportunities available for intensifying and coordinating the actions of regional countries in view of the increasingly aggressive attacks by the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organisations. Today, acting in the spirit of principled understandings reached by the two leaders, we exchanged concrete ideas on how to try to make the situation more manageable at the current stage and how to consolidate all those who view the Islamic State as the ultimate evil and who are sincerely interested in eradicating terrorism in this key region of the world.
Naturally, we briefed our US partners on the results of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem’s visit to Moscow, the results of his talks with President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin and my talks with him in Moscow yesterday. Our US colleagues and we agree that the situation calls for a more proactive approach that would rely on the consensus of all those who oppose the Islamic State. We also realise the need for thwarting various time-serving considerations in every possible way and attempts to use terrorist groups to achieve momentary, including political, goals directed at various regimes in the region. This is very important. For obvious reasons, I can’t go into details, and I will not do this. We have agreed to continue these consultations and to involve regional countries in them. I hope that consultations will be held in the foreseeable future, and we will not delay them for long. We need to organise some preliminary events for this purpose.
We also discussed several other issues on the Russian-American and international agenda. Acting in accordance with the agreement reached during Mr Kerry’s visit to Sochi on May 12 this year, we decided to continue our contacts on the Ukrainian crisis on a more practical plane. We also reaffirmed our intention to use the channel coordinated by the presidents of Russia and the United States for this purpose. Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland have met twice and plan to meet again in the next 10 days. We agreed that the Minsk Agreements will be the main gauge for these consultations, just as for the Normandy format talks, and that these agreements will be on the table at the meetings of our representatives. We will look at what has been done and what has not been done, paragraph by paragraph, and decide on which side to apply additional pressure.
We voiced our concerns related to Kiev’s misinterpretations of the Minsk Agreements, primarily regarding elections in Donbass, constitutional reform and an amnesty. Our American partners voiced their intention to press for the strict and comprehensive implementation of the Package of Measures approved in Minsk on February 12. We fully share this approach. But the main thing is to apply it in practice.
We also talked about strategic stability, the implementation of international treaties, including the INF Treaty, and relations between our military, including at the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centres that were created in Russia and the United States long ago.
Some of the issues we discussed concerned the humanitarian sphere, the problems connected with some Russian citizens, including in Guantanamo and several other cases where Russians were placed under US jurisdiction and we have been denied due access to them. Mr Kerry promised to look into these bureaucratic obstacles. I hope we’ll make progress in this sphere.
We also discussed events that the United States is planning for the near future as part of its chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
Question: Regarding the Iran talks, we know that the EU has extended its sanctions until July 7. Do you know when an agreement could be reached, at least approximately?
Sergey Lavrov: I haven’t heard about this EU decision. It is not on the agenda of the multilateral Iran talks. Iran discussed the lifting of unilateral EU and US sanctions following an agreement on its nuclear programme separately with the EU and the US.
Mr Kerry and I discussed the Iran nuclear talks, which are underway in Vienna, although they did not feature prominently on our agenda. I would say that the outstanding issues are not technical but procedural, including those related to the formalisation of the agreement and its presentation at the UN Security Council. We have grounds to assume that an agreement is within reach. We have instructed our deputies responsible for political issues to do everything in their power to reach an agreement within days.
Question: Can you say that an agreement on a procedure to lift the sanctions and IAEA inspections in Iran has been reached?
Sergey Lavrov: As I said, the outstanding issues concern primarily the procedures. They include various mechanisms, including those you mentioned.
Question: Have you agreed with your US partners on the automatic extension of sanctions if Iran violates the future agreement?
Sergey Lavrov: I have just answered this question.
Question: It was announced today that Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has received a parliamentary inquiry about the legality of the Baltic countries’ secession from the Soviet Union. The Baltic countries have described this as a provocation. Will you please comment on this news? What practical actions can be taken if the prosecutor’s office decides the secession was illegal?
Sergey Lavrov: I have not heard about this inquiry. I only know that we have diplomatic relations and interstate treaties with the Baltic countries. This is all I can say. I don’t know about any inquiry.
Vienna, June 30, 2015