Question: How does the Russian side assess the forthcoming round of the Normandy format talks, which is planned to be held without Russia’s participation?
Sergey Lavrov: This meeting is not part of the Normandy format, but a trilateral meeting of the leaders of Germany, France and Ukraine. We are closely following the preparations for this meeting. Likewise, we will closely watch how it ends. We strongly believe that Kiev needs an additional prod to persuade it that the arrangements and commitments made in Minsk on February 12 must be complied with. The Normandy format is a parallel process. It does not apply to trilateral relations between Berlin, Paris and Kiev.
With regard to the Normandy format, there is an understanding that our German colleagues will have a meeting with the participation of legal experts from four countries tomorrow. Several days ago, I spoke with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who put forward this idea. I asked him what these legal experts from Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine would discuss. He said that they need to discuss the progress of constitutional reform, to which I, of course, replied that, with the Minsk agreements in place, such issues must be discussed with the participation of Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev, under the Minsk-2 agreements, is supposed to agree the constitutional amendments, which involve specific issues related to the decentralisation of power in favour of the proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics, which will be part of Ukraine but enjoy a special status, directly with these republics. Mr Steinmeier confirmed that the Minsk agreements remain immutable, and Germany continues to work to ensure full compliance, and the legal experts’ meeting in Berlin, which he suggested holding on August 20, will serve precisely this purpose. In this context, we are not opposed to such contact, and it will take place tomorrow.
I was surprised by a statement issued by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, though, which says (I’m not sure about the exact wording) that the experts are meeting to explain to the Russian representatives that President Poroshenko's proposal to amend the Constitution, which was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada, does not violate the Minsk agreements. Then, it also said something to the effect that such amendments are the prerogative of the Ukrainian state, and no one can interfere in them in any way; therefore, the wrong interpretation by the Russian side of the Minsk agreements should not be taken into account. Leaving aside the rollicking tone of this statement, I can say that this statement, of course, represents an absolute lack of diplomatic expertise, as the Minsk agreements are available, they are not some kind of fiction, and they’ve been approved by a resolution of the UN Security Council, so they are binding. I’m confident that tomorrow's meeting of the experts in the Normandy format will dot all the i’s and make it clear to everyone that the Ukrainian side is not fulfilling its obligations. We also expect that on August 24, when Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande and President Poroshenko get together for a scheduled meeting, Germany and France will do their best, as compliance guarantors, to ensure the unconditional fulfillment of the Minsk agreements. That would make sense, as two days after the Berlin trilateral summit, on August 26, the Contact Group and its working groups will meet as planned.
Question: Can the tripartite meeting then be called disciplinary to a certain degree?
Sergey Lavrov: I hope that this will be the case.
Question: What do you say to US statements that it plans to examine the agreements on supplies between Russia and Iran for compliance with the US sanctions against Iran?
Sergey Lavrov: The US sanctions are none of our concern. We comply only with our international obligations. In regard to penalties, they include, above all, the ones approved by the UN Security Council’s resolutions. We have no interest in any third-party restrictions that were introduced in circumvention of the Security Council and in violation of the universally recognised norms of international law. So, our American colleagues can go ahead and examine them. Perhaps, it would be useful for them to learn that not everything is amenable to their understanding of international law.
Question: You mentioned the United Nations. Has Russia decided already whether President Putin will attend the 70th session of the UN General Assembly?
Sergey Lavrov: President Putin plans to participate in the 70th session of the UN General Assembly. This is a big event in the life of the UN. This year, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of this forum, which was created after the victory in the Great Patriotic War and World War II. A record number of heads of state and government are expected to come. Our President also plans to participate in this event.
Question: Is a bilateral meeting with President Obama possible?
Sergey Lavrov: Our American colleagues are sending us signals that they are willing to continue maintaining contacts with us. If there is such a proposal on their behalf, I think President Putin will consider it in a constructive manner. Notably, the UN General Assembly will not be the only forum this autumn, where the presidents of Russia and the United States plan to participate. In addition to meetings during the 70th anniversary of the UN, there will be a G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, and an APEC summit in the Philippines in November.
Question: Are there any plans to hold Normandy Four meetings at the highest level yet in the near future?
Sergey Lavrov: No one has yet come up with such a proposal.
Question: Could you please clarify if Russian Railways President Yakunin was granted ambassadorship?
Sergey Lavrov: No, I can’t. We have much paperwork going on in that department, so there’s nothing specific that I can tell you as of this moment.