December 10th, 2007 11:10 EST
Transcript of Remarks and Replies to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov
At the outset, I would like to thank the leadership of Cyprus and you personally for the traditional Cyprus hospitality. Our relations rest on a long-standing tradition of friendship and mutual understanding between our peoples. All these traditions live on today too. We have excellent ties practically in all fields – be it trade, economy, investment, the humanitarian and law enforcement spheres, culture or military-technical cooperation. In accumulated investment in Russia Cyprus holds second place. Russian investors also actively come to this island of plenty. Our relevant departments actively cooperate on specific aspects of the struggle against terrorism and organized crime. This cooperation produces concrete results.
Hundreds of thousands of Russians annually choose Cyprus as their place of holiday. Despite the certain difficulties stemming from the imposition of a visa regime in connection with Cyprus’s membership of the European Union, the Embassy of Cyprus in Moscow has been coping with the tourist flow and we would like to thank the Embassy, the Ambassador and all of its staff for such a benevolent attitude to our citizens. We today agreed that our experts will endeavor to look at what more can be done for our tourists as they obtain Cyprus visas to feel maximally comfortable.
We very closely cooperate with Cyprus on regional and international problems. I would especially like to thank the leadership of the Republic of Cyprus for their consistent support of the strengthening and expansion of the partnership between Russia and the European Union.
Naturally, we today paid special attention to Cyprus settlement. Our position is invariable – this settlement can materialize only on a just and mutually acceptable basis for the sides, resting on the solid ground of the UN Security Council’s resolution and with the Security Council playing the central role.
We are, of course, worried by the slowdown in settlement, and we believe that everything must be done to activate the UN Secretary General’s mission of good offices. A year and a half ago, signs of optimism appeared when the leaders of the two communities agreed to the proposal of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to begin moving substantively towards solving all the main issues of settlement. However a stagnation has since followed in this process, and quite recently, in October this year, the President of the Republic Cyprus, Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, sent a letter to the UN Secretary General expounding his initiative to breathe a new life into efforts for implementing the approach which, I repeat, was a year and a half ago backed by the leaders of both communities. We actively support this initiative. We will also proceed from this in our work in the Security Council on Cyprus settlement.
In discussing other international problems, we established the similarity or identity of our approaches. This concerns the Middle East and, particularly, it concerns Kosovo. We are convinced that unilateral steps which will run counter to resolution 1244 and which will undermine rather than rest on international law are very risky. We expect the sides to be given additional time to reach agreement on how to resolve the situation. As in the case of Cyprus settlement, the UN Security Council alone can take a decision on Kosovo.
We are satisfied with today’s talks and generally with our intensive and trustful political dialogue with the Republic of Cyprus colleagues. I hope that Madame Minister accepts my invitation to visit Moscow next year at a time convenient to her.
Question: Mr. Minister, when you spoke of the July 8, 2006, accords and gave your assessments, the conclusion could be drawn that the nonfulfillment of these accords will prevent coming closer to settlement. Is that so?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: When we say that the parties should base their steps on the accords that were concluded between them earlier – this is a universal principle. It applies to Cyprus settlement, it applies to the situation with settlement in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and it applies to the situation surrounding Kosovo, where, by the way, some people now try unilaterally to tear up the accords confirmed in resolution 1244. A unilateral approach is unacceptable either in respect of Cyprus, or in respect of Kosovo, or in respect of any other conflict. This should be understandable. In order to achieve success, rather than looking for who are at fault, it is important to concentrate on the positive encouragement of the parties to negotiate and search for compromises. As I’ve said, this is the aim of the initiative of President Papadopoulos and we support it.
Question: How do you assess the possibilities of settling the Cyprus problem in the light of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s recent statement that 2008 must become a year of finding a solution to the Cyprus question?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: With all due respect to the UN Secretary General, it is not for him, of course, to fix ultimatum-like deadlines for completing some or other negotiations. Of course, we all read what the Secretary General writes in his reports, but still, a report is not a decision of the United Nations. The decision on this specific question will be the resolution of the UN Security Council that is now being prepared in New York and in which there will be no such ultimatum-like deadlines. The parties can set the aims themselves, including timeframe aims. For example, in Annapolis Israel and Palestine agreed to endeavor to reach agreement before the end of 2008. But that’s how the parties decided themselves, no one had tried to impose this on them. Artificial timeframes set by a third party or by only one of the parties won’t work. I am certain that such attempts won’t work in respect of Kosovo either. When someone says that by such-and-such date we will achieve something single-handedly and will see the New Year in there at some place, all of this means to engage in wishful thinking and substitute for painstaking, persistent, honest work to implement the previous accords and embody these accords into practical components of final settlement. This is a recipe for all conflicts. I am convinced that to act differently means to give up the prospects of a sustainable solution to this or that crisis. In the case of Cyprus settlement, as we have already indicated, there are the accords approved by both parties and backed by the UN and so all members of the world community must help the parties implement these accords, not create obstacles in this path.
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