Russia's top diplomat Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave an important news conference today where he addressed various geopolitical matters around the world. I have posted some additional articles about the very influential Russian Foreign Minister - who happens to be half-Armenian.
Russia's Lavrov addresses Gaza, Kosovo, other disputes
News conference with Russia's Foreign Minister (Russia Today): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r68j8...U8/default.jpg
Reviewing Russia's 2007 foreign policy activities, the country's top diplomat mentioned on Wednesday the ongoing Gaza crisis, a deadlock in the Kosovo dispute, strains in relations with NATO and other sensitive issues. Sergei Lavrov said Moscow condemned Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, which Tel Aviv said was aimed at stopping rocket attacks from the Palestinian enclave, while also criticizing the radical Islamic group Hamas that controls the territory. The blockade was eased slightly on Tuesday to allow some fuel and medicines through. "We condemn attempts to blockade the [Gaza] Strip, which will bring nothing but new suffering to the already impoverished residents of Gaza," Lavrov told a news conference describing daily rocket attacks on Israel as "disproportionate retaliatory measures."
He said Russia favored the "restoration of Palestinian unity," which should be recognized by the entire international community, including Israel, on the basis of agreements reached through the mediation of the Saudi king last year, and on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative. Speaking on Kosovo, Lavrov denied that Russia would recognize breakaway regions in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia if Serbia's Albanian dominated province was declared a sovereign state, saying that "nothing could be further from a true understanding of Russia's stance." However, Lavrov said "a precedent will be created not because we want it but because it will be objectively created ... If someone is permitted to do something, many others will expect similar treatment." Kosovo, whose desire for independence has been backed by the West, could declare sovereignty unilaterally in the near future. Moscow has said Kosovo will never be a fully legitimate state, and that it would not support an "immoral" declaration of independence by Kosovo.
Russia's NATO concerns
The minister again highlighted Russian concerns about NATO's expansion, which he said was aimed at building up the alliance's military potential around Russian borders rather than strengthening European security. "We are certain that the geographical expansion of NATO cannot be justified by security concerns," Lavrov said, adding that new members of the alliance were continuing to increase their defense budgets. Washington's plans to deploy missile defense elements in Central Europe have further unnerved Moscow. Russia's cooperation with the alliance was also overshadowed by the bloc's refusal to ratify an updated version of the Soviet-era Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and Moscow's subsequent moratorium on the arms reductions treaty.
British Council row
Addressing the closure of the British Council's regional offices in Russia - the latest row between Moscow and London, whose relations have been strained by a host of issues linked to the murder of former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 - Lavrov blasted European Union presidency holder Slovenia's assessment of the dispute. "We were astonished by Slovenia's statement, which is based on a simplified and distorted interpretation of the situation," he said. Russia says the offices were ordered to close because the organization is operating in Russia without proper legal status. The British government's cultural arm insists the clampdown on its activities is politically motivated. Earlier, Russia had hinted that the British Council row could be resolved should Britain resume cooperation with the FSB and work on visa simplification.
Asked why entry to Chechnya remained closed for foreign journalists, Lavrov said trips to the troubled North Caucasus republic were still unsafe although the situation had improved in the region. "...there remain certain [criminals]... who are attempting to turn back the pages of history. They will certainly fail, but they can cause a lot of damage," he said. Moscow has substantially scaled down its military presence in the republic since two anti-separatist campaigns in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, but sporadic attacks on pro-Kremlin authorities and police and clashes between militants and troops still occur in Chechnya and nearby republics, notably Ingushetia.
From Russia With Love?: Foreign Minister’s visit an opportunity for assessment
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was on an official visit to Yerevan the past two days. His first visit to Armenia fell on the historical stage when pro-Western sentiments not traditional for the overwhelming majority of Armenians are on the rise in the public and political life of the republic. The first time these sentiments made themselves felt as a special internal political factor was during the latest presidential elections in 2003. However, now there are a dozen political and public organizations in the republic demonstratively stating the need for Armenia’s new orientation towards the West and NATO. Never before have such sentiments made themselves felt so strongly in Armenia.
On the day of the Russian minister’s arrival in Yerevan, the leader of the Liberal-Progressive Party of Armenia (LPPA) Hovhannes Hovhannisyan called a press conference during which he stated: “Armenia’s security is in NATO, since Armenia’s strategic partner, Russia, proceeding from its interests, may change its position towards Yerevan at any moment. Revolutions in the post-Soviet space are unavoidable in the next year or two. There will be a revolution in Armenia too.” Representatives of other opposition parties also speak about the need to reorient Armenia’s foreign policy towards the West.
“It is remarkable that while new pro-Western political structures have already been formed in Armenia, no party openly propagandizing the Russian vector of foreign policy has appeared in the country yet,” Vardan Mkhitaryan, a historian and researcher at the Chair of the History of the Armenian People of the Yerevan State University, said in this connection. Meanwhile, the political structures traditionally inclined towards boosted Armenian-Russian relations for their part accentuate attention on the insufficient level of development of these ties. What is particularly pointed out is Russia’s neutral, at best, position on Nagorno Karabakh, which, in the opinion of Armenian parties cannot correspond to the officially declared level of strategic relationship. According to political analysts, also symptomatic is the fact that while 2005 is declared the Year of Russia in Armenia, in Russia this year is determined as the Year of Azerbaijan. This was stated in Moscow by President Vladimir Putin and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan on the same day Lavrov arrived in Yerevan.
“What is striking in this connection is that the visits of high-ranking Russian officials to Armenia, as a rule, are chronologically replaced by equally ‘high-level’ meetings already on the plane of Russian-Azeri ties,” says Mkhitaryan. “The visit of the Russian Foreign Minister to Yerevan is not an exception: on February 16-17 Putin and Aliyev discussed the Karabakh settlement in Moscow.” The presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan met four times in 2004, while Putin and Armenian President Robert Kocharyan had two meetings. A total of 17 government delegation of the Russian Federation visited Baku during last year, and the commodity turnover between Russia and Azerbaijan increased by 60% and made $735 million. During the same period, the commodity turnover between Russia and Armenia grew by 12.9% and made $266.2 million.
But the greatest annoyance in Armenia is caused by the position repeatedly voiced by the Kremlin about Russia’s support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. In August of last year Lavrov himself told an AzerTaj’s correspondent: “Russia has been supporting consistently and in full measure the principle of territorial integrity. This applies to Azerbaijan as well.” Nevertheless, the recent visit of Russia’s foreign minister to Baku deserves special attention. Answering on February 2 the question of an Azeri journalist about Russia’s priorities in the principles of “territorial integrity” and “the right of nations to self-determination”, Lavrov said: “One should not set off these two principles against each other, since both of them are stated in the UN Charter and should not be applied to the detriment of each other.” Some Azeri mass media already then hurried to “interpret” such a reply of the Russian diplomat in the context of his Armenian origin, reminding that during last year’s visit of Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian to Moscow,
Lavrov said: “Yes, I have Armenian blood in my veins. My father is an Armenian from Tbilisi.”
Sergey Lavrov laid wreath to Genocide Memorial
Today Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex, where he laid a wreath to the Memorial of Armenian Genocide victims. The head of Russian MFA also planted a memorable fir-tree in the alley near the Memorial. Armenian and Russian Ambassadors Armen Smbatyan and Nilolai Pavlov accompanied Sergey Lavrov.
Lavrov: We Are and Have Been Allies with Armenia
Historical and spiritual closeness of the two peoples is the pledge for Armenian-Russian union, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov stated in Moscow on the Public TV Company of Armenia at a reception in honor of celebration of the 15th anniversary of Armenia’s Independence. “We are and we have been allies with Armenia. Historical and spiritual closeness of the two peoples is the pledge for Armenian-Russian union,” he said. “Many Armenians now work and live in Russia. Call the name of Armen Jigarkhanyan – there is no Russian, who does not know or love him,” the Minister remarked. “Of course we have separated as republics of the USSR, however we are overcoming that hard period,” Sergey Lavrov added, reported PanARMENIAN.Net.
Russia signaled on Tuesday its opposition to regime change in Yerevan, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointedly declining to deny speculation that Moscow supports Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s apparent plans to become Armenia’s next president. Lavrov, in Yerevan on a two-day official visit, stressed the need for continuity in policies pursued by the current Armenian leadership. During a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian he was asked to comment on growing assertions by Russian media and prominent analysts that the widely anticipated handover of power from President Robert Kocharian to Sarkisian suits the Kremlin. “The official position of Russia coincides with the unofficial position of Russia,” Lavrov replied. “We are sincerely interested in seeing Armenia stable and prosperous and seeing it continue to move down the path of reforms. As far as we can see, the results [of those reforms] are already felt in the socioeconomic sphere.” “So we wish Armenia success in this endeavor,” he added. “We want the next phase of the constitutional process to lead to the creation of conditions for a continued movement in that direction.” Kocharian is thought to have enjoyed Russian backing throughout his nearly decade-long presidency. Both he and Sarkisian stand for Armenia’s continued military alliance with Russia, while seeking closer security ties with the West. The Kocharian administration has also helped to significantly boosted Russia’s economic presence in the country in recent years.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday relations with Armenia is one of Russia’s priorities. “We believe that stability in the Caucasus depends in many respects on Armenia’s situation,” he told a meeting with students and professors of the Yerevan State University. “It is possible to ensure such stability not by means of creating a certain bloc, but by means of joint efforts,” he said. “Within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization we do not try to fence off ourselves from others or work against anyone,” he said. The Collective Security Treaty Organization is “aimed at stability, counteraction to terrorism and drugs trafficking and open cooperation with the countries interested in resolving these tasks,” Lavrov said. He pointed out that Russia is interested in calm on its borders, stable development of neighbouring countries and “mutually advantageous and equal cooperation with them proceeding from the interests of our economies and our countries.”