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MOSCOW, March 31. /TASS/. No ‘Lavrov’s Plan’ on settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has ever been compiled, Russia’s top diplomat said in an interview with Azerbaijan’s Azeri-Press agency.
The collective proposals of the OSCE Minsk Group are the only option currently on table, Sergey Lavrov said.
"I have publicly stated on many occasions that there is no Lavrov’s Plan," he said. "The ideas that are now up for discussion are based on the proposals worked out collectively by the three states co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group."
"To be more precise, those are the provisions of joint statements on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement by the presidents of Russia, the United States and France. They are well-known," he added.
According to the Russian minister, the sides generally stick to these agreements, but have different approaches to the sequence of measures that have to be implemented to achieve the target.
"Any changes or new plans that change the system developed by the co-chairs are ruled out," he said. "Above all, we need to help the sides find a balanced political solution that would allow drafting legally binding documents."
Moscow, Washington and Paris speak with one voice on the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, he went on.
According to Lavrov, co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group actively engage in discussions on the issue. "During their regular visits to the region, they, as a rule, speak with one voice at talks with the leadership of Armenia and Azerbaijan," he said. "I believe that a team approach of this kind is an example of how (sides) should cooperate in settling international conflicts."
"I expect our close cooperation on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement to continue with both Washington and Paris," Lavrov added.
"The Nagorno-Karabakh settlement issue is a very delicate subject, so details of talks are confidential," he said. "At the same time I can say that many aspects have already been agreed upon. A few questions remain. But they are most difficult."
"No consensus was reached so far," the minister added. "But nevertheless the work continues."
"We are concerned about what is going on in a nearby region," Russia’s top diplomat continued. "That’s why we are interested in restoring peace and stability in the region, in opening borders, in bringing back refugees, in resuming trade and economic ties. This is why the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains among the absolute priorities of our foreign policies."
Lavrov denied allegations that no practical steps toward reconciliation have been made so far.
"The Karabakh issue is constantly in the spotlight of attention of international mediators, who take collective and individual efforts intended to solve this problem," the minister said.
"As far as Russia is concerned - a three-party summit on the issue was held last year at the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin," he said. "At all times, the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement issue holds a prominent place during Vladimir Putin’s meetings with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia."
According to Russia’s top diplomat, the issue was discussed in detail during Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s March 15 visit to Moscow.
"Naturally, top diplomats don’t stand aside. A detailed discussion on the matter with Armenian Foreign Minister Edvard Nalbandyan took place in February, and with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammedyarov in early March," Lavrov added.
Trust-based high-level dialogue provides an impetus to relations between Moscow and Baku, Lavrov said.
"We will celebrate this important anniversary on April 4, but it is a well-known fact that relations between the peoples of Russia and Azerbaijan date back hundreds of years," he noted. "Today, Russia and Azerbaijan are strategic partners. Our cooperation is based on the principles of equality and good neighborliness as well as centuries-old friendship, common history and culture. In the past quarter century, we succeeded in preserving and advancing this heritage based on two fundamental documents, the Treaty on Amity, Cooperation and Mutual Security, signed on July 3, 1997, and the Declaration on Amity and Strategic Partnership, singed on July 3, 2008."
"We are pleased to note that relations between Russia and Azerbaijan continue to develop in all spheres," the Russian top diplomat went on to say. "It is hard to overestimate the role of informal trust-based dialogue between the heads of our states."
The Russian foreign minister also pointed to significant achievements in bilateral economic relations. Three years ago, the trade turnover between the two countries reached a record level of four billion dollars. "Although later, swings in currency exchange rates negatively affected bilateral trade," Lavrov admitted. "Now we are making painstaking efforts to facilitate trade and investment exchanges. We plan to make the best use of the potential of inter-regional ties and the capabilities of the two countries’ business communities," he added.
The Russian top diplomat also said that "humanitarian cooperation aimed at developing our common cultural and educational space" was a priority. "The Baku International Humanitarian Forum, held under the patronage of the two countries’ presidents, has achieved wide recognition as a platform for discussing pressing issues related to the development of modern society," Lavrov said.
"Russia and Azerbaijan are not only friends and but also neighbors in the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea region, so we have been maintaining meaningful dialogue as well as relations within multilateral organizations," Lavrov stressed. "Russia wants its southern neighbor to be a stable and prosperous state, open for broad cooperation. I am confident that the further deepening of our relations is in the core interest of our peoples as it aims at strengthening peace, security and stability in the South Caucasus," the Russian foreign minister concluded.
Russia welcomes the possible inclusion of Azerbaijan in the Eurasian integration process.
"In the two years of the Eurasian Economic Union’s (EAEU) existence, the number of its members grew from three to five. This confirms that the Union provides major benefits to its members that can only be achieved via access to a common economic space," he said.
Russia’s top diplomat stressed that the EAEU today is a common market zone with a population of 182 million people, which guarantees to its members the free flow of goods, services, capitals and labor.
"Benefits from pursuing external economic interests jointly deserve a special mention: such interests can be defended a lot more efficiently by a member of such a powerful integration structure," he said.