MOSCOW, October 14. /TASS/. Russia continues to regard the Europeans as partners, despite certain statements from Brussels, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a meeting with members of the Association of European Businesses.
“Regrettably, we have met in a situation that is far from favorable,” he said.
Lavrov believes that last contacts were devoted mostly to the idea the relations between Russia and the European Union have approached the moment of truth, “where it is necessary to answer the question whether we are strategic partners or remain geopolitical rivals.”
“Our European partners, and we continue to regard the Europeans as partners, whatever statements may be made in Brussels, have made their choice at this historical landmark,” Lavrov said.
Kiev has been forced to play a “friend or foe” game and choose between the East and the West, Lavrov stressed. “As a large European country, Ukraine has been forced to play a 'friend or foe' game and to define, in what direction — the East or the West — Kiev should develop its strategic interests,” he added.
The attempt to disjoin the economies of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine will hamper successful business development, Lavrov noted. “The attempt at disjoining these economies (of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine) will hamper successful business development,” he said. “I hope that representatives of the neighboring countries also realize this,” he added.
Sanctions against Russia are unlawful actions which do not promote deescalation of the current conflict in Ukraine, Lavrov said. “Sanctions are harmful, they are unlawful,” the minister said.
Russia was forced to react to sanctions and those who imposed them must lift them, the foreign minister stressed. “Brussels’ decisions, particularly on imposing sanctions against Russia, were taken under America’s strong pressure. Today it is important to clarify issues on prospects for our cooperation,” Lavrov said.
Russia “took a position of truth and justice on Ukraine,” he said. “Sanctions are not a rightful instrument. The way of sanctions is not our choice,” Lavrov said.
Russia is ready to continue building up energy cooperation with the European Union, as it is beneficial for both sides, Lavrov added. Russia wants to develop cooperation both with Eastern countries and with the European Union, the foreign minister said. “Our long-standing steady course to expand cooperation with counties in the East will continue anyway, but we would rather do it not as an alternative to cooperation with the EU, but parallel to it,” Lavrov said.
Russia hopes that the European Commission will abandon its politically charged approach to the South Stream gas pipeline, the minister noted. “The (pipeline) project will minimize the transit risks of Russian natural gas supply to EU consumers, which fully meets the Brussels-declared goals of ensuring energy security in Europe,” Lavrov said. “We hope that the European Commission will abandon its politically charged approach to the gas pipeline construction and will proceed from vital interest of the EU states’ population and businesses,” he added.
Russia is ready to discuss creation of a free trade zone with the European Union, Lavrov said. As of January 1, 2015, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will begin to operate in a full-scale mode, he said.
“It is an open, developing project and very promising from the standpoint of doing business. We stay open to cooperation with other countries and other regional associations. We are prepared to discuss the outlook for creating a zone of free trade with the European Union and to systematically implement the integration model,” Lavrov said.
The EEU is a newly-founded integration association that will replace the Eurasian Economic Community next year. The EEC was officially terminated on October 10. At the moment, the EEU has four members — Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia. Kyrgyzstan will join the EEU soon.