See also Chairman's statement
Lavrov: On behalf of our group I would like to tell you that everything went off successfully and our statement will be distributed to you. Thank you. (Laughter).
Esteemed colleagues, I would like to apologize to the journalists who couldn't get into this room because interest in this meeting is too high. But all those who are not here will be able to see the press conference in other premises.
I think I will speak for all of us if I say that we are satisfied with the way the meeting of the foreign ministers of the G8 ended. This is in effect the last preparatory event for the summit in St. Petersburg. We considered the entire spectrum of the G8 political agenda, issues most of which are of particular importance for the world community as a whole. And of course, we took into account the position of other countries when we looked at this or that problem.
At the focus of the meeting were the problems of non- proliferation of mass destruction weapons. In this context, the situation around the Iran nuclear program was discussed, the situation on the Korean peninsula. We also paid special attention to the situation in the Middle East, in the first place in the context of the recent aggravation in the relations between the Palestinians and Israel. We reaffirmed our support of the position of the Quartet of international mediators, called on the sides to take all the necessary measures to calm down the situation and create conditions for ensuring security and a return to the negotiating process on the basis of the road map.
We have also backed the position of the six countries which has tabled a proposal on negotiations with Teheran, and we expect in the very near future a concrete answer from Teheran to this proposal. We have confirmed our support for the permanent government of Iraq, called on it to continue to work to achieve national conciliation, and to strengthen security thus creating conditions for sustained social and economic development.
I would like on behalf of the Russian Federation and on my own behalf to express appreciation to all my colleagues for their support in connection with barbaric seizure and killing of members of the Russian embassy staff in Iraq. We are one in believing that the culprits should be found and duly punished.
We have reaffirmed the need for complying with the obligations which the international community and the Afghan government undertook at the London Conference on Afghanistan. We also welcomed the results of the international conference at ministerial level on the routes for delivering narcotics from Afghanistan. This is the second conference on the topic, the first took place three years ago in Paris.
We have also considered the situation in the Western Balkans and spoke in favor of continued direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina and the participation of the Kosovo Serbs in these negotiations.
We continued discussing such a traditional topic of the G8 as the strengthening of the peacekeeping potential of the African countries, the establishment of partnership with the broader Middle East and North Africa, and we discussed a new initiative on deepening interaction to prevent conflicts and resolve issues of post-conflict rehabilitation.
The main results of the meeting are set forth in the statement of its chairman which, I hope, will be distributed to all the journalists after the end of this meeting. Thank you. And you are welcome to put questions to anyone of us and to all of us.
Q: Al Jazeera. What is the place of Middle East settlement on the summit agenda in the light of the recent developments, and especially Israel's policy of collective punishment of the population in the Gaza Strip? I would very much like Ms. Rice to answer that question.
Rice: We indeed had an extensive discussion of the situation in the Middle East. We have reaffirmed several commitments, first and foremost our commitment to a two-state solution, the course of which, the pathway of which was developed in the road map and our hope is that all parties will find a way soon back on to the road map and that a two-state solution can be found.
Secondly, we affirmed our commitments to the Quartet requirements that a Palestinian government that can be a partner for peace must be one that recognizes the right of Israel to exist, that renounces violence and that is indeed committed to a peaceful solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
As concerns the current situation and the current crisis, we also had a discussion of that, that is detailed in the statement that has been released by the parties here. Let me just say that this crisis, of course, just underscores the need to have all parties, all Palestinian parties work for anti-terrorist activities.
We also called on the Palestinian government and other parties to secure the release of the Israeli soldier and we are asking Israel to exercise restraint in the circumstance because we perhaps can get back to a place where there can be hopes again for a peace process.
This began as a terrorist act but we do recognize that it is important to protect civilians so that they do not suffer as a result of this current crisis and it is really important that every party act responsibly so that the possibilities for peace will be preserved.
Q: Reuters. A question specifically for Minister Lavrov and Secretary Rice. And this is about Iran. Do you among the P5 plus 1 have full agreement that Iran has to respond to the nuclear offer by the summit? And do you have agreement that the option of disincentives in the package actively includes sanctions?
Lavrov: If I may. In the statement there is an elaborate text on Iran. We agreed that we support, as G8 we support the meeting which is planned between Javier Solana and the national security adviser of Iran on July 5. And we also took note of the fact that the six countries who made the proposal would assess the situation before mid-July based on the outcome of the meeting I refereed to between Javier Solana and the national security adviser of Iran. We did not discuss anything beyond the offer which we all made in good faith to Iran, which is a positive offer and we expect a positive official specific response to this. This is all in the statement.
Rice: That's all in the statement but we remind that this is the G8, not the P5 plus 1. We did affirm or reaffirm the statement that Margaret Beckett made on behalf of the six at Vienna in its entirety. We also affirmed that we expect a response from Iran, an official response, we would hope for a serious response, have reaffirmed that we will meet with Mr. Larijani on July 6. We will then assess where we are but I think you will note that the statement also expresses some disappointment that we have not yet heard from the Iranians some point we consider to be a very favorable on offer. And so the Vienna Declaration stands in its entirety and expresses the hope that Iran is preparing to respond in a positive way. The P5 plus 1 will assess the situation when we have heard from the Iranians after Javier's meeting.
Q: CTV News. This is the question first of all for Mr. MacKay.
I'd like to know whether you said that the US is concerned about democratic backsliding in Russia, whether that was raised at your meeting and how Canada feels about certain movement coming from the United States even as far as to suggest perhaps that the US should boycott this G8 summit. And also for Condoleezza Rice, any comments on that issue as well. Thank you.
Lavrov: Be careful, you are being provoked. (Laughter).
MacKay: Let me begin by saying what a gracious host Mr. Lavrov is. And I would suggest that we did have a very open and frank discussion about the situation in Belarus, we touched upon the regions of Moldova and Georgia. We had discussions as you would expect, around concerns that Canada raised in particular in what is happening in Belarus. There was a discussion about Georgia as to their aspirations. But this was not a provocative discussion. It was a discussion, as you would expect in a mature way around the table with G8 countries that share similar values, democratic principles, respect for rule of law. And so, to that extent I view this as very positive and I think that Chairman Lavrov took the discussion in the light in which it was intended.
Rice: I think I said that we did have a very good discussion.
We believe we can raise any things with G8 colleagues. I should also note that it's not a secret that the United States and others have had concerns about how the transition is going in Russia. This is after all a new democratic transition in its own right. We have raised those concerns on many occasions and will continue to raise them. They are raised in the spirit of respect for the Russian Federation, for our...
Rice: :I have to say that we did have a very good discussion.
We believe we can raise anything among our G8 colleagues. I should also note that it's no secret that the United States and others have had concerns about how the transition is going in Russia. This is after all a new democratic transition in its own right. And we have raised those concerns on many occasions and will continue to raise them. They are raised in a spirit of respect for the Russian Federation, for how far this society and this country have indeed come.
I was first in the Soviet Union in 1979. I assure you that there have been massive changes in this country since that time and since the Russian Federation was born in 1991. But we won't hesitate to talk about our concerns about non-governmental organizations or the freedom of the press and we do so in a spirit of candor and cooperation.
As to those who have called for the United States to boycott the G8 process, we are clearly not boycotting it. I am here. And President Bush, of course, looks forward to coming to the St. Petersburg summit. But it is important when we do that, given the fact that the G8 is an organization of industrial democracies, that we raise any concerns that we do have about democratic course.
Lavrov: Since Russia has been mentioned, I think it would be improper for me to keep silent. I have indeed answered questions some of my colleagues had in connection with conflicts in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transdniestria, and in connection with the situation in Belarus. I think I provided enough facts that form the basis of our approach to all these issues, and I do hope this was useful for my colleagues.
As for the situation inside Russia, it was not discussed in our meeting, but as our President and other leaders have said, we are not trying to avoid frank discussions with our partners. Condoleezza Rice has just said that she was first in the Soviet Union in 1979 and has seen serious changes in how our country lives. By coincidence, I was first in the United States in 1979 too, and I have also noticed over these years changes, many of which we try to discuss with our American colleagues.
Who is next?
Q: In your interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant today, you mentioned the criticism of democratic processes in Russia and said that this criticism often fails to take into account the fact that tremendous changes have occurred in Russia over the past several years. And will you address this criticism also to the United States that has not appreciated these changes in Russia to full extent?
Steinmeier: Madam Rice made it absolutely clear that there have been massive changes since Soviet times. But this does not mean of course that in our bilateral discussions or at joint conferences, like this one and others, we do not speak about necessary changes within the framework of this process. At least I can say that such topics like this one will always be on the agenda of our meetings.
We discuss these topics very attentively and will discuss them this way.
Lavrov: China, please.
Q: I have a question to the Japanese minister. Relations between China and Japan are strained now. Is it possible to get rid of this strain?
Aso: Wen Jiabao gave a press conference on March 14. On March Hu Jintao, the leader of China, delivered a speech in front of all organizations, Japanese organizations, which stated China's policy with regard to Japan. At the end of May there was a very good meeting in Doha, Qatar. You all probably know about it. The next meeting will be in July, next month. It's a process. So, that's what the current relationship between our countries is like.
Lavrov: Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
Q: A question to Condoleezza Rice. It has become fashionable lately to say that Russia resorts to energy blackmailing against Europe. Lookers-on see more than the players, especially from overseas. What do you think about this?
Rice: Let me repeat what I said. We will talk about any issue that concerns us. So, when did you go and where did you go in the United States in 1979 that you saw so much change? I am really interested.
Lavrov: New York.
Rice: Oh, New York. Now I understand. One the matter of energy, open access to energy through market processes, particularly given the importance of energy markets to international growth, is an appropriate issue, particularly for the industrialized democracies to discuss. Russia is an extremely energy supplier and there have been concerns about what the rules of the game are in terms of reliable supply of energy. And that is a discussion that I think our heads of state will have. I know that our political directors have had, that our sherpas, the people who deal more with the economic issues, have had that discussion.
It is perfectly appropriate for a big energy supplier like Russia to have a discussion with many who are indeed very dependent on reliable energy supply of how that reliability of the supplies is going to be maintained and that it is going to be maintained without reference to any political motive but rather to market forces that should drive energy markets. And you know this is not just a concern the United States has had, it is a concern that has been there in global markets and a concern that has been there from some of our partners. And I think you will find that the documents that are being worked on for the heads of state summit in St. Petersburg address this issue in a sober way and in a way that is aimed at trying to reassure that indeed there will be the reliability of supply.
But that there have been concerns on this matter I think is well known and is incontrovertible, and people will continue to want to discuss it.
Lavrov: Since this concerns Russia again, I will make a small addition. I fully support what Condoleezza Rice said about the need to be guided by the same rules of the game and that these rules are determined by the market. The Russian Federation fully shares this position. And we will continue, as we have been doing over the past 40 years, to ensure the reliability of supplies. We only want that to be balanced by the reliability of demand because this is a long- term problem, and we want to be sure that our reputation of a reliable supplier, who has never breached any contract even by a gram or a cubic millimeter, is appreciated and that we have reliable partners among consumers.
The document Dr. Rice mentioned, on energy security, was initiated by Russia as one of the main documents of the summit. It is practically ready. It indeed is impressive and comprehensive, a consensus-based document that I am sure will be supported not only by the G8 but also by all other countries of the world that are involved in the energy markets one way or another.
I have been told that there should be the last question. There have been only a few women who asked questions. Very well, two more questions.
Q: Did you talk about Chechnya during the meeting today? That's a question to each of you. Do you share Russia's position and strategy about Chechnya at the moment?
Lavrov: We did not discuss Chechnya today. Now I will let my colleagues speak. I can't make them speak. So, let us have one last question.
Q: I know it's not an easy problem, but you represent the most powerful country in the world. Why are you unable to put pressure for the release of the Israeli soldiers in Gaza that are close together? And the second question for Ms Rice. Do you expect more soldiers, more efforts for Italy in Afghanistan or less soldiers for our mission? Thank you.
Lavrov: On your first question, I can simply say that you will read about this in our statement. We are unanimous in demanding the earliest release -- Q: -- (inaudible) -- Lavrov: But Dr. Rice was listening to English, and English was the language of the original, right? At any rate, I want to say that we have a single position on the need to release the -- a relevant demand is made in the statement -- Israeli serviceman. I can also say that Russia is one of the countries that are working on this on the bilateral level too.
Rice: Let me answer the Afghanistan portion. I was just in Afghanistan. I think it's important that we know what's going on in Afghanistan. First of all, yes, there is some insecurity in the south, pushed by the Taliban, but I believe that our military commanders are quite confident that we have the coalition and the Afghans have adequate force to deal with that situation. As you may know, NATO is in the process of redeploying or deploying to the south. In addition, there are Afghan forces that are deploying to that region as well.
There is a very carefully drawn plan that has been approved by NATO and is now being executed for what forces will go into that region. And there is every reason to believe that it is more than adequate to the task. And so, there will be some changes in the force deployments there over the next period of time, but it is a planned deployment of forces to that region.
Douste-Blazy: I would like to give some advice regarding Gaza.
I want to say that it is absolutely obvious that it is necessary to have a balanced position on this issue. It is important to demand that the Palestinians release the soldier and the hostages. I must also stress that this soldier has dual citizenship, and he is also a citizen of France. And so we also demand his release.
But I must express satisfaction about the fact that the text we signed today and the G8 foreign ministers has reference to the arrest of some of the members of the Palestinian government and parliament. The arrest took place this morning. We believe that the political process cannot be restored by way of violence on either side.
Rice: Also, I am sorry, did not -- on the Gaza point. The diplomatic efforts are continuing for the release of the soldier and everyone is calling on the Palestinian government and the Palestinian factions to indeed attain the release of the soldier and to the degree that there is other activity of this kind, it really must cease. I believe that you will see that responsible Palestinians are also engaged in efforts to get this soldier released. And that is a very important point to make as well as some regional actors that are engaged. And so, there is full-scale diplomatic effort that is continuing.
Lavrov: All these and many other issues are addressed in detail in the statement. I hope you will have it within minutes. In conclusion, I would like to express sincere gratitude to all of my colleagues for cooperation in organizing the meeting. I think it was a success. And thank you for your attention.