Thu. May 30th, 2024

•Russian foreign minister proposes to continue and expand talks on security guarantees

•Defense minister says some of exercises closing to end, some will be finished in near future

•NATO chief urges Russia to engage in talks, withdraw forces threatening Ukraine

By Elena Teslova and Agnes Szucs

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday the possibilities for a dialogue with the West on Russia’s security guarantees proposal are not exhausted.

Speaking at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Lavrov said the Foreign Ministry continues working at the presidential task to get legally-binding security guarantees from the US and NATO.

“We held a meeting with the American delegation and then, under the framework of Russia-NATO (Council), it was in mid-January, during which we substantively explained the meaning of our initiatives to resolving the key security problems in the Euro-Atlantic (region).

“Then, (Antony) Blinken, the US secretary of state, asked me about another meeting to make clear, additionally, some issues,” Lavrov said.

After the meeting with the head of the US diplomacy, the Foreign Ministry received the responses of the US and NATO, which were examined “in inter-bodies format,” Lavrov continued.

“The US response is of interest to us in the first turn because it is clear who plays the main role in resolving these issues in the Western camp,” he noted.

According to the minister, the US response consists of two parts. The first part reacts to Russia’s three key concerns: NATO’s non-expansion, non-deployment of strike weapons near the country’s border, and return of military configuration in Europe to the 1997 position when the Russia-NATO Foundation Act was signed, in which for the first time the issue of providing indivisibility of security was raised, he noted.

“On these issues, the response is negative, it cannot satisfy us. It says the right of any state to choose allies, join allies, change allies is above all, and this is not for discussion. We remind that this right cemented in international documents is directly conditioned by the obligation not to strengthen security at the expense of weakening the security of other states,” Lavrov stressed.

Another important moment, the minister added, “no country, no group of countries, no organization” can dominate on the territory of the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“We are observing the attempts of our NATO colleagues, of the European Union that is seeking its place, to do so they define further development of our continent,” he said.

A message to the OSCE countries, handed in addition to the security guarantees proposals and asking for their understanding of the indivisibility of security, remained unanswered, Lavrov noted.

Instead, the ministry received “two little papers” from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and head of the EU diplomacy Josep Borrell where they offer to not worry, continue the dialogue, and provide de-escalation around Ukraine, he claimed.

“This is neglect to the norm of the indivisibility of security, we will continue efforts to get a response from each country,” the minister said.

The second part of the US and NATO response is constructive, the minister added, saying it provides for concrete measures regarding solving the problems of intermediate- and shorter-range ground-based missiles, and also contains a range of proposals in decreasing military risks, trust-building, and military transparency, including the withdrawal of military exercises from borders of each other, agreeing on a maximum distance of approach for warships and planes, he said.

“Almost all of these proposals are initiatives that Russia suggested before.

“It is clear that our initiative on security guarantees that we presented and are actively promoting, where we made very clear our core interests, shook our Western colleagues and became a reason why they could not ignore anymore our many previous requests,” the diplomat said.

On the issues of the second part, Russia and the West can consider how to move forward “but exclusively by preserving the integrity of our initiative,” Lavrov said, adding that Moscow will pursue getting answers to the raised initiatives.

“We warn about inadmissibility holding endless talks on the proposals,” he said.

Asked by Putin if there are prospects of achieving an agreement, Lavrov said: “Being the head of the Foreign Ministry, I have to say there is always a chance.”

“Taking into account our readiness to explain our position and to consider serious arguments, I think our possibilities are not exhausted. The talks cannot continue infinitely but at this stage, I would propose to continue and expand them,” he said.

Last December, Russia presented to the US and NATO its proposal on providing security guarantees in Europe that takes into account the country’s interests. On Jan. 27, after a series of talks, the US and NATO handed their written responses to the proposals to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Some military exercises coming to an end

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu announced on Monday that some of the military exercises are closing to an end.

Russia is holding large-scale military drills in the West of the country, and also almost in every Russian fleet, Shoygu said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

“Some of these exercises are closing to an end, some will be finished in the near future,” Shoygu reported.

The minister noted that the armed forces work out the skill against an attack of any actions of a potential enemy.

During the military training, the armed forces detected in the Russian territorial waters a submarine, allegedly of the US fleet, near the Kuril Islands, Shoygu noted.

“As a result of special actions on this boat, three-fold actions, the boat was expelled from the waters of Russia,” he said.

The US nuclear submarine of Virginia type was spotted by Russian anti-submarine forces in the territorial waters of the Russian Federation on Feb. 12 near the Urup Island of the Kuril Ridge.

The submarine did not respond to the demands to the surface and so the Russian side decided to use special means to force it out of the territorial waters.

Following the incident, the US military attache in Moscow was handed a note of protests, and it was also indicated that the Russian Defense Ministry reserves the right to take all possible measures in its territorial waters to ensure the security of the Russian Federation.

NATO remains ready for dialogue with Russia

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday said that NATO remains ready to engage in a “meaningful dialogue” with Russia.

“The best way for Russia to demonstrate its readiness to find a peaceful solution is to de-escalate and remove the forces which are now threatening Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said at a joint news conference with Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez following their meeting in Brussels.

The leaders discussed the partnership between NATO and Colombia, as well as Russia’s “unjustified military buildup” in and around Ukraine, Stoltenberg explained.

He stressed that NATO remains ready to start a “meaningful dialogue” with Russia, and urged Moscow to “choose the path of diplomacy” in the conflict with Ukraine.

Marquez, for his part, reaffirmed Colombia’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and promised to join the international community in imposing sanctions on Moscow in case of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

He asserted that choosing dialogue over escalation would be “a better path for the world”.

Stoltenberg and Duque also talked about the “deepening cooperation” between Russia and China and their support for the “repressive regime” in Venezuela.

“We agreed that all parties should play a constructive role for regional peace and stability,” Stoltenberg added.

Last week, Stoltenberg sent a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, inviting Moscow to continue talks in the NATO-Russia Council on arms control and military transparency.

Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, prompting fears it could be planning another military offensive against the former Soviet republic.

The US and its allies have warned of an imminent attack, and threatened Russia with “severe consequences.”

Moscow, however, has denied it is preparing to invade Ukraine and said its troops are there for exercises.

Credit | AA

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