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Monday, 19-08-2019
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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions following talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov, Ashgabat, February 6, 2019

We had very fruitful and concrete talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov.

We discussed practical areas of our cooperation based on the results of our meeting today with President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

We reaffirmed our resolve to implement the agreements reached by our presidents, including the documents signed during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Ashgabat in 2017. I am referring to the Agreement on Strategic Partnership. We pointed out at our meeting with President Berdimuhamedov and the talks with my Turkmen colleague today that this agreement is the epitome of relations between Russia and Turkmenistan.

When speaking about our bilateral relations, we focused on the preparations for the next meeting of the Russian-Turkmen Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation. We expressed appreciation for the performance of the High-Level Working Group on Trade and Investment, which has been set up at the commission. We share the opinion that we should highlight joint strategic investment projects, without neglecting mutual trade. Many Russian companies, including Kamaz and Tatneft, are working in Turkmenistan and have earned a solid reputation. We are grateful to our Turkmen friends for creating comfortable conditions for the operations of Russian businesses.

We also exchanged positive views on our humanitarian and cultural exchanges. Over 30,000 students from Turkmenistan are studying in Russia. President Berdimuhamedov personally makes sure that support is provided to the Russian language at all stages of education. The Alexander Pushkin Russian-Turkmen secondary school, which was established at the president’s initiative, is probably the best school of this kind in the region. At the least, it has a very good reputation.

As for other topics, we also discussed Central Asia and cooperation in the Caspian region. This year Turkmenistan will host the first ever forum of the Caspian countries. We have coordinated practical areas for the joint preparations of this major event.

We have reaffirmed the significance of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, which concluded 20 years of hard work by the five Caspian states. We noted that the convention assigns responsibility for dealing with any problems pertaining to the Caspian Sea to the five Caspian states.

As for the international agenda, we discussed our cooperation within the framework of the CIS, where Turkmenistan is presiding this year. We also talked about preparations for the next meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers, which is scheduled to take place in Moscow on April 5.

A large part of our talks was devoted to our interaction within the framework of the UN. We are grateful to Turkmenistan for supporting and co-authoring a great number of Russian initiatives. In particular, we talked about our joint involvement in the open-ended UN working group on international cyber security, which the UN General Assembly decided to establish two months ago.

This is all we discussed today. I have given you the gist of our talks. I would like to wholeheartedly thank our Turkmen friends for their hospitality and a warm reception, as well as for our practical, concrete and meaningful talks.

Question: Did you discuss the possibility of visa-free travel between Russia and Turkmenistan, considering a potential rise in tourism in the Caspian region? Can this be accomplished in the future?

In his address to Congress, US President Donald Trump mentioned the INF Treaty and said it was possible to negotiate a new treaty and to expand the number of participants. How would you comment on this initiative?

Sergey Lavrov: Regarding agreements between the five Caspian states, we did not discuss the tourism industry today. But no one is putting up any barriers between the citizens of our countries who want to communicate with each other. Perhaps it would also be possible to review tourism projects in the format of five countries, but our Turkmen colleagues have advanced a short-term initiative that builds upon the documents of the five Caspian states which have already been adopted in line with their proposals. In 2018, agreements dealing with economic and transport cooperation were approved at Turkmenistan’s initiative. Work is now underway to review several other proposals of Turkmenistan, and we would like to focus on a very useful idea to draft an international legal framework for science cooperation between Caspian states. I think it will be possible to discuss such matters as tourism and other humanitarian exchanges in the future.

Regarding the INF Treaty, we have said everything there is to say in response to groundless accusations by the United States. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has set out the Russian position: Russia will respond symmetrically. The Americans have suspended their participation in the Treaty, and we have done the same. Therefore, it will become null and void six months after we receive an official US note on withdrawing from the Treaty. Regarding further talks on this or any other subjects dealing with strategic stability and arms control, President Putin has also clearly set out our position. There is no shortage of initiatives that we have submitted to our colleagues in the United States, NATO and the West generally. We have repeatedly mentioned them, calling for launching talks that should not be delayed. For example, this concerns matters linked with the possible extension of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), due to expire in 2021. Our Western colleagues, including US colleagues, did not respond in any way. Therefore, as you know, President Putin instructed Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and me not to raise these matters any more but to wait calmly until (and if) our Western partners respond to our proposals on the entire range of strategic stability matters that were submitted long ago. 

Question: In late 2018, Gazprom held talks with the Turkmen side on resuming gas deliveries and on resolving a dispute at a commercial court. Did you discuss this subject today? There have been no reports since early 2019, although the Turkmen side said it is expecting gas deliveries. Could you clarify?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, these matters are within the remit of the Intergovernmental  Russian-Turkmen Commission on Economic Cooperation, whose meeting is being prepared. I can say that when he was speaking about the state of our relations today, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted with satisfaction the continued contacts with Gazprom.



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