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.
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