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     Unofficial translation from Russian

Transcript of Remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov at Joint Press Conference Following Talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Egypt Ahmed Maher, Moscow, May 17, 2002

    Igor Ivanov: First of all, I would like to greet in Moscow the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, Mr. Maher. We have had very substantive, constructive and fruitful negotiations on a wide range of issues, primarily issues concerning the Middle East and bilateral relations.

    Russia is proceeding from the premise that the main efforts now must be focused on the resumption of interaction in the field of security and political dialogue between Israel and Palestine, the improvement of the humanitarian and economic situation in the region of the Palestinian Authority. This goal is pursued in the agreements reached recently in Washington within the framework of the international "Quartet." We are taking efforts to resume the negotiation process on the political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of principles agreed in Madrid and resolutions 242 and 338 of the UN Security Council, and other agreements and arrangements. In our view, important elements of the settlement process are Resolution 1397 of the UN Security Council that provides for the existence of two independent states -- Israel and Palestine -- within safe and recognized borders, as well as Saudi Arabia's proposals approved at the Arab summit in Beirut.

    Russia welcomes the recent statements by Yasser Arafat concerning his determination to make serious changes in the system of Palestinian government. The first important steps have already been taken toward this goal, a law on the independence of the judiciary has been adopted, a decision has been announced to hold elections on the Palestinian territories. In our view, such reforms will serve the interests of the Palestinian people and enhance the possibilities for resolving the current crisis and resuming the peace process.

    In the course of negotiations we also exchanged views on issues of bilateral cooperation. I'd like to note that we are satisfied with the high level of the political dialogue between our countries. We are actively working to implement all the agreements that were reached during President Mubarak's visit to the Russian Federation last year. In this respect we paid special attention to further development of trade and economic cooperation and discussed concrete steps in this direction.

    We agreed to closely coordinate our efforts in the interests of Middle East settlement.

    Question: Could you describe your position with regard to the idea of convening an international conference? What aspects of the Iraqi issue did you touch on during the talks?

    Igor Ivanov: We believe that an international conference is necessary to achieve a final settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In the process, all the previous agreements fully continue in force, namely the agreements reached at the Madrid Conference and in Oslo and UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, as well as the proposal of Saudi Arabia approved by the summit of Arab states in Beirut. Now within the framework of the "Quartet" the appropriate proposals are being prepared to be then discussed both with the parties to the conflict as well as with the leading Arab states participating in the process of settlement.

    We believe that only a political settlement of the Iraqi problem is possible, based on implementation of the existing UN Security Council resolutions and additions thereto. It is in this direction that we will continue to exert our efforts jointly with other countries, particularly Egypt.

    Question: Igor Sergeyevich, how does the new formula of the Russia-NATO cooperation differ from the former format "19+1"?

    Igor Ivanov: While before it was the "19+1" formula, according to which the Permanent Joint Council (PJC) Russia-NATO acted, now it's a full twenty. The PJC was a consultative body where NATO and Russia exchanged views on key issues of mutual interest. Now our relations will be raised to a qualitatively new and higher level within the framework of a new mechanism where 19 NATO member states and Russia will act as equal partners in their national capacity. We will discuss and adopt by consensus decisions on the issues to appear on the agenda for discussion, and then these states will jointly implement these decisions.The new mechanism will deal with the most pressing problems of our days, such as the fight against international terrorism, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, peacekeeping operations, and so on.

May 17, 2002

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