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Verbatim: “We expect Russia to play a constructive role”

18.07.2019 - Interview

Interview by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas with Russian news agency Interfax:

On the situation in eastern Ukraine

We have been experiencing standstill in eastern Ukraine for too long. The disengagement around Stanytsia Luhanska sent a positive message. We welcome the fact that the sides agreed to this, following initial impetus from Ukraine. This achievement shows that it is possible to make progress in eastern Ukraine. Last week’s Normandy format meeting of political advisers was very productive. We need to build on that now. I will speak with Sergey Lavrov about how we expect Russia to play a constructive role. That includes releasing the Ukrainian sailors. It is important that direct talks on resolving the conflict take place again soon. The suffering of hundreds of thousands of civilians who are affected by the continuing armed conflict must finally end. That is why we want a Normandy format meeting at the political level as soon as possible. Naturally, we are liaising closely with our US and European partners on this.

On German-Russian relations

We see some issues – such as Russia’s role in Syria – in fundamentally different ways. Following the illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, a considerable amount of trust has been lost in relations with Russia. However, it is also obvious that we need dialogue with Russia in order to solve international problems. That is why we have resumed talks in the German-Russian High Level Working Group on Security, for example. At the same time, we need to prevent political tensions from spilling over into the relations between our societies. That is why the frank talks at the Petersburg dialogue are important. And that is why we are fostering German-Russian relations by carrying out so many projects – the German-Russian Year of University Collaboration and Research, projects with municipal partners, school exchanges, support for the survivors of the Siege of Leningrad, and a large number of joint commemoration events. We will continue this work.

On the JCPOA and INSTEX

We are under no illusions that we could compensate for the economic impact of the US’ withdrawal from the JCPOA. However, along with France and the UK, we have always made it clear that we stand to the JCPOA and want to implement our obligations under it. INSTEX is an important component of European endeavours to preserve the JCPOA. Furthermore, we European participants are not alone in the agreement. All remaining participants must work to uphold the nuclear agreement with Iran. That is a difficult undertaking, and INSTEX can only be one of several measures.

On the looming end of the INF Treaty

The ball is in Moscow’s court. Russia still has until 2 August to verifiably dismantle the cruise missiles, which are banned under the Treaty. But we need to be realistic that this doesn’t seem likely at the moment. The end of the INF Treaty also makes Russia less secure. We expect the threat posed by Russian cruise missiles in breach of the INF to continue. We are preparing for that. NATO certainly doesn’t want a new arms race. Arms control remains an important component of European security, and we need a type of arms control that also takes future challenges into account. Dialogue platforms such as the OSCE Structured Dialogue will become even more important after 2 August. It is also in Russia’s interest to play a constructive role here and to adhere to treaties.

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