Russia on Friday said its initiatives with Turkiye helped improve the situation in the South Caucasus and solve the region's prevailing political problems
Moscow has always supported a proposed 3+3 format -- comprising of Iran, Russia, and Turkiye plus Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia -- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, referring to a scheme suggested by Baku and backed by Ankara to help resolve disputes in the region.
"We immediately saw a very good unifying potential in this initiative and immediately ... we advocated that our Georgian neighbors should also be involved in this process, proceeding from the fact that the more opportunities for communication, the better for solving the remaining problems," said Lavrov, speaking at an annual press conference evaluating the foreign policy developments of the past year
Underlining that this format would help develop the entire region, Lavrov said: "We support these efforts, we actively participate in them, they contribute to the normalization of the situation in the South Caucasus and help create conditions for the remaining political problems to be solved much more actively and fruitfully through, among other things, economic cooperation between the three countries of the South Caucasus and their three large neighbors -- Russia, Turkiye, and Iran," he said.
Lavrov regretted that Georgia did not join the first meeting of the 3+3 format last December, saying Russia had asked Turkiye, Azerbaijan, and Armenia to explain to Georgia the benefits of joining. "Taking part in the format will not oblige them (Georgia) to anything," the diplomat said.
He also welcomed the first meeting between representatives of Turkiye and Armenia that took place on Jan. 14 in Moscow as the two countries pursue efforts for normalization, adding that Russia had helped organize the meeting.
Russia expects increase of NATO forces near borders
Moscow suspects that the West will increase its military presence along Russia's borders in two to three months, Lavrov said.
He said Russia had "reason to believe" this would happen if it did not comply with the West's demands on "how to deal with its troops on its territory."
Lavrov pointed out that a proposal by Russia for the West to provide it with security guarantees was aimed at reducing the military confrontation and de-escalating overall tensions in Europe, adding that the West's intentions were "exactly the opposite."
"NATO is increasing its ground forces and aviation in the territories that are directly adjacent to Ukraine, the scale and number of exercises on the Black Sea have increased many times recently," he said.
Lavrov also noted that NATO had invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance at the time of Russia-US consultations on security guarantees.
Asked why the EU was not invited to the security discussions, the minister said Brussels had "destroyed" all connections and that there were no communication channels left.
"We regret that the European Union itself destroyed all the mechanisms seven and a half years ago, including the mechanisms within which practical aspects of ensuring security were discussed. And now, we have turned to the United States and NATO,
"With NATO, at least on paper, we still have the Russia-NATO Council, this structure still exists, and no one has destroyed the Founding Act. And with the European Union, all communication channels are cemented by our European colleagues," he said.
Lavrov did not mention which steps Russia could take if talks on the security guarantees fail, underlining the need to wait until the West presents a response in written form.
On the timing of Moscow's proposal on security guarantees, he said "the situation with the real configuration of weapons, military equipment and armed forces in Europe has changed," adding that Russia had "run out of patience," as its previous initiatives were either ignored or rejected.