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    Flags fly at half mast at NATO headquarters in Brussels, March 23, 2016.

    Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Zakharova Holds Weekly Press Briefing

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    Moscow has proposed a number of practical steps to fortify confidence between Russia and the alliance during the Russia-NATO council in Brussels on July 14, Russian Foreign Minsitry spokewoman Maria Zalharova told reporters during a weekly press briefing in Moscow.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will hold talks with his Portuguese counterpart Augusto Santos Silva in Moscow on July 17-18, the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists.

    "On July 17-18 the Portuguese foreign minister will pay a working visit to Russia to hold detailed talks with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov," Zakharova said.

    She added that Russian-Portuguese relations have been traditionally constructive.

    "In recent years their intensity has declined amid a rollback of contacts between Russia and the European Union. At the same time, Portuguese top officials have repeatedly showed a will to restore the former level of cooperation," Zakharova said.

    On situation in Syria

    The ceasefire deal was signed by 171 towns in the country.

    Speaking about fallen Russian pilots Maria Zakharova said that their names will never be forgotten.

    On situation in South Sudan

    The situation in South Sudan becomes more serious. Severe clashes continue in the region.

    "We expect that the parties participating in the clashes will be able to return to reconciliation process in the country," Zakharova told reporters.

    On NATO-Russia relations

    The Russia-NATO council was held on july 14 in Brussels. The participants discussed the results of the NATO summit in Warsaw.

    Russia voiced a number of proposals for specific confidence-building measures during the latest NATO-Russia Council meeting, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.

    "The Russian side specifically pointed to NATO's direct responsibility for a possible further escalation of the military-political tensions on the European continent as a result of an unprecedented military buildup and bloc activity in regions bordering Russia," Maria Zakharova told reporters.

    The Russian side "proposed a number of very specific, practical steps to build confidence" during the meeting, particularly regarding military flights in the Baltic region.

    "We expect a specific reaction from our colleagues, NATO representatives," she added.

    The spokeswoman underlined that Moscow sees the NATO-Russia Council format as a "relevant mechanism for consultations and bringing closer approaches in the interests of strengthening peace and stability on the European continent."

    Russia, however, has condemned NATO buildup in Eastern Europe as it could lead to the tensions in the region, Zakharova said.

    The delegations discussed situation in Afghanistan.

    On Kerry's visit in Moscow

    The possibility of Russia-US cooperation on Syria will be discussed during the US State Secretary's visit in Moscow.

    South China Sea

    Russia urges China and ASEAN member states to finalize a code of conduct in South China Sea which has been worked out since 2002, the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

    On Tuesday, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration dismissed Beijing's territorial claims in South China Sea in a pro-Philippines ruling rejected by China.

    "We support efforts of China and the ASEAN to work out a code of conduct in South China Sea," Zakharova said.

    She urged the parties to settle territorial disputes by diplomatic means.

    "We believe that states implicated in territorial disputes in the said maritime area should strictly follow the principle of non-use of force and keep searching ways for political and diplomatic settlement of disputes based on international law, primarily on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 as well as on China-ASEAN agreements," Zakharova added.

    Russia will not allow to drag itseld into territorial disputes.

    On relations with Montenegro

    Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic is trying to ruin the country’s traditionally friendly relations with Russia by making statements regarding "Russian propaganda," Maria Zakharova said during the press briefing.

    Earlier this week, Djukanovic said that people in the lowest income brackets in the Western Balkans were "prey" for Russian propaganda as they feared change and western integration.

    "Mr Djukanovic is openly and explicitly leading the trend of purposeful destruction of the rationally friendly relations between Russia and Montenegro," Zakharova told a briefing.

    On sanctions against DPRK

    The US State Department has published its sanctions list against North Korean leadership. "We have repeadly stated that we're against using human right issue as pretext for sanctions policy," Zakharova said.

    The problem should be solved through the dialog at the Korean peninsula.

    On Russia-Turkey relations

    The deputy foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey will hold political consultations in Moscow later on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

    "I can confirm that political consultations at the level of Russian and Turkish deputy foreign ministers is scheduled for today in Moscow," Zakharova said at a weekly briefing.

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov and his Turkish counterpart Ali Kemal Aydin plan to focus on restoring bilateral cooperation, she added.

    THAAD in S Korea

    Moscow will monitor the development of the situation on the Korean Peninsula following Seoul's decision to place US-made THAAD missile defense systems in South Korea, Maria Zakharova told reporters.

    "We will continue to closely monitor the development of events on the peninsula, we are open for consultations with all interested sides, countries, to discuss new realities, new aspects emerging in the region," she said.

    On July 13, Seoul announced it has decided to station the THAAD systems in the southern Seongju County. Russia and China protested the decision, stating that the agreement to deploy the THAAD system will have a highly negative impact on global strategic stability.

    Lavrov congratulates Boris Johnson

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov congratulated Boris Johnson on his appointment as UK foreign secretary, Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman told reporters.

    "The Russian foreign minister has sent the corresponding congratulations to his colleague, who took this post," Zakharova said.

    On Wednesday, Theresa May, having served as home secretary for the past six years, became the United Kingdom’s new prime minister, following David Cameron’s official resignation.

    The same day, Johnson, former mayor of London and a key figure in the campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, was appointed the new UK foreign secretary.

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    press briefing, Syrian crisis, NATO, Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, Moscow, Russia
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