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Speech of and answers to questions of mass media by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during joint press conference summarizing the results of the first session of the UK-Russia Strategic Dialogue

14-03-2013, 17:49

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We share the satisfaction expressed by Mr William Hague regarding the launch of the UK-Russia Strategic Dialogue in the “two plus two” format agreed between the President Vladimir Putin and the Prime Minister David Cameron.

Today we honestly and constructively discussed our bilateral relations, as well as a range of regional and international problems. We tried not to smooth out the bumps, but rather to review even the most complex issues openly and as partners – be it concerns in the field of human rights or slow progress in the solution of issues regarding extradition of some Russian citizens who are subject to persecution and are in the UK now. I will repeat, this absolutely does not prevent us from seeing common interest in a whole range of critical issues, the resolution of which conditions peace within and around Europe.

Against this background, we touched on the situation in Syria, as Mr William Hague mentioned a while ago, and, generally, the atmosphere in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, around the Nuclear Program of Iran, issues of European security, cooperation within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, interaction of the UK and Russia in the UNSC, in the Group of Eight and the Group of Twenty, in particular, taking into account the presidency of our countries in these two multilateral formats.

I absolutely agree to the words of Mr William Hague about Syria. We have a shared vision of how to support the aspiration of the Syrian people to better life and final goals to be reached by Syrians, namely, to preserve territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria, to ensure security, social, economic and political rights of all ethnic and religious groups. We share a common approach that there are grounds for movement in this direction – it is Geneva Communiqué, in the development of which Russia and UK took active part along with other countries.

The SAR Government and the Syrian Opposition must form negotiation teams. The authorities have already made it; we are expecting the same from the opposition. We expect that those working with the opposition will, like us, appeal to it to form a negotiation team as soon as possible. Certainly, Syrians must decide their destiny themselves; agree among them as envisaged by the Geneva Communiqué. A transition period is required. This is what they need to talk about at the negotiations the beginning of which we wish to contribute to. We have a unified position in what concerns that neither Russia nor the UK protects anybody personally in Syria, is personally staking at anybody, but rather wish to stop violence and to initiate a political process.

The approaches of the UK and Russia to the problems of combating terrorism threat coming from the Sahara-Sahel zone, in particular, in respect of the situation in the north of Mali. We agreed to closely coordinate our actions in UNSC when considering this issue in the nearest weeks.

We have a joint hope that joint actions of the “three plus three” group on the Nuclear Program of Iran, including the recent meeting with Iranian representatives in Kazakhstan and another negotiation round in the next month will help to form conditions to start agreeing about practical aspects of settlement of this serious problem.

The UK and Russia together see the need not to admit escalation around the Korean Peninsula. Our joint goal is denuclearization of this region. We are thankful to the UK for its support of the process of six-party talks.

We cooperate on Afghanistan both bilaterally and within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council. Today we had a very valuable discussion that allowed us to take a broader look to the situation and to see not only what is happening inside Afghanistan, but also to the still persisting threats for the countries of Central Asia. These countries are our allies, and we care how the situation in Afghanistan affects their security. We felt understanding of Russian approaches from our British colleagues.

We do a lot in the line of NATO-Russia relations – in combating terrorism threat and training of personnel for Afghanistan, Pakistan, countries of Central Asia and to reinforce their law enforcement agencies. As it is known, we also cooperate in transit.

We would like to make more effort in searching ways to overcome the deadlock around the AMD problem. The Russian position is well known here – we are open for the most broad, equal cooperation, at the same time understanding the non-admissibility of the orientation of the future AMD system inward the Euro-Atlantic region, to have clear-cut guarantees that no risks and threats will occur for the security of Russia. This is not an easy question, but it has a key value in moving ahead in the sphere of promotion of Europe-wide security. We expect that all the participants of this process will show good will and readiness to reach mutually acceptable agreements.

Today we signed a substantial Plan of consultations between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the Foreign Office embracing almost all key topics of interest to Russia and the UK that are in the agenda of the international community, as well as a Joint Statement regarding conduct of a bilateral year of Russia and the UK in 2014. I am convinced that these documents will serve for further dynamic development of UK-Russia relations. This fully matches the spirit that has established in contacts between the President of Russia and the UK Prime Minister, as well as their agreements regarding the need to consolidate the bilateral partnership and to promote it in many lines.

I thank my British colleagues for their hospitality. We invited them to hold the next session in 2014 in Moscow.

Question (addressed to Sergey Lavrov and William Hague): You have said that Syria is an important item of agenda and Russia and the UK have much in common in their approaches. However, it is evident that there are many differences. In particular, in what concerns whether it is necessary to push President Assad to desert his post. Have you come nearer to overcoming these contradictions today?

Sergey Lavrov (answers after William Hague): We have a common ground for further actions – it is the Geneva Communiqué. It talks about the need for the government and the opposition to form negotiation teams and to agree on the establishment of a transitional governing body which would exercise full executive powers and would prepare for free elections. There are no preconditions in this Communiqué regarding the need to remove the President of Syria Bashar al-Assad from his post. Those who say that we need to do it to initiate a political process set a geopolitical goal above the task of stopping violence. If the priority is to save lives, we need to refuse from any preconditions. But if the goal is not stopping violence and saving people from further sufferings, but rather liquidation of a regime, then we cannot do anything here.

I am convinced that it is necessary to fulfil the Geneva Communiqué the way it was coordinated. The talks about our different interpretations have no ground, because there is nothing to interpret – everything has already been formulated: appoint negotiators, sit and agree. The Syrian regime asserted that it is ready to start a dialog on these grounds; the opposition has not acknowledged the Geneva Communiqué to be such a ground yet. The SAR Government has said that the committee to conduct negotiations with the opposition was formed, it listed its members – five members of the cabinet, and the opposition has not gathered its team yet.

As we agreed with our colleagues from the UK, France and the USA, we hope that they will use their opportunities for a negotiation team to be formed also on behalf of the opposition. The Syrian people must decide of the destiny of Bashar al-Assad. As to preconditions, I have already said what we think – we see them as one of the reasons of continuation of violence.

Question (addressed to Sergey Lavrov): How will Russia act, if the situation in Syria continues to worsen, and the UK starts to deliver military equipment to the opposition?

Sergey Lavrov: The supply of military equipment to the opposition is inadmissible in accordance with the international law; therefore it will explicitly (or implicitly) be a violation. We may remember the example of Libya, when the UNSC set embargo on the supply of military equipment to the parties in the Libyan conflict, but the supplies openly continued, some European countries and some Middle East countries, in particular, from the Persian Gulf region, talked about it without scruples. In any conditions, it is a violation of international law.

Question: Recently, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron implied that if the European Union embargo on assisting rebels continues to be in effect, London will be able to breach it. What do you think about it?

Sergey Lavrov: We need to look at the whole picture and to understand how it looks in connection with the region and beyond the region. Currently France with the assistance of Russia and other UNSC members is solving the problem with terrorist groups in Mali that a while ago fought in Libya trying to reach their goals in the Libyan conflict, thus “fishing in troubled Libyan waters”. In Mali, they fight using European weapons as well.

The Arab spring process is far from being completed; therefore, there is a question to whose hands such weapons fall. According to some estimates, Djebhat an-Nusra currently is the most combat-capable group fighting Syrian authorities and it is listed as a terrorist organization in the USA. This decision of the Americans draws the indignation of the National Coalition of Syrian Opposition.

Let’s keep it all in our heads when discussing the Syrian crisis. We cannot ignore more broad processes and deep consequences that have already been brought by the Arab spring to many countries of the region and those yet to come.

We are convinced that we cannot stay close-minded. Yes, Syria is a tragedy and a humanitarian crisis, but we must not make a decision to arm the opposition and to remove the problem in this way. Let’s think what will happen after that. We are lacking such analysis in our discussions. However, today, in my opinion, we have agreed to confidently have such discussions.

Question (addressed to Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Shoigu): Don’t you think that the withdrawal of military forced from Afghanistan is hasty?

Sergey Lavrov (answers after Sergey Shoigu): The International Security Assistance Force is in Afghanistan under the mandate of the UNSC that was issued unanimously and is the basis for the activities of contingencies in this country. Interim reports about the course of fulfilment of this mandate are regularly submitted. If the coalition makes the decision to curtail this operation, a final report on the fulfilment of the mandate must be submitted to the Security Council, and the UNSC will need to evaluate its implementation.

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    лучшие комедии. Speech of and answers to questions of mass media by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during joint press conference summarizing the results of the first session of the UK-Russia Strategic Dialogue.
    Speech of and answers to questions of mass media by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during joint press conference summarizing the results of the first session of the UK-Russia Strategic Dialogue