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Speech by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and his answers to questions from the mass media during the joint press conference with the CSTO Secretary General, Nikolai Bordyuzha, Moscow, 3 April 2014

8-04-2014, 13:19

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have conducted another session of the CSTO Foreign Ministers Council, which was held in a constructive and trustworthy atmosphere and was quite substantial. We exchanged opinions on topical problems of regional and international security, primarily in the area of the Organisation’s responsibilities and in adjacent regions.

We paid special attention to the reinforcement of foreign policy coordination within the framework of the CSTO. The documents, which we have approved today, will contribute to this: The Plan of consultations of representatives of member states of the organisation on foreign policy, security and defence issues for the second half of 2014 – first half of 2015 (the Plan includes more than twenty measures) and the List of topics for joint statements of the CSTO member states in the UN, the OSCE and other forums. About ten topics have been agreed, on which a document for joint presentation to the respective multilateral structures will be prepared.

Today the ministers have already adopted a Statement on Afghanistan, which is devoted to the situation in that country, which is located in the immediate vicinity of the CSTO’s area of responsibility. On the eve of the forthcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan, the day after tomorrow, at stake there are our assessments of the situation and laying down further steps with regard to the growth of threats, primarily the drug threat, from the Afghan territory and risks related thereto or international and regional stability.

The heads of state set the tasks to manage these risks and neutralise thethreats in their decisions. Today we have made an additional step to promote our approach, which consists in a foreign policy accompaniment of practical actions, which are being undertaken in the military and technical areas to ensure security of member states of the Organisation with regard to the growth of threats from Afghanistan.

We have adopted one more Statement on the issues of aggravation of the situation in the North-West of Syria, with regard to the al-Qaeda linked terrorist attack on Kesab, from where thousands of people were forced to run away to other regions of Syria and some of them to Lebanon. We proceed from the urgent need to stop any manifestations of terrorism. Everybody has been appealing for this for a long time, the UNSC spoke decisively in favour of this. However, for the time being we do not see any active measures by external players to stop this terrorist threat.

We reviewed several draft documents, which will be presented to the Collective Security Council with the participation of the heads of state in different areas of the CSTO’s activities. The Secretary General of the Organisation, Nikolai Bordyuzha, informed participants about the work, which is being conducted on issues of cooperation in the information area and interaction with institutes of civil community and youths.

We exchanged opinions on the situation in Ukraine, which is experiencing a deep internal political crisis. We share the need to stop the activity of radicals, to prevent the continuation of atrocities and to achieve faster disarmament of illegal armed formations. The measures, which are currently being adopted by the Kiev authorities, are a move in the right direction, yet they should be undertaken more decisively. We emphasised the need to normalise the social and political situationfaster. The deep constitutional reform, which would fully consider the interests of each and all the Ukrainain regions, is envisaged will play an important role here. We hope that objective and unprejudiced activities of the OSCE’s special monitoring commission in Ukraine will contribute to the enforcement of human rights and liberties and especially all the rights of national minorities.

Generally, all the participants are satisfied with the results of our session, which should contribute to an increase in the CSTO’s efficiency in the foreign policy area. Russia will contribute to the resolution of this task within the framework of its Presidency of the Organisation in all possible ways.

We agreed to conduct another CSTO FMC session in the second half of 2014.

Question: Do the CSTO member states envisage any response measures with regard to the build-up of military forces on the borders with Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: We did not discuss this topic. The task of the CSTO is to ensure security of the states within it. This was the main content of our negotiations. The CSTO is not interested in escalating confrontations with anybody, including NATO. On the contrary, for many years we have been offering to cooperate with NATO on Afghanistan, primarily, for a more effective fight against the drug threat, taking into account its work in Afghanistan, as well as in the International Security Assistance Force. The CSTO has been working around the external perimeter of the Afghan borders, conducting operations to quell illegal consignments of drugs, financial flows and illegal persons. NATO has been consistently and stubbornly refusing such interaction. I repeat, we are not looking for confrontation with anybody, and I hope that nobody will provoke it, especially in a region, which is so far from NATO.

Question: How would you comment on the statement by the current head of the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior, Arsen Avakov, that snipers, who shot the protesters on the Maidan in February, are related to Berkut?

Sergey Lavrov: It is hard to provide any assessment about this statement. I have not seen the material, based on which they were made. However, we heard other statements, including those, which were not envisaged for public knowledge, in the phone calls between the Estonia Foreign Minister, Urmas Paet, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton. We presume that the truth should be established transparently and in full scope. Incidentally, the agreement on the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine of the 21 February, inter alia, contained a point about a joint investigation by the authorities and the opposition. Therefore, I cannot judge how considered and justified these statements are. They are contrary to a large array of contrary evidence.

Question: On the 1 April, the Permanent Representative of Syria to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, stated that SAR intelligence agencies had intercepted two phone conversations between terrorists about an allegedly prepared terrorist attack near Damascus using chemical substances. Don’t you think that this is some kind of attempt to find a cause for military intervention inthe country?

Sergey Lavrov: There was a lot of other information from different sources about threats from terrorists with regard to the operation to remove and eliminate Syrian chemical weapons. There were established facts of attack plans on their routes, sites in Latakia, where these substances are transferred to military vessels for their delivery to the point of destruction. We perceive such information very seriously. We are working with our US colleagues and other participants in this operation to make them use their influence, including on foreign sponsors, to avoid such provocations.

As to the question whether this can be used as justification for military intervention inSyria, there are many who wish for this and they attempt to find various pretexts for it. There was an episode, which pushed us to the agreement on the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons. Another provocation using chemical weapons was organised by the opposition in August 2013, and the SAR Government was accused of that attack. Now, we are observing attempts to use the difficult humanitarian situation to accuse the Syrian authorities of inactivity and thus justify an armed intervention to (as they say) prevent ahumanitarian disaster. I repeat, there are many who are searching for pretexts. We will continue to strive for honest work.

If we take the humanitarian situation, a special commission created to coordinate supplies of humanitarian aid, the so-called high-level group, gathered together. At that meeting, Russia announced what was specifically being done. Our western partners were mainly engaged in appeals to do something to change the negative position of the Syrian authorities despite the facts, presented by us and confirmed by many international organisations, which were evidence of sufficiently effective cooperation by the Syrian government in the implementation of humanitarian programmes. It is the inexorable opposition which creates the main problems by not allowing humanitarian aid to arrive where it should, probably hoping to aggravate the situation and evoke “righteous anger” of the world community. We see these attempts perfectly well and understand what is behind them.

We are committed to an exclusively peaceful settlement in full compliance with the decisions adopted in the UNSC, which approved the Geneva process, requested a stop be put to any support of the terrorists and requested, including from neighbouring countries, the avoidance of any actions related to provocations in the process of the chemical disarmament of Syria. We will be guided by this in future as well.

 

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