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Comment by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Beijing, 8 November 2014

17-11-2014, 16:58

A meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry lasted an hour and a half. We discussed progress at the talks on Iran’s nuclear programme. This is the key priority considering the time factor and the agreement to reach a final compromise before 24 November this year. Our deputies are working in the region, in Muscat, together with an Iranian representative. They are discussing concrete issues that need to be settled to formulate a final agreement. Russia and the United States are resolved to do our best to achieve this target by the agreed date. We will attempt to find solutions to the remaining two or three issues.

We also discussed the situation in the Middle East and North Africa with a focus on the main threat –the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist and extremist organisations.

We confirmed Russia’s stance on fighting terrorism based on international law and said that we saw no legal or even practical reasons that would prevent cooperation on this issue with the Syrian government.

The United States has a different approach. It believes that the coalition should work independently, without consulting the UN Security Council or seeking the approval of the Syrian government. We do not share this view. However, no one argues that terrorism is the main threat in the region. We will try to conciliate our positions on methods of fighting this threat.

We talked about the need to resume a political negotiating process between the Syrian government and the opposition. Secretary of State John Kerry accepted our long-standing conviction that the Syrian opposition should be represented by various groups rather than only the National Coalition, which comprises people who have left Syria and have not visited it for a long time. There are also internal opposition groups. We need to ensure a more representative opposition. We also discussed the measures Russia, the United States and the region’s countries could take to support the efforts to start an inclusive national dialogue in Syria as stipulated in the Geneva Communique of 30 June 2012.

We also discussed the situation, or rather the dead-lock at the Palestinian-Israeli talks. Tensions and confrontation are being fanned there, both sides use military force, and Benjamin Netanyahu continues with his policy to build more settlements, which is diverting us from the task of creating conditions to resume the peace talks. Both Russia and the United States are aware of the dangers of the hands-off approach to these developments. The United States assured us that it was ready to cooperate with the other members of the Middle East Quartet in convincing the sides to resume talks.

Mr Kerry and I also discussed Ukraine. We recalled the Geneva format, when the foreign ministers of Russia, the United States, Ukraine and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy met in Geneva in April of this year. We recalled that by signing the Geneva Statement of 17 April this year the Ukrainian foreign minister committed his country to immediately start a political process and constitutional reform with the involvement of all regions and political forces. Mr Kerry and I agreed that this task could be even more important now than it was in April, when we agreed on the immediate establishment of a broad national dialogue. We will attempt to convince Ukrainian authorities to start implementing this commitment.

Today we also discussed the need to implement the Minsk agreement between the Ukrainian government and the representatives of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions. They signed these agreements and coordinated the specific steps and a timeframe for each of them. Unfortunately, there have been violations of the ceasefire and exchange of fire. All of us know about the tragedy in a schoolyard near the Donetsk airport. There have also been other situations. We believe that it is necessary to finish the demarcation of the disengagement line without delay so as to reliably control the ceasefire and truce conditions.

Russia and the United States have different views on the developments in Ukraine and their causes, for obvious reasons. However, if Washington showed interest in promoting conciliation and creating conditions for dialogue between Kiev and the leaders of the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics, it would be a step in the right direction. The main thing that should be avoided is condoning some ideas voiced in Kiev, in particular on building up military strength before resuming hostilities to resolve the crisis. On the contrary, we should discourage the more extreme parties who entertain these ideas and instead convince the Kiev authorities to honour their obligations, in particular, on a political settlement of the crisis. For its part, Russia will do its best in relations with the self-defence forces and Kiev to ensure that this comes about.


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