Address by H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation at the UN Security Council debate "Situation in the Middle East: Challenges and opportunities"
The transformation processes that have set in motion the Middle East and Northern Africa reflect the aspirations of the peoples of those countries for a better life, broader opportunities for self-expression, participation in political life, greater economic and social benefits. We understand and support these sentiments.
These processes are still far from over and it is difficult to make clear predictions about their prospects since sometimes they are accompanied by painful civilizational, ethnic, confessional and political rifts which create problems in terms of regional stability.
The goal for the international community is to make sure that these transformations bring more gains than losses to the Arab world. The priority is to ensure that changes are peaceful and democratic, fundamental human rights and freedoms are respected as well as the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, including, obviously, the rights of Christians.
We follow with empathy the process of democratic state-building in Egypt and Tunisia, the activity by the leadership of Yemen to stabilize the situation in the country and to combat terrorism as well as the efforts of the Libyan transitional government to bring life in the country back to normal, prepare for elections and disarm insurgent groups. We provide humanitarian assistance and stand ready to help in economic recovery.
Today, the international dimension of the continuing “Arab Spring” is of primary interest to all of us, first and foremost those, who gathered in this Chamber.
We believe we can already draw some conclusions.
First of all, whatever goals might be set in any given situation they should not be achieved by misleading the international community or manipulating the UN Security Council decisions.
Otherwise the credibility of the Council is harmed, trust among its members is eroded which undermines the ability of the Security Council to work out coordinated decisions.
Second, the organizations or countries that volunteered to implement UNSC mandates must give full account of their actions to the Council. That is applicable to NATO who offered to secure a no-fly zone in Libya, but in reality engaged in massive bombings. It is sad that there has yet been no investigation following information about civilian casualties inflicted by those bombings. We believe that the UN Secretary-General should bring clarity to the matter by invoking the 2008 Joint Declaration on UN/NATO Secretariat Cooperation.
Third, interference from the outside using raw military force increases the threat of illicit spread of arms, thus jeopardizing the stability of the region.
We should draw serious conclusions regarding the situation in Syria. It remains a cause of deep concern for Russia and the entire international community.
Making hasty demands for regime change, imposing unilateral sanctions designed to trigger economic difficulties and social tensions in the country, inducing the opposition to continue its confrontation with authorities instead of promoting dialogue, making calls to support armed confrontation, and even to foreign military intervention — all of the above are risky recipes of “geopolitical engineering” that can only result in the spread of conflict and escalation of confrontation within the region.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the Syrian authorities bear a huge share of responsibility for the current situation. But one should not ignore the fact that for a long time now they’ve been fighting not unarmed men, but combat units, such as the so-called Free Syrian Army and extremist groups including al-Qaeda which have lately committed a series of murderous terrorist acts.
If our absolute priority and sincere wish is to immediately put an end to any violence and provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population, than at this stage we should not talk about who was the first to start, but rather discuss realistic and feasible approaches which would allow to achieve the cease-fire as a priority.
From the outset our approach was clear and consistent, aimed at finding early solution to the Syrian crisis without violence, through Syrians-led inclusive political dialogue and implementation of long-due reforms. The following five principles of settlement that Russia and the League of Arab States agreed upon on March 10 follow in the same spirit:
1) End of violence from all sources;
2) Impartial monitoring mechanism;
3) No outside interference;
4) Unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance to all Syrians;
5) Strong support for K.Annan’s mission to launch political dialogue between the government and all opposition groups as mandated by the terms of reference endorsed by the UN Secretary-General and the Arab League.
It is on this basis that we are ready to work on a UN Security Council resolution, as we were prepared to do last autumn when our draft resolutions were being submitted, but, unfortunately, were not supported by several UN Security Council members.
The “Arab Spring” should in no way be used as a pretext to weaken attention to the Palestinian issue. We are convinced that the conflict potential in the Middle East and Northern Africa will remain high until a comprehensive settlement is achieved in the Middle East within the existing international legal framework. This is a truly historical duty of the international community and the UN Security Council.
Unfortunately, the trends we’ve been witnessing lately delay rather than bring closer this prospect. Both in political terms - when the settlement parameters that have been repeatedly endorsed by the UNSC, the Quartet and the Parties themselves are put in doubt, and in practical terms - when settlement activity of Israel in the West Bank is literally shrinking the ground for needed agreements. We are seriously concerned about the break of «silence» resulted by force exchange between Israel and Gaza that caused sufferings for civilians from both sides.
Under the circumstances, the international community must step up its efforts. It relates in the first place to the Quartet that should start working on a regular basis and persistently create conducive environment to continue direct Israeli-Palestinian contacts aiming at full-fledged negotiations. During today’s meeting all Quartet members welcome the initiative of Jordan who held a series of very useful meetings between the Israelis and the Palestinians in Amman this January and said that pursuing of such efforts should be continued. We reaffirm our proposal to establish closer cooperation between the Quartet and relevant structures of the League of Arab States.
We are confident that the Arab Peace Initiative remains relevant, and that its comprehensive implementation will ensure the creation of the Palestinian state, guarantee the security of Israel and establish peace and stability in the entire Middle East.
In order to attain these goals Russia is prepared to engage in close cooperation with all responsible members of the international community.