Speech of and answers to questions of mass media by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov summarizing the results of the session of NATO-Russia Council at the foreign minister level, Brussels, 23 April 2013
- Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have conducted the next session of NATO-Russia Council at the foreign minister level. We talked in detail and sincerely about problems in the sphere of international security that are growing and, we will not hide it, are escalating and affect security in our Euro-Atlantic region.
The thereat of terrorism does not decrease. The Boston tragedy confirmed again that we cannot talk about a victory over the international terrorist “international”. To that end, we talked about the tasks open to the NATO-Russia Council from the point of view of deepening the political dialog, as well as practical actions and cooperation programs. We presume that all of us need to move to the achievement of the goal set at the summit of NATO-Russia Council held in Lisbon in 2010 faster and more actively, namely – to create a common space of peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region. By the way, the conference planned for 22-24 May that will be held by the Ministry of Defence of Russia in Moscow, is aimed at accelerating this process. Representatives of NATO member-states are also invited to it, among others.
Today we also talked a lot about the situation in Afghanistan. Threats of terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking that still come from the territory of this country, and sometimes expand, and are common for all member-states of the NATO-Russia Council require more effective, constant interaction. It would make a difference, if our partners in the North Atlantic Alliance listened to the proposition that has been advanced by Russia for many years. I mean the arrangement of practical and everyday interaction, in particular, combating drug threat coming from Afghanistan, between NATO forces inside this country and the CSTO effecting special operations along the external perimeter of the borders of Afghanistan.
Today we reviewed the course of implementation of the program of work of NATO-Russia Council for 2013. We do a lot. Naturally, we paid serious attention to Afghanistan. The set of agreements about cargo transit for the International Security Assistance Force across the Russian border is performed well; the number of Afghan citizens trained within the framework of staff preparation for anti-drug structures of Afghanistan is growing; a dedicated fund for servicing helicopters made in Russia in service with the Afghan Army is working. We have a lot of good, specific projects aimed at the increase of efficiency of anti-terrorist cooperation, rather good cooperation in combating piracy, maritime search and rescue, combat service support. I think there are rather good opportunities in the sphere of military and technical cooperation as well.
Today we appeal to the use of all these possibilities without politicization, without unfair competition.
The majority of partners announced their readiness to give an additional impulse to the work of NATO-Russia Council. For the time being, the potential of this important structure is not used in full. It is important that all the members of the session supported the need to fortify confidence between Russia and members of the North Atlantic Alliance. To that end, we offered another important sphere of practical cooperation that, beside specific gain will also have political added value in the form of fortification of confidence. I mean interaction in the sphere of cyber security. US Secretary of State John Kerry immediately supported me. I hope that we will get support of other members of the NATO-Russia Council, and a new project will be coordinated. This is very important for combating terrorist networks using cyber space, combating hackers and for many other tasks related to abuses on the Internet.
I would also like to note that the AMD problem is a principal test on the commitment of all members of the council to the principle of indivisibility of security for Russia. Today we also talked about it in detail. We are currently studying the proposition concerning further development of a dialog in the sphere of AMD submitted by the American party, as well as in respect of further plans of the USA on Alaska and on the East Coast, as well as in Japan and in the North East Asia in general, where, if we take all of this together, literally, a truly global AMD system is being formed. Therefore, we will certainly review the received cooperation offers, review them taking into account what plans the USA has and, certainly, from the point of view of Russian interests.
Our position is well known – we are ready for a dialog, but cooperation may be only equal and clear unambiguous guarantees that this process is not oriented against the countries located in the Euro-Atlantic region must be provided. As far as the threats put forward as the causes for the creation of AMD are located outside the Euro-Atlantic region, as they say to us, and if it is really so, we wish them to provide respective guarantees.
Within the framework of the political dialog, we certainly talked about crises and conflicts other than Afghanistan. This is the tragic situation in Syria, and the events on the Korean Peninsula. This is a part of our position within the framework of a political dialog – we exchange estimates and opinions about such plots that are the focus of attention of the international community.
Therefore, this discussion was valuable. We approve the decision about the implementation of the second phase of the “helicopter project”, within the framework of which we will continue servicing helicopters made in the Soviet Union/Russia, continue training staff of the Afghan Army working with this machinery. So, we have specific results.
Question: Have you managed to bring together positions of Russia and NATO concerning the exit from the Syrian crisis in light of the position of some countries of the region after today’s negotiations?
Sergey Lavrov: Today I met US Secretary of State John Kerry, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Karr. The main result of discussions and negotiations that we have conducted recently (not only today, but also in the last weeks, even a couple of months) is that the understanding of real threats which we will all face seriously increases provided that we preserve status quo. If dialog building efforts will be blocked by very aggressive and blood-thirsty minority of the global community – as was the case when the mission of LAS observers and the UN mission in Syria was disrupted, as this was and continues to happen with the Geneva Communiqué, with the announcement of the recently resigned leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces Moaz al-Khatib about their readiness to negotiations, who was immediately corrected by saying that there will be no negotiations. But not to raise any doubts in anybody, they recognized the coalition as “the only lawful representative of the Syrian people”, accepted it to LAS and approved the decision that now they can arm battle units of the opposition fighting against the regime.
In my opinion, this shows quite eloquently who and how is trying to “deaden” any flash of hope to transfer the situation into a political stream. The understanding is growing that if the stake at war till final victory, promoted by a minority of the international community, continues, radicals will prevail.
Currently the Syrian opposition has no single command, they have scattered units. Terrorist militants from Djebhat an-Nusra grouping listed as a terrorist organization in the USA are fighting side by side with the Free Syrian Army and group subordinate to the Superior Military Council. They are allies of those staking at a war till final victory. Our serious partners keep having the sensation that this will come to no good. Therefore we are currently in search of practical agreements that will let us fulfil the Geneva Communiqué that has no ambiguity and it shall not be subject to any controversial interpretation.
We have to make everybody fighting there – and each of them has powerful external players – to stop violence, to sit at a negotiation table and to agree on the creation of a transitional governing body that will have absolute power. By the way, the ideas the President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi shared with us in Moscow ride the same line.
The time is against us – more and more people are dying every day, but I feel bigger understanding of the need to make a fast transfer from words and appeals to doings, real actions. I hope we will see soon some additional movement on behalf of those who are still in doubt.
Question: What will Russia-Georgia relations gain from the change of authorities and declamations in Georgia in respect of Russia, beside the fact that some Georgian products will return to the Russian market?
Sergey Lavrov: First of all, I hope that the new government of Georgia will be more convenient, more acceptable to the Georgian people, having regard to the problems that occurred in Georgia according to the reports of experts of the Council of Europe and other law enforcement agencies. We will welcome any steps on behalf of the Georgian government and will be ready to answer to them. We will welcome the steps the purpose of which is to let citizens of our countries, who feel friendship to each other, communicate in the maximally comfortable way.
As to economic links, trade, now Russia like Georgia is a member of WTO, we have common rules we will guide ourselves by.
About humanitarian links that have never broken. Many Georgian people of art work in Russia, directors and actors come from Georgia to Russia to participate in the work of Russian theatres, there are representatives of young people as well. A meeting of young politicians and scientists of the two countries was held just recently. We welcome maximally intensive development of links between our people and economies for the good of our people.
Question: The USA sprang up its forces along the border of Jordan to get convinced that no chemical weapons are used against the Syrian people. What is the Russian position concerning this plot?
Sergey Lavrov: The position of Russia is very simple. I think that any information about the use of this weapon should be immediately investigated as it was a couple of weeks ago. Data were received that chemical weapons had been used in the vicinity of Aleppo – though later our American colleagues said that according to their data this was a poisonous chemical agent rather than a chemical weapon (there is a difference between them). We have immediately supported the request of the Syrian government received almost immediately after the information asking the UN Secretary-General to organize fast sending of a group of experts to conduct a field investigation in the place where this poisonous agent was used. The UN Secretary-General agreed, but then there was an attempt of some western members of the Security Council to politicize this issue. Instead of sending a team to the specific place in the vicinity of Aleppo – as promised by the UN Secretary-General immediately after receiving the Syrian request – they requested from the Syrian government to allow the group access any sites in all the territory of SAR, interrogate any citizen in the Syrian territory. It seemed to us that this was a bit too much. The Syrian government did not support such approach and again confirmed its readiness to accept experts to investigate this specific incident, as well as incidents in any other places in Syria, if specific information about suspicions of use of chemical weapons is obtained.
The UN Secretary-General of the UNSC has still not sent the mission of experts. I think that this is unacceptable. This is an attempt to politicize the issue and to make Syria face the same requirements that were set for Iraq some time ago, when they searched for nuclear weapons there. I will highlight this again; Russia supports immediate investigations by experts with site surveys of any specific messages about the use of chemical weapons or serious suspicions of such use.
Question: The situation in Libya is still very hard; there are many terrorists and weapons. How can we improve the situation in this country?
Sergey Lavrov: I hope you ask the same question not only to me, but also to those who helped to implement a democratic revolution there. I cannot become an advisor to the Libyan people. We deeply ache for the difficulties they still have, cooperate with new Libyan authorities, will be ready to help in different ways, primarily in what concerns earlier contracts on the implementation of infrastructural and other projects that are important for the Libyan economy and are still topical. Traditionally friendly relations unite us with the Libyan people. We presume that the faster the government will be able to fully stabilize the situation and the central authorities take the situation in all the territory of the country under control, the better it is for Libyans and partners of Libya in what concerns the development of practical cooperation.
Question: The new government of Georgia started rapprochement with Russia by appointing a special envoy and reduced declamations. Though Georgia is still trying to become a member of NATO. Can this aspiration become an obstacle for the improvement of Russia-Georgia relations?
Sergey Lavrov: Currently we need to think how to ensure pan-European security rather than extending blocks with limited membership. There are no doubts that the security of Georgia and any other country of this region and the entire Euro-Atlantic region will only gain, if borderlines – especially lines between military blocks – are liquidated and each and all country use equal security guarantees. Not like it is now, when our partners from NATO artificially refuse from the Russian offer to conclude an agreement about transfer of repeatedly made political liabilities not to consolidate own security at the expense of the security of others to the plane of legally binding agreements. They do not want it, and this is all.
It turns out that our partners wish to preserve the situation, when they have two types of guarantees as they understand it. Guarantees of the first type for those who will be accepted by NATO and guarantees of second type – for all the rest. Further extension of the alliance will just aggravate these risks. I do not understand why Georgia or any other country would wish it. It seems to me that we need not to guide ourselves by the principle “who is against who and who may be against whom” – this is a dead-end-road, this is an illusion. We need to guide ourselves by an approach aimed at something positive. We need to consolidate guarantees on equal and non-discriminating grounds using positive rather than negative grounds.