Speech and answers to questions of mass media by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during joint press conference summarizing the results of negotiations with the chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Moscow, 29 April 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am glad to welcome Ms Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, in Moscow. It is symbolic that her visit to Russia takes place on the threshold of an important event for the entire African continent and all the international community – the forthcoming 25 May – 50 years of creation of the Organisation of African Unity transformed into the African Union (AU) in 2002.
Russia-Africa relations rest on sound traditions of friendship and mutual respect rooting back to the last century, when our country came out firmly for the liberation of the countries of the continent from colonial dependency, consolidation of their political independence and creation of conditions for social and economic development. Russia did a lot to achieve these goals.
In a friendly atmosphere, we discussed in detail issues of international and regional agenda, stated fundamental proximity or matching of our positions in the majority of topics. We noted a constructive nature of interaction between the AU and the UN in peace-making efforts on the African continent. Russia actively supports such interaction in the UNSC.
We are interested in a build-up of partner cooperation with the African Union that plays an important role in regional, international affairs and issues of peace processes. We find it necessary to activate collective efforts of African people to find climaxes of different crises – in Mali, Congo, CAR, Somalia and other parts of the continent.
Our fundamental position is that the main ways of solving these problems should be defined by African countries themselves, and the international community should respect their decisions and provide all possible support to their peace-making efforts.
We value the consistent line pursued by the AU Commission and its chairperson regarding consolidation of positions of African countries at international arenas. We will continue providing complex assistance to African countries to solve the tasks related to ensuring sustainable development, peace and stability both bilaterally and within the framework of international forums, including the UN, the Group of Eight and the Group of Twenty.
Russia provides assistance to social and economic development of countries of the continent, solving of problems in the sphere of health care and other spheres not only bilaterally, but also in the line of UN funds and structures like the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme. We also participate in all projects on Africa, which are implemented within the framework of the Group of Eight and the Group of Twenty.
In our today's conversation, we touched upon prospects of participation of Russian companies in large infrastructure projects on the African continent. We noted the need for Russian business in this region; we are ready to create favourable conditions for it.
Such disposition has occurred during the contact with African leaders conducted by the President of Russia in Durban this March "on the fields" of the BRICS summit, where the first BRICS-Africa forum in the history took place. Vladimir Putin proposed a range of initiatives aimed at the development of collective projects and conducting studies to define optimum ways of the complex approach to the development of this important fast growing potentially rich and prospective region in this format with participation of the African Union, sub regional organizations and the UN Economic Commission.
In general, we are satisfied with the results of the negotiations that confirmed again the readiness and interest of Russia and the African Union to expand our mutually beneficial cooperation.
Question (to Sergey Lavrov and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma): What is the expected efficiency of deployment of peace-making forces (more than 12 thousand people) in the North of Mali? When will African forces of rapid reaction to the situations like in Mali or possible crises in the North of Nigeria due to the activities of the radical Islamic sect "Boko Haram" be created?
Sergey Lavrov (answers after Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma): I can only add that we count on the success of the mission sanctioned by the UNSC for the deployment in Mali. At the initiative of the Russian Federation, its mandate was fixed as fully complying with peace-making principles that must be adhered to in full scope. This mission is primarily destined to assist authorities of Mali, with whom rests the responsibility to ensure safety and combating terrorist threats.
We consider it important that the formation and the deployment of this mission went hand in hand with practical steps on restoring of the constitutional order, arrangement of an all-embracing political dialog between the central authorities of Bamako and those representatives of the North that have broken their links with terrorist armed gangs. The "roadmap", in accordance with which the Mali's Dialogue and Reconciliation Commission was formed, has already been approved. We agree to the African Union that we need to move faster in other lines, including functioning of the mentioned Commission, coordination of institutional reforms, appointment of the date of elections, etc.
Question: Mikhail Bogdanov, Special Representative of the President for the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, conducted negotiations in Tehran and Beirut, on which the Syrian issue was one of the main issues. The information that the position of Russia for Syria changed after that has appeared in mass media of Lebanon. Is it really so?
Sergey Lavrov: We guess that Lebanon and some other countries of the region have politicians who would like to indulge in wishful thinking. This may happen in any country, therefore, this is hardly surprising.
Our position has not changed. From the very beginning of the conflict (in Syria) we appealed to all those who can affect the situation, not to take anybody's side, request from all the fighting parties to stop violence and to start negotiations without preconditions. This position of Russia prevailed in the end within the framework of the Geneva meeting and was fixed in the final communiqué adopted on 30 June 2012. It remains absolutely consistent for the time being. I note that more and more of our partners tend toward the need to refuse from preconditions and to search for ways to begin practical implementation of Geneva agreements.
Question: What is you evaluation of the statements of the USA and the United Kingdom about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army? What do you think about the possibility of creation of the UN Commission for investigation of facts of use of chemical weapons in Syria?
Sergey Lavrov: I do not remember any unequivocal statements or affirmations. They comment on the coming data with caution. It is not the first time when the topic of chemical weapon emerges. Such information does not always have a firm ground.
In December 2012, chemical weapons were allegedly used near Homs. These messages were later disproved, and everybody forgot about them. Nobody provided any confirmation. Intelligence means, including those of our foreign partners, informed about the absence of threats or any facts supporting these affirmations, in general.
When poisonous substances were used near Aleppo on 19 March of this year (today everybody agrees to it, and remote surveillance means confirm it), the Syrian government turned to the UN Secretary-General requesting to immediately send a group of experts to the country. This is not and never has been about any Commission. On the same day, the UN Secretary-General announced on public that he will comply with the request – he will form a group of experts, including professionals from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and will send it for the investigation of this particular incident.
Unfortunately, under pressure of some members of the UNSC who guided themselves by motives not in good faith, the reply letter sent by the UN Secretary-General to Syrian authorities did not contain a confirmation to his previous public statements about sending a group for the investigation of this particular incident at the request of SAR government, but rather he requested to grant UN inspectors access to any part of Syria, grant access to any rooms, any sites, any legal and natural persons in the territory of SAR. Here the UN Secretary-General referred to the need to investigate other messages about the use of poisonous substances as well, incl. the December (2012) case near Homs, about which everybody forgot, as I have already said.
To that end, such request of the Secretary-General with reference to the already forgotten episode strongly resembles of an attempt to introduce a regime in Syria, which is similar to the one that existed in Iraq, when they searched for WMD there. Probably there are countries and external players for whom all is fair to overthrow the Syrian regime. Nevertheless, the topic of the use of WMD is far too serious; these are not jokes. It is inadmissible to use it, to speculate on it for geopolitical purposes.
The countries trying to restrain the UN Secretary-General from a plain and direct answer to a specific and direct request are guilty that the specific incident of 19 March that is worrying everybody is not investigated because of the attempt to play such geopolitical games.