Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech at a meeting of foreign ministers of countries that are parties to the Conference for Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, Beijing, April 28, 2016
Thank you Mr Chairman,
First, I would like to thank the Chinese leaders and you personally for your hospitality and the well organised meeting today. The world is becoming increasingly more complicated and the challenges to security and stability are more dramatic and multidimensional. A lot of contradictions have built up in interstate relations. The era of a unipolar world is incontrovertibly receding into the past, as are dreams of maintaining it. A new balance of forces is emerging against the background of stronger rivalry – regrettably, often an unfair and aggressive one − with competing sets of values, new seats of confrontation, and deeper divides. All of this is leading to the instability of the global processes at all levels.
Certain states’ policy to stake out the “right to exceptionalism” in world affairs, that includes interference in other countries’ internal affairs in violation of international law, and the imposition of their own domestic reform recipes with total disregard for the traditions and national specificities of these countries, has promoted the degradation of the international situation and an increase in tensions.
The Ukraine crisis is a tragic example of a short-sighted and extremely dangerous policy generated by skilled “geopolitical engineering.” The way to a political settlement in that country can only be found though the meticulous implementation of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements and through Kiev’s direct dialogue with the regions.
Certainly, there are a lot of challenges in the area represented by the Conference for Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia. In the Middle East, the situation has come close to a line where the disintegration of the region’s political map begins. This is another example of how disastrous the line for “exporting democracy” and externally provoked violent change of undesirable regimes is. Speculating on the religious variable and provoking divisions in the Muslim world is also part of the equation. This expanding zone of chaos, which has engulfed Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, has resulted in an unprecedented terrorist threat, which is epitomised by the so-called Islamic State. ISIS expansion is a key challenge to international stability. As long as it’s not neutralized, no one in the world will feel safe.
Russia is firmly committed to fighting all forms of terrorism. It is our conviction that no country can vanquish this scourge on its own. President Vladimir Putin proposed forming a broad international coalition that would include all parties seeking to put a stop to extremism. But this was on the understanding that consolidated efforts of this sort would be comprehensive and multifaceted in character, be based on international law, and acknowledge the UN Security Council’s coordinating role. We cannot, however, counter terrorism effectively if we divide terrorists into ‘moderates’ and ‘radicals’, ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’, ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Success is all the more impossible if we try to manipulate extremist groups in order to achieve our own political goals.
We must pay particular attention too to efforts to neutralise foreign terrorist fighters and to cut off the financing of terrorism through illegal drug trafficking, and trade in natural resources and items of cultural heritage. We advocate making maximum use of the existing multilateral mechanisms to put pressure on countries that do not implement the UN Security Council’s legally binding decisions aimed at cutting off ISIS’s financing channels.
Russia actively assists the Middle Eastern countries in fighting the terrorist threat and restoring stability. At the request of Syria’s legitimate government, we sent a contingent of Russian Aerospace Forces to Syria in September 2015 to help the Syrian government free the country from terrorist occupation. The objectives have for the most part been accomplished. Syria’s statehood, which many wanted to destroy, has been preserved, the extremists have been dealt a crushing blow, and conditions have been created for the launch of a national reconciliation process that will reveal who genuinely supports letting the Syrians decide their own future, and who wants to do this for them, acting not in the Syrian people’s interests, but in the interests of their own selfish neo-imperialist ambitions. We must now ensure a stable and direct inter-Syrian dialogue and make sure that it is genuinely representative. We think it essential, as was foreseen in the UN Security Council’s resolution, to invite the Kurdish Democratic Union Party to take part in the Geneva talks. The attempts of some opposition groups and their sponsors abroad to make ultimatums are unacceptable and must end immediately, as it is contrary to the provisions of the UN Security Council resolution.
Particularly worrying is that ISIS is growing in influence and numbers now in Afghanistan, worsening an already difficult security situation. We are willing to continue to cooperate with Kabul to provide stability there and free the country from terrorism and the drug threat. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation can play a constructive role in returning Afghanistan to normal life. Afghanistan itself and all of its neighbours are either members or hold observer status in this organisation, which offers a unique platform for this effort.
The situation with the Middle East peace process is also of serious concern. Only the resumption of negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, based on existing UN decisions, and with a view to reaching mutually acceptable agreements on all key issues will make it possible to open new political prospects for resolving this long-running problem. We are doing all we can to put the Middle East Quartet’s potential to the most effective use and to support close coordination with the League of Arab States, including in the interests of restoring Palestinian unity. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference could also play a role here.
The agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme is a clear example of how political and diplomatic solutions reached through collective effort, pragmatic spirit and respect for each other’s interests is the only real alternative. This agreement opens up possibilities for reinforcing the nuclear non-proliferation regime and working constructively to improve the general security situation while increasing stability in the Middle East and throughout the world in general.
The experience we have gained should serve to end dangerous development of the situation in the Korean Peninsula. We must return to the six-party talks and look for solutions that will guarantee full denuclearisation and reliable security for all countries in northeast Asia.
We can effectively address the region’s challenges by developing open and inclusive multilateral security mechanisms and common rules for all based on equality and indivisible security, respecting international law, settling disputes through peaceful means, renouncing the use of force or threats to use force, and abandoning all attempts to topple lawful governments and support for such attempts.
The majority of countries share Russia’s approach. China, India, Indonesia and Kazakhstan propose similar ideas, and other countries also have their initiatives on these issues. We must create a synergy of these ideas so that the regional security architecture will genuinely take into account all countries’ interests and meet the demands of today’s world. Four rounds of talks on developing such a security architecture in the region have already taken place during East Asia Summit meetings, and the fifth round will take place in Beijing in June. We believe that countries not involved in EAS should also become part of this process.
The logic of indivisibility applies not only to security but to the economy too. This philosophy, unlike that followed by the supporters of ‘closed’ alliances, is the credo of all taking part in the Eurasian project. We do not set the Eurasian Economic Union against other integration bodies, and we are ready to work on harmonising various organisations. A common movement towards ‘integrating the integration organisations’ and coupling major national and transnational projects opens the way to broad new mutually advantageous opportunities. In this context, let me note the Russian-Chinese agreements on linking the Eurasian integration project and China’s Silk Road Economic Belt concept, approved by the Eurasian Economic Union, and also President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to create a broad partnership between the EAEU, SCO, and ASEAN. I am sure that this will be one of the main items on the agenda at the Russia-ASEAN summit in Sochi in less than a month.
The Conference for Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia [CICA], created at the initiative of the President of Kazakhstan, has proven its usefulness as a platform for discussing collective approaches to resolving various international issues. We think it important to reinforce and develop CICA’s work to implement effective confidence-building measures in all fields of cooperation. The recently approved action plans in the military-political and economic areas and also in drug trafficking create a solid basis for strengthening our work together.
Russia, as coordinator for interaction in the small and medium business sector, places particular importance on developing direct ties between business communities. We are sure that the CICA Business Council, established at the end of last year, can play a key role in this.
CICA’s members represent a variety of societies and social and political systems, but we nevertheless succeed in finding a common language and developing constructive cooperation. The organisation’s informal and dialogue-based nature helps in this. We should continue this interaction format in the future.
Let me conclude by saying that Russia is ready to continue playing an active part in efforts to ensure the Asian region’s security and sustainable development. We can achieve much by joining forces. The key to success is to build relations based on equal and mutually advantageous cooperation and consideration and respect for each other’s interests.