Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi, Amman, September 11, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank our Jordanian partners, including my friend and colleague, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Ayman Al Safadi, for the hospitality and warm welcome received by our delegation. We held very productive talks and will report on the results to His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan in half an hour.
Our relations are strategic in nature and are based on agreements reached through the trust-based, friendly top-level dialogue between His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. This dialogue sets the tone for our interaction in all areas without exception.
We discussed our bilateral ties and expressed regret over the reduction in trade. Measures were discussed to halt this trend and resume the expansion of our economic cooperation. The Intergovernmental Commission for the Development of Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation plays a special role in this.
We also discussed specific steps concerning the current state of our military-technical cooperation. This is also a very important component of our interaction.
We focused in particular on encouraging humanitarian, cultural and educational links. Both parties noted the great significance Russia and Jordan attach to direct contacts between our peoples. This morning, I met with alumni of Russian and Soviet universities, leaders of alumni associations, representatives of other institutions promoting our contacts, including members of the Jordanian Parliament that graduated from Russian universities. I saw our Jordanian friends’ great interest in supporting closest contacts in all areas.
Speaking about cultural links, I would like to mention our deep gratitude to the Jordanian officials for their special attention to Russian nationals on pilgrimage to the holy sites. As you know, several years ago His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan decided to allocate a plot of land to Russia on the bank of the Jordan River at the site of Jesus Christ’s baptising. A reception house was built on the land which is very popular with Russian nationals arriving to worship at the holy sites.
As for the international agenda, for obvious reasons we spoke a lot about Syria. Our common approach is that it is necessary to stop the bloodshed as soon as possible and to begin resolving the humanitarian problems and, of course, to launch the political settlement process in accordance with the UNSC resolution. In this respect, we share the view that it is necessary to meet the UNSC requirements regarding respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and giving Syrians the opportunity to determine the fate of their country.
We discussed the situation regarding the establishment of the de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria according to the initiatives proposed as part of the Astana peace process. The southern zone was agreed upon by Russia, Jordan and the United States working in cooperation. We spoke in favour of using this trilateral format to resolve issues that will allow the zone to function as effectively as possible. We agreed on upcoming contacts regarding this matter.
We also place high value in the bilateral cooperation mechanism between Russia and Jordan created in the Jordanian capital.
We discussed other pressing regional problems, including the situation in Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Our common stance is that it is important to settle these crises and conflicts through an inclusive dialogue based on principles that allow the peoples of these countries to resolve their problems without external interference and with consideration for all ethnic and religious groups.
We are concerned with the impasse in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement process. Our belief is that the region’s and perhaps the world’s longest conflict is a major disruptor of peace while the lack of resolution is exploited by those who want to undermine stability in this important region. We agreed to keep working toward the resumption of talks between Palestine and Israel. There is a corresponding decision of the UN as well as the Arab Peace Initiative that was supported by the entire global community. We assume that this is a strong basis for advancing towards a resolution.
Another agreement was to increase coordination in the fight against terrorism and extremism. Russia and Jordan have a common understanding of how it should be done, without any ambiguities, double standards or attempts to use anti-extremism slogans to interfere in the domestic affairs of sovereign states (and such attempts are being made).
We are very satisfied with the outcome of the talks. I would like to thank our Jordanian friends once again for organising this event and for their hospitality.
Question (for both ministers): You spoke about cooperation between Russia and Jordan on the de-escalation zone in southern Syria. As is known, the US plays an active role in this process. Speaking about the role of the United States in Syria as a whole, today Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that Americans should leave Syria, as they kill civilians and destabilise the situation in the region. At the same time, there are positive results in the trilateral process. How would you describe cooperation with the US on Syria?
Sergey Lavrov: We have consistently put forward very clear positions. All those, who enter Syrian territory or airspace without the consent or invitation of the Syrian Government, violate international law. Russia is working at the direct invitation of the legitimate authorities of Syria, as well as representatives of Iran and Hezbollah. In this format, we interact with the Syrian armed forces solely to suppress terrorism and create conditions for ending the civil war and beginning to address humanitarian problems and promoting a political settlement.
At the same time, it is an objective fact that there are "uninvited guests" in Syria, including those with arms in their hands. Since we saw the opportunity to cooperate with them in the antiterrorist struggle in the interests of the all Syrians, such contacts were established. Ever since the contacts under the Obama administration, we worked out (and were met with understanding by the Syrian leadership, explaining the motives of our actions) a scheme that, if it had entered into force and been implemented, today we would be in a much better position on a settlement in Syria. But they lacked the spirit, capabilities or opportunities to dissociate Jabhat al-Nusra from those opposition forces with whom the US side cooperated.
Today we talked about the still very ambiguous situation with Jabhat al- Nusra, which for some reason a number of participants of the US-led coalition try to protect and shield it from blows. This is absolutely unacceptable. Jabhat al-Nusra, like ISIS, has been designated a terrorist organisation by the UN Security Council.
If we talk about who we interact with, as you know, when the Obama administration acknowledged its impotence in disassociating the opposition from terrorists, we began to work with Iran and Turkey. This is also a format that met with understanding on the Syrian side. Moreover, the Syrian Government, within the framework of the Astana process, participates in the discussion of the concept of de-escalation zones and the steps that must be taken to translate this concept into reality. There are three guarantor countries (Russia, Turkey and Iran), the Syrian side, the armed opposition, UN representatives and observers from Jordan and the United States.
In conclusion, I will say the following thing. The principles of international law have not been abolished, they must be respected, including non-interference in internal affairs, such as sending in armed contingents without the consent of the legitimate government. At the same time, if there is a pragmatic opportunity to use the situation in order to help the Syrian people get rid of terrorists and restore peaceful life, these opportunities must be used.
Question: Speaking about your visit to Saudi Arabia, do you believe the country is really ready to resolve the Syrian crisis? Does it have a real idea of how to resolve it?
Sergey Lavrov: Yes, I believe Saudi Arabia is ready to resolve the Syrian crisis. This was confirmed at the very beginning of the Astana process when Russia, Turkey and Iran created this format. When this process got underway, we received confirmation from Saudi Arabia of its support for this format and its readiness to cooperate in establishing de-escalation zones and implementing other initiatives that are being elaborated in Astana. Since the Astana process as we now see is the most efficient mechanism for stopping bloodshed, creating the conditions for resolving humanitarian issues and launching political dialogue and since Astana is the current venue for direct dialogue between the Government and the armed opposition, I think that all those who support this format are interested not only in the success of the Astana process but also in settling the Syrian crisis in line with international law and UN Security Council resolutions.
Question: President Vladimir Putin said the other day that Russia will file a lawsuit against the US authorities for seizing diplomatic property. Has this process been launched, and what other countermeasures can the Russian authorities take in response to the US sanctions. And, if you let me, I would like to ask you a question on North Korea if you deem it possible to comment on it: does Moscow support the new UN Security Council resolution?
Sergey Lavrov: We are currently studying this resolution. Our experts are analysing the text in its current version. So you will soon learn about our attitude to this document.
As for Russian property in the United States, as we have already said Russia displayed goodwill and asked Washington to match its diplomatic presence in Russia with the Russian personnel at foreign missions in the US. Importantly, we included all those who work at the Russian Mission to the UN in this total number, which is a separate issue and does not concern bilateral relations. Nonetheless we made a gesture of goodwill. The United States “pocketed” this gesture and said if the Russians want parity, let them shut down one out of its four consulates general because the US only has three in Russia. Since they took parity as a criterion, we are now analysing the conditions of US foreign missions in Russia and of Russian foreign missions in the US, and will bring these conditions into full conformity with what is called “parity.”
Question: What do you think about Jordan’s role in Syria and the Astana process?
Sergey Lavrov: I can only repeat what I have already said. We highly appreciate Jordan’s participation in the Astana process. Jordan got involved in it when the Astana process reached discussion of the concept of de-escalation zones. We appreciate that our Jordanian friends are sending their representative from Amman to a regular meeting in Astana this week. We highly value the fact that Jordan is an observer in the Astana process and that it was not an observer but a direct participant in the agreement on a de-escalation zone in southern Syria.
Question: What could you say about the peace process between Israel and Palestine and the protection of Islamic and Christian shrines in Jerusalem?
Sergey Lavrov: Speaking about the Palestinian-Israeli settlement, we pay special attention to the Jerusalem issue. We stand for preserving the status quo of the Holy Sites, including the role of the Jordanian waqf as regards procedures of visiting al Aqsa. This is a very important aspect that should be respected by everyone without exception.