Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger, Moscow, November 3, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have held talks with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger, who has come to Moscow on his first working visit after assuming office in July of this year. I would like to take this opportunity to once again wish him every success in his responsible position. Yesterday, Mr Greminger attended a meeting of the CSTO Permanent Council, where a multistakeholder discussion was held. We welcome these contacts between the leaders of the OSCE Secretariat and regional organisations working in the areas covered by the OSCE mandate.
We have reaffirmed our position on enhancing the OSCE’s efficiency and on strengthening its role in European as well as international affairs. We have also found common ground regarding the assessment of the OSCE’s much-needed potential, which can and should be used to restore trust in the Euro-Atlantic region, to prevent the emergence of new divides and to remove the existing ones, as well as to take collective decisions on current security and cooperation topics in the interests of all the OSCE member-states.
We have held in-depth discussions on the OSCE’s current agenda, the activities of its institutes and missions, as well as preparations for the next OSCE Ministerial Meeting, which will be held in Vienna on December 7 and 8. We are certain that the preparations will be carried out at the top level, considering the rich experience of Mr Greminger, in particular his contribution to coordinating the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship in 2014.
We have reaffirmed Russia’s interest in the OSCE providing the venue not only for individual states but also for their integration unions. The legal framework for this was created back in 1999, when the OSCE summit in Istanbul adopted the EU-proposed Platform for Cooperative Security. We believe that this platform can be used to launch interaction between the EU, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and other integration associations at the OSCE.
We view positively the OSCE’s contribution to international efforts against terrorism, illegal drug trafficking, as well as cyber threats. These topics are being thoroughly discussed by experts. We hope that practical proposals will be prepared for the OSCE Ministerial Meeting.
For our part, we have reaffirmed Russia’s readiness not only to take part in such discussions but also to contribute in practice to the implementation of joint projects, including the training of drug police officers in Russia.
The OSCE’s humanitarian activity is known to be diverse in terms of the areas and initiatives it addresses. We believe that cultural efforts should focus on such issues as protecting traditional values, combating neo-Nazism, antisemitism, anti-Christian and anti-Islamic sentiments, attempts to rewrite and falsify history, and encouraging contacts between people in every way to strengthen humanitarian, cultural and other ties.
In this regard, I had to express our disappointment with the stance taken by Austria as this year’s OSCE Chairman. Austria refused to issue visas to journalists working for Crimean media outlets, the directors general of the Krym Television and Radio Company and the Crimea Inform News Agency, as well as the chairman of the Sevastopol Journalists’ Union. According to the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights regulations, all these media representatives were accredited to participate in The Role of the Free Media in the Comprehensive Approach to Security meeting, which opened in Vienna yesterday. Despite being accredited under the OSCE regulations, these individuals were denied Austrian visas. We believe this was a mistake because the meeting participants were basically deprived of the opportunity to see the overall picture. They failed to convey the truth about the real situation on the peninsula to the world public. It is unacceptable that journalists residing in the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol are discriminated against and in fact collectively punished for the choice they consciously made in 2014. Yesterday, we summoned the Austrian charge d’affaires ad interim in Russia to the Foreign Ministry and made an appropriate representation. We hope that the countries hosting OSCE events will not allow anything of the kind to happen again.
Mr Greminger and I also discussed issues concerning OSCE’s involvement in settling several conflicts, primarily in Ukraine, and the work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. We support OSCE Chairperson-in-Office’s Special Representative Martin Sajdik, who coordinates the work of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk. It is in our interests that all these OSCE resources are aimed at executing the Minsk Agreements. The Normandy format is engaged in the same effort and continues intensive work at the level of leaders’ aides and experts.
We are interested in the OSCE watching Kiev closely in the context of the OSCE Mission to Ukraine’s general mandate because the mandate applies to all the major Ukrainian regions and calls for monitoring how the Kiev authorities comply with their obligations in the area of education, culture, language and other rights of ethnic minorities, including ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking population of the country.
Russia is also interested in the OSCE’s more intense and effective work on the Transnistria issue in what it concerns the Geneva discussions on stability in the South Caucasus, and the Balkans. We also note that the co-chairpersons of the OSCE Minsk Group are playing the main role in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement along with the parties to the conflict themselves.
We support Mr Greminger’s intention to boost the efficiency of the OSCE’s work in a number of areas and the Secretariat’s accountability and its cooperation with intergovernmental bodies. An entire range of initiatives that Mr Greminger has laid down regarding the organisation of all these bodies’ work will be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council and at the Ministerial Meeting. In this regard, we have reminded our colleagues about proposals for a reform of the OSCE and its institutions that Russia, its neighbours, and CSTO and CIS partners submitted years ago. We proceed from the assumption that these proposals are still on the negotiating table and will be considered during the upcoming discussions. We will do our best to assist Mr Greminger and his team in implementing these plans to the benefit of all the OSCE members with the aim of enhancing the effectiveness of the Organisation’s programmes and projects.
I think the talks were very useful. I am grateful to Mr Greminger for accepting our invitation and coming to Russia at the very beginning of his term as Secretary-General. We appreciate this approach.
Question: The Justice Ministry has recommended Russian companies not to advertise on Twitter. Does the Foreign Ministry support this initiative?
Sergey Lavrov: The Justice Ministry recommendations to Russian companies to refrain from advertising on Twitter are just that, recommendations. Each company should take its own decision on the expediency of doing or not doing that.
Our companies will adopt their decisions with account taken of the developments in this social networking media, or more precisely with an eye to what the Twitter CEOs and owners of other information resources are doing. I hope these members of the online media community and social media will remain loyal to the ideals of journalism, such as seeking to write the truth and resisting the absolutely outrageous pressure and direct interference in the operation of the social media by the US Congress, which is putting forward ever new charges and demands that are unsupported by any single fact.
I think Russian business people analyse these developments and will take decisions in the interests of their businesses that will allow them to avoid involvement in all kinds of “dirty games.”
Question: During a recent telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, you discussed ways to encourage international support for a political settlement in Syria. Do you expect to receive such support from the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi now that several opposition groups have refused to take part in it?
Sergey Lavrov: I think there is too much premature talking and too many forecasts on this subject. Invitations to the Congress have been sent to the Syrian Government and – please, take note of this – to absolutely all Syrian opposition forces, including those in the country and outside it as well. This is perhaps the first attempt to start implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which says that the international community must provide all-round support for the Syrians’ efforts to launch an inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue (that is, a dialogue that will involve all strata of society) to achieve generally acceptable agreements on a political settlement. No attempt to do this has been made so far. The Geneva process, which has lost traction again and has not met for months, only involves a narrow group, primarily representatives of the external opposition, that is, representatives of the Syrian émigré community. Not all Syrian forces are represented in Astana either. The process mostly involves, along with the Government, representatives of the armed opposition groups, but not all of them. Tribes and other public movements were not represented.
The idea of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress is to enhance the quality of efforts to promote an inclusive Syrian dialogue. As I have already said, representatives of the Syrian Government and all opposition forces have been invited to attend, and many of them, including the Syrian Government, have confirmed attendance. President Bashar al-Assad has made a public statement in support of the Congress, saying that it should focus on drafting a new constitution and organising new elections. We continue to receive replies to our invitations from non-governmental forces. I would like to caution you against jumping to any hasty conclusions. Our analysis of the replies has shown that it is emerging as a highly representative event. We will shortly be announcing the concrete timeframe for the convocation of this Congress.