Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, Addis Ababa, March 9, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have held very substantive talks, as Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat has said.
Russia views the African Union (AU) as a key African organisation that plays a leading role in ensuring security on the continent, in promoting regional integration and in coordinating the positions of African countries on the global stage.
We highly appreciate our political dialogue. We considered it necessary to renew the document concerning the basis our cooperation, the Memorandum of Understanding on a mechanism for political consultations, which we signed in 2014.
We agreed that our experts would start working on a comprehensive document mapping out our further partnership based on the experience we have accumulated and the interests of Russia and the African Union.
In particular, we focused on trade and economic relations, which, so far, are lagging behind the standards of our political interaction.
We agreed to actively promote our dialogue on cooperation in energy and high technology and to more energetically encourage direct ties between our business communities, including possible preparation of a forum of business people from Russia and the AU countries.
We hope that the AU Commission and the EAEU will soon coordinate the signing of a memorandum to this effect, based on the initiative by the Eurasian Economic Commission. We reminded our partners about a similar proposal made by the SCO to the AU Commission.
We held in-depth discussions on our plans to promote cooperation in the training of civilian and military professionals as well as police officers for African countries. We agreed to encourage the development of ties between our universities more energetically. As Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat has said, the Diplomatic Academy at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be glad to offer professional development courses to officials from the AU Commission’s central office.
Our discussions on international matters focused on the fight against all kinds of terrorism, including the material and other supplies to terrorist groups, as well as terrorist and extremist ideology. These issues were central to our discussions along with the task of combating drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime.
Russia would like to join the African Union Mechanism for Police Cooperation (AFRIPOL). For our part, we have invited African countries to more actively use the International Counterterrorism Database, which the FSB has created to collect information about foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs).
While discussing the task of combating extremism, we also spoke about the settlement of conflict in Africa. It is Russia’s consistent policy that the international community must respect the will and opinions of Africans themselves and support the crisis settlement proposals that are put forward by the AU and sub-regional organisations.
We spoke about Libya, the Sahel and Sahara region, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. We will continue to support decisions on the settlement of conflicts in Africa through our efforts at the UN Security Council, as well as by offering our universities for the training of peacekeeping personnel and by supplying the necessary equipment for such peacekeeping operations.
I would like to once again thank our hosts for their hospitality. We are glad that Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat has accepted our invitation to visit Russia. We look forward to your visit.
Question: As you know, Africa is coordinating efforts for peace and prosperity in line with Agenda 2063. How is Russia going to align itself with this agenda for the prosperity of Africa, alongside funding?
Sergey Lavrov: I believe I touched on this issue in my opening remarks.
We are intent on cooperation with the African Union in all areas, political, trade, economic, cultural, educational, and on coordinating our actions on the international stage. All plans and strategies that are being developed in the African Union until 2063 include areas that are also of interest to the Russian Federation. In spheres where our interests coincide, we will build additional forms of cooperation, including those we have just outlined to the participants of the meeting.
Sergey Lavrov (adds after Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat): I would like to add a few words regarding the reform of the UN Security Council. Mr Mahamat is correct that Russia proceeds from the need to reform the UN Security Council in order to increase the representation of the developing countries. I do not think that developed countries are under-represented in the current Security Council. The most important thing is for developing regions to join the council. We are ready to consider all options as long as they lead to a broad consensus. In this sense, we support India and Brazil (representing Asia and Latin America), and consider them strong candidates, but we do not see any possibility of taking a decision on expanding the council if there is no representation of Africa. This is the only way we can increase the value of the UN Security Council, because there is probably not much sense in expanding the council by inviting countries that already have their position protected there. The main priority is to expand the representation of the three developing regions of the world, including the African continent by all means.
Question: Did you discuss the possibility of holding a Russia-Africa summit today? Under what conditions would this be possible?
During your visit to Zimbabwe, you spoke about the possibility of creating a special economic zone. Did you discuss such a project within the African Union today?
Sergey Lavrov: We did not discuss holding a summit. We share a common view that it is more important to take concrete action that will benefit African countries and Russia. I have mentioned the steps we have planned. I am sure that when there is a solid package of agreements, we might well discuss holding a summit.
As for a special economic zone in Zimbabwe, it is a bilateral issue. But the plans that are approved and promoted by the African Union, including the liberalisation of trade across the continent, are, of course, of interest to the Russian business community. In this connection, we will do our best to assist Russian businesses in joining mutually beneficial projects.
Question: There are strong allegations in the UK that your government has been involved in the assassination attempt of Sergey Skripal and his daughter. How do you respond to these allegations?
Sergey Lavrov: We are accused not only of this, but of everything that our Western partners believe is wrong on this planet. As for your concrete question, we have not seen a single fact. We only watch TV reports where your pretentious colleagues with serious faces say that if Russia is guilty, it will receive a response it will remember forever. It is not serious. It is again propaganda and stirring up hysteria. If you are interested in cooperating in an investigation, be it the poisoning of British citizens, rumours about interference in the US election campaign or any other issue, and if Russia’s assistance is really needed, we are ready to consider this possibility if we have relevant information. But for this to happen, you should not rush to the TV and make unfounded accusations, but ask for professional help using other channels, including law enforcement agencies.
I watch television ‒ of course, you cannot escape it ‒ and I see that there are parallels with the death of Alexander Litvinenko, which also happened in the UK. I would like to remind you that Litvinenko’s death, for which Russia was also blamed, has not been investigated to the end, because the inquiry – it was called public but took place behind closed doors – was held in a very strange way. Numerous facts which were discovered during the investigation were never made public. We offered our services and cooperation because there was a series of questions for Russia, but the British justice did not deign and issued an unfounded verdict, which, I repeat, is not complete. They did not mention many facts connected with this tragedy. Therefore, I would advise anyone interested in this issue to follow the rules used in international society and to address the countries they want to receive information from using professional, not propaganda channels.
Question: US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have decided to hold a personal meeting. Do you consider it a breakthrough in the settlement of the North Korean issue? Do you agree with the US leadership that it was the sanctions that forced Pyongyang to negotiate?
Sergey Lavrov: We consider it a step in the right direction. We only heard about this today. I hope this meeting will happen. It is necessary to stabilise the situation around the Korean Peninsula. We also welcome the agreement between Seoul and Pyongyang to hold an inter-Korean summit in April. All of this is exactly what the Russian Federation, China and other countries spoke in favour of in order to de-escalate tensions around the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula and use not threats, ultimatums and unilateral sanctions, but dialogue based on mutual respect and the search for new agreements which will satisfy all parties. I will not comment on whether this agreement to hold a high-level meeting was because of the sanctions. I think that each party wants to see its own explanation as a correct one. Let us not discuss the reason for this agreement. It is more important that it exists. And even more important is to make good on this agreement and pave the way to a comprehensive renewal of the political negotiation process in order to settle the nuclear issues of the Korean Peninsula based on the existing principles that were approved at the six-party talks and in the UN Security Council.