Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and responses to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with the Philippines’ Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Cayetano, Moscow, May 15, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen,
Talks with my Filipino colleague Alan Cayetano took place in a traditionally friendly manner and were quite substantive.
The Philippines is Russia’s important and promising partner in the Asia-Pacific region. We are interested in building up our partnership in all areas, as our respective presidents Putin and Duterte agreed during the Filipino leader’s visit to Moscow in May 2017 and the leaders' meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Danang in November 2017. We discussed in detail how the agreements reached during those meetings are being implemented today and noted significant progress across all areas.
We are interested in stepping up the political dialogue in various formats, during regular consultations with the Foreign Ministry and through the expansion of interparliamentary exchanges. We reaffirmed our mutual interest in further enhancing the effectiveness of our joint fight against international terrorism, drug trafficking, transnational crime, piracy and other cross-border challenges and threats. In this regard, we noted the importance of established contacts between the heads of the security councils of Russia and the Philippines. The next meeting of the security council secretaries will be held in Moscow on May 18.
We noted a significant increase in trade, although the absolute numbers are still wanting. We spoke in favour of using the existing potential, which is significant, in agriculture, transport, energy, telecommunications, high technology and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. We are confident that the recently created Joint Russian-Filipino Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation, which held its first meeting last year, will help realise this potential in the above areas.
We analysed the implementation of a number of investment projects in the Philippines involving Russian companies which include building transport infrastructure and extracting minerals. We agreed to continue to support the development of military and military-technical cooperation as a follow-up to the agreements reached during Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu’s visit to the Philippines last year.
Our cultural ties are expanding. This year we plan to hold the Week of Russian Cinema in the Philippines. The number of scholarships that the Russian government provides to Filipino citizens for studying at our universities has increased. We noted with satisfaction the growing interest of the Filipinos in studying the Russian language and thanked our friends for their focus on this area of cooperation. Already three universities in the Philippines offer Russian language courses, partly with the support of the Russkiy Mir Foundation.
We discussed in detail ways to improve the bilateral legal framework. We went over the documents that are in progress, and agreed to give a nudge to the process of harmonisation.
When discussing international and regional issues, we confirmed the consonance of our approaches to a number of key issues on the global and regional agenda. These approaches of Russia and the Philippines are based on respecting all principles of the UN Charter, including the principles of sovereign equality of states, non-interference in domestic affairs and peaceful settlement of disputes. We agreed on concrete steps that we will take in coordination with the Philippines at the forthcoming UN forums in the socioeconomic and human rights spheres.
We agreed upon our future actions in connection with holding a number of events through the ASEAN platform, such as regular annual meetings within the dialogue partnership between Russia and ASEAN, the APEC forums, the EAS, the ASEAN regional forum, the meetings of the ASEAN defence ministers and the partner countries of this organisation, as well as several others. Our common goal is to strengthen security and ensure sustainable development in the APR based on equality, mutual benefit and consideration of the interests of all the countries of that region.
Question: Is President Vladimir Putin planning to visit the Philippines in the near future?
Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, my colleague and friend passed to me a message from President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte whereby he reaffirmed, in particular, the invitation he offered during his visit last May to our president.
Today we reaffirmed our interest in ongoing contacts at the top level. Naturally, a summit that is designed to raise our partnership to a new level should produce many concrete results. As I mentioned, today we agreed to expedite the development of important documents that are under discussion in our relevant departments. As foreign ministers we will ensure the coordination of this work. We believe it will be moved up.
Question (via interpreter): How will the bilateral agreement on labour migrants be beneficial to the Philippines and Russia?
Sergey Lavrov: We are interested in the social protection of the Filipinos that are working in the Russian Federation. Many of them came here through private companies that often did not have the required licenses. This does not ensure the social protection of the Filipino citizens working in Russia. We will resolve these issues with the signing of the agreement that we agreed to start drafting today. We have similar agreements with many other states, including ASEAN member countries.
Question: The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced that it is conducting searches and an investigation of the Russian controlled media. Today SBU employees burst into the RIA Novosti office in Kiev and the journalist who was there could no longer go on the air. It was reported that RIA Novosti journalist Kirill Vyshinsky was also detained. What can you tell us about these actions of Ukraine?
Sergey Lavrov: I just learned about this today. Regrettably, such actions are no surprise for me. This is far from the first instance of the Ukrainian authorities either shutting their eyes to the riotous behaviour of radical neo-Nazi rogues that are trying to interfere with the work of Russian journalists in Ukraine or impose restrictions on their activities themselves as they have in the cases you described.
Needless to say, we are trying to figure out what happened. We will demand access to our citizens. As for the media aspects of these events, European principles, and values, including freedom of speech, and the ensuring of the required conditions for the work of journalists, we have repeatedly drawn the attention of our Western colleagues at the OSCE and the Council of Europe to their very restrained attitude to the outbursts of their fosterlings in Kiev.
I think that the US and the European OSCE members should at long last speak out without double standards. Naturally, we are waiting for a statement of principle from Harlem Desir, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. Let me repeat that now the main goal for us is to understand where our citizens are, how they are being treated and the reasons behind this unacceptable action.
Question: US President Donald Trump announced withdrawal from the Iranian deal that is not a bilateral agreement. Is this agreement likely to survive if Washington tries to pressure the other participants in the deal?
Sergey Lavrov: So far the other participants in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear programme have confirmed their commitment to their obligations. Iranian representatives confirmed this specifically, during yesterday’s visit by Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Zarif to the Russian Federation. China, France, Great Britain and Germany have also reaffirmed their commitment to this agreement.
We are seeing, as you suggested, that they will be and already are under serious pressure. Ultimatums are already being made on the need to suspend trade with Iran, including supplies of certain products and the purchase of Iranian oil. Deadlines have been mentioned – 60 and 90 days. This is already a plan for massive pressure. But our European colleagues are telling us that they are getting ready for being independent from the US in their trade and economic ties with Iran and are going to take compensating measures.
We are interested in discussing this jointly with all the countries that are committed to the agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme. Well, we’ll see how determined the Europeans will be this time. There were plenty of cases in the past when they eventually made concessions to Washington to the obvious detriment of their own legitimate interests.
One thing is clear. Having withdrawn from the JCPOA, the US has lost all of its rights under this document that has many provisions that grant certain rights to its participants. The US has lost all of them (which it does not deny).