Acting Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Ecuadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs Maria Fernanda Espinosa Moscow, May 16, 2018
We have held substantive talks with my Ecuadoran colleague, Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa. Ecuador is Russia’s old friend and reliable strategic partner in Latin America. Our relations rest on the feeling of respect and mutual sympathy between our people, as well as on close mutual understanding and similarity of views on key international matters.
We held in-depth discussions on bilateral relations, compared notes on the upcoming political events and confirmed our resolve to strengthen the legal framework of Russian-Ecuadoran relations.
Speaking about trade, economic and investment cooperation, we expressed a common opinion on the usefulness of the fifth meeting of the Russian-Ecuadoran Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, which was held in Moscow on May 14−15 and which Madam Minister attended as its co-chair.
We talked about the stable increase in mutual trade, which exceeded $1.5 billion last year, as well as the implementation of large joint energy projects and fruitful cooperation in agriculture. We spoke up for diversifying our economic ties and looking for new promising growth points, such as pharmaceutics as well as information and communication technology.
We pointed out the rapid progress in our military and technical cooperation. We are also promoting cultural and humanitarian cooperation and academic exchanges between the universities of Russia and Ecuador. We are pleased to see the growing interest of Ecuadoran young people for studying in Russia. We offer about a hundred governmental scholarships to Ecuador every year, and we are willing to increase this quota if our Ecuadoran friends are interested in this.
We hold similar views on key international matters. Russia and Ecuador are working consistently towards a fairer and more democratic world order based on the priority of international law and, central role of the UN and a coordinated search for answers to current threats and challenges. We discussed the coordination of our efforts at the UN and expressed gratitude to our Ecuadoran friends for their support of a number of Russian initiatives.
We agreed to cooperate more closely in the fight against terrorism, organised crime and drug trafficking, as well as in the field of cybersecurity.
While discussing regional affairs, we welcomed Ecuador’s role in facilitating integration in Latin America, including at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), with which Russia has developed dialogue and partner ties. We hold regular meetings between our foreign ministers and also with the Quartet of CELAC foreign ministers. We are planning to hold a regular ministerial meeting in the not too distant future.
Both sides want to coordinate positions when it comes to the situation in some Latin American and Caribbean countries so as to be able to facilitate the settlement of their problems.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Foreign Minister of Ecuador and all our Ecuadoran friends for our highly practical, professional and trust-based dialogue. I am convinced that such relations between our foreign policy departments will boost our forward movement in all spheres of our joint work to the benefit of our nations.
Question: What do you think about US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley blaming Palestinians for the violence in Gaza, where Israel used weapons against them?
Sergey Lavrov: We are deeply alarmed by the situation in the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, which is essentially under siege. People have problems with bare necessities there, including food and humanitarian products. Like in most other situations in the Middle East, there are extremists there who reject the path of agreements, including between Hamas and Fatah, refuse to restore Palestinian unity and also seek to radicalise the situation. We do not accept the situation when these extremists involve civilians in protests that are fraught with clashes and civilian casualties, and we will speak up against this.
On the other hand, I cannot accept the claim that the dozens of civilians killed during these clashes, including children, are terrorists. This offensive statement was designed to stop an honest and serious discussion on the essence of the problems, which are tearing the Middle East apart and are preventing the implementation of the UN General Assembly decisions on the creation of a Palestinian state. This state can only be created through a direct dialogue, including on the status of Jerusalem. This is not a matter for unilateral decisions. It must be discussed, and agreements must be negotiated through a direct dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership.
We are ready to provide all-round assistance to this dialogue. However, we must remember that the Palestinian problem, which remained unresolved for decades, is one of the most serious factors creating conditions for the recruitment of young people by extremist groups.