Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 17th Meeting of Heads of Special Services, Security Agencies and Law Enforcement Agencies that are Foreign Partners of Russia’s Federal Security Service, Moscow, November 7, 2018
I am pleased to have another opportunity to speak at a meeting of heads of special services, security agencies and law enforcement agencies that are foreign partners of Russia’s Federal Security Service. Your annual meetings have become a useful format of interaction aimed at enhancing security of all our states and citizens.
Harmonising your efforts is important at this point. The world is facing numerous challenges. The surge in international terrorism is of particular concern. Despite significant successes in fighting ISIS and other such groups, the terrorists continue to pose major threat to all countries without exception. They adapt to changing realities and diversify their sources and channels for obtaining financial and logistical support for their activities, including through strengthening ties to drug trafficking and organised crime.
It was already mentioned today that three years ago, at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, President Putin invited the nations to form a universal front to counter this global scourge. For the time being, however, geopolitical ambitions, hidden agendas, double standards, and oftentimes the attempt of some to use radical groups to achieve selfish ends in the international arena are still standing in the way of truly collective, coordinated actions.
Currently, the armed gangs in Syria and Iraq have seen their opportunities to regularly eke out their “budget” severely undermined. However, the resistance of the terrorists in this region is not completely broken. One of the reasons is the continuation of external material support for the radicals, including weapons.
Russia has repeatedly pointed to this problem. We held an international conference, Countering the Illicit Arms Trafficking in the Context of Fighting International Terrorism, in Moscow in September, which was attended by 132 representatives from 25 states and 10 international organisations. The conference laid the foundation for the development of common approaches to fighting the illegal supply of arms to terrorists, and helped narrow divides in the positions of states in the sphere of antiterrorism in general. We will continue to work consistently toward strengthening our cooperation in this important area.
Having suffered a military defeat in Syria, the terrorist groups are building new footholds, recruiting networks, and sleeper cells in other countries. They continue to take advantage of both the continuing fragmentation of the international community and the fact that not all states have taken the necessary legislative and law enforcement actions at the national level.
Foreign terrorist fighters returning in large numbers to their countries of origin or third countries are one of the most dangerous consequences of such a policy. The terrorists are making a special effort to go to countries whose legislation and law enforcement practice makes it hard to prosecute them.
The problem of foreign terrorist fighters requires a comprehensive solution that involves international law. It is critically important to ensure that no one evades justice who is involved in terrorist activities as set forth in the corresponding UNSC resolutions. We urge everyone to engage in active, good-faith international cooperation, including on matters of reciprocal legal assistance, timely sharing of information on the whereabouts of persons involved in terrorism, and their extradition.
We should continue to focus on countering the spread of terrorist and extremist ideologies as well.
The states and their competent authorities have a decisive part to play in resolving these issues. International antiterrorism cooperation should be built strictly on the basis of universal legal norms, the UN Charter and Security Council resolutions, which underlie the activities of the corresponding bodies of the UN Secretariat.
Russia maintains a reserved attitude towards any initiatives that do not take these key principles into account. I am referring, in particular, to the concept of “counteracting violent extremism” (CVE) promoted by a number of states. The problem here is not the name or the term itself, but the content of this concept, which not only ignores the antiterrorism legal framework agreed upon by the UN, but also allows for interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states under the pretext of supporting civil society in the face of authoritarian regimes whose actions are allegedly the root cause of the spread of radical sentiment. Those behind this concept are, in fact, ready to justify extremists and to justify their exemption from criminal responsibility. Clearly, one cannot agree with that.
Russia has an unparalleled and successful history of countering terrorism and extremism. At some point, we actually had to fight these threats in our country, which were supported from the outside, all by ourselves. However, not only did we defeat the terrorists, we also consolidated our successes by adopting a set of legislative, political, and socioeconomic measures with a focus on improving interethnic and inter-religious social harmony. Civil society institutions and religious figures were involved in this work. As a result, a nationwide anti-terrorism system has taken shape.
Based on our experience, Russia is ready to participate in developing universal cooperation standards in countering any extremism as the forerunner of terrorism. Important results have already been achieved in this area.
Last June, the states parties to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation signed the Convention on Countering Extremism which contains well-considered joint approaches to combating extremism as a source of terrorism, including in its non-violent form, and provides for cooperation even at the stage of preparing and organising attacks against laws and traditional values of the society concerned. The Convention imposes on the participating states the obligation to counter the spread of extremist ideology and to suppress public support and incitement to terrorism. We invite all our foreign partners to study this document with an eye towards possible accession. The Convention is open to signing by any state.
I have already mentioned earlier that the attempts by certain forces to use various radical groups to incite extremist sentiment and destabilise the domestic political situation in a particular country run counter to our attempts to build honest and effective cooperation on the antiterrorism track. Unfortunately, such destructive practices remain in effect. The support provided by some players in the Middle East to the notorious White Helmets is a case in point. Under the guise of pseudo-humanitarian activities, this organisation is carrying out blatant provocations and staged incidents in order to create a pretext for the illegal use of force against sovereign states.
We urge all the countries and non-governmental organisations that work in hot spots to prevent any interaction with extremists and strictly follow the rules of international humanitarian law and the UN-approved principles of waging an uncompromising fight against terrorism.
The international community has at its disposal many effective levers for antiterrorism cooperation. I am convinced that the results of your discussion will contribute to their more effective use for the benefit of our nations in order to strengthen global and regional security.
Thank you and I wish you every success in your work.