Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Kalla Ankourao, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, African Integration and Nigeriens Abroad of the Republic of the Niger, Moscow, September 19, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen,
My colleague from Niger and I conducted talks that were positive, trustworthy and productive.
Our relations are traditionally friendly and based on mutual respect. Today, we reaffirmed our desire to continue promoting the political dialogue. But mainly our intention is to raise bilateral cooperation in other areas, primarily, the economy, to the same level.
Geological prospecting, development of mineral resources, energy in the most diverse aspects and infrastructure projects are promising areas for cooperation. We agreed to more actively promote cooperation and direct contact between our business circles. We were pleased to note that the delegation of entrepreneurs from Niger took part in the SPIEF last June and attended the International Economic Forum in Yalta last year.
We have good prospects for developing military and military-technical cooperation under the related intergovernmental agreements signed in 2017. We are interested in developing cooperation to assist agencies in Niger to equip and train personnel for combatting terrorism.
We will encourage education exchanges, including in civilian professions. During this academic year, ten students from Niger are studying in our universities. They have received scholarships from the Russian Government. We also have plans to enhance assistance to Niger in training its military and law enforcement personnel. Today, several dozen people from the military are attending courses in the education institutions of our Defence Ministry.
Dialogue between our foreign ministries is based on the protocol for consultations, which was signed three years ago. Today, we exchanged views on further cooperation in the UN and other international organisations. We have a common approach to the need to respect the principles of international law and the central role of the UN.
Since Niger was elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2020-2021, we agreed to hold special consultations at the department director level this year with a particular focus on increasing the effectiveness of the international community’s efforts to fight terrorism and deal with the problems persisting in Africa.
We touched on the situation in the Sahara-Sahel region, Mali, the Central African Republic and Libya. We want to rely on the opinion of the African countries themselves regarding all these issues, including when these matters are reviewed by the UN Security Council. We consistently abide by the principle “African solutions to African problems” with an understanding that the international community will support these efforts by the African countries. Russia will continue to work towards this end and help these countries move towards stability and sustainable development both on a bilateral basis and at international venues, including the UN Security Council.
We reiterated our mutual interest in making the upcoming and first ever Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi in October an important step towards further deepening our strategic partnership with our African friends.
The minister informed us about Niger’s plans to open an embassy in Russia next year. I’m convinced that this will add stability to the dynamics of our interaction. The outcome of the talks confirmed that this interaction has very good prospects. We will work to implement all the ideas that we discussed today.
Question: In connection with the increasing tensions in the wake of the attack on Saudi Aramco oil infrastructure, and Riyadh and Washington accusing Tehran of this, does Russia have any initiatives to defuse the situation? All the more so as a telephone conversation took place recently between President Putin and Crown Prince and Defence Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, in which the Russian leader called for a thorough and objective investigation.
Sergey Lavrov: You mentioned the need for a thorough and impartial investigation. This is now underway. Importantly, it should be an objective process. Unsubstantiated accusations do not help the cause, but only intensify tensions in the region, where things have already become overly confrontational.
In addition to investigating the situation, it is also important to not only respond to incidents (and we are very concerned about what happened on September 14), but also to act comprehensively and proactively, and engage in preventive diplomacy. Had these steps been taken in good time, perhaps, these specific problems could have been avoided.
I will cite the Russian Concept of Collective Security in the Persian Gulf as an example and expand on it a little. We have been promoting this for several years now. This summer we updated our concept and gave a special presentation. The revised approach is fairly straightforward: the Gulf countries and their partners in the region and beyond should sit down at the negotiating table and begin to defuse tensions through very simple steps such as adopting confidence building measures, improving transparency, inviting each other to various events hosted by their respective armed forces and developing other steps that will improve the understanding that we need to talk and coexist with each other, because history and geography tell us this. We feel interest in our initiative, but so far not from all the involved players. I hope this sad episode and an unwanted incident will make our colleagues adopt a more thoughtful approach to Russia’s initiative. We must act in a consistent manner and create comprehensive frameworks that can make talks less complicated and help avoid escalating the already high tensions in the region.