Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following the CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting, Minsk, July 17, 2017
The CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Minsk is over. Now the Republic of Belarus holds the Presidency of the CSTO.
We reviewed a number of questions that allowed us to discuss a broad range of topics, primarily linked with international and European security, including the military-political situation in Europe, relations with NATO and our goals in the CSTO and other agencies that are thinking of ways to overcome the current abnormal relations in Europe and resume cooperation.
We informed our colleagues in detail about the developments in the Russia-NATO Council. We were told about the contacts that our partners and NATO are developing. Everyone affirmed that contacts with NATO are maintained on the basis of our allied commitment under the Collective Security Treaty. All partners affirmed it. It could not have been otherwise.
Joint statements were adopted following the discussion of some other issues. The first highly important statement reflects our attitude to the unacceptable desecration of the memory of the liberator warriors of World War II. Attempts to do this are being made in some European countries. The second statement concerns one more urgent issue – international information security. It reaffirms our striving to consolidate security in the cyber space. We also agreed to speed up the drafting of the intergovernmental agreement on enhancing information security. We believe this will be a contribution to our universal efforts in the UN that is considering the proposals we have submitted with our partners to coordinate the rules of responsible conduct in the cyber space.
As for other decisions, I would like to mention the list of topics of our joint statement that we will make in the UN and other international organisations, including the OSCE. The list includes 15 topics and is not exhaustive. We may add other topics to it depending on the development of the situation in various areas of international relations. The list covers a very broad range of issues, including the situation in Syria and the Middle East in general, current problems in Afghanistan and related issues, counterterrorism, the fight against drug trafficking, tasks of peaceful space exploration, including the promotion in the UN of the initiative encouraging all countries to commit not to deploy weapons in outer space. The elaboration of a common position on consolidating the Convention on the Prohibition and Elimination of Chemical Weapons with a view to its public presentation is a separate subject. These several issues I have mentioned show that the agreement on the topics of our common statements next year appears to be all-embracing.
One more document is the plan of consultations between the foreign ministries on foreign policy and international security issues. We have adopted a decision to invigorate the activities of the CSTO working group on Afghanistan and a number of other issues, including the upgrading of our military-technical cooperation.
I think the meeting was productive and will help us prepare well for the regular CSTO summit next autumn.
Question: Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov is to meet with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon, in Washington today to discuss the diplomatic property issue. Earlier, a source in the White House said the United States did not plan to give back the diplomatic property to the Russian Federation without getting anything in return. How can you comment on this position? How soon should we expect Moscow to respond if Mr Ryabkov and Mr Shannon fail to reach agreement at today’s meeting?
Sergey Lavrov: The source is anonymous, and this means they realise that they have a guilty conscience.
As for the gist of what you have cited, if this is so, then this amounts to robbery in broad daylight, simply highway robbery. How is it possible to take away property formalised by a ratified inter-governmental document? And what kind of principle is it to say “What’s mine is mine, and we’ll divide what’s yours” while discussing its return? Decent and well brought up people don’t behave this way. I am confident that the Trump administration has some reasonable people who realise that the Obama administration had made a decision to seize diplomatic real estate and to evict Russian diplomats and their families when the administration was in its death throes, when its members had no idea how to wreck Russia’s relations with Washington in such a way that the Trump administration would be unable to restore them.
To my great regret, everyone realises that this zealous desire to find some hidden channels of Russia’s influence on developments in the US is not subsiding and it does not give confidence that we will be able to establish normal cooperation in international relations at a time when all countries without exception are interested in this. I hope that the anti-Russia sentiments now plaguing the US Congress will subside only because not a single fact has been produced by the many months of work of various commissions and investigators.
Question: Today the Israeli media, citing high-ranking sources, said that during the meeting with the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out against the Russian-US ceasefire plan for the south of Syria, because it would allow Iran to strengthen its presence in the region.
Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know what exactly Mr Netanyahu said, but as we have already said – for instance when announcing the establishment of a de-escalation zone following the Russian-American-Jordanian meeting, and President Vladimir Putin also spoke about it in Hamburg – we did preparatory work with all interested parties, Israel included. So we proceed from the fact that our Israeli counterparts were fully aware what was agreed. I can guarantee that we and our American colleagues have done everything so that the security interests of Israel were taken into account in the framework of this arrangement.