Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions on the sidelines of the APEC Ministerial Meeting, Lima, November 17, 2016
Question: US President Barack Obama has just said he hopes President-elect Donald Trump will continue to stand up to Russia where it is allegedly deviating from international norms. What do you think about this recommendation?
Sergey Lavrov: This is regrettable, because when you conclude your presidential term you should answer questions and offer recommendations on positive aspects regarding solutions to America’s domestic problems, of which there are many, and the development of foreign relations. I do not think it is good to try to ensure continuity on negative issues.
During a recent telephone conversation, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President-elect Donald Trump discussed and agreed on the absolutely unsatisfactory state of bilateral relations. This is what we should proceed from. President Obama may want this to continue, but I am confident that this does not meet the interests of the American people and will not facilitate the settlement of global problems, because a great deal depends on our two countries. President Obama is contradicting himself. Every time he spoke with President Putin, he stressed that our bilateral relations were indispensable in addressing the key issues, including the situation in Syria and in the Middle East and North Africa as a whole.
When President Obama spoke about standing up to Russia – I believe he was in Germany at the time – he said what he said to the President-elect was what may work in generating enthusiasm or passion during elections may be different than what will work after the elections. It appears to me that President Obama is paying too much attention to emotional issues and not enough to practical issues. This is understandable, as his term is ending. However, I hope that common sense will prevail. President Obama has more than once demonstrated an ability to take a sober view of concrete situations. I hope he will pass this part of his legacy to the next administration. As for our bilateral relations after January 20, 2017, they will depend on Mr Trump.
Question: Will your upcoming talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry focus on Syria? Do you hope for any solutions?
Sergey Lavrov: We have a much broader agenda. Syria is only one of the issues we will discuss. We are concerned about our contacts. We are not publicising the fact, but we maintain such contact in Geneva at the level of our militaries with the participation of experts from the Middle Eastern countries that are directly involved in the Syrian conflict where they support the opposition. These contacts have produced certain results, but they are also hindered by the same problem which prevented the Americans from keeping their promise to separate the so-called moderate opposition from Jabhat al-Nusra. There is growing evidence and persisting impression that they want to preserve al-Nusra as the most effective force in opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, although this group has been placed on the lists of terrorist organisations by the United States, Russia and the UN. However, we will do our best to find a solution. I believe that Mr Kerry sincerely wants this. We hope that the US military and intelligence experts who are taking part in this work will find the correct trajectory and will see the key priority - to combat ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, which is a common threat for all of us. Everything else is of secondary importance and can be put on the back burner.
Question: Is there any chance for a new and full reset with Mr Trump?
Sergey Lavrov: I am against inventing new terms and sticking labels. It was a professional conversation between two men. The presidents discussed the Russian-US relationship in terms of bilateral cooperation and with regard to global and regional issues. The political will and mutual understanding are clearly there. The task is to translate this will into practical actions after Mr Trump is sworn in. We are ready for this.