Speech of and answers to questions of mass media by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during joint press conference summarizing the results of negotiations with OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Moscow, 7 June 2013
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today we are welcoming the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We have conducted very detailed and trustworthy negotiations, discussed further ways of development of relations between the Russian Federation and the OIC. The Organisation has been asserting itself as an important participant of the processes related to settlement of different international and regional problems more and more convincingly.
Russia in an observer to the OIC, participates in all major conferences on political, economic and humanitarian issues. Our contacts in the field of economy and finance are strengthening, as we have already told today. We are acting from close positions in international organisations, at different multilateral arenas, incl. discussions of partnership problems between civilisations, cultures, religions, as well as consideration of the key issues of international relations and different conflicts, which, unfortunately continue to persist in the Muslim world. Commitment to the international law and strong disposition to a political rather than military settlement of conflicts brings our approaches together.
We talked about Syria a lot. OIC Secretary General was informed about the efforts undertaken by Russia together with its partners for the implementation of the initiative of Moscow and Washington to hold an international conference in Geneva and difficulties yet to overcome in this work. As we have convinced again today, our common position consists in making all the external players do everything depending on them to help settle the piece process and ensure a constructive determination to negotiations on behalf of Damascus government and all the opposition groups.
Russia advocates for the widest representation of the Syrian opposition and other influential states of the region, including, of course, all neighbours of Syria – Iran, Egypt and others, at the planned conference, which will help advance to the accord between the government and the opposition in parameters of the transition period, as envisaged by Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012, which should be the basis for the proposed negotiations in accordance with the Russian-American initiative.
Together with OIC we are certainly united by our aspiration to settle other crises. First of all, this concerns the Palestinian problem, as well as other conflict nodes persisting in the region of the Middle East and North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Sahara-Sahel region. We are interested to continue cooperation in issues related to the development of the situation in Afghanistan and around it.
We agreed to continue regular political consultations, improve forms of interaction between Russia and the OIC which are of mutual interest. We agreed to pay particular attention to the spheres of economy and finance. In October, we are expecting to meet Mr Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in Kazan, where the 5th International Summit "Economic Cooperation of the Russian Federation and OIC" will be held.
Question: The latest statements of representatives of US Administration affirm that the Syrian Army could not have freed Al-Qusayr without assistance from Hezbollah and Iran. How could you comment on such messages?
Sergey Lavrov: I would like to express some considerations regarding statements of US representatives concerning the situation around Al-Qusayr. First, we have been cautioning about the continuing internalisation of the Syrian crisis for a long time. Hundreds, if not thousands, of armed people fighting against government forces are citizens of other countries, and not only of countries of the region, but also European countries. Thus, it becomes even more topical to stop this crisis situation and to create conditions for convening the conference as soon as possible. We are thankful to the OIC for their support of the Russian-American initiative in this respect.
The statements of US representatives quoted by you have another aspect: they think that government forces are experiencing difficulties at the battlefield and need support. Logically, it means that they face well-trained and armed battle units. If it is so (by the way, there is information that foreign trainers helped these units while there was a combat operation in Al-Qusayr), the appeals to denunciate the events as an operation against civilians we hear in these days are sufficiently hypocritical.
We are very concerned with the fate of civilians in Syria. Each and all, who, unfortunately, fight in this country, as before, should observe the international humanitarian law. This is our firm position. We will try to achieve that these requirements (to observe the international humanitarian law) reach all the parties, including the government and the opposition. However, it is inadmissible to speculate on international humanitarian law to create a distorted picture that armed people attack residential quarters and do this for their own pleasure.
In fact, we all need to find our position. I have told may times that we need to understand whether we wish to support a political process, and then we need to urgently sit at a negotiation table, or we still intend to support the overthrow of the regime. Statements of the Free Syrian Army and some American representatives stating that armed opposition needs support to restore the military balance on the earth concern us. This is a way to nowhere. This is a continuation of the vice circle of violence. I hope that all our partners, who supported the Russian-American initiative on words, will be guided by it in their practical actions as an absolute priority over all the rest. There should be no geopolitical games here. All of us need to think about the fate of the Syrian people and peoples of neighbouring countries which are suffering.