Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Iyad Ameen Madani, Moscow, June 11, 2015
Ladies and gentlemen,
We held talks with Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Mr Iyad Ameen Madani, which were, as always, constructive and substantive. Wemeetregularly. Mr Madani visited Moscow earlier this year. Last year, I had the honour of visiting the OIC headquarters.
We received OIC observer status 10 years ago. Since then, the organisation has been our reliable partner in searching for responses to issues, the number of which in today’s world is not declining.
We are satisfied with howthe dialogue is developing between the Russian Foreign Ministry and OIC General Secretariat. In October 2013, a framework cooperation agreement wassigned, which created a sound political and organisational framework for the development of our ties. We use it as a basis for annual consultations on general political issues, ways of combating terrorism and extremism and human rights issues. We effectively work together in multilateral organisations and various forums, including on topical issues related to the promotion of an intercivilisational and interreligious partnership.
On June 15, the Seventh Meeting of the International Economic Summit will take place in Kazan with the participation of Russia and OIC member countries, which underscores the stability of our ties. Representatives of the OIC Secretary General and the leadership of the Islamic Development Bank will also attend the forum. We are expecting an even more substantivediscussion on ways to make our ties in the credit, financial and economic areas more meaningful.
We exchanged opinions on the situation in different parts of the world. We paid particular attention to issues that are assuming special urgency in the Middle East and North Africa, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. We discussed the need to stimulate nationwide dialogue in each particular case, which would enable political figures in one country or the other to search for solutions, compromises and national accord, while avoiding any sets of values or ready-made recipes imposed from the outside.
We stated that Christians and Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa have traditionally lived in harmony over the past several centuries. The Middle East is the cradle of Christianity. It is crucial to ensure that those who are now attempting to destroy this interreligious accord and consensus fail in their endeavours.
We have a packed agenda. This year, additional consultations are slated on a whole number of topical issues. We are pleased to see MrMadani in the Russian Federation. Due to the need tomake arrangements for some unscheduled events at the OIC headquarters, this time he will not be able to visit Russia's regions. I am sure that we will provide this opportunity during this next visit.
Question: Could you comment on Australian intelligence reports that the ISIS has enough radioactive material to make a “dirty bomb,” as well as the growing concern over the rise in Islamist activity ahead of the holy month of Ramadan and the anniversary of the proclamation of the “caliphate”?
Sergey Lavrov: Today, we discussed the objective of further consolidating our antiterrorist efforts. We heard that the Australian intelligence service has reported some evidence alleging that the ISIS has sufficient radioactive material to build a “dirty bomb.” Strangely enough, the intelligence service immediately disclosed its findings. Usually, this is conveyed via confidential channels to those who can help prevent the commissioning of a crime. In any event, this only goes to show that to effectively combat the terrorist threat, including the so-called Islamic State, a truly universal collective effort is needed, based on international law, taking into account the role of the UN Security Council, and backed up by a network of partnership ties, including between intelligence and special services, which will help to effectively and quickly verify particular information that has come to light and, if it is confirmed, to take concrete measures (not necessarily public measures so as not to scare people unnecessarily). We have yet to establish a truly collective effort here.
Russia has diversified ties with many of its partners, including in the framework of multilateral structures in the CIS space. It also has similar ties with other countries in the more distant lands. Unfortunately, many of these contacts have been frozen on the initiative of our European and American partners. This does nothing to help the situation, so we will continue to promote our proposal to make a collective analysis of terrorist and extremist threats in the Middle East and North Africa under the aegis of the UN Security Council and work out a unified strategy, which would serve as a “guiding star” in all of our efforts. Unfortunately, so far, there is no such strategy. Our partners address terrorist threats sporadically, often turning a blind eye to extremists in situations where their activity is politically beneficial for one side or the other. This must not happen. There must be no double standards here.
Question: The issue of combatting extremism was on the agenda of today’s meeting. How do Russia and the OIC intend to counter the spread of the terrorist threat? This refers not only to attacks, which were already mentioned, but also to propaganda, the enlistment of new supporters of the Islamic State and their recruitment.
There are 13 Russians at a migration camp in the Turkish town of Batman, who purportedly attempted to cross the border to join the Islamic State. Can their release be secured through the efforts of the Russian Embassy in Turkey and MrMadani?
Sergey Lavrov: You are absolutely right. The fight against terrorism – and we discussed this exactly in this key – starts with propaganda, upbringing, education and the struggle against poverty, illiteracy and ignorance, which, unfortunately, are still widespread in developing countries. The OIC does not have an army, but it is a very influential organisation that unites Muslim countries,the Islamic world. The ideals that it promotes completely coincide with our vision of how people, the younger generation, should be educated in the spirit of tolerance toward one another and intolerance towardall extremist practices.
The improvement in the socio-economic status of corresponding countries is directly related to the possibility of removing children from the streets and places where attempts are actively made to recruit them, including by taking advantage of many unresolved regional problems; among others, what my colleague has just mentioned – the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We also discussed this today, as we did the need for the active involvement of the international community, including Arab countries and the OIC, in efforts to break the disturbing deadlock in the talks on the establishment of a Palestinian state and a Palestinian-Israeli and Arab-Israeli settlement. There is the Arab Peace Initiative, which has been universally recognised as a basis for a durable and stable resolution of the issue. We would not like this to be forgotten.
Regarding the specific question about the Russians detained in Turkey as they purportedly attempted to cross into the Islamic State and their involvement in combat operations and terrorist attacks, we are seeking consular access to them. So far, the issue has only been resolved regarding one Russian, VarvaraKaraulova. She is due to arrive in Russia later today. Her father went to Turkey and we helped him meet with his daughter and deal with all organisational matters.
Naturally, this worries us. This should worry everyone because citizens from European countries, the United States and countries from the region are fighting in the ranks of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and North Africa. Last year, with our active support, the UN Security Council adopted a special resolution to combat foreign terrorist fighters (people who join such armed groups as mercenaries, or are poisoned with extremist ideas and are recruited). There is a whole system, including the establishment of direct ties between the relevant state services, the sharing of information and the tracking of those who went to war and then attempt to return home. However, this cannot be resolved in one fell swoop. There should be an effective strategy and clear-cut procedure for daily, not necessarily publicisedcooperation, between those working to combat this kind of phenomenon. There should be a truly international system in place here.
Question: Could you comment on America’s plans to arm and train Sunni fighters in Iraq? Will this help in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq?
Sergey Lavrov: First of all, I proceed based on what MrMadani just said. We do not divide Iraq into Sunnis, Shiite and Kurds, and we want the entire Iraqi people to be united, live in a sovereign, territorially integrated state, free from terrorists and other threats.
We know that the so-called Islamic State is especially active in Iraq, as well as Syria. However, now we are talking about Iraq. We proceed based on the premise that the Iraqi authorities should be helped to reinforce the defence capability of the entire country, not of some part of it. To this end, the Iraqi authorities should give higher priority to national dialogue. During our recent talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, we placed a special emphasis on this. We supported Baghdad’s efforts to establish a stable dialogue that will help resolve all outstanding issues in Iraqi society, both in relations between Shiites and Sunnis and between Arabs and Kurds.