Speech and answers to the media’s questions by the Russian Foreign Minister S.V. Lavrov after the signing of the Framework agreement on cooperation between the Russian Foreign Ministry and the General secretariat of the OIC, in Moscow on the 1 October 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Mr. E. Ihsanoglu and I have just signed the Framework agreement on cooperation between the Russian Foreign Ministry and the General Secretariat of the OIC.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or, as it was formerly called the Organization of Islamic Conference, is our traditional partner in a number of key issues of international importance, first of all in those concerned with identifying ways to regulate conflicts, to fight terrorism, with efforts to create an efficient and just basis for the functioning of the world economy. I especially emphasize our mutual desire to enforce and develop in every possible way the "Dialogue of civilizations", the dialogue between cultures and religions. We successfully cooperate with the OIC at the UN. We work especially well in UNESCO and in the UN Council on Human Rights. The Russian Federation received observer status in the OIC in 2005. In 2008, we opened a Permanent representation at the Organization General Secretariat and we maintain regular communication both in this role and at the level of OIC leadership, including at various international events.
The document signed today (Framework agreement) provides a solid legal basis for the further strengthening of our relations in all directions of cooperation and provides a mechanism for regular annual consultations on key aspects of bilateral cooperation. We intend to pay special attention to efforts to harmonize cross-cultural and inter-religious relations, protecting and promoting traditional moral values - common to all the world's religions.
I would like to sincerely congratulate all those present at today's event. I am sure that the Agreement will promote a further deepening of the effective partnership between Russia and the OIC.
Mr. Ihsanoglu personally contributed greatly to the strengthening of our relations, he was at the forefront of the process of assigning the Russian Federation observer status and strongly promoted the development of our relations in all directions without exception. We really appreciate this wise politician and his contribution to the development of our cooperation.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to give Mr. Ihsanoglu the honourable sign of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation "For his contribution to international cooperation".
Question: Does Russia intend to proactively raise the question in the UN Security Council of identifying those guilty of the use of chemical weapons near Damascus on the 21 August this year?
S.V. Lavrov: We are interested in ensuring that any report on the use of chemical weapons be investigated quickly, impartially, efficiently and that those guilty are found. In this regard, I have spoken many times about the inappropriateness of statements which some of the leaders of the Western countries have been making long before the first visit of the inspectors (UN) to the SAR stating that they knew everything long ago and that they did not need any reports and that the crime was committed by the regime and it should be punished. This is wrong behaviour. It is a violation of the agreements, including the one reached at the summit of the "Group of Eight" in Lough Erne in June, where all eight leaders and the European Union leaders announced the need to investigate any cases of chemical weapons use professionally and to report the results to the Security Council of the UN.
Regarding the episode on the 21 August, we have reasons to believe that provocation was involved. We proceed from the fact that this episode was not the only one which O. Selstrema's group had to investigate. She has recently returned back there and stated that she had completed the work and was returning to New York. As I understand it, several more places of alleged use of chemical weapons near Damascus have been investigated. As before, the group did not visit the neighbourhood of Aleppo, where on the 19 March there was, we are sure of it, a serious incident of chemical weapons use, investigated by the Russian specialists. We want to understand whether the mission's report will be complete or incomplete, taking into account that she was not able to visit all the regions indicated in the original mandate. We will wait for the mission's report.
We are also conducting our own activities to obtain as much information as possible about those involved in these outrageous acts. We intend to ensure that the guilty are found. The UN Security Council is one of the more obvious places where it is necessary to talk about this, of course, with full mention of all the evidence and facts, which are numerous. Including and most importantly the facts of the opposition's participation in organizing these provocations and the involvement of foreign leaders, so to speak, in using neighbouring countries' territories. We accumulate all this and it is known to our partners – that we will seek the truth.
Questions: Were you able to set concrete dates for holding the "Geneva- 2" conference? Will the armed opposition, currently fighting the war in Syria, be invited?
S.V. Lavrov: Regarding concrete dates, at the end of the meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General in New York it was stated that we expect to hold this conference in mid-November of this year.
As for the opposition's representation, we still need to sort it out. Until recently, we believed that our Western partners, who pledged to bring the opposition to the conference, would be able to do so quickly enough - but they have not been able to do it quickly. I do not know whether they will accomplish it by mid-November. In any case, we rely on the UN Security Council resolution, adopted last Friday. It says that the Syrian sides at the conference should be as broadly represented as possible in terms of reflection of the whole spectrum of Syrian society. Government - is the obvious side. As for the opposition's representation, there are big issues at the moment - we still do not have clarity on this point. We hear that in addition to the problems that the internal opposition previously had in respect to the authority of the "National Coalition of the opposition revolutionary forces", the Syrian internal opposition did not agree with the radical slogans of the "National Coalition". In addition to these long-term problems, we have heard that a large group of field commanders has recently announced that it is leaving the "National Coalition". There is also a split within the "Free Syrian Army".
And as the story about holding the conference drags on, and this could have been achieved a year ago, when the Geneva communiquй was adopted and when our Western partners refused to approve it in August of last year at the UN Security Council, influence is enforced by the radicals - jihads, groups like " Dzhabhat en-Nusra", "The State of Iraq and the Levant" and by others alike.
So now the task is not to waste more time, and to sit down at the negotiating table with the government of those oppositionists, who are responsible and do not think about how to create a caliphate in Syrian territory, take over power and then use it at their own discretion, but those who think about the well-being of their country, who want it to remain united, territorially integrated and for all sectarian and ethnic groups to live in it comfortably and safely. I hope that such responsible statesmen will appear on the opposition's side. I do not exclude that likewise the armed opposition, if it does not act from an extremist and terrorist position, can be fully represented (at the conference). This was also stated by the SAR President B. Assad.
So, it is up to those who have greater impact on the opposition than we have. We work with everyone, but the oppositionists are influenced mostly by our Western colleagues and the key countries of the Middle East region.