Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions from the media during a news conference after talks with the delegation of the OIC Ministerial Contact Group on Palestine and East Jerusalem, Moscow, February 26, 2015
Ladies and gentlemen,
Yesterday and today we held talks with the delegation of the Ministerial Contact Group on Palestine and East Jerusalem of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) headed by Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry.
Russia is consistently developing dialogue with OIC. Since 2005, our country has had an observer status in this high-profile Organisation. We are interested in expanding cooperation and strengthening friendly ties with our partners in the Islamic world.
Today's meeting was held against the background of a deteriorating situation on the Palestinian track of the Middle East peace process and in Palestinian territories, as well as the worsening crisis in Jerusalem, a holy site to three world religions. Members of the OIC delegation informed us of the incidents related to holy sites and the persisting illegal settlement-building practices in East Jerusalem.
Russia and the OIC reiterated their principled position regarding the need to find a comprehensive and fair solution to the Palestinian issue within the existing international legal framework. We support the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to establish an independent, viable and integral Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem, which would live in peace and security with all its neighbours.
At the end of the talks we also expressed a shared vision of the need to normalise the situation in Jerusalem immediately. Issues related to this city should be addressed during direct Palestinian-Israeli final status negotiations.
We believe that everyone should be able to freely access Christian, Muslim and Jewish holy sites without any discrimination on religious or national grounds. Russia's ties with the Holy Land are rooted in history. It is our intention to be proactive in facilitating such a solution to the Jerusalem issue.
Like our colleagues, we are deeply concerned about the deterioration in the Palestinian territories since the failure of the nine-month round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks initiated by the United States. In the summer of 2014, hostilities between the Israeli army and Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip resulted in the death of 2,000 Palestinians and 70 Israelis, and public infrastructure in the Strip has been severely damaged. Since the two sides are not talking to each other, the situation is further worsening as new negative factors emerge, which leads to further escalation and the deterioration of the quality of life for Palestinians on their territories.
Russia will be proactive in advocating the resumption of substantial efforts by the Quartet of international mediators for Middle East settlement. On February 8, we succeeded in convening a ministerial-level meeting in this format on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, where we agreed to step up contacts between the Quartet and the key Arab nations, as well as OIC. Building on this understanding, we will seek to ensure that dialogue on all issues that are crucial for the region is not just a formality, but aimed at finding practical solutions.
I would like to thank my colleagues for cooperation.
Question: Could you comment on the recent statements by US Secretary of State John Kerry and President of the European Council Donald Tusk, who said that new sanctions against Russia are in the pipeline?
Sergey Lavrov: I think there is a simple explanation. All they are trying to do is whip up hysteria and divert attention from the need to implement the Minsk Agreements. What such calls mean is that leaders of some countries and organisations, the United States and the European Union, are not willing to ensure the implementation of what was agreed in Minsk on February 12. What they are seeking are by all accounts ridiculous requirements squarely in line with the perspective of the Kiev authorities. As you know, they said that they will withdraw heavy weapons only after one or two days pass without a single shot being fired. Everyone understands all too well that there is no such thing as an ideal truce or ceasefire. During the Normandy Four meeting of foreign ministers in Paris on February 24, our German colleague fully agreed that until the withdrawal of heavy weapons begins the risks of new incidents are much higher than after the disengagement of forces.
Another point is that impartial observers, including from the OSCE mission, are reporting a substantial decline in gunfire, which means that the truce is yielding results. Saying that the truce doesn't work serves the interests of those who want to undermine the Minsk Agreements and to distort reality. Unfortunately, some media are also doing it. Today, I watched an interview on Euronews with two fighters of the Ukrainian armed forces, a man and a masked woman wearing a helmet with a neo-Nazi emblem. The woman said that there is no truce, that firing continues unabated. The channel did not provide any comments. I think that it is not fair play when journalists present the situation in such a biased manner, especially when so many facts speak to the contrary: the truce has actually led to substantial results.
To conclude, I would like to note that the most important thing for us is not to please some Western countries or leaders who are threatening us with sanctions, but to ensure peace and a sustainable political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. In order to deliver on this objective, the withdrawal of heavy weapons should be followed by the implementation of all other agreements. The self-proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk people's republics have already started the withdrawal of heavy weapons, and we would like the OSCE to verify this fact (we were told that the Organisation is ready to become actively involved in this process). This goes for the constitutional reform with input from the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, promoting decentralisation in keeping with the principles detailed in the February 12 Minsk Agreements. All calls to condemn the self-defence fighters, Russia or anyone else for frustrating the ceasefire are solely aimed at undermining a political settlement and equal dialogue between Kiev and eastern Ukraine aimed at promoting a constitutional reform fully respecting the internationally-recognised rights of people from these regions.
Question (for OIC Secretary General Iyad Madani): What is OIC's perspective on Russia's contribution to regional and global peace and stability?
Sergey Lavrov (after the answer by Iyad Madani): First, I would like to thank the Secretary General for his assessment of Russia's global role.
Second, I would like to say that the position of our partners from the Arab and Islamic world converge with Russia's stance on many international issues. Primarily, we share the belief on the need to make international relations more democratic and ensure the rule of international law without any double standards. I strongly believe that in this respect our cooperation is in line with the objective movement towards a multipolar international order with the Islamic world as one of its centres. The emergence of new centres of power on the world map will make the world more sustainable. Therefore we are sincerely interested in seeing the Islamic world united. OIC plays a crucial role in ensuring the unity of all Muslims regardless of their affiliation.
We are very satisfied with our cooperation, which has already yielded some positive results and has great prospects. After our October 2014 talks with the Secretary General in OIC's headquarters in Jeddah, we have already had a number of expert consultations, including on human rights in international organisations, mobilising efforts to fight terrorism, extremism and other new threats and challenges.
I'm confident that the only prerequisites for the successful development of international relations are mutually respectful dialogue, genuine, not rhetorical, respect for the legitimate interests of partners in international affairs, renouncing double standards and keeping one's word. Let me reiterate that Russia shares this vision with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and its members.