League of Arab States
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following the meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Moscow, July 5, 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Arab League Secretary-General Mr Ahmed Aboul Gheit and I had very meaningful talks.
We maintain regular contacts. In late May we met in Cairo, and in February 2017 Abu-Dhabi hosted the 4th regular session of the Arab-Russian Forum. Today, we reviewed progress in the implementation of the agreements that were reached back then.
We exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, focusing on the need to step up coordination in fighting the terrorist threat across the region and settling crisis situations, especially in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq.
We provided Arab League colleagues a detailed update on the Astana Process as another round of talks is being held within this framework at this time. The key aim of these talks is to agree on specific parameters of de-escalation zones, as was agreed at the previous round in Astana in May 2017.
We paid special attention to one of the most urgent issues on the regional agenda, which consists of the need to reach a comprehensive, equitable and sustainable settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and member of the Middle East Quartet, Russia will promote the resumption of direct talks between Israel and Palestine, as well as the need to overcome the intra-Palestinian schism, and will insist that any changes to the Arab Peace Initiative would be unacceptable.
We discussed the situation regarding Qatar, confirming our shared position on the need to resolve the issue through dialogue. It is important that concerns be resolved in the spirit of mutual respect and in the interests of sustainable development for all countries in the region. We hope that the Arab League use its authority to bring about this outcome.
We reviewed the state of bilateral relations between Russia and the Arab League, primarily regarding the 2016-2018 Plan of Action to implement the principles, goals and objectives of the Arab-Russian Cooperation Forum. It was with satisfaction that we noted that all the initiatives stipulated by this Plan were on schedule and yielded positive results.
We also discussed the initiative that was put forward by Arab League Secretary-General Mr Ahmed Aboul Gheit during our meeting in Moscow in February 2016 to create an Arab Cultural Centre in Moscow. We agreed to discuss ways of implementing it in the near future.
In keeping with Russia’s invitation, we agreed to hold the next meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in the Russian Federation. The date and venue of this meeting will be agreed upon separately through diplomatic channels.
Question: The recent developments around Raqqa suggested to some that it is related to the higher level of US representation at the Astana process. Is this link correct? Will the current round become decisive at least as regards de-escalation zones?
Sergey Lavrov: Honestly, I don’t see a direct link here. Moreover, the level of US representation at the Astana talks was raised much earlier. The Americans were invited as observers at the first rounds and were represented in Astana by their ambassador. Then this level was raised to a State Department official – Acting Assistant Secretary Stuart Jones – who represents the United States at the current Astana round.
Special Presidential Representative for Syria and Chargé d'Affaires Alexander Lavrentyev who heads our delegation commented on expectations from this round. The round began yesterday and continues today. We hope for real progress in determining concrete geographical borders of the de-escalation zones and parameters linked with their functioning. The current talks will show this. For the time being they are still going on.
Question: Representatives of the four states that severed relations with Qatar are planning to meet today. What if they toughen their measures against Qatar? How would you view this?
Sergey Lavrov: It is bizarre to ask Russia about measures to be taken by the countries you mentioned, which will meet today. We have already repeatedly explained our position. We are ready to support any efforts aimed at normalising relations between the Arab Gulf countries. President Vladimir Putin talked over the phone with the main participants in this process – King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani came to visit us, as well as UAE Minister of State Ahmed Al Jaber. We maintain daily contacts with all these countries and have repeatedly emphasised our support for Kuwait’s mediation. If all the countries involved believe we can do something in addition to help overcome differences and remove concerns, we will be ready to respond to a relevant address.
Question: Does Russia know what type of a missile the DPRK has launched?
Sergey Lavrov: We know what type of a missile the DPRK launched yesterday and this information was provided in detail yesterday by the representatives of our Defence Ministry. You are welcome to read about this.
Question: What is the reaction of your Western colleagues to Russia and China’s appeals to deescalate the conflict on the Korean Peninsula?
Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia yesterday, Russia and the PRC signed a number of documents, including statements on our joint approaches to overcoming the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. This is a comprehensive initiative. First, it emphasises the need to fully comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions but notes that these resolutions not only demand an end to nuclear missile tests by the DPRK but also state the need to resume peace talks and find an exclusively political and diplomatic solution to the problem. It is perfectly obvious to Russia and China that any attempts to justify a solution by force using these resolutions as a pretext are unacceptable. They will lead to unpredictable consequences in a region that borders on the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.
Any attempts to strangle the DPRK economically are unacceptable as well. We proceed from the premise that the task set by the UN Security Council, with which all participants in the six-party talks (the two Koreas and their neighbours) agreed, is to denuclearise the entire Korean Peninsula. It cannot and should not be used to try and change the regime in the DPRK. Implementation of the previous resolutions will be discussed in the UN Security Council in New York today. Russia and China will present in detail and promote their initiative.