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6 August 201715:56

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comment and answer to a media question following bilateral meetings on the sidelines of ASEAN events, Manila, August 6, 2017

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Bilateral meetings are taking place on the sidelines of ASEAN events. Meetings were held with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

My Turkish colleague Mevlut Cavusoglu and I discussed the implementation of the agreements within the Astana process, and preparations for the next meeting of the representatives of Russia, Turkey and Iran, which will take place in Tehran on August 8-9 and be used to continue the discussion on further strengthening the de-escalation zone regime in Syria. As you know, there are already three such zones: in the south of the country, in Eastern Ghouta and to the north of Homs. We are now working on the fourth zone, which is the largest and most complex, in the province of Idlib.

My Chinese colleague Wang Yi and I discussed the implementation of the agreements that were reached during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia on July 4. We are making good progress. Our representatives at the deputy foreign minister level are heading the corresponding mechanism, within which all decisions of our leaders are being implemented. We also discussed preparations for the BRICS summit, which will be held in China in early September, and our interaction within the SCO. Of course, much attention was paid to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, including in the context of the UN Security Council resolution adopted just last night. In addition to new fairly serious measures to influence Pyongyang's leaders in order to make them comply with the UN Security Council resolution on North Korea's nuclear missile programmes, it also includes the firm commitment of the Security Council to resume the six-party talks and to start looking for a political settlement.

As you know, Russia and China have a common position, which was confirmed by a joint statement by the foreign ministers of our countries on July 4 and involves moving forward towards a political process via the Chinese initiative to double freeze any missile launches and nuclear tests in the DPRK and to simultaneously freeze large-scale military exercises by the United States and the Republic of Korea. In addition to this Chinese concept, our joint statement includes support for the Russian proposal to develop a roadmap for gradual restoration of trust and the creation of proper conditions for resuming the six-party talks. We agreed to promote this concept in practical activities, including within the UN.

I had a fairly long meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He was primarily interested (he started with this) in the details of the decisions that we were forced to take in response to the law on anti-Russia sanctions adopted by the US Congress. We provided the explanations. Strictly speaking, this response was based on President Putin’s interview with Rossiya television channel, which provided all the details and the reasons for the decisions we made after our lengthy expectations that the United States would not embark on a path of confrontation. Unfortunately, the Russophobic attitudes of Congress members prevented this from happening.

We discussed cooperation in other areas as well. We reminded our partners about the understandings that were reached at the meeting between President Putin and President Trump in Hamburg, including the need to establish cooperation in the sphere of cybersecurity, and combating and preventing cybercrime.

We had a discussion concerning our contacts on various international issues. North Korea and the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula were among the central items as well. We proceed from the premise that contact on this issue between the US State Department and the Russian Foreign Ministry would be very useful, and we are open to such contact. We expect that this will be reciprocated.

We touched on the situation in Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf region, and the state of affairs regarding a Syria settlement. Here, too, contact is maintained between our representatives, including as a follow-up to the agreement reached by Russia, the United States and Jordan to create a southern de-escalation zone in the south of Syria. We hope that our contacts with the United States with regard to other aspects of the Syrian settlement - both military and political - will continue. As a matter of fact, they have never stopped.

We touched on the Middle Eastern settlement and the Ukraine crisis. We reminded our counterparts that the US President and the US Secretary of State promised us that the United States Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, Kurt Volker, would visit us soon. Rex Tillerson confirmed that such contact with our representative Vladislav Surkov is planned and will take place in the near future. This will be interesting because Mr Volker has already been to many capitals, including Kiev, Paris, Berlin and London. We will be interested to learn what the US special representative thinks about the current state of affairs.

We spoke about strategic stability as well. All levels must be reached and the restrictions established by the START Treaty must be applied by February 2018. An appropriate bilateral mechanism must ensure compliance with their obligations by both sides. We talked about the need to establish a professional, depoliticised, and pragmatic dialogue on the INF Treaty. I think we have the understanding of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. We will instruct our experts accordingly.

As you know, there is a Ryabkov-Shannon mechanism with the participation of the corresponding Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia and the Under Secretary of State of the United States, who have met several times already. It was considered useful to keep this format intact and to continue to discuss, within it, all issues, including the complex issues on our bilateral agenda, which, unfortunately, are not diminishing. However, we felt the willingness of our American colleagues to continue the dialogue. I believe that there is simply no alternative to this.

Question: Aren’t you indignant by the fact that the militants who do not want to sign the truce are moving to Idlib?

Sergey Lavrov: As I mentioned earlier, agreeing on the parameters of the de-escalation zone in Idlib won’t be easy. Perhaps, this is the most complicated of the four zones, which Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed on last May in Astana. We also believe that these three countries, as well as other players, including probably the United States, have a cumulative influence on all militants and armed groups, with the exception of the terrorists, who will never be brought under any agreements. If Russia, Turkey, Iran, and the US-led coalition synchronously use their influence on specific players who are confronting each other on the ground with weapons in their hands, then proposals for compromises that can contribute to a ceasefire and create proper conditions for a political process will be found.

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