Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comment and answer to a media question on the sidelines of the 16th Meeting of Heads of Special Services, Security Agencies and Law Enforcement Organisations, Krasnodar, October 4, 2017
It is a great pleasure for me to attend a regular Meeting of Heads of Special Services, Security Agencies and Law Enforcement Organisations from FSB partner countries, which the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia is holding for the 16th time.
Delegates from 75 countries and five international organisations, including the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the European Union, are attending today’s meeting in Krasnodar. The EU has a counterterrorism mechanism, which has developed contacts with the concerned agencies in Russia. Such meetings are very useful, because they offer the attending countries an opportunity not only to put forth their political positions, which have been made public and are well known, but also to hold confidential discussions of their professional experience in fighting terrorism, terrorism financing and terrorist and extremist ideologies, as well as in preventing terrorist attacks. All these issues are on today’s agenda.
I am convinced that following the opening ceremony, during which I had the honour to make a statement, the forum participants will launch an exclusively professional and pragmatic discussion, which is very important for two reasons. First, this will help us to cooperate more effectively in cutting short terrorist activities. A recent example is the International Counterterrorism Database, which the FSB has created to collect information about foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) and many other aspects of counterterrorism. Second, confidential professional discussions, which you will be holding here in the next two days, are very important because they highlight the need to abandon double standards and to stop adding a political dimension to terrorism or trying to use extremists to attain one’s short-term and self-serving geopolitical goals. Professionals understand each other, and they want us to stop interfering in their work if we want to eradicate the terrorist threat or at least to reduce it to a less threatening dimension.
Everyone here is aware of the crucial decision taken at the UN to establish the Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT) and of the appointment of a Russian diplomat, Vladimir Voronkov, as Under-Secretary-General of the Office. Many kind words have been said about him today, and his deputy delivered remarks at а plenary session. We hope that the OCT will become effective very soon, even though it has been established only recently, or more precisely, two weeks ago.
Relations with the UN are very important. The UN is the largest legitimate universal organisation with a ramified system of mechanisms for suppressing terrorism and coordinating international efforts towards this goal. It is for a reason that not only UN delegates attend the meetings held by Russia’s FSB, but FSB delegates go to New York after such meetings to update the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) about their results and the main conclusions drawn by these meetings’ participants. I believe that this exchange of experience and information should be encouraged in every way possible, including in UN relations with all other countries.
Question: You mentioned Jabhat al-Nusra in your speech. What practical actions can be taken in the fight against this group in the Idlib de-escalation zone? President Vladimir Putin has visited Turkey, and King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will come to Moscow soon. What practical steps do you plan to take within the framework of your cooperation?
Sergey Lavrov: We pointed out more than once that the Western coalition was rather passive in its actions against ISIS before the Russian Aerospace Forces started an operation in Syria. Moreover, the coalition did not even touch Jabhat al-Nusra. After the Russian Aerospace Forces responded to President Bashar al-Assad’s request to support the Syrian Air Force’s fight against terror, the US-led coalition redoubled its efforts against ISIS. However, we have not seen the coalition fighting al-Nusra seriously until recently, not even after the new US administration assumed office. Al-Nusra has changed its name, but not its essence.
As for Idlib, some very alarming events took place there. After we coordinated a de-escalation zone there, the armed opposition reneged on its obligations and attempted to seize the territory from the Syrian Army with support from Jabhat al-Nusra. These attempts have been cut short with Russia’s assistance. The talks between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan have produced the desired result. I follow the latest developments. According to available information, the armed groups that joined the Idlib de-escalation agreement are fighting al-Nusra more actively now. We will help them do this, just as we are helping the Syrian Army.