Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions following talks with President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, Tashkent, May 2, 2018
The visit of the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Uzbekistan has included a meeting with President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and extensive talks with Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.
Our discussions were focused on the tasks of carrying out the agreements reached during Russian President Vladimir Putin's state visit to Uzbekistan in October 2018. These major agreements were made in the humanitarian and economic spheres, investment in particular. The total volume of the projects coordinated here last October is approaching $27 billion.
We have confirmed today that all companies involved in implementing the projects from both sides are actively working. These are Gazporm, LUKOIL, Power Machines, RusHydro, Inter RAO UES, Zarubezhneft and other economic operators from the Russian side, which together with their Uzbek partners are actively implementing the agreement on the ground, so to speak, in metal and other tangible forms.
I would like to single out the agreement on building a nuclear power station in Uzbekistan, the first project of its kind to be implemented in Central Asia. President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev devotes special attention to it and likewise personally oversees all other large initiatives that I have mentioned.
I should also note the good prospects for humanitarian cooperation. This has always been an advanced area of our cooperation; now we are adding new forms to this interaction, as our presidents agreed in Tashkent last October.
First, there is an interregional forum, a new form of work. It has already been established; the first forum took place and the second one is in the preparation stage. An educational forum has also been established. We will also hold a youth festival on a regular basis - the first one already took place and preparations are underway for the next one. There is also a media forum, which provides journalists with the opportunity to share experiences and views, and seek out topics of mutual interest.
We have also spoken about our ties in education. We very much appreciate the attention that Uzbekistan's leadership gives to the Russian language. Along with teaching Russian across the country's entire territory, Russian language centres are being set up in the university in Tashkent and other regions. President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev mentioned the successful celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Uzbekistan. This was a very remarkable event that attracted attention from many of our compatriots and other citizens of Uzbekistan.
We expressed our gratitude for the attention to all these issues and thanked our Uzbek hosts for their support for the Regional Conference of Russian Compatriots of Post-Soviet Countries, particularly in Central Asia, which has recently taken place here.
Given that next year Uzbekistan will chair the Commonwealth of Independent States - which will also be the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War - we exchanged views on ways to preserve historical memory, prevent the re-writing of history, treat war and labour veterans with dignity, and educate the younger generation so that they have respect for what veterans accomplished. A whole range of documents is being prepared through the CIS. President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev emphasised that the holiday of May 9, Victory Day, is a sacred one for him, just as it is for Russia’s leadership and for all Russian and Uzbek citizens.
Addressing foreign policy issues, we discussed our cooperation in the UN and OSCE, which both sides are quite satisfied with. We closely coordinate our approaches. Uzbekistan not only supports numerous Russian initiatives but also acts as a co-sponsor.
We spoke about the processes taking place in Central Asia, including in the context of the need to eliminate the terror and drug threats emanating from Afghanistan. Our positions closely coincide in this regard. We have set out further steps to facilitate the settlement of the Afghan situation through bilateral channels and existing multilateral mechanisms to make the country stable and no longer a source of any threats to our neighbouring countries in Central Asia and other states.
We also discussed the situation in Central Asia in the context of providing security in all its various aspects, including the interest shown in the region by non-regional players such as NATO and the EU.
I am very satisfied with the results of the talks.
Tomorrow, an international conference on combating drug trafficking in Central Asia will take place here; its attendees will include UN top officials and representatives of foreign ministries. I hope this will be a very useful event. We thank our Uzbek friends for this initiative.
Question: On April 30, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a statement claming that President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro allegedly attempted to flee to Cuba but Russia stopped him. Nicolas Maduro refuted this. Later, US National Security Advisor John Bolton said that Venezuelan Minister of Defence Vladimir Padrino Lopez, President of the Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal of Justice Maikel Moreno, and presidential guard commander Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala allegedly said they were prepared to support Juan Guaido. Yesterday, you had a telephone conversation with Mike Pompeo. Did you discuss these statements? What was the answer from the US?
Sergey Lavrov: If we were to list everything that the US administration's official representatives say on Venezuela, the questions could be endless, and the answers to them would normally be, diplomatically speaking, that this is not true.
Yesterday we had a telephone conversation. Mr Pompeo made a call and urged us to stop supporting Nicolas Maduro, urged us and Cuba to not interfere in Venezuela's internal affairs. This all sounded rather surreal. I responded to him that it is our principled stance that we never interfere in others' affairs and we urge others to do likewise. I warned the US against returning (as Washington has already declared) to the Monroe Doctrine. This can go too far. I believe that such statements and boldly declared intentions to go back to a doctrine that originated two hundred years ago basically reflect disrespect not only for the Venezuelan people but Latin America peoples in general.
As far as I can tell, Mr Pompeo made the call so that he could publicly state later that he urged us not to interfere. And he did so. I think we can leave it at that for now - although we agreed to stay in contact, including on Venezuela. But I simply do not see how we can reconcile our stance based on the UN Charter and principles and norms of international law and the stance of the United States, which appoints an acting president of another country from Washington, demands the capitulation of the legitimate government, and threatens to use force along with 'suffocating' sanctions to effect regime change. Our positions are incompatible, but we are ready to talk.
Question: How might Russia further respond to such a policy from Washington as regards interference in internal affairs, particularly in Venezuela's affairs?
Sergey Lavrov: Our position will be very simple. We will mobilise a group of states, which respect the UN Charter as we do, to counteract such intentions. Such a group is being formed in the UN, and I hope it will receive substantial support from the organisation as a whole. This is about a very simple thing which is hard to distort - protecting the fundamental norms and principles of international law as enshrined in the UN Charter.
Question: You mentioned the agreement between Moscow and Tashkent on building a nuclear power station in Uzbekistan. What stage is this project currently at?
You also spoke about an educational forum. When will it take place? What educational initiatives are the Kremlin and Tashkent preparing?
Sergey Lavrov: This is to be decided by corresponding ministries, primarily ministries of education. They will come to an agreement on this.
As regards the nuclear power station, today President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev expressed satisfaction with how this project is advancing. He said an agreement was reached on the location. This was an important stage of the project. Soon, Rosatom’s leadership and their colleagues from the corresponding Uzbekistani organisation will hold the next round of consultations. The project is underway.