Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions during a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Jorge Arreaza, Moscow, May 5, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have held talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Jorge Arreaza. The talks were trust-based and friendly. We think they were quite useful.
Venezuela is our long-standing and reliable partner. Now that a cynical and absolutely irresponsible campaign aimed at toppling the legitimate Government has been launched against this sovereign state, we have confirmed our solidarity with Venezuela, its Government, President, and the Venezuelan people.
Regrettably, we have to state, as we hear threats being made against Venezuela, primarily in Washington, threats that, as US officials stress, leave all options on the table, that we have drawn the sad conclusion that the tragedies of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine have failed to become lessons, which Washington and a number of other Western capitals should have learned.
We and our Venezuelan partners are of one mind in that any use of force in circumvention of the UN Charter and Security Council resolutions is fraught with disastrous consequences for the entire modern architecture of international security.
It is clear that the Venezuelan people alone, like any other people, can decide their fate through a peaceful dialogue under the country’s Constitution. We noted in this connection that the overwhelming majority of members of the international community are in favour of precisely a political and diplomatic settlement of the Venezuelan internal crisis.
Under the present circumstances, it is particularly important that everyone unconditionally complies with the fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, such as non-interference in internal affairs, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all member states, non-use or threat of force, and peaceful settlement of disputes. We have reaffirmed our solidarity with the friendly people of Venezuela and support for the legitimate President elected by the Venezuelan people on May 20, 2018. We have welcomed the Maduro Government’s measures to avert any further destabilisation.
Russia stands ready to keep up its constructive contribution to efforts designed to help Venezuela overcome its internal disputes in a peaceful manner, as well as join the eventual undertakings by international and regional mediators, including the Montevideo Mechanism. We are also ready to work with the International Contact Group. What matters the most in this regard is that mediators help lay the groundwork for a truly inclusive national dialogue without preconditions, let alone ultimatums.
Mr Arreaza informed us of the developments in Venezuela and the efforts to normalise the socioeconomic situation that has deteriorated due to the US-backed sanctions against the core sectors of the Venezuelan economy and the blocking of Venezuela’s state assets abroad.
We also share the view that politicising humanitarian aid deliveries to Venezuela is unacceptable. There is a fundamental instrument that applies to the provision of this kind of assistance: the UN General Assembly Resolution 46/182, whereby specialised UN channels must be used in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality and in close contact with the legitimate authorities of the recipient state. These humanitarian channels within the UN system should not serve as a pretext for violating the sovereignty of a UN member state.
Russia provides Venezuela humanitarian aid and assistance of other kinds in order to enable the country to overcome urgent socioeconomic problems, and we will continue to provide this kind of assistance through various humanitarian response mechanisms that are acceptable for the Venezuelan Government.
We also discussed topical matters regarding bilateral cooperation, and agreed to continue working on expanding our ties. We discussed in detail steps to consistently implement agreements reached by presidents Vladimir Putin and Nicolas Maduro in December 2018 during the visit by the President of Venezuela to Russia. We also share the view that we need to implement the agreements reached at the meeting of the High-Level Commission in Moscow on April 4 and 5, 2019. A Russia-Venezuela business forum was also held at this time.
We outlined specific plans for our future cooperation, and are committed to move in the direction set by our presidents and maintain close contacts going forward.
Question: The Russian and the US presidents talked over the phone recently. During the conversation, President Vladimir Putin stressed the need to proceed towards a political settlement in Venezuela through a dialogue. How does Moscow see this dialogue? Are there any initiatives at this point?
Sergey Lavrov: There are quite a few initiatives. From the start, when the situation in Venezuela began growing tense, we called for any problems to be addressed via dialogue between the Venezuelans themselves. The international community should incentivise them to do this rather than incite one side against the other or incite the opposition to reject dialogue out of hand.
An initiative was put forward by Uruguay, Mexico and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). It implied what I just said: the opposition and the government need to sit down at the negotiating table, present their grievances, and seek consensus that will enable them to restore national accord. As is common knowledge, President Nicolas Maduro accepted this proposal, whereas Juan Guaido resolutely turned it down in public. It was clear that his actions were not independent, that he was doing the bidding of his US patrons. But the “Montevideo Mechanism” is still valid and its proposals are on the negotiating table. We will help these proposals to be implemented in practice.
There is also the Lima Group that was created some time ago on a clearly anti-governmental platform. Next came the International Contact Group (ICG) that includes a number of Latin American countries and EU representatives. Incidentally, ICG will be meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, for two days starting tomorrow. We will understand its position better after the meeting. The ICG began by urging dialogue, even if with a preset aim. Its participants declared that the dialogue between the government and the opposition should culminate in [the government] holding an early presidential election, as demanded by the opposition. This is not a dialogue; it is something else. We’ll see how the International Contact Group’s position evolves, if at all, following the discussions over the next two days. I hope that evolution in a more realistic direction is possible. The developments in the last few days have shown that the fomenting of confrontation, an attempt to organise a rebellion in Venezuela from abroad, the threats of force, and gambles on the humanitarian aspects are all fraught with very serious consequences. I hope that the ICG, with which we also maintain relations – they contact us and we explain our position – will listen to the advice that not only we but also many other countries are offering them.
Question: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today that US President Donald Trump is considering all possible options with regard to Venezuela, including military ones. How concerned are you about a possible US military intervention in Venezuela?
Sergey Lavrov: This is not the first time when representatives of the US administration have declared all options on the table, even specifically mentioning the military scenario. I really hope that this does not reflect President Trump’s actual intentions. At least, in a telephone conversation with President of Russia Vladimir Putin, he did not mention such intentions. Instead they focused on ways to help the Venezuelan people out of this crisis. Our position is well known. America’s position is also known: it does not include the opposition’s constructive dialogue with the Government. In any case, we are ready to advance our positions further, including in relations with the United States, the EU and Latin American countries. I really hope that analysts, who probably still exist in Washington, are calculating the consequences of any rash actions, because, as I see it, the use of military force against Venezuela, or against any other state in that region, would humiliate all Latin America and the Caribbean. I hope that Washington understands this.
Question: You said following your conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the positions of Moscow and Washington on Venezuela are incompatible, but Moscow is still open to dialogue. Could you tell us about tomorrow’s agenda for your meeting with Mike Pompeo in Finland? Are there signs that Washington will try to apply the rules of international law, not ultimatums, as was the case up to now?
Sergey Lavrov: Today we have already approached this topic several times. A meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled for tomorrow in the Finnish city of Rovaniemi, where the two-day Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting is taking place. We will discuss Venezuela, but not only that. We have a full agenda featuring global problems and challenges that need to be addressed. There are quite a few tasks related to global and regional security; in most of them, US-Russia interaction can play a very significant positive role if we build such interaction on the principle of working out common approaches.
As for their readiness to be guided by international law, the US has been projecting force for decades, explaining that it is for good, and that they bring democracy and protect human rights of the peoples against whom they use military force. This is a distinctive feature of the Americans. There are many examples. Some of the latest ones are Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya.
I find it difficult to speak from the standpoint of a US politician deciding whether or not to be guided by international law. The American political culture – both for Democratic and for Republican administrations – is dominated to varying degrees by this trend: when faced with a problem, the US suddenly wants to solve it, first work out its own solution and then force everyone else to agree with it.
Oftentimes it happens that these unilateral recipes are futile – we are witnessing this today in a number of conflicts. Then life makes them look for collective approaches to a particular problem.
We have many disagreements on a number of regional conflicts, including Syria, Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula. But the fact that we have had professional consultations with the Americans on their own initiative on these topics still gives us hope that in the end, common sense will prevail.