Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions before and after his meeting with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Rovaniemi, May 6, 2019
Question: How many secretaries of state is this now, Foreign Minister Lavrov, that you’ve met with?
Sergey Lavrov: I stopped counting.
Question: After who?
Sergey Lavrov: Long ago…
Sergey Lavrov: We had a very good, constructive conversation. We discussed many regional issues that are on the current UN agenda and the international agenda more broadly. We discussed topics related to strategic stability. I think we took a fairly good step forward, following up on the telephone conversation that took place between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump several days ago.
Question: Everyone has already been discussing Mr Pompeo’s line “Russia must get out of Venezuela” and possible translations of it. Did the US Secretary of State take the liberty of saying something similar in his private conversation with you? Perhaps you answered him yourself and heard something new about the prospects for US military intervention?
Sergey Lavrov: We tried not to focus on public statements considering that they are influenced by too many things that have nothing to do with real politics. We tried to concentrate on real politics and we succeeded in this.
Question: When you were on the way to the talks, Mr Pompeo said in front of cameras that Russia “illegally” demands a permit for foreign ships to use the Northern Sea Route and is expanding its military activities in the Arctic. Could you comment on this?
Sergey Lavrov: I can only repeat what I said in reply to the previous question: we did not discuss political statements that are made in public to create a certain effect, but instead concentrated on real affairs.
We did not discuss the Northern Sea Route. We will talk about Arctic issues at tomorrow’s meeting of the Arctic Council. The Northern Sea Route is Russia’s national transport artery. As a coastal state and in full conformity with international law, we are responsible for the safe operation of this route in the same way Canadians are in charge of the safe operation of the Northwest Passage. As such, we will do everything to ensure that the movement of foreign ships is in strict conformity with the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea and all international legal norms and is absolutely safe. We are responsible for this.
Question: If Washington decides to start a military intervention in Venezuela, what levers or options does Russia have to stop it?
Sergey Lavrov: Some call your outlet CNN “fake news” and now you are asking me a “fake question.”
We are categorically opposed to armed action in violation of international law no matter where it occurs. The use of force can only be sanctioned by the UN Security Council, or force may be used in response to aggression against a sovereign state. Nothing of the sort is happening in Venezuela. I don’t see any advocates of a reckless military solution based on my contacts with US, European and Latin American colleagues. I hope that this understanding shared by all will be translated into practical policy and that there will be no military solution because it would be disastrous.
Question: Do US diplomats understand this?
Sergey Lavrov: Yes.
Question: Did you discuss the possibility of a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump?
Sergey Lavrov: Our presidents agreed to meet when they have an opportunity. I am sure that such an opportunity will present itself and you will hear about it from the Kremlin.