Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions following the 129th Session of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, Helsinki, May 17, 2019
The session of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers is over. In between summits it is the main body of this pan-European organisation.
The session focused on the decision adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in 2014, in accordance with which Russian MPs were deprived of the right to vote and many other important rights, contrary to the provisions of the CoE Charter. As I said, this was a flagrant violation of the Charter’s provision on the equality of all states in all CoE bodies.
We greatly appreciate that our consistent position on the restoration of justice was supported by CoE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland and the majority of responsible delegations of CoE members. As a result, today the session made a decision that reaffirmed in no uncertain terms the Charter’s provision that each CoE member state has equal rights and equal duties. In effect, it opens the way towards overcoming the current crisis triggered by PACE’s wrongful decision. We hope this decision will be implemented by all. The wait will not be long. A regular PACE session will take place in June. If this decision is upheld, this should mark the final end of the situation in which our MPs were not allowed to fully participate in the assembly’s work.
Question: You have already spoken about the results of the talks. I would like to ask you a follow-up question. Your German colleague spoke today with journalists about equal rights and duties and he explained it like this: on the one hand, there is the right to vote, on the other, there is the obligation of Russia to pay membership fees. Could you comment on this?
Sergey Lavrov: This is an obligation not only of Russia but of all CoE members. All members of that organisation are obliged to abide by the Charter that they joined and the European Convention on Human Rights. All members of the Council should have equal rights both during voting, submitting their initiatives and any other areas envisaged by the procedures governing the activities of the CoE bodies.
As for us, having been deprived of our sovereign, inalienable rights, we continued to conscientiously pay our membership fees to the Council of Europe on time for practically three years, warning each time that this would not continue forever and that if the rights of our MPs are not restored we would have to freeze these payments, which we eventually did. By no means am I urging everyone to use blackmail all the time, but if we did not do this, our partners may have failed to realise that the situation triggered by PACE’s illegal decision was unacceptable.
Question: The Russian Foreign Ministry announced this week that by deploying nuclear arms in Europe, the United States was getting ready to use them. How dangerous is this threat? Does it show that by deploying nuclear weapons in Europe, the US is subjecting to threat other NATO member states? What is Russia’s position on this issue?
Sergey Lavrov: If I am not mistaken, you are referring to the interview given by our delegation that took part in the third session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in New York. What was said has been common knowledge for a long time, notably, that American nuclear weapons are deployed in five non-nuclear countries and service members of non-nuclear states аre taught to handle nuclear arms as part of the so-called NATO joint nuclear activities. This is a direct, flagrant violation of the NPT Treaty. This has always been a focus for us.
As for the consequences of the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, President of Russia Vladimir Putin expressed our position in very clear terms: we will act in kind. Now the US has suspended its participation in the treaty and announced its withdrawal from it. Under the treaty, this process takes six months. On August 2, the US move will no longer be legally in the category of suspension. The US will stop being a participant in this treaty, as a result of which it will simply cease to exist.
But President Putin also said that we will also pursue these developments if the United States acts like this (and it is acting like this), but we will not produce and deploy intermediate- and shorter-range missiles in the regions where US counterpart weapons do not emerge. This is the gist of our position. Needless to say, nobody in Europe wants a repetition of what led to the signing of the relevant treaty. Let me repeat once again that we are prepared not to deploy any of these weapons in regions free from corresponding US systems.