Statements and speeches by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, New York, September 23, 2016
Ladies and gentlemen,
A year ago, from the same rostrum at the anniversary session of the UN General Assembly, plenty of accurate assessments were made of the situation at this crucial stage of international development. The main theme was the recognition that humankind, in transitioning from a bipolar and unipolar international order to an objectively evolving polycentric, democratic system of international relations, is faced with challenges and threats that are common to all and that can only be overcome by joint efforts. It was rightly noted that there is a pressing need to change the philosophy governing relations between states and do away with attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of states and impose development models on countries and nations.
Unfortunately, the ideas of mentorship, superiority and exceptionalism, as well as the pursuit of one’s own interests at the expense of just and equitable cooperation, have become deeply ingrained among the political elites of a number of Western countries.
We can see the results of unilateral reckless solutions, born of a sense of infallibility, in the bleeding region of the Middle East and North Africa. This erodes the foundations of global stability.
It is high time to draw lessons and avert catastrophe in Syria. It was largely thanks to Russian military aid to the legitimate Syrian government in response to its request that the collapse of statehood and the country’s disintegration under terrorist pressure was prevented. Our involvement led to the creation of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) as a means to establish an effective political process to enable the Syrian people themselves to determine their country’s future through an inclusive dialogue between all ethnic and religious groups. This course, which has no alternative, was enshrined in UN Security Council resolutions and found its practical embodiment in the recent agreements between Russia and the United States as ISSG co-chairs.
The main thing now is to prevent the collapse of these agreements and to investigate objectively and without bias the incidents in Deir ez-Zor and Aleppo that undermine them, all the more so since there are plenty of those who wish to subvert the agreed-upon approaches to achieving a settlement in Syria. It is very important to implement the requirement of the UN Security Council to disassociate the so-called moderate opposition from the terrorists, and the members of the US-led coalition bear special responsibility in this respect. The refusal or inability to do this in the current conditions is bound to enhance suspicions that this is an attempt to take the heat off Jabhat al-Nusra and that the plans for regime change are still in place, which is a flagrant violation of the relevant resolution of the UN Security Council. It will be impossible to resolve the Syrian crisis and improve the frustrating humanitarian situation without suppressing ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and the extremist groups that have merged with it. This is the key to consolidating the ceasefire regime and achieving a nationwide truce. It is also unacceptable to delay the start of intra-Syrian talks without any preconditions, as UN Security Council Resolution 2254 requires. Overt subversion of the political process by some representatives of the foreign opposition with the connivance of their patrons is negatively affecting the prestige of the United Nations and suggests that the reason for this may be rooted in an attempt to create a pretext for regime change.
Ukraine, which is a country close to us, has fallen victim of those who like to play zero sum games. Its development was subverted by the unconstitutional coup and is now being blocked by Kiev’s refusal to abide by the Minsk agreements of February 12, 2015. It is obvious to everyone that efforts to use the Ukraine crisis for self-serving geopolitical goals will not go anywhere. We hope that the natural course of events will lead to the implementation of all measures that the Ukrainian leadership signed onto in Minsk. The recent meeting of the Contact Group gives us some grounds for a degree of optimism.
More broadly, the only way to make the Euro-Atlantic region a space of equitable and indivisible security and mutually beneficial cooperation, as the OSCE declared almost 20 years ago, is by honestly implementing all agreements. Neither NATO nor the EU can replace genuinely collective efforts in pursuit of common interests, without winners and losers.
And it is certainly intolerable to hold hostage to political ambitions such spheres as sport, which has always helped bring nations closer together and build friendship and trust. A desire to usurp the right to predetermine the outcome of the battle on the playing field does not improve the image of those who boast about their commitment to honest competition but in reality trample on the principles, approved by the UN General Assembly, of the independence and autonomy of sport and the inadmissibility of any discrimination in sport.
In today’s world, it is unacceptable to be guided by the philosophy of antiheroes from George Orwell’s dystopia Animal Farm where all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. In the enlightened 21st century, it is simply indecent to lecture anyone on what to do, while reserving the right to engage in doping, reckless unilateral actions without UN approval, geopolitical experiments that cost millions of humans lives, or extraterritorial blackmail against everyone, including one’s closest allies, whenever there is the chance of financial gain for one’s own kind. Or even the right to set the criteria of greatness for one country or another. It is my belief that this is unworthy of the principles of liberty and equality that once formed the foundation of the great nations in whose name their elites are now threatening the whole world.
This year, we are marking the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Tribunal verdicts. This anniversary will prevent us from forgetting the lessons of the Second World War, and remind us of the catastrophic consequences of attempts to control the fate of the world by trampling on the legitimate interests of other states or people. Freedom of expression or peaceful assembly should not be used as cover for condoning radical movements that profess the Nazi ideology, or seek to glorify fascists and their accomplices. The persistence of these vicious instincts calls for consistent efforts to block the way for neo-Nazism and revanchism, strengthen interethnic and intercultural harmony, and fortify in younger generations the ideas of justice and equality. Russia invites all of you to take part in the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students to be held in Sochi in October 2017.
There is no place for hegemonism in the future, if we want it to be fair and for people to be able to choose their own path of development. This requires learning to respect partners, as well as the cultural and civilizational diversity of today’s world. It’s about returning to the path, norms and principles enshrined in the UN Charter and other documents of this world organisation. Russia reaffirmed its commitment to this approach by signing on June 25, 2016 a Russia-China Joint Declaration on the Promotion and Principles of International Law. The decency and legitimacy of any member of the international community should be measured by their respect for the principles of sovereign equality of states and non-interference in the internal affairs of others.
It is naïve to think that global issues like fighting international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other threats that transcend borders can be resolved without renouncing the philosophy of exclusivity and permissiveness.
There is no place for double standards when it comes to combatting terrorism. No less than universal joint efforts are needed to form a broad counter-terrorism front, as President Vladimir Putin proposed at this podium one year ago. The tragedies of Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria are indicative of the need to stop opportunistic attempts to use extremists in order to further one’s geopolitical aims. Before it is too late, we need to focus on countering the spread of terrorist and extremist ideologies that are literally taking today’s youth hostage in various regions of the world. We are drafting a UN Security Council resolution aimed at mobilising efforts to fight this scourge, and hope that you will support our initiative. The settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would also make a significant contribution to eliminating a breeding ground of radical sentiment. It is important to break this deadlock, which is precisely the objective of the July 1, 2016 report by the Quartet of Middle East mediators. Russia calls on all the parties to abide by its recommendations.
Trends in the areas of non-proliferation and weapons control are deeply troubling. There are attempts to replace the crucial task of sustaining strategic stability with populist slogans about “nuclear zero.” The fact that a number of nuclear weapons nations are not parties to existing treaties is also neglected.
The foundational Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is being subjected to pressure, with its parties finding it ever more difficult to find a common language, particularly as some nuclear powers torpedo any compromises that would allow for the start of negotiations on establishing a zone free of WMDs and their means of delivery in the Middle East.
Russia has consistently advocated liberating humankind from the threat of nuclear weapons and other kinds of weapons of mass destruction. But progress along the path to nuclear disarmament should proceed with a full accounting of the totality of factors affecting strategic stability, including the impact of unilateral global missile defence systems, the designing of non-nuclear strategic offensive weapons, the threat of placing weapons in space, the inability to ensure that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty takes effect, and the growing imbalance in conventional weapons in Europe.
We note the growing support for our initiative to draft an international convention on combatting chemical and biological terrorist attacks. The start of substantial negotiations on this problem, as well as on the Russian-Chinese draft Treaty on the Non-Deployment of Weapons in Space, could end the impasse over the key component of the multilateral disarmament mechanism – the Disarmament Conference. We are also calling for careful consideration of our proposals on upgrading the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons.
NATO countries have led conventional weapons control in Europe to an impasse. Our attempts to rescue it encountered tough, ideological resistance. Any and all ideas on returning to this issue would only be worthwhile now if the North Atlantic Alliance realises the absolute futility of ultimatums aimed at gaining unilateral advantages. We are still open to a dialogue with NATO based on equality and mutual respect, including dialogue through the OSCE.
It is also vital to enhance stability and ensure equal and indivisible security in other parts of the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific Region. Recent actions by the DPRK in violation of UN Security Council resolutions must stop. Russia calls on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programmes and return to the NPT. However, this situation should not be used as a pretext for massive militarisation of Northeast Asia and the deployment in the region of yet another positioning area for the US anti-missile defence shield. All parties must refrain from further escalating tensions and work towards a political and diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula by resuming negotiations.
Russia will continue to promote dialogue at East Asia Summits with a view to shaping a regional security and cooperation framework in the Asia-Pacific Region based on non-block principles. A number of participating countries, including Russia, India, China and Indonesia have put forward their proposals to this effect. We also invite all countries of the region to coordinate efforts aimed at implementing President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to create a broad Eurasian partnership that would bring together members of the Eurasian Economic Union, other CIS members, as well as members of the SCO, ASEAN and other interested countries. I would like to emphasise that this is an open initiative in full accord with earlier plans to create a single economic and humanitarian space between Russia and the EU. It will be based on WTO norms and principles, unlike projects to set up closed trade and investment blocks that threaten the unity of the global trading system.
Russia will continue promoting a unifying agenda in various international formats, primarily the UN, BRICS, SCO and the Group of Twenty. The recent Hangzhou Summit reaffirmed the G20’s status as a leading global economic and financial forum. Russia thanks the Chinese G20 Presidency for its efforts to make efficient use of this representative forum that provided us with an opportunity to exchange views on the key global economic and political issues for further promoting agreements in the universal framework of the UN.
The signing of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change has become a milestone for the United Nations. The fulfilment of nationally determined contributions is expected to ensure that the Agreement delivers on its stated purpose by keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. In order to achieve this goal, there is now a need to devise clear implementation rules and procedures regarding the Paris Agreement taking into account the interests of all participating countries. Launching the market and non-market mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as envisaged in Article 6 of the Agreement is now becoming a priority. Ultimately, this will be crucial for preventing the competitive environment from deteriorating and the transfer of polluting production facilities from one country to another to the detriment of efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals.
The United Nations was established with a view to “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and promoting equal cooperation between states. Today, this aim covers all areas of international life and human interaction: from military and political aspects of security to climate change, from conflict settlement and peacekeeping to ensuring human rights and liberties, from sustainable development to fair IT regulations, from fighting terrorism and drug trafficking to combatting corruption, from eradicating infectious diseases to affirming corporate social responsibility and encouraging scientific and technological advances. Of course, the purpose of the UN is also to promote dialogue between civilisations, support pluralism and equality among cultures and traditions, and fostering advances in research and the arts. In fact, this is a matter of preserving the humankind in all its rich diversity. It is this objective that should form the foundation for our collective efforts and become a global development imperative, an incentive for improving global governance and fostering true democracy in international relations.
I would like to express appreciation to His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, who made considerable efforts as UN Secretary-General to revitalise the world organisation in keeping with the demands of the time. We expect the next UN Secretary-General to contribute to reaching these objectives.