19 February 201418:45

Speech by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, at the third ministerial round of strategic dialogue between Russia and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG), Kuwait City, 19 February 2014

318-19-02-2014

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Mr. Chairman,

Colleagues and friends,

I am delighted at the opportunity to visit hospitable Kuwait again and meet partners from the Gulf States.

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to His Highness Emir, and the leaders of the State of Kuwait, which holds the presidency of the Cooperation Council, for the wonderful organisation of this event and their traditional hospitality.

The reinforcement of cooperation with the Gulf region is one of the priorities of Russian diplomacy. We started the strategic dialogue between Russia and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf three years ago in Abu Dhabi, and this format of exchange of opinions on key problems of the world and the region, has been fully justified. Today's meeting is envisaged as giving new impulse to the further reinforcement of political and business interaction between our countries.

In the last year our relations have continued to develop in many directions. We compared and attempted to coordinate foreign policy approaches at different levels. In the last month alone we have had many contacts at summit and high level. The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, had a phone conversation with the King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah Al Saud. On the 30 July and on the 3 December 2013, within the framework of visits of the Special Envoy of the King of Saudi Arabia, the Secretary General of the National Security Council and the Director of the Intelligence Agency of Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar bin Sultan was welcomed by Vladimir Putin. Last September, the President of Russia met the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the deputy supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Just recently there was an important talk between the President of the Russian Federation and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. I also remember with warmth the pleasure and honour of welcoming the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Kuwait, my good friend Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah last October.

We are interested in approximation and coordination of our approaches to the crisis situations in the Middle East. I primarily mean the situation in Syria and around it. We are convinced that Russia and the Gulf States share a true aspiration to see Syria as a peaceful, renewed, and flourishing country where the representatives of all religious and ethnic groups have equal rights and civil liberties, having created a modern state and effective economies together. Bloodshed and any violence on the Syrian land must be stopped as soon as possible. We must put an end to the sufferings of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and refugees, and the sufferings of many families.

For this noble purpose, we opened the international conference on Syria on the 22 January in Montreux jointly with all the countries of the Cooperation Council. We have seen two very uneasy rounds of negotiation between the Syrian government and the opposition. We appeal to all those having the opportunity and authority to affect the parties to the conflict to maintain a direct dialogue in Geneva. We need to deploy the course of events from armed confrontation to a political process without any preconditions. We are convinced that history and the Syrian people will treat all those who have committed evil and violence according to their just desserts, but will not forget those who have brought them to national peace. The main thing now is to save a great number of human lives, to save Syria. Russia spares no effort in intensive contacts with Damascus and all the Syrian opposition groups. Now, in the UN Security Council, we are working on a resolution, which should send a strong signal to everybody whom this concerns, regarding the adoption of urgent measures to ease the very severehumanitarian situation. If nobody in the Security Council politicises this issue and attempts to bring forward unilateral approaches, I am convinced that we will be able to agree in the near future.

We think that further militarisation of the Syrian conflict is too dangerous. Illegal supplies of weapons to this country continue. Sometimes others appeal to us to stop our military and technical cooperation with Syria. I wish to remind everyone that the initial goal was to reinforce the defensive capacity of Syria if it faces a potential external threat, rather than to support Bashar al-Assad's or somebody else's regime. And, of course, such cooperation is not contrary to any international obligations.

We are especially concerned about the ongoing instability in Syria attracting all kinds of radicals who have put themselves outside the legal framework of the international community. We must jointly hinder the path of terrorists. We see the risks of proliferation of this threat outside Syria, it is felt in full scope in Iraq, Lebanon, where another terrorist attack was committed today near the embassy of the State of Kuwait in Beirut. We confirm our solidarity with all those, who may become the target of terrorists. G8 leaders unilaterally supported the fact that the Syrian government and opposition should combine their efforts to eradicate terrorism from the Syrian land, at the summit last June in Northern Ireland. We are interested in further building up our interaction with partners, including all those who are present here, and as well as other international and regional players, to overcome the crisis in Syria on the basis of full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué. We are convinced that there is no alternative way to peace in this country and in the Middle East region in general.

Despite all the discrepancies in individual aspects of the Syrian situation (we will not hide them and we will talk about them sincerely), we share matching or close approaches in a broad range of problems on the regional and national agenda. They include the Middle East peace process, security building in the region, the promotion of the dialogue of civilisations, counteraction of terrorism and extremism, piracy and the drug trade. As I understand, later we will have the opportunity to talk more in detail about the Palestinian-Israeli situation and Iran's Nuclear Programme.

We are ready to deal with the modernisation of the Russian concept of security building in the Gulf region jointly with our Arab partners. It was proposed quite a long time ago, things have changed in the Arab world since then. We could return to this issue again. We would be ready to organise an international meeting with the participation of the CCASG member-states, Iran, the five permanent UNSC members and other stakeholders. As a practical step, we could think about a preparatory event for this conference and an expert meeting between representatives of academic circles and diplomats.

We confirm our determination to archive the holding of the conference on the issues of creation of a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and the means of their supply in the Middle East.

We are pleased to note the successful start of the implementation of primary steps within the framework of the Geneva agreements of the P5+1 and Iran on the 20 January. The agreement reached creates firm foundations for an exit to a final, comprehensive settlement of all the issues related to Iran's Nuclear Programme. We should agree on the aspects of the final package and its implementation at another meeting, which started in Vienna yesterday, and we hope that this problem will be closed. It is extremely important to keep and develop the Geneva experience of joint work. We believe that the main thing is not to allow any violation of the regime of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the threat of new nuclear states. On these grounds we will attempt to come to a decision which will consider the security interests of all the countries of this region.

We are interested in active contribution to the development of trade, economic, investment, military and technical cooperation between Russia and the CCASG. Our respective efforts may be applied in different areas, including interaction in the oil and gas sector, the creation of nuclear energy based on the highest security standards in the Gulf States, and including the development of other knowledge-intensive industries, especially peaceful development of outer space. There are good opportunities for attraction of capitals from CCASG countries to Russia, including inthe areas of creation of new medical technologies, development of space and telecommunication systems, increase of energy efficiency, and infrastructure improvement.

Our course towards the deepening of our ties with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation remains unchanged. This is also an important part of our dialogue with the CCASG. We are oriented towards an active continuation of our exchange of opinions for the purposes of contribution to further reinforcement of the dialogue of religions, cultures and civilisations. The use of age-old unique experiences of Russia concerning the peaceful coexistence, fruitful cooperation and mutual enrichment of different religious sects, including primarily the Orthodox and Islamic beliefs, would contribute to advances in this direction.

In general, we have the necessary mechanisms for the successful resolution of the tasks we face, the further promotion of mutually beneficial partnerships and making them systemic. The practice of political consultations between Russian officials and member states of the strategic dialogue has proved itself well. We expect a continuation of work-related meetings on topical issues on the international and regional agenda.

I am convinced that multilane and extended ties of the Russian Federation with the CCASG states will successfully develop for the benefit of our people, in the interests of forming a fair, balanced and sustainable architecture of international relations. Our ties are an important factor to ensure stability in the Gulf region, the Near East and Middle East region.

In general, there is an established trend on the international stage. It is evidence of the formation of a new polycentric world order. We are interested in the Arab world becoming a firm support for our world order. I am convinced that this corresponds with your interests and the interests of stability of world order.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

Council of Europe (CoE)

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

European Union (EU)

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