Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions following CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting, Almaty, June 11, 2018
Question: What is the focal point of the CSTO statement on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), which was adopted at Russia’s initiative?
Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, the CSTO foreign ministers adopted a statement on the INF Treaty. We expressed support for the treaty and also our concern over the recent developments, which indicate that the treaty is under threat. This does not suit anyone’s interests, neither Russia and nor the United States as the main signatories, or the interests of the international community, including the CSTO member states.
The statement is urging the United States to settle any arising problems through consultations as stipulated in the INF Treaty. I believe this statement was adopted at the right time. I hope that it will have the desired effect.
Question: Did you discuss Afghanistan?
Sergey Lavrov: The ministers agreed on the need to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan and expressed concern over ISIS terrorists entering Afghanistan, including from Syria and Iraq. It is especially alarming that the terrorists are creating a bridgehead in northern Afghanistan, that is, in direct proximity to the CSTO zone of responsibility. It is a matter of concern. We see that the NATO mission does not always act transparently. In some cases, province governors reported seeing unmarked helicopters flying to the terrorists’ deployment zone. NATO and the United States were bound to know about these cases, at the least, considering that they control the airspace over Afghanistan.
Therefore, the CSTO member states will continue to coordinate their actions and will help Tajikistan reinforce its border. We will continue to take measures that have been coordinated between our defence and interior ministries, security services and border forces, including the Kanal (Channel) operation to cut off drug trafficking in the region. Today we reaffirmed all our agreements to this effect.
In addition to normalising the military situation in Afghanistan, we also supported the initiative on a direct dialogue with the Taliban, which President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani put forth at the Tashkent conference in March this year. Russia has long been advocating this dialogue. The Taliban are part of the Afghan society and hence should be directly involved in the political process, on the condition that they stop using military force to protect their own interests. So far, the Taliban have not confirmed their readiness for this dialogue, but we will continue working towards this, including based on the agreements reached at the CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting today.
Question: What can you tell us about foreign policy coordination among the CSTO member states? There is a feeling that it is insufficient.
Sergey Lavrov: I would recommend you to rely on facts rather than feelings. There are collective instructions for the CSTO states’ permanent representatives at international organisations, and we coordinate a series of joint documents based on these instructions every year. Last year, 15 such documents were adopted, and we plan to submit as many this year as well. Some of them have already been adopted, and the rest will be prepared and submitted for consideration by the international organisations concerned by the end of this year.
It is true that there are some sensitive aspects regarding CSTO countries’ voting on various resolutions, but I do not regard this as fatal. It is our task to close these gaps. The most important thing for us is that our allies firmly vote with us on questions of fundamental importance. I am referring to voting against resolutions on the alleged human rights problems in Crimea. The CSTO states also stood with us at the OPCW regarding the allegations involving the so-called Skripal case, when we co-authored a joint statement, which many other states have joined, on the need to deal with such problems exclusively in accordance with the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention.