The Minister’s meetings
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answer to a media question at a joint news conference following talks with the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Moscow, August 22, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
We had a very good, trust-based discussion on issues pertaining to relations between Moscow and the Vatican and also to current acute international problems in different parts of the world, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa.
Regarding our bilateral affairs, it would be appropriate to say that the first contacts between Russia and the Vatican date back to the 15th century – at least this is what historical records say. From the late 18th century, the Holy See sent regular missions to Russia. Exactly 200 years ago, in 1817, Russia opened its first Permanent Mission at the Vatican. I believe that our meeting was held in the spirit of this very important milestone.
There are many issues that help us strengthen our relations in culture, humanitarian sphere, education and healthcare. I believe that the further development of our relations can be promoted by the recent agreement on visa-free travel for the holders of diplomatic passports, which has been signed between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
We expressed our high appreciation of the exhibition of Vatican masterpieces that has been held in Russia recently. In November next year, a reply exhibition, titled The Spiritual Heritage of Russian Art: From Icons to the Avant-Garde, will open in the Vatican.
As I have said, we are strengthening our ties in science and education. Our healthcare facilities are working on ways to provide more effective medical treatments for children with severe disorders.
We also discussed regional issues, primarily conflicts of various degrees of intensity in the Middle East, notably in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. We have a common view on the need to launch a dialogue alongside the irreconcilable fight against terrorism and extremism and to ensure the movement towards a political settlement in the interests of all the main ethnic and religious groups in the given countries.
We updated our guests on Russia’s efforts to bring about a settlement in Syria. We appreciate our Vatican colleagues’ support for the Astana process and the decisions taken in the wake of the agreements on de-escalation zones. We spoke about our plans to promote the Astana process and preparations for the next round of the Geneva talks on a political settlement in Syria.
We believe that similar solutions that will ensure the balance of interests of all ethnic, confessional and political groups should be also proposed for Libya, Yemen and Iraq, where the process of the revival of government agencies is underway.
We also share the opinion on the need to resume the Palestinian-Israeli talks in the name of achieving a solution that has long been on the table and has been put on paper in UN decisions.
We appreciate our Vatican colleagues’ support for the Minsk Package of Measures for the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. The Vatican’s support is not limited to the moral side. The Vatican has recently sent a substantial batch of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including Donetsk and Lugansk. We also spoke about abandoning confrontation-based approaches to the Ukrainian crisis and about looking for solutions that will facilitate the implementation of the Minsk Package. We appreciate the Vatican’s position on the unacceptability of using the religious factor for gaining political dividends in Ukraine.
We discussed the situation in Venezuela. When the crisis broke out there, we supported the initiative of the Holy See aimed at attaining the reconciliation of the confronting sides. We believe that this approach remains topical in the current situation.
Overall, we discussed a broad range of issues. We are grateful to our colleagues, His Eminence and his delegation for a productive and open discussion, which will help us strengthen our ties more effectively.
Question (for Cardinal Pietro Parolin): How can Russia help promote the settlement of the Venezuelan crisis?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Cardinal Pietro Parolin): Many external players can help settle the Venezuelan crisis. As I said, we immediately expressed our support for the Vatican’s initiative on promoting a national accord in Venezuela advanced by the Hole See under the auspices of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).
The key priority is for the external players to urge the confronting sides in Venezuela to work towards national accord and compromise that will open the door to the country’s peaceful development in the interests of all social groups and political forces. Those external players who are setting the opposition up for confrontation, including the use of force, with the authorities are hindering the efforts of those who are sincerely interested in bringing peace, tranquillity and stability to Venezuela.