The Minister’s meetings
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan on the results of his visit to the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, August 29, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to our Emirates colleagues for their hospitality and genial attitude. This is exactly how we welcome our friends in Russia as well.
As my friend, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, has said, we held talks with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Adviser Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and, of course, my colleague, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
We discussed the main issues on our bilateral agenda in the spirit of the agreements that were reached during the April visit to Russia by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
We pointed out sustainable progress in our efforts to propel our relations to a level of strategic partnership. We appreciate our Emirate colleagues’ resolve to continue to work jointly with us.
We have developed new areas of cooperation, and we are developing ties between our parliaments. In particular, Speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC) Amal Al Qubaisi will represent the United Arab Emirates at the 137th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, which will be held in St Petersburg, Russia, in October of this year.
We are satisfied with the progress of our trade, economic and investment relations. A special role in boosting them belongs to the Russia-UAE Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation, which has special task groups. The commission will convene for its next meeting in Abu Dhabi this year; we are discussing the timeframe. We have also agreed to take additional steps to support our economic operators so as to be able to boost our mutual trade and investments and cooperation in the field of energy, industry as well as banking. It is gratifying to see the number of Russian tourists growing sustainably in the United Arab Emirates. Russian citizens appreciate the conditions created here for recreation and for building up their strength for the next working period.
We also talked about ties between the Hermitage Museum and related organisations in the United Arab Emirates. I believe that this area of our relations holds great promise.
Regarding international topics, we certainly focused on the importance of the uncompromising struggle against terrorists of any stripe – we hold identical positions when it comes to this – and also on fighting terrorist and extremist ideologies. We told our friends about the initiatives that are on the table of the UN Security Council, where Russia is advocating proposals on fighting terrorist ideology, including jointly with our Egyptian friends.
We discussed the situation in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq. Of course, we also talked about the need to settle the Palestinian problem. We have similar or very close views on all these things. We have reaffirmed our interest in coordinating our positions on these crucial questions.
Again, I would like to express our gratitude to our friends and hosts for the traditionally excellent organisation of our visit.Question: What do you expect from the countries of the region, primarily, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with regard to the efforts to unite the Syrian opposition in light of new rounds of talks in Astana and Geneva?
Sergey Lavrov: Primarily, we expect UNSC Resolution 2254 to be fully implemented. It outlines a concrete road map for the political settlement of this crisis with a concurrent uncompromising fight against all the terrorists who are holed up in Syria or came there from other countries. No doubt, for this resolution to be implemented - we started a political process which it encompasses (including the development of a new constitution and holding elections based on it) - it is important for the opposition to act realistically, and to withhold from ultimatums which do not agree with the rules approved by the UN Security Council. The UN Security Council resolved that the Syrians themselves should decide the future of their country without any preconditions. The Syrian Government and the opposition must sit down at the negotiating table and start discussing their future in their own country.
As I mentioned earlier, until recently, unfortunately, there were signs of ultimatums in certain opposition groups’ approaches. We drew everyone’s attention to that. When Saudi Arabia advanced an initiative to merge the High Negotiations Committee, which was created at a meeting in Riyadh, with the Cairo and Moscow opposition groups, we fully supported it. I believe this is an unavoidable move which will facilitate the beginning of truly substantive and meaningful talks on the future of Syria. We did not just support it, but acted promptly to make this meeting happen. It’s okay that we haven’t achieved a breakthrough yet. It’s the first step that counts. Most importantly, this process has begun, and its participants - the Riyadh, Cairo, and Moscow groups - agreed to continue these efforts. We will help our Saudi colleagues in every way to move forward in this direction.
Let's not forget that in addition to the political opposition, there is also one which, up until recently, has been fighting the regime with weapons. Now, this process has been replaced with the creation of de-escalation zones. Three of them have been created, and the fourth in the vicinity of Idlib is being discussed. In this context, a dialogue is being established between the Government and the opposition groups which signed a ceasefire agreement in the context of creating de-escalation zones. I believe this is a healthy process that makes it possible to involve in the talks not only the political opposition represented abroad, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the armed people who were recently fighting the Government, but have now agreed to a truce and a ceasefire, and are beginning to discuss ways to build peaceful life. This is probably the most important thing that is now happening in Syria.
Question: The current pace of national reconciliation in Syria reflects the desire of the armed formations to be in direct contact with representatives of the Syrian Government. Do you think that following the failure to unite the external opposition, it is necessary to create new platforms within the country which will directly safeguard the interests of all opposition groups on the ground?
Sergey Lavrov: I have, in fact, already answered your question, I have nothing to add to what I said. I don’t agree that the efforts to unite the external opposition failed. I have already mentioned that the first meeting was effectively held, and we are in favour of continuing such efforts. Up until recently, the disagreement was too strong for us to hope to be able to resolve these differences in one sitting. We will strongly encourage every effort to this end with the participation of all external opposition groups.
To reiterate, we attach particular importance to the process, started in Astana, of coordinating the de-escalation and reconciliation zones and the ceasefire between the government army and the armed opposition. I believe that here we stand the greatest chance of improving the situation on the ground.
Question: What can you say about the latest missile launch by North Korea? Do you think it is ratcheting up tensions on the Korean Peninsula?
Sergey Lavrov: With regard to North Korea and its tests, we are committed to all the UN Security Council resolutions, and we insist that our North Korean neighbours observe them in full. We are guided by this consideration in our discussions at the UN Security Council, and we will be guided by it during a planned meeting to discuss the most recent missile test by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.