The Minister’s meetings
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani following his visit to Qatar, Doha, August 30, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to our Qatari friends for their hospitality and very good organisation of our work.
As my colleague, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, said, we were received by Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar this morning and after that detailed talks were held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar.
At all these meetings, we reaffirmed our commitment to the further development of interaction over the entire spectrum of areas in line with the agreements reached during His Highness Sheikh Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s visit to the Russian Federation early this year and in the course of telephone conversations between President Vladimir Putin of Russia and the Qatari leader.
We are committed to promoting our trade and economic ties more actively. Of course, trade so far falls short of both countries’ potential. In this regard, we attach much importance to energising the Joint Russian-Qatari Commission for Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation, which held a meeting in Doha in April of this year. Incidentally, our entrepreneurs held a business forum on the sidelines of this event. Quite recently, we have also upgraded the composition of the Russian-Qatari Business Council, which should also facilitate progress in trade and economic interaction.
We have confirmed our shared interest in continuing our coordination in the energy and oil production area as well as within the Gas Exporting Countries Forum. We note a growing interest towards investment interaction, specifically between the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Qatar Investment Agency. We have agreed to continue cultural, humanitarian and educational exchanges, including during preparations for the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and 2022.
As my colleague, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, said, Minister of State for Defence Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah of Qatar visited the Russian Federation recently to attend the Army-2017 International Military Technical Forum. He held talks with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, which revealed mutual interest in promoting contacts in this sphere.
We also discussed current regional issues, including crises in Syria, Libya and Iraq. We share the opinion that every one of these conflicts must be settled exclusively through an inclusive dialogue between all ethnic and religious forces without any external interference, so that the people themselves can decide the future of their country. In this regard we are grateful to our Qatari friends for their high assessment of Russia’s efforts to promote the concept of de-escalation zones in Syria, considering that such zones will also create more favourable conditions for promoting political dialogue.
We also share the concern over the deadlocked Palestinian-Israeli settlement. We are convinced that solutions must be searched for on the path of direct dialogue based on the Arab Peace Initiative, which the quartet of international intermediaries – Russia, the United States, the UN and the EU – has supported more than once. Russia and Qatar believe that the restoration of Palestinian unity is an issue of crucial importance. The current developments in relations between the cities of Ramallah and Gaza are absolutely abnormal. We believe that the Palestinians must resume the implementation of the framework agreements reached earlier, which provide for restoring the unity of all on the basis of the PLO platform and the Arab Peace Initiative.
As my colleague has said, we discussed the situation in the Persian Gulf in light of tensions between Qatar and a number of other Arab countries. We are convinced that solutions to this problem must be based on mutually acceptable approaches, dialogue and compromise, and without counterproductive militant rhetoric.
We have reaffirmed our support for the mediation efforts of the Emir of Kuwait. We are ready to contribute to these efforts if the parties believe that this would be useful. As I said in Kuwait, we want the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) to be united and strong and to facilitate the solution of the region’s problems, and strong and to facilitate a solution to the region’s problems, of which there are many, without creating new ones.
I would like to again express gratitude to our Qatari friends for their hospitality. I invite my colleague, Foreign Minister of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, to visit Russia at his convenience.
Question: As you have said, many envoys are visiting the region. How does the role of Russia’s envoys differ from the others who are attempting to resolve the crisis in the Persian Gulf? We have heard reports of the ideas you are bringing to the leaders of the Persian Gulf countries and countries involved in the conflict. What are these ideas? What was the reaction in Kuwait and the UAE when you discussed the situation with Qatar?
Sergey Lavrov: Regarding Russia’s role, we are not acting as mediators, as I said. Kuwait is playing the role of a mediator. We believe that this issue should be resolved through the efforts of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). We know that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has proposed mediation services. We will welcome it if these proposals produce results and these efforts meet with success. But for our part, we have not proposed anything that differs from what Kuwait and the United States are proposing. We do not think this necessary. There are sufficient proposals that provide a perfectly adequate base for beginning dialogue. We will continue our policy of contacts with all countries in the region.
Question: Why did you not go to Saudi Arabia this time?
Sergey Lavrov: I will visit Saudi Arabia and Jordan in early September.
Question: A few days ago, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran is allegedly preparing sites in Syria and Lebanon to produce precision-guided missiles that could be used against Israel. Are you aware of any such plans on Iran’s part? Could you comment on this situation? Was this matter mentioned during Mr Netanyahu’s visit to Sochi?
Sergey Lavrov: Mr Netanyahu told the media himself about what was discussed at the talks in Sochi.
As for your question regarding whatever area of cooperation between Iran and Syria, my position is that if their cooperation in whichever field does not violate the basic provisions of international law, it should not be cause for question.
If anyone in the Middle East or other part of the world plans to violate international law by undermining any other country’s sovereignty or territorial integrity, including any country in the Middle East or North Africa, this would be condemned.
We have no information that anyone is planning to attack Israel.
Question: With roughly a month to go before the elections in Germany, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution Hans-Georg Maassen, who is effectively head of German counterintelligence, made new statements about possible Russian interference. In the US case, you usually explained these sorts of statements as attempts to justify the Democrats’ failure in the elections, but how would you comment on the German allegations? What do they gain from this when Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has such a popularity margin with a month to go before the elections?
Sergey Lavrov: I do not know why German intelligence is making statements about Russian meddling in the German election campaign. Perhaps they want to prove their effectiveness, but they have not provided a single fact. If it is facts we are talking about, it emerged some time ago that the American intelligence services were intercepting the Federal Chancellor’s conversations. I do not recall German counterintelligence commenting on this established fact in any way. That is all.