Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Comoros, Mohamed El-Amine Souef, Moscow, November 9, 2018
Our talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Union of the Comoros are finished. The talks were held in a friendly atmosphere and were very useful. We have confirmed mutual resolve to continue to promote our bilateral cooperation in many spheres and to work together towards more fully using its potential. There is considerable potential for cooperation in fishing, renewable energy, the provision of fresh water, and agriculture. We have agreed to help our business communities establish direct ties and exchanged opinions on international issues, reaffirming the identity or similarity of our views.
Russia and the Comoros hold similar views on achieving global and regional stability. We agree on the need to pool international efforts to find solutions to common challenges and threats, which must be done on the basis of international law.
We spoke up for settling the numerous conflicts around the world, including in Africa, exclusively by political and diplomatic methods. We share the opinion on the positive cooperation that has developed between our delegations at the UN. We expressed gratitude to our Comorian colleagues for supporting Russian priorities in combating the glorification of Nazism, as well as international information security and non-placement of weapons in outer space.
We held an in-depth discussion on the situation in Africa and the possibility of settling regional conflicts, primarily in the Sahel-Saharan region, or more precisely, in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Horn of Africa and South Sudan.
Moscow firmly supports the principle formulated by the African countries, “African solutions to African problems.” The Africans themselves must discuss ways to settle conflict situations, while the international community should provide assistance to the African Union and sub-regional African organisations with the coordinating role of the UN. Russia as a permanent member of the UN Security Council will continue to actively contribute to these efforts.
We also discussed counterterrorism in light of the need to join forces to combat this global evil. We pointed out that the memorandum our law enforcement agencies signed several years ago is having a positive effect on our cooperation. Under the memorandum, Russia is training law enforcement personnel for the Comoros.
We are satisfied with the results of our talks. I would like to express gratitude to my colleague and to give him the floor.
Question: What can you tell us about the Comoros decision to withdraw its recognition of Kosovo’s independence? Did you discuss the issues of Mayotte during these talks?
Sergey Lavrov: Naturally, we welcome this step by the Comoros. Let me recall that flagrantly violating international law in 1999, Western countries – NATO members, Washington and its allies – bombed Yugoslavia for two and half months. Nine years later they recognised the unilateral proclamation of independence by the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo in a bid to legitimise their aggression in retrospect.
Russia will continue to work persistently for the implementation of UN Security Council decisions, notably Resolution 1244 that records the territorial allegiance of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo to Serbia. Any further steps on settling this obviously unstable situation should certainly be based on respect for Resolution 1244 and should proceed from the resolution’s provisions.
We have welcomed the dialogue to find mutually acceptable solutions that Belgrade and Pristina have held in the past few years. We supported the role that the European Union began to play as a mediator in this dialogue. However, the EU’s efforts have fallen short because Pristina is refusing to abide by the intermediate agreements in this respect.
In particular, I am referring to the need to establish a Community of Serb Municipalities, and Pristina’s desire to from its own armed forces in crude violation of Resolution 1244. In the process, Pristina is obviously being pushed from the outside, in part by the United States.
Of course, the decisions of some countries to revise their positions on Kosovo’s recognition, to withdraw it or abstain from taking a decision on it, testified to their responsible approach while relying on the standards of international law. We certainly welcome these steps.
As for the second part of your question about the Island of Mayotte, let me recall that a referendum on the independence of the Comoros was held in 1974 by UN decision. According to the terms of this referendum, the final decision was meant to apply to all four islands. However, as distinct from other states, France decided not to recognise the results of the referendum as determined by the UN General Assembly. France has refused to recognise the independence of Mayotte and continues retaining it illegally, despite the numerous UN General Assembly resolutions on this issue.
We noted today that in 1975 the Union of the Comoros was admitted to the UN with its entire territory of four islands. The UN General Assembly Resolution is a foundation for approaching this issue in the context of international law. Let me put it this way: the countries that organised the separation of Kosovo from Serbia and of Mayotte from the Comoros, and made many attempts to change the regimes whenever they felt like it in violation of international law, are blatantly displaying double standards. I am hoping that those in future discussions of international relations today will abandon this practice once and for all.
Question: Austria suspects a former Austrian army officer of spying for Russian intelligence. Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz has threatened to take reciprocal measures and demands a clear-cut answer from Russia. Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria Karin Kneissl has cancelled her visit to Moscow scheduled for December2-3. How will Russia respond?
Sergey Lavrov: I just learned about this before the start of this meeting and, to be honest, this news was an unpleasant surprise for me. According to the established practice, going way back, if a country has concerns or suspicions about the actions of another country (i.e. involvement in some processes) that are seen as a threat, it is supposed to directly ask the other country for an explanation in accordance with international law. However, regrettably, in recent times our Western partners have made a rule of resorting not to traditional diplomacy with its decency but rather to microphone and megaphone diplomacy, accusing us publicly and demanding explanations on issues we know nothing about.
Again, it is necessary to follow the standards that were developed during the creation of the practice of international relations. We will invite the Austrian Ambassador to the Foreign Ministry today and will emphasise at our meeting with her what methods should be used if they have questions for the Russian Federation.