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18 June 201916:30

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to TASS news agency’s questions, Moscow, June 18, 2019

1265-18-06-2019

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Question: Could you please comment on the possible visit by President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro and the statement made by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton that Maduro has signed a defence contract with Russia in order to “buy” permanent support from Moscow.

Sergey Lavrov: Regarding the statement made by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro about his plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin – yes, we are always ready to meet with our Venezuelan colleagues at the high and top levels, and such contacts will certainly take place in the foreseeable future. So far, no specific dates have been discussed and, accordingly, no specific contacts have been planned. But I repeat, we are always open to such meetings.

As for John Bolton’s statement, you must understand that I am even reluctant to comment on this... Our colleagues are harping on about the same topic, when all explanations have been given a long time ago. We send our experts to Venezuela to service the equipment supplied to Venezuela under contracts signed with Hugo Chavez – contracts that are fully based on the Venezuelan legislation. There are no problems here, and there cannot be any. Russian-Venezuelan cooperation in the military technical, economic, humanitarian, or political spheres is an aspect of relations between Moscow and Caracas. Outsider advice seems completely irrelevant here, although we understand that the United States is now advising everyone.

Question: The situation around Iran has dramatically worsened after the Gulf of Oman events. Are full-scale hostilities possible there? What can Russia do to prevent this from happening? Does Russia have any intelligence indicating who could have committed the provocation?

Sergey Lavrov: We have no such intelligence. What we can see is this murky “evidence” supplied by the United States – a videotape, some photos that raise serious questions even from their closest allies.

We are in favour of a thorough investigation of all these incidents. By the way, the Islamic Republic of Iran wanted this in the first place.

As for how the situation may develop, yes, indeed the developments are alarming. I would not like to make any rash negative or disastrous predictions. We must demand that all parties show restraint and refrain from any harsh actions, especially following the same “highly likely” logic that the West used in many other cases. These “very likely” and “highly likely” approaches are hardly relevant when it comes to dealing with things that are way too serious. Only an investigation and an agreement to normalise the situation are relevant here. The key to normalising what is happening is fostering a dialogue between all the Gulf states. I mean both the Arab monarchies and the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the support of their neighbours, the League of Arab States, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the five permanent members of the UN, and the European Union.

We have long been proposing to begin coordinating this kind of confidence building process and building a security system. Those who rely on inciting tension between Arabs and Persians, Arabs and Kurds, and inside the Arab world – between the Sunnis and the Shiites, are not guided by the interests of the peoples of the region, but by their own narrow geopolitical motives.

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