Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answer to a media question at a joint news conference following talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali Tiebile Drame, Moscow, June 10, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen,
Fairly detailed talks were held with my colleague from Mali Tiebile Drame. The talks were concrete and constructive, and we discussed a wide range of issues.
Next year, we will be marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries. These relations are traditionally friendly and rely on the principles of equality, mutual respect and consideration of each other's interests.
Today, we agreed that the current talks clearly indicate mutual willingness and interest in continuing and expanding cooperation in various areas for the mutual benefit of our countries and peoples.
We are interested in deepening our political dialogue and interparliamentary contact. We note with satisfaction that there are good prospects for expanding trade and economic ties.
We mentioned the exploration and development of mineral resources, energy, infrastructure and agriculture as promising areas for cooperation. We agreed to promote business partnership and to create a favourable environment for Russian businesses in Mali and, in general, proper conditions for direct contact between the business communities of the two countries, including the chambers of commerce and industry.
We welcomed a mutual commitment to further improving military and defence cooperation. It was decided to improve the legal framework in these and other areas.
We will further promote cultural and humanitarian exchanges, including the established practice of training Malian personnel in Russia, both at civilian universities and higher education institutions operated by the Defence Ministry and the Interior Ministry. Speaking of people-to-people exchanges, the first national sambo championship was held in Bamako, Mali, last December with the assistance of the Russian Embassy.
We have a positive assessment of the dialogue between our foreign ministries. It relies on a very solid foundation and positive traditions. I’m referring to the Protocol on Consultations between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Mali signed in 1994, which allows us to regularly compare notes on particular regional and international developments.
We exchanged views on matters that are important for the African continent and the world in general given the current difficult situation. Russia and Mali advocate a fair and democratic world order based on the principles of international law and the central role of the UN, which takes into account the cultural and civilisational identity of the peoples of the world and their desire to determine their own future.
In order to achieve an effective political and diplomatic settlement of regional crises and conflicts and to reliably neutralise common cross-border challenges and threats, we agreed to improve foreign policy coordination, including at the UN and other multilateral venues, particularly in the context of relations between Russia and the African Union and subregional organisations in Africa. In addition, we agreed to make more active use of the recently created Russia-Mali working group on combating terrorism and organised crime.
Our partners informed us about the steps to comply with the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali as the basis for the final settlement of the crisis in that country. For our part, we assured our friends that Russia will, both bilaterally and as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, continue to help create proper conditions for overcoming domestic problems in Mali, of course, taking into account the position of its government.
We reviewed the situation in other African hotbeds of tension, such as the Sahara-Sahel region, the Central African Republic, Libya and Somalia. We share the opinion that in order to resolve the problems facing the continent, we need an integrated approach, which implies concerted actions by the Africans themselves with the multi-pronged support of the international community, which the Africans badly need.
We reiterated Russia's willingness to continue to contribute to ensuring peace, stability and sustainable development in Africa, both bilaterally and through international organisations. My Malian friends and I hope that the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in October will contribute to achieving these goals and advancing Russia-Africa cooperation in general. A Russia-Africa parliamentary forum will be held in Russia in early July as a preparatory step for this event, and an economic forum will take place right before the summit. Mali will take part in all these events, which we welcome.
Question: Citing sources from the armed groups in Idlib, news agencies and other media report that these groups have recently received weapons from Ankara for conducting combat operations against the Syrian army. However, we know that these hostilities extend not only to the Syrian army, but also civilians, and sometimes even reach the Russian air base in Hmeimim. At the same time, we hear the Pentagon claims that it will intervene if Damascus ever uses chemical weapons. Is there currently a mechanism between Russia and Turkey to stop this escalation in northwestern Syria? What do you think about the US statements?
Sergey Lavrov: If I were our Western partners, I would, speaking plain Russian, keep quiet about chemical weapons, because there are plenty of facts that incriminate them of lying. Starting from how they avoid discussions on new evidence regarding how and what happened in the town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, on April 7, 2018.
The report made by the Western experts who dominated the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) is suicidal in terms of how it puts the organisation itself on the line. There were, among these Western experts, honest people who were unable to go against their professional pride and who wrote the truth that no one dropped chlorine containers from the air, but they were instead brought into a house and dumped on a bed. The heads of the OPCW technical secretariat and the FFM are trying to sweep such an obvious fact under the rug and refuse to hold a briefing with the participation of all the experts who, in April 2018, investigated this incident in Douma.
As you may recall, by decision of the OPCW, they had already arrived in Lebanon and were waiting for a transfer to Syria. Having apparently realised that this whole thing was staged, the Western countries decided, without waiting for the inspectors to come, to bomb the site in Syria in an attempt to cover their tracks, but failed to do so.
As you may recall, following that act of aggression, the French leaders publicly stated that all chemical weapon stocks in Syria were destroyed. After all, one has to keep one’s own word when statements like this are made.
There will be many provocations there. The smuggling of weapons, oil, artefacts and illegal drugs is flourishing in Syria and that region in general as a result of the reckless aggressive politicking that led to foreign interference in the domestic affairs of these countries.
I did not see these news reports, much less any evidence of the origins of these weapons but there are lots of Western-made weapons in the Idlib de-escalation zone. However, what matters is not this, but the fact that, in accordance with the Sochi Memorandum, an agreement was reached on the need to draw a line between the armed opposition and the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists, which then transformed into the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham umbrella structure. In accordance with an agreement reached by President Putin and President Erdogan, the Republic of Turkey will play the key role here.
We believe this needs to be done as soon as possible, because the clock is ticking, and these terrorists, as you said, never stop their provocative attacks and the use of rocket launchers and UAVs to attack the Syrian army, Syrian towns and the Russian military air base at Hmeimim. Of course neither we nor the Syrian army will leave such behaviour without a brutal and crushing response. No one assumed any obligation not to. The Sochi Memorandum does not provide for any indulgence to the terrorists.
There are mechanisms which we use to monitor the implementation of this memorandum. First, regular contact between the heads of state. President Putin had a telephone conversation with President Erdogan several days ago. They spent a considerable amount of time discussing the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone. There are also working real-time contacts between our defence ministries and intelligence services, which analyse the events literally by day and by hour.
To reiterate, the situation is difficult, but we have every reason to believe that it will be resolved without any indulgency with regard to terrorists.