Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements and answers to media questions at the joint news conference following the talks with Foreign Minister of Grenada Peter David, June 11, 2019
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
The talks with Foreign Minister of Grenada Peter David took place in a friendly and open atmosphere. Grenada is a high-potential partner for us in the Caribbean sub-region. Our bilateral ties have their own history. Diplomatic relations were first established in 1979. In September we will observe the 40th anniversary of this event. Then they were interrupted after the US invasion in 1983 and then restored in 2002, and have steadily developed since then. Russia-Grenada relations have developed on the principles of friendship, mutual consideration for each other’s interests, and their positive dynamics is on the rise.
Today, we reaffirmed our intention to promote the political dialogue, including between our ministries. In this context we highly value the practice of comparing positions on the sidelines of General Assembly sessions where Mr Minister and I agreed to meet again this year.
We share the common view that Grenada’s participation in major international events in Russia, including the SPIEF, promotes further development in our cooperation.
We welcomed contacts between our civil societies. The Russia/Eurasia-Caribbean media and business forum took place in Grenada in February for the second time. This popular initiative was implemented by the Institute of Bering-Bellingshausen, the Roscongress Foundation and the Government of Grenada with the support of our ministry. This is important for the promotion of dialogue between the general public in both countries.
Owing to the intergovernmental agreement on the renunciation of visa formalities that came into force in 2017, we are expanding our tourism ties, and education, humanitarian and economic exchanges.
We noted positive opportunities for implementing joint projects in the economy, investment, healthcare, education and culture. In particular, we discussed the delivery of Russian wheat to Grenada and Grenada’s exports of fish, spices, coffee, cocoa and fruit to Russia. There are promising projects in the manufacture of construction materials in Grenada and the supply of Russian vaccines and medical equipment to Grenada. We are considering a highly promising project involving building a regional medical centre in Grenada, which will offer medical services to 18 million people in five Caribbean countries.
We are working successfully in the training of personnel, in particular for law enforcement, at the Russian Interior Ministry’s training centres in Russia and Latin America.
We spoke up in favour of the continued involvement of Grenada’s diplomats in the special courses for the staff of Latin American foreign ministries that are held annually at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy.
We share an interest in building up cooperation in law enforcement and disaster relief. Therefore, we have suggested making more active use of the Russia-Cuba Regional Rescue and Firefighter Training Centre in Havana.
Seeking to improve the legal framework of our relations, we have agreed to accelerate the drafting of an agreement on the founding principles of relations between Russia and Grenada in order to sign it as soon as possible.
We discussed international issues and agreed that our approaches are similar or identical and that they are based on the principles of the UN Charter. We are against any interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states and against the use of illegal unilateral sanctions as a form of pressure. We also spoke about our further cooperation at the UN.
Russia has good relations with the Latin American countries and their regional organisations, such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which Grenada is currently chairing. We appreciate the CARICOM countries’ interest in cooperation and the development of relations with Russia. We spoke at length about Venezuela, for obvious reasons. Russia supports the position of CARICOM and several other countries, including Mexico, Uruguay and Bolivia, on this matter, as well as the approaches that are based on the development of dialogue between the Venezuelan government and all opposition forces plus international efforts to create conditions for launching such a dialogue and for a peaceful political settlement of the current problems.
While in Moscow, the Foreign Minister has also visited the People’ Friendship University of Russia and the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision (Rosselkhoznadzor) and had meetings with members of the State Duma and the Delovaya Rossiya national public organisation. I believe that this visit was well-timed and that it will move our positive friendly relations to a higher level.
Question: The EU has reaffirmed its commitment to Iran’s nuclear deal more than once, but Europe has done nothing practical to ensure its implementation. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Tehran yesterday that Iran’s economic interests can be ensured without the United States. Do you think that the Europeans’ position is too inconsistent?
Sergey Lavrov: Regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear programme, you know what turn the events have taken. Over a year ago, the United States carried out its threat to pull out of the agreement. After that, all other JCPOA signatories, including Russia, China, Iran, the UK, France, Germany and the EU reaffirmed their commitments under the deal. In July last year, the JCPOA countries (minus the United States) held a ministerial meeting to discuss the importance of preserving the deal, which requires the creation of mechanisms to maintain trade, economic and investment cooperation with Iran in the situation arising from the United States pulling out of this crucial international agreement. The EU, or more precisely three European countries plus the EU’s foreign affairs department, pledged to create such an instrument. We met in New York later in September. But work on this instrument was taking too long. Finally, a couple of months ago, the creation of this special purpose vehicle was announced. It is called INSTEX.
However, contrary to what we discussed, not all countries trading with Iran but only EU member states can use it, at least initially. Second, to begin with, this vehicle will be used to cover not all trade deals but only humanitarian, medical and food transactions that do not fall under the US sanctions. It is obvious that this SPV will not and cannot help settle the problems created by the US withdrawal from Iran’s deal or lift the difficulties that are depriving Iran of the JCPOA benefits under the relevant UN Security Council resolution.
Furthermore, this tool has not yet been applied even once. We raised the issue with our colleagues and suggested holding a meeting. A meeting of the Joint Commission at the level of Political Directors/Deputy Foreign Ministers has been scheduled for this month. But the statements that were made yesterday following Mr Maas’s talks in Tehran sound alarming. If they are true – I have heard about them but I have not proof of the exact phrasing, it looks as if Europe has admitted defeat in this regard. As you know, Washington has openly prohibited Europe from using INSTEX and all countries from trading with Iran. In other words, the United States has used all countries, including the EU, to violate the UNSC resolution approving the JCPOA. If the statements you have mentioned were made as a result of a ban on the use of the mechanism that took Europeans so long to create and that has not become operational yet, this is really sad. It means that Europe is no an independent agent. When we talk about respecting Europe’s choice, we in Russia mean that we want Europe to be a strong, united and independent player. The recent events do not indicate that it is such a player. However, we hope that the scheduled meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission will be held this month and that it will clarify the readiness of all the participants to comply with their commitments under the UNSC resolution that was adopted unilaterally.
Question: Could you please comment on a statement by your colleague, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, that any agreement with Iran should involve its neighbours?
Sergey Lavrov: I have not heard my UAE colleague’s statements that any agreement with Iran should involve its neighbours. I don’t know the context. If this concerns the normalisation of relations in the Persian Gulf, then this is our position. We have been advocating the creation of a security-and-trust system here for a long time, and we suggest specific goals that will allow Arab countries in the Persian Gulf and the Islamic Republic of Iran to streamline mutual contacts. They will make it possible to eliminate mutual concerns and ensure transparency in the area of military development, military exercises, etc. We suggest that these efforts be supported by outside players, including the Arab League, the European Union, the five permanent UN Security Council members and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. All we want is a more tranquil situation in this highly important region. For this purpose, it is necessary to normalise relations, generate confidence-building measures and avoid provoking disagreements, as far as outside players are concerned. There are objective disagreements. But attempts to address ideological and political disagreements by military methods are a very bad sign. I hope that the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf realise the audacious nature of certain calls suggesting that the policy of isolating Iran culminate in a military scenario.
Question: Mr Lavrov could you comment on a statement by the UN Coordinator regarding the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The UN Coordinator expressed concern that if the conflict in northwestern Syria continues, more than two million more refugees from Syria will enter Turkey?
Sergey Lavrov: This obviously refers to those Syrians who are staying in the Idlib de-escalation zone and who have become the disempowered hostages of the terrorist organisation Jabhat Al Nusra which now operates under the guise of Hayat Tahrir Al Sham and terrorises both the civilian population and armed groups not affiliated with this terrorist formation. The resolution of this matter would require the complete implementation of the Sochi Memorandum, passed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the aim of stabilising the situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone by disengaging the armed opposition from these militants, from the terrorist formations listed by the UN Security Council. Our Turkish friends have undertaken to ensure such disengagement. As soon as this happens (and this will mean that the terrorists must be dealt with very quickly), things will become easier for these two million civilians, and they will be able to live in peace. Displaced persons will be able to return to their permanent places of residence. I would like to emphasise once again that the Syrian army will not tolerate various attacks, including mortar attacks involving multiple launch rocket systems from the Idlib de-escalation zone and targeting the positions of Syrian forces, the Russian military base in Hmeimim and the civilian sector. We understand the Syrian position very well, and we will support Syrian efforts to unhesitatingly suppress such gross violations of the de-escalation regime. We know that our Turkish friends are working actively to fulfil their obligation under the Sochi Memorandum and to disengage the armed opposition, which can reach agreements and which is ready to take part in the political process, from bandits who don’t want to reach agreements, who are a priori unable to attain them and who must be dealt with as terrorists.