Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a meeting of the Coordinating Council of the Trianon Dialogue civil society forum, Paris, November 27, 2018
Mr Le Drian,
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to express gratitude to our French partners for organising an exclusive tour of the parts of the Palace of Versailles that are not usually open to visitors.
I am honoured to offer greetings to all the participants of the second meeting of the Coordinating Council of the Trianon Dialogue civil society forum.
This joint initiative was advanced by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron here in Versailles, during their meeting in May 2017, and is aimed at strengthening trust and mutual understanding between our nations. Our presidents have high hopes for its implementation. Evidence of this is their meeting with the members of the Coordinating Council, which was held on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum and was on the agenda of President Macron’s visit to Russia.
It is obvious that what you are doing is very important, especially in the current situation. Your contribution is truly invaluable. Relations between our countries have always been multifaceted. As permanent members of the UN Security Council with a special responsibility for international peace and security, we must clearly identify priorities in our relations and the common challenges that are facing our countries and the rest of the world. Regrettably, a close coordination of our efforts to combat common threats such as terrorism and other kinds of organised crime has been hindered by the crisis of confidence that has developed in the Euro-Atlantic regions as the result of a zero sum game played by some of our Western colleagues. This crisis has, obviously, had a negative effect on Russian-French ties, which our forefathers and we have been working patiently for decades to strengthen. We continue working on this, and we do not want our relations to fall victim to the large-scale anti-Russia campaign, which was not orchestrated in Europe but which Europe has joined. Part of this campaign is the information war that has been imposed on the international community and has reached a stage where we need to start a new détente.
We are especially concerned about the attempts to discriminate against some media outlets and the use of government agencies and means to regulate public access to information, such as legislative initiatives advanced at the national level and internationally outside the framework of universal bodies such as the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. I strongly hope that these efforts, which definitely cannot promote the freedom of speech, will not result in any kind of political censorship. I hope that no obstacles will hinder our civil societies’ access to information.
I believe that the Trianon Dialogue, which was established to build bridges and search for common approaches to the multitude of problems facing our people, could discuss the issue of access to information and cooperation in the sphere of security, including cyber security. By the way, we are developing dialogue with our French colleagues on this issue, which some politicians claim to have poisoned Russia-West relations. There is no doubt whatsoever that the subject of information security in all its complexity deserves the attention of not only states, which bear the brunt of responsibility for cyber security, but also citizens because it directly concerns their right to access and be able to analyse news.
However, Russian-French cooperation continues to develop in many spheres from the economy to culture, despite problems between Russia and the West. This is what we discussed today at the talks with Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Our bilateral trade is growing consistently. Despite the tightening of the sanctions, over 500 French companies are working in Russia to their benefit, as far as I know. I am sure that the regular meeting of the Russian-French Economic, Financial, Industrial and Trade Council (CEFIC), which will be held in Paris in mid-December, will produce agreements on the further development of our cooperation in these spheres.
Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke about the regular nature of our political dialogue, including at the top level. I mentioned the working visit President Emmanuel Macron made to Russia in May, when he also attended a meeting of the Coordinating Council. In July our leaders enjoyed a match played by the French national football team. A few weeks ago, President Vladimir Putin attended the ceremony held in Paris to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War and the inaugural meeting of the Paris Peace Forum. I hope that this forum, which is planned to become a regular event, as far as I know, will not only benefit our bilateral relations but will also help mobilise the efforts of our civil societies and states to strengthen international law and find truly collective decisions based on respect for the sovereignty of states and other principles of the UN Charter, including the principle of non-interference in others’ internal affairs.
We also try to find points of contact with our French partners on the international stage. In July, we conducted a joint operation to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrians at the initiative of our presidents. In October, our presidents took part in a four-party summit meeting with the leaders of Germany and Turkey in Istanbul. That meeting helped keep up the Syrian settlement process, which was given momentum in Astana and at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi in January this year, where concrete actions for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 were mapped out.
The next meeting on Syria will be held in Astana on November 28−29, when we hope to make big progress towards completing the work to form the constitution committee comprising representatives of the Syrian government, the opposition and civil society.
The main part of our relations is probably the feeling of sincerity between our people based on our intertwining cultures, which no changes in the political climate can get in the way of. It would not be an exaggeration to say that people in Russia appreciate everything associated with French history, culture and traditions. I know that despite the Western attempts to demonise Russia, the French people still maintain a sincere interest in Russia and its rich culture and historical heritage, as well as the traditional values of the multinational Russian society. I view this mutual affinity, respect and sympathy as our common legacy and a solid foundation for boosting our cooperation.
We believe that the main goal of the Trianon Dialogue is to advocate a positive and future-oriented bilateral agenda, primarily by promoting contacts among our people. The more the Russian and the French people communicate with each other, the more objectively will they view our societies. I believe that best evidence of this is the good impression that the French and all other fans took home with them from the World Cup when it comes to Russian hospitality. More frequent and stable contacts at the personal level will help reduce the number of reasons and pretexts for speculation and attempts to burden our relations with contrived problems.
Mr Le Drian and I are delighted that the Trianon Dialogue has not only participated in various meetings and conferences, such as we are having today, but has also advanced its own initiatives. We welcome and will support these efforts at the level of citizen diplomacy. I would also like to mention the phenomenon of academic diplomacy, when historians discuss the most ambiguous pages in our shared history and European history as a whole to our common benefit.
We would like the Trianon Dialogue to give more attention to involving young people in the process of cross-enrichment and joint work.
I am sure that now that you have settled the basic organisational tasks with the help of our governments, the Trianon Dialogue has the wherewithal to become a major and truly cementing element of interaction between the Russian and French societies.
We wish you all the best. You can count on our support.