Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria Sabri Boukadoum, Moscow, July 22, 2020
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, my colleague and friend, Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum, and I held productive talks in accordance with the agreement reached by the presidents of our countries in a telephone conversation on July 13.
We noted the steady progress in our relations in accordance with the Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, which remains fully relevant.
We noted the effective activities of the bilateral Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation which contributes to a steady increase in trade, which was somewhat down in the first six months of this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Today, we discussed specific steps that will help remedy this situation and resume the upward trend in our trade and economic ties with the use of specific projects in investment, energy, agriculture, transport and the pharmaceutical industry. The epidemiological situation permitting, the Intergovernmental Commission will gather for a meeting and review these steps.
We praised the activities of another intergovernmental body which is the commission on military-technical cooperation. Its next meeting is also scheduled for the second half of the year.
We reiterated our interest in facilitating contact between people and various cultural ties.
We agreed to improve the coordination of our joint bilateral activities under the auspices of our respective foreign ministries, including the early drafting of important documents, such as intergovernmental agreements on the peaceful use of outer space, combating organised crime, creating respective cultural centres in Algeria and Russia, as well as mutual recognition of higher education degrees.
Our positions on important issues related to resolving international problems overlap. Russia and Algeria believe it is necessary to do so based solely on the UN Charter, respect for its goals and principles, including the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, as well as non-interference in their internal affairs.
Our countries are in favour of resolving crises and conflicts exclusively through peaceful, political and diplomatic means. If we want to bring a sustainable solution to the many problems in the region (the Middle East and North Africa), all external players must encourage the conflicting parties to start a dialogue and reach agreements based on compromises and a balance of interests. We can resolve the crisis in Syria and achieve the Middle Eastern settlement (the Palestinian-Israeli conflict), settle the situation in Mali and the Sahara-Sahel region in general and, of course, settle the Libyan conflict, which we covered extensively today, only from these positions.
It is always important to adhere to UN Security Council resolutions and avoid actions that violate them. This fully applies to the Western Saharan issue. We are in favour of continuing our efforts to settle this based on existing UN Security Council resolutions.
Question (translated from Arabic): Russia and Algeria emphasise that there is no alternative to a political settlement for the crisis in Libya. Is there a Russian-Algerian roadmap or mediation plan to resolve the situation in Libya? How would you comment on Algeria’s recent initiative to resolve the Libya crisis, which was advanced by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune who also underscored that it enjoys the support of the United Nations?
Sergey Lavrov: We do not have a bilateral roadmap. As we have publicly reaffirmed more than once, Russia and Algeria are both committed to the implementation of the agreements laid out in the final documents of the Berlin Conference on Libya, as approved by the UN Security Council. These documents list the specific steps to be taken, their sequence, and timeframe. We believe that all of those remain current.
In our contacts with the Libyan parties (and we are working with each of them), with Libya's neighbours and other external players, we specifically focus on achieving an immediate cessation of hostilities, not as an end goal to our efforts, but as a mid-point that should be immediately followed up by the Committee on the Resolution of Military Issues and the dialogue on a political settlement involving all regions of Libya. The ultimate goal of all our efforts should be the restoration of Libya’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and statehood – values that were grossly violated as a result of the NATO adventure in 2011 contrary to the UN Security Council resolution.
Question: Despite Moscow’s never-ending calls for Libya’s warring sides to cease fire, the situation in this country continues to escalate. The Egyptian Parliament recently approved the possibility of introducing Egyptian troops into Libya if there is a threat to national security emanating from that country. What is Moscow’s attitude to this turn of events? Could it lead to an even greater escalation in the region? What role does Moscow assign to Libya's immediate neighbours, such as Algeria, in addressing this problem?
Sergey Lavrov: I have already said, and it is probably difficult to argue with this, that the situation we are dealing with now is rooted in NATO’s aggression carried out in 2011 in gross violation of the UN Security Council’s resolution. The external players, especially those from outside the region, could not have cared less about the Libyan people and statehood. They just destroyed it. In their geopolitical gambling, they made bets on one of the Libyan parties while fully ignoring the opinion of the African Union and its attempts to bring the situation back to normal. Such was the criminal behaviour of our NATO colleagues.
Now a situation has emerged that reflects a still unresolved problem, non-compliance with the agreements that were adopted with great difficulty during the period after the NATO aggression. As a result, we now have the Tripoli-based Government and the Tobruk-based parliament. As long as this dichotomy, this split, persists, they will always face the risk of external players supporting one or the other, the government or the Parliament. This is not what Libya needs. In this context, we need to bring all Libyans together at a negotiating table and help them work out compromises based on a balance of interests for all Libyan people and a revival of the Libyan state.
Unlike many other external players, Russia has never tried to place any bet in the Libyan game. We have always worked with all the political forces in Libya, had them visit Moscow at various times, and we continue to maintain contact with them now.
You asked about the role that Russia assigns to Libya's immediate neighbours. We think that Libya’s neighbours including Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt should play the most important role, because this is about stabilising a country that is their immediate neighbour. The security of Algeria and Libya's other neighbours depends on how successfully the problems in Libya are resolved. We are seeing the repercussions of NATO's criminal adventure in the entire region – terrorists crossing Libya to infiltrate other countries in Africa, the smuggling of weapons, other forms of organised crime, drug trafficking, and illegal migration. These trends obviously create very high risks and threats for the countries in the region, including our Algerian friends.
Today we are talking about the need to fulfill the agreements reached at the Berlin Conference. As a reminder, when this conference was announced and preparations began (it took four or five rounds of negotiation), no one was planning to invite Libya’s neighbours or the Libyan parties to Berlin. It was the Russian Federation that contacted the organisers – our German partners – and insisted that Libya’s neighbours also receive an invitation. As a result, President Tebboune was able to participate and made a valuable contribution to the discussion. The conflicting parties were also invited to Berlin. They did not meet or speak with each other there, but at least they were in the same city at the moment when their country’s future was being discussed. Russian President Vladimir Putin repeatedly stressed during discussions in Berlin that we had to secure the Libyan parties’ endorsement of the document that we eventually adopted.
We are confident that at this stage of our common effort, all Libyan parties must participate in direct negotiations, and Libya’s neighbours must have a say in shaping the conditions for an inter-Libyan settlement.
We also note that our Algerian friends, like the Russian Federation, are working with all Libyan political forces without exception. I think this is the only way to guarantee success in resolving this problem.