Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with member of the State Council and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi, Moscow, September 11, 2020
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today’s talks with my colleague and friend, member of the State Council and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi, were held in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust and were very substantial.
We noted with satisfaction that Russia and China continued cooperating closely and constructively in all spheres amid the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening our ties of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction.
We discussed the key international problems and reaffirmed the closeness of our views on effective solutions to them. We have been consistently advocating the development of a fairer and more democratic polycentric international order based on respect for the norms of international law. We expressed satisfaction with the level of our foreign policy interaction, including at the UN, which marks its 75th anniversary this year. Russia and China stand for strengthening the UN’s central role in global affairs. We agreed to carry on our close collaboration, including in the interests of implementing President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to convene a summit meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to discuss the entire range of international security and stability issues.
We stated our positive assessment of yesterday’s meeting of the SCO Foreign Ministers Council, including when it comes to preparing the next SCO summit, which is scheduled for November, as President Putin said. We agreed to work together with the other SCO member states to build up the organisation’s potential and its international prestige and influence. The results of our meeting yesterday were put forth in the statement of the SCO Foreign Ministers Council.
Another multilateral event, the meeting of the RIC (Russia-India-China) foreign ministers, took place yesterday. A joint statement on its results was also issued.
We agreed to expand cooperation at other multilateral venues, not only in the UN, but also in the G20, BRICS and the RIC and Russia-Mongolia-China formats.
We noted the destructive character of Washington’s actions that undermine global strategic stability. They are fueling tensions in various parts of the world, including along the Russian and Chinese borders. Of course, we are worried about this and object to these attempts to escalate artificial tensions. In this context, we stated that the so-called “Indo-Pacific strategy” as it was planned by the initiators, only leads to the separation of the region’s states, and is therefore fraught with serious consequences for peace, security and stability in the Asia-Pacific Region. We spoke in favour of the ASEAN-centric regional security architecture with a view to promoting the unifying agenda, and the preservation of the consensus style of work and consensus-based decision-making in these mechanisms, as it has always been done in the framework of ASEAN and the associated entities. We are seeing attempts to split the ranks of ASEAN members with the same aims: to abandon consensus-based methods of work and fuel confrontation in this region that is common for all of us.
Today, we discussed the situation regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme. Of course, as an overwhelming majority of UN Security Council members, Russia and China do not accept the US attempts to dismantle the international agreement approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which is vital for the entire world. We find unacceptable the US unlawful unilateral actions regarding the situation around Iran’s nuclear programme. The United States withdrew from this agreement in gross violation of the UN Security Council consensus-based resolution, thereby losing any legal, judicial, political or moral rights to try and prevent all other states from implementing this major decision.
We also reviewed key issues on our bilateral agenda. We agreed to continue cooperating in countering the coronavirus pandemic. We have made tangible success toward this goal but this work must be brought to fruition. Following the meeting, together with Mr Wang Yi, we adopted a detailed joint statement, including an appeal to the international community to pool efforts in the face of global and regional challenges and threats.
I am sincerely grateful to my colleague and friend for the close cooperation.
Question (translated from Chinese): You recently proposed a global information security initiative. What are its main goals? How was it received?
Sergey Lavrov (speaks after Wang Yi): We discussed this Chinese initiative today as is reflected in the joint statement. In our response to this initiative we stressed that it is in line with the discussions held at the UN in recent years about the need to draft rules for responsible behaviour in international cyberspace in terms of ensuring the member states’ security and sovereignty.
Russia and China co-authored the relevant initiatives that have been adopted at the UN General Assembly for several years now. There’s a corresponding working group on this subject, in which all UN member states are represented. Its work is based on the draft rules for responsible behaviour in cyberspace. This document was put together and distributed at the UN by the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
China’s initiative provides the specifics of the critical aspects of our common work. I think it will stimulate discussion on the identification of effective mechanisms for protecting online data.
Question: Will Russia push for the transfer of data on the Navalny case to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)?
Sergey Lavrov: It is imperative that we obtain information from our German colleagues. Something is happening to them. As you may be aware, on August 27, on the basis of a pre-investigation check, which immediately began in our country, Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office sent a request for legal assistance from the relevant German authorities in the case of the suspected poisoning of Mr Navalny. Later, we found out that this request was not forwarded and got stuck in the German Foreign Ministry. Only a week later, (around September 3) was this request finally sent to the justice authorities. An official representative of Berlin publicly announced this, saying that “now these requests are being reviewed by the justice authorities, which are independent in our country. We cannot tell you anything. They will do so themselves when they are ready.”
Then, it was announced that Germany had sent an official letter to the OPCW and would push this organisation’s Secretariat to take action. We have read this letter. It says that, according to German experts, it was poisoning, and the so-called Novichok agent was used. There were no other exchanges between Berlin and the OPCW.
We are interested in receiving, if not directly, then through the OPCW, information that Germany is for some reason so painstakingly concealing.
Our permanent representative to the OPCW has addressed the heads of the organisation’s secretariat several times. Each time, including last night, he was told that this organisation had not received any other facts to support the allegations of poisoning. This makes us wonder. Just yesterday in New York, a German representative to the UN was asked about the data and why Germany is refusing to provide them to the general public, including Russia, demanding that Russia must conduct an investigation. He said that these data are no longer the subject of bilateral Germany-Russia relations, and that they are already the subject of multilateral proceedings. The Germans cannot specify what kind of proceedings they are talking about.
I hope this ludicrous behaviour will stop, and Germany, if only for the sake of its reputation as a punctual nation, will honour its obligations under the treaty with the Russian Federation.
An investigation is demanded of us, but all those who accompanied Mr Navalny on that trip are also relocating to Germany. This is all very unpleasant and gives rise to serious thoughts. So, it is in the interest of our German colleagues to preserve their reputation and provide all the necessary information that would in any way shed some light on their absolutely unfounded accusations.
Question: US officials often claim that China and Russia are meddling in their elections. How would you comment on these accusations?
Sergey Lavrov: Russia, China and some other countries, including Iran and North Korea, are being accused of meddling in US internal affairs, including [presidential] elections. The voting will be held in early November, and voting by mail started a while ago and will continue for another couple of months. But commentators are already asking politicians which country – Russia, China, or Iran – is the biggest meddler. As estimated by the Americans, the PRC is winning the competition. It is only natural that we are hurt by being relegated to second place, because we are used to being number one all the time.
But, joking aside, we have repeatedly offered our US colleagues various options whereby to sort out these absolutely unfounded accusations. We suggested restarting the mechanism of consultations on cyber security, because there were frequent accusations that hackers from Russia were hacking Democratic and Republican networks, were hacking websites, and in some way were influencing voter moods. We also suggested that Russia and the United States make an official bilateral political statement to the effect that we pledge not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. This has dragged on for several years. The Americans keep shying away from the work on any of these suggestions and continue to demand that we “stop unlawful actions,” by which they mean interference in internal affairs.
But at the same time, the US sees nothing shameful in promoting its interests, both overtly and covertly, by patently illegitimate methods. In 2014, for example, the United States passed a Ukraine Freedom Support Act, under which the US Department of State is bound to spend $200 million per year to bankroll Ukrainian NGOs and its own engagement with Ukrainian civil society.
If this is not interference in internal affairs, then I do not know what is. When the Americans were accusing us of something and withholding the facts, we time and again brought up this information that does not even need to be proved because it is in a US law. They replied in the typical American fashion, saying that they were an “exceptional nation.” They said “Yes, we are providing this support, but it is poles apart from what you are doing, because Russia, China and other authoritarian regimes like yours are undermining the foundations of democracy in countries where you attempt to interfere. The United States, on the contrary, is bringing democracy and prosperity, which is why these are totally different things”.
I am not joking. It is a quote from official statements by members of the US administration. It seems to me, therefore, that journalists have enough material for analysis and can find out who does what and who is who. Ask about laws of this sort in the United States. I am confident that there are numerous open facts related to China and showing how the Americans are attempting to influence its internal affairs.
To reiterate: we are open to an honest discussion. But for it to be honest, they should formulate their grievances in a way that makes it clear what specifically they are talking about.
Question: President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko will visit Moscow soon. What do you think about Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and do you think an attempt to stage a colour revolution was made in Belarus?
Sergey Lavrov: As for Ms Tikhanovskaya, she openly says everything about herself. She calls for resistance and urges international organisations to impose sanctions on her homeland. In general, everything she declares in public speaks about her, her plans and ideas. She is subject to fairly visible metamorphoses. She is probably influenced by her stay in the capital of Lithuania, which does not conceal its ambitions as regards Belarus and its future, either.
Question: What do you think about yesterday’s talks between China and India?
Sergey Lavrov: When greeting our Chinese friends today, we noted the very productive work in the SCO and RIC formats yesterday. We are very pleased that Moscow hosted an intensive and important meeting of the Chinese and Indian foreign ministers, following which they made a statement aimed at normalising relations and deescalating tensions on the border. This decision, the statement and the meeting were very useful. Let me repeat that we are pleased that this meeting took place on Russian territory.