Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at a joint meeting of the collegiums of the foreign ministries of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, Minsk, November 26, 2020
Mr Makei, Mr Rapota, colleagues, friends,
I would like to thank our Belarusian hosts for traditional hospitality and excellent organisation of our meeting. Our annual meetings allow us to coordinate our positions on important issues on the international agenda in line with the Programme for Coordinated Foreign Policy Actions of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State.
We have always enjoyed our visits to Minsk, which used to be one of the quietest post-Soviet cities. We are concerned about current developments in Belarus. We hope that things will get back to normal soon, including thanks to President Lukashenko’s initiative on the Constitutional reform and modernisation of the political system. We condemn the attempts to interfere in Belarus’ domestic affairs, to stir up confrontational activities from outside and to impose unilateral mediation services.
We plan to review four issues at today's meeting. The first one is about our countries' relations with the EU, which are not quite smooth. The reason is in the non-partnership-like and often unfriendly behaviour of a number of EU countries, which is approved by the entire EU. Sadly, Germany is increasingly acting as its initiator. Pressure is being exerted on Russia and Belarus to change behaviour and restrain the countries’ development. Statements bordering on ultimatums can be heard in the Western media and official remarks. There are numerous instances of interference in our internal affairs. Riot technology is being used. The opposition receives financial and other support. Unilateral sanctions are imposed arbitrarily as in a game without rules. The interaction formats that took years to build have been frozen.
Many EU countries are unable to break the arrogant habit of talking to others from a position of strength, which limits the possibility of restoring mutually respectful and equitable dialogue. Even the Eastern Partnership participants have been divided into categories. Belarus, along with Azerbaijan and Armenia, are part of Category B countries, with which cooperation can actually be frozen. We are no longer thinking about how to deal with the EU – as usual or not as usual, but whether we should deal with Brussels at all while it pursues its current policy.
In accordance with the principle of reciprocity, we expanded the reciprocal stop list and included in it the EU countries’ nationals who participated in the sanctions frenzy. We note our Belarusian colleagues’ prompt countermeasures. Since 2015, we maintain the single stop lists, and this kind of coordination within the Union State has been streamlined.
The participation in UN peacekeeping operations is the second item on our agenda. For more than 45 years now, Russian peacekeepers have been contributing to resolving crises and restoring stability in different parts of the world. We are aware of our Belarusian colleagues’ interest in increasing their participation in these operations. We will spare no effort to support it.
In addition to national efforts, the peacekeeping potential of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation should be used more broadly. Creating a proper environment for involving the organisation's forces in the UN peacekeeping operations is among the priorities of the current Russian CSTO chairmanship. Alongside the Secretariat, the organisation stepped up the study of the corresponding issues with the UN and began to adapt the CSTO legal framework for registering our Collective Peacekeeping Forces with the UN Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System. We are grateful to our Belarusian friends for prompt coordination of the corresponding documents, which, we hope, will soon be approved by the CSTO statutory bodies.
I hope that the completed work will make it possible to start forming a joint subdivision of the CSTO countries, which will contribute to international peacekeeping efforts. This collaboration is quite advanced. Our countries support raising the CSTO profile in ensuring stability and security worldwide and in other formats.
Another important item on the agenda of the meeting is related to the construction of the Greater Eurasian Partnership on the basis of the integration of integrations concept, which will be open to all states and interstate associations on the continent.
Aligning the EAEU with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is one of the pillars of such a partnership. We note that, as part of this policy, coordination has been established with our Belarusian colleagues currently chairing the EAEU. We consider this extremely important given the possibilities of strategic partnership with the PRC, which must be used in our common interests. This is the goal of the Strategic Directions for Developing the Eurasian Economic Integration until 2025 submitted for approval by the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council.
Traditionally, international information security is on the agenda. Recent international developments have clearly shown the importance of cooperation on this matter of all countries without exception rather than a select few. Clearly, without universal agreements, the world risks plunging into cyberchaos fraught with catastrophic consequences. It is amid a cyberwar supported from outside that illegal subversive activities start to flourish, and information and communication technology is used for criminal purposes.
It is important to continue to jointly uphold our approaches in this sphere at multilateral platforms, in regional mechanisms and bilateral formats. We note the well-coordinated interaction of the delegations of Russia and the Republic of Belarus during the start of the UN Open-Ended Working Group on International Cybersecurity and an ad hoc UN committee of experts to draft a convention on combating cybercrime. We are also working on the text of a Joint Statement of the CIS Heads of State on this subject.
I’m confident that this meeting will be an excellent opportunity for us to compare notes on the designated and many other issues, to reaffirm agreements and come up with effective solutions in the interests of strengthening our countries’ positions in the international arena.
Thank you to everyone who put together the draft final documents, which are truly of high quality. I propose we move on to the items on our agenda.