Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following his talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Moscow, December 23, 2020
We met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, my colleague (and long-time friend). We discussed in detail various foreign policy problems. We reviewed different issues, primarily cooperation between our ministries. Our bilateral agenda was also discussed in detail during Mr Al Thani’s meeting with Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Yury Borisov. They co-chair the Joint Russia-Qatar Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation.
We noted that the trade numbers have been making good progress. It increased by 40 percent from January to October of this year despite the coronavirus issues.
The commission has plans for the further development of mutual exchanges. In parallel, the Russian Direct Investment Fund is engaged in dynamic cooperation with the Qatar Investment Agency. They have established a joint platform for implementing projects valued at $1.2 billion.
We had agreed that Qatar would attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) as a guest last June. But this wasn’t possible for obvious reasons; the forum was suspended. Today, our Qatari friends expressed their willingness to participate when the event takes place. We hope it will be held next year.
The intergovernmental agreement on visa-free travel for the citizens of Russia and Qatar entered into force last February. This will promote the development of our relations in all areas, including culture, education and sports, especially now that Qatar will be hosting the FIFA World Cup in a year.
We spoke about Syria. There is a unanimous opinion on the need to fulfil UN Security Council Resolution 2254 in full. We told our colleagues about the steps taken in the Astana format with the participation of Russia, Turkey and Iran and the ongoing work in Geneva where the Constitutional Committee and its “small body” responsible for drafting the Constitution are functioning. I will say with cautious optimism that the committee’s latest session completed on December 4, looked promising. We expect the fifth session of the “small body,” scheduled for the latter half of January, to make the transition to the practical discussion of the Constitution.
We have a common position on the need to step up efforts on creating conditions for a sustainable political process in Libya. Many initiatives have been made and are still being suggested. It is important for all of them to be coordinated under UN aegis. In this respect, we are concerned about the long delay in the appointment of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Libya.
We agreed that now that Israel’s relations with a number of Arab states have been normalised, the Palestinian problem must not be relegated to the background. It must be resolved in conformity with universally recognised international law based on the relevant UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. We reaffirmed our common interest in restoring the Palestinian unity as soon as possible and resuming the processes launched between FATAH and HAMAS.
We reviewed developments in the Persian Gulf. We consider it very important to seek common consent on launching a process that can and must lead to the creation of a sustainable collective security system in this vital area.
I think our talks were very practical. I am grateful to our Qatari friends for their cooperation. We agreed on specific steps to promote consultations between our ministries. I am sincerely grateful to Mr Minister for our close ties.
Question (addressed to Sergey Lavrov): the Americans have imposed new sanctions against a number of Russian officials, as well as companies and enterprises. What is Russia's expected response to these measures?
Sergey Lavrov: As for the question of new US sanctions on Russian and Chinese individuals, we are not surprised. The United States has long pursued a hostile policy towards our country. A response will follow and not just in terms of mirroring or asymmetry. We will use an additional approach that will affect the entire range of Russian-American relations. Washington's actions reflect a strategic line of action by the United States to try to weaken rivals in world markets, implement unscrupulous methods of competition in flagrant violation of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Another blatant disregard for the principles of international law once again emphasises that the United States will promote its own rules that it imposes on everyone else. When our European partners constantly insist on the need to establish a rules-based world order, they must understand what kind of "game" they are playing. This could backfire on any country.
We will take all this into account in situations related to building business relations with the United States, which has proven to be completely unreliable as partners, and we will also take this into account in a broader sense.
The measures taken by the United States also affect the interests of American businesses who suffer losses from the actions of their political leaders.
Recent meetings held within the framework of the US-Russia Business Council show that the vast majority of businesspeople are dissatisfied with this state of affairs and are sincerely interested in ending this approach, and want to return to normal economic relations based on mutual benefit.
Question: In your opinion, will stabilization among the Arab countries affect the situation in the Persian Gulf? We have repeatedly heard that Russia has an initiative. Meanwhile, on Monday a new American military group entered these waters.
Sergey Lavrov: Russia hopes that the summit of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, scheduled for January 5, will lead to overcoming the split in the Council and allow it to resume its normal activities. We are interested in this, first of all, because all the countries participating in the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf are our partners and friends. We want there to be no conflict between them. Second, the restoration of the unity of this council and its functions is also important for the implementation of ideas related to ensuring security in the Persian Gulf as a whole, that is, with the participation of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Our initiatives in this regard are well known. There were quite a few of them. Russia has been promoting the concept of ensuring security in this region for many years. A year ago, Russia updated this document. It is available to all potential participants in the process. Our initiatives evoke great interest. Last autumn, we held a scientific and practical conference in Moscow with the participation of political scientists and experts from the relevant countries. In October of this year, Russia held the Presidency of the UN Security Council, and we organised a special open meeting on this issue. Qatar also participated. The discussion, although not without differences in approach, was very useful.
We hope the summit will take place on January 5 and will be productive.