Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani following a trilateral meeting, Doha, March 11, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
I join in the words of gratitude addressed to our Qatari friends for their hospitality and their initiative to hold this meeting.
This is the first time we are holding a ministerial meeting in this format. Before this, our special representatives worked to establish communication on Syrian issues between our three countries. Special thanks go to the experts for preparing today’s meeting, including our Joint Statement.
We noted with satisfaction the overlapping or similar approaches to various aspects of the settlement in Syria. We noted our common understanding of the fact that there is no alternative solution to the political process based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the outcome of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, which was convened by the Astana Troika. We share the understanding that, in all our actions, we and other international players must respect, without reservations, Syria’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We emphasised the importance of urgently providing the Syrians with humanitarian aid, including in fighting the coronavirus infection, as well as assistance in rebuilding civilian infrastructure destroyed during the war. These pressing tasks cannot be acted on in full because of the illegitimate unilateral sanctions imposed by the West on Syria’s legitimate government and, by and large, on the Syrian people.
Russia, Turkey and Qatar’s common goals are included in the Joint Statement which reiterates their determination to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and to oppose the implementation of the separatist plans that undermine Syria’s territorial integrity and threaten the national security of neighbouring countries.
The Statement underscores the important role of the Syrian Constitutional Committee and our countries’ willingness to assist it in every possible way, including in collaboration with the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Syria, Geir Pedersen, in order to ensure sustainable and effective work on the Constitution. We agreed to make every effort so that the next meeting of the Constitutional Committee Drafting Commission can achieve tangible results. We hope it will take place before the holy month of Ramadan begins.
Russia, Turkey and Qatar also said they would take part in international efforts to ensure the safe and voluntary return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced people to their homes.
The parties noted their shared commitment to support the initiatives aimed at building trust between the Syrian sides, including with regard to freeing detained persons.
Our special representatives will directly coordinate joint efforts to achieve the common goals set out in the Statement. We will continue to hold regular ministerial meetings. In general, trilateral contacts will come as a useful addition to Russia, Turkey and Iran’s Astana-format activities.
Once again, I wish to thank our Qatari friends.
Question: Russia will host a conference on Afghanistan in Moscow on March 18. Is it held in parallel with the intra-Afghan talks in Doha or is it an alternative to them?
Sergey Lavrov (speaks after Mohammed Al-Thani): I support what my colleague and friend just said. We are genuinely interested in bringing an end to the Afghan tragedy as soon as possible. This is yet another example of the consequences of democratisation, which the countries outside of that region are trying to impose, including in Iraq, Libya and Syria.
We are not competing with Qatar or any other country in this regard. We have not adopted a stance that could become a bone of contention. As you are aware, before the Doha process, there was the Istanbul process and the Moscow format, and no one ever thought of reproaching our Qatari friends for “stealing the show.” This is a case of flawed logic.
Indeed, we followed closely and supported strongly the Doha talks. I can’t agree with you saying they were a success. Many unresolved problems remain. We discussed this today, including with Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Thani. We would like to help these talks to continue, with each participant adopting a more constructive position.
This is exactly why the Moscow meeting is being convened. It was initiated by Russia, the United States and the People’s Republic of China. The three countries will meet in an expanded format which will include Pakistan. The Afghan parties will be invited as well. This is in no way an official format, fixed by some decision. It is designed to encourage the parties to be more cooperative through informal discussions and a trust-based dialogue. So, I can only support what Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Thani had to say.
Question: It was stated today that this will be a permanent format. In what way will this format be different from the Astana format? Will the Astana format focus on military issues, and this one on humanitarian issues, or is there something else to it?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Mevlut Cavusoglu and Mohammed Al-Thani): I agree with what has just been said about this format. One of the first questions was why we are meeting now. We are not meeting just now, this format has been in existence for over a year now. Our representatives have held at least three meetings to exchange opinions on how to overcome the Syria crisis in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. It complements the Astana format, rather than replaces it.
In its own time, the Astana format created the foundation for the efforts that are now being undertaken to achieve a Syrian settlement. It created the basis for implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254, primarily through the holding of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. The Astana format is dedicated to all aspects of settlement, including military, political and humanitarian. We will, of course, welcome the role that Qatar is willing to play. This is a manifestation of a natural impulse to help a fraternal Arab nation.
The joint patrolling (if you are familiar with the history of this issue) is part of the agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on settling the situation in the Idlib province. In addition to separating the responsible opposition from terrorists, it includes the mutual consent to organise a joint Russian-Turkish patrol of the M-4 Motorway. We discussed this today as well. Yesterday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and I held a bilateral meeting to discuss these matters. So, I can only welcome Qatar’s initiative to contribute to creating proper conditions for overcoming the current tragic situation in Syria.
Question: How can the favourable position of a number of Arab countries regarding Syria’s return to the League of Arab States help settle the political crisis in Syria? Are we likely to see any progress in relations between Qatar and Syria? Perhaps, Qatar could open an embassy in Damascus?
Sergey Lavrov: I can only welcome any progress in the Arab states’ collective opinion on the need to return Syria to the Arab League. I believe this will come as a consolidating factor and will play a positive role in the efforts to stabilise this entire large region, just as the recent restoration of GCC unity played a very positive role in this sense following the summit held in Saudi Arabia on January 5. So, we are always in favour of joining efforts, rather than going separate ways.