Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Moscow, May 12, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and I had substantive and fulfilling talks centred on the situation in international relations, which is quite challenging. We used the opportunity to discuss our cooperation and the assistance that Russia, under the UN Charter, can additionally provide to the UN to help it fulfil its goals.
We noted that Russia sees some Western countries’ attempts to promote unilateral approaches in circumvention of the established collective mechanisms for developing international law-based solutions as one of today’s key challenges. We consider developing certain “rules” behind the back of the greater part of the international community and then imposing them on others as universal norms unacceptable and dangerous practice.
We are witnessing situational coalitions and partnerships being created outside the UN, which arrogate to themselves the right to speak and act on behalf of everyone else, accompanied by criticism of the UN for its allegedly low efficacy.
We emphasised that, in the opinion of the Russian Federation, the “rules-based order” concept promoted by our Western colleagues is unrelated to either law or universal morality and runs counter to the objective trend for democratising interaction between states and creating a fair, inclusive and polycentric world order. The voice of every country, regardless of its size, military or economic capacity, must be heard within the framework of this democratic world order. The “rules” concept is causing tangible damage to the central coordinating role of the UN in international affairs, leads to an imbalance in the architecture of global governance and directly contradicts the interests of the international community.
We see no less serious risks in other illegitimate actions in circumvention of the UN, primarily, the use of force without the approval by the UN Security Council and unilateral economic sanctions, which usually affect the most vulnerable groups in society and lead nowhere.
As a founding state of the UN and a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia stands strongly with the UN. We operate on the premise that the UN is the pillar of the international legal system that emerged in the wake of World War II. This is the only truly universal interstate mechanism capable of expressing the will of entire humankind, which has unique legitimacy in this regard. We are convinced that the overwhelming majority of the nation states share this point of view.
Russia reaffirms its position in favour of taking practical action to strengthen the UN. Russia’s foreign policy undertakings are, as a rule, UN-centred, which can be seen in President Putin’s initiative to convene a summit of the leaders of the states that are permanent members of the UN Security Council, which, we hope, will take place after the epidemiological situation normalises worldwide.
We share the Secretary-General’s conviction that the international community can deal with modern challenges and threats, regional conflicts, pandemics similar to the COVID-19 infection, terrorism and other transnational crimes and, of course, such phenomena as climate change only through joint efforts. We also have to accomplish socioeconomic development tasks, primarily in developing states. Member states should pool their multilateral efforts on the basis of the UN Charter’s goals and principles. This is our common position.
We discussed specific conflict situations, part of the UN and Security Council agenda, in great detail, including what is going on in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen. We also reviewed the rather complicated problem of the Cyprus settlement.
Russia fully shares the UN Secretary-General’s striving to resolve crises by political and diplomatic means, including through mediation. We are also content with the aims of the UN Secretary-General to overcome disagreements through an equidistant and unbiased approach towards the conflicting parties and by heeding all opinions of the member states. We intend to support Antonio Guterres’ efforts in every way possible. We are grateful to the UN Secretary-General for his readiness to accept Russia’s contribution to his efforts.
We agreed that it was in our common interests to facilitate the effective and unbiased work of the UN agencies. The UN Secretary-General agrees that it is important that top UN executives, especially its Secretariat, adhere to well-balanced approaches, and that they act solely on the basis of collective decisions made by the member states.
We came to an agreement to continue expanding the number of the Russian Federation’s officials in the UN Secretariat. Specific steps have already been taken in this direction. We are grateful for this.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the UN Secretary-General for his many years of cooperation and to wish him every success in the future.
Question (addressed to Sergey Lavrov): Russia enjoys good relations with both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What can Moscow do to de-escalate the tensions? Earlier, you also pushed for combining the efforts of the quartets of international and Arab mediators. How relevant is it at this point?
Sergey Lavrov: We covered this in depth today. Indeed, problems have piled up in the region, and many of them are intertwined. Addressing one and ignoring the others is not an option.
We welcomed the beginning of a process for normalising relations between the Arab countries and Israel as any other progress in relations between the international community members. But, like other countries that observed this process, we emphasised that the normalisation of relations between the Arab countries and Israel should not take place at the expense or to the detriment of resolving the Palestinian issue in accordance with the two-state principle enshrined in the UN Security Council resolutions.
The developments that broke out several days ago are, unfortunately, still underway. People are dying on both sides. The unilateral actions have begun, which the UN Security Council and the Quartet of international mediators have repeatedly urged the sides to avoid.
Today, we have come to a common understanding that convening a Quartet of international mediators, including Russia, the United States, the UN and the EU, is the most important task at hand. We put our trust in the Secretary-General as the coordinator of the Quartet to work with the parties and to try to set up this meeting as soon as possible and hold it preferably at the ministerial level.
We stand for establishing a dialogue between the Quartet and the Arab countries that normalised their relations and established diplomatic ties with Israel. Plus, the Palestinians and Israelis themselves. We had Saudi Arabia, which pushed forward the Arab Peace Initiative, join this group as another participant of this meeting. At this point, convening the Quartet is the simplest and the most urgent move we should make. It is easier to do this now than to make arrangements for larger configurations. I hope that the Secretary-General’s experience and diplomatic skills will help create proper environment to get this process underway.
Question (addressed to Antonio Guterres): You have criticised a lot the “vaccine nationalism.” Is there any discussion worldwide of the possibility that all the major manufacturers of the vaccines may suspend their rights in order to distribute the knowhow and make the vaccine accessible worldwide? And a related question: what are the prospects for the Russian vaccine to be approved by the European regulator?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Antonio Guterres): Several dozen agreements have been signed, and Sputnik V has been registered in more than 60 countries, most of which are already receiving the first batches. We have repeatedly made it clear that we are open to cooperation with other vaccine manufacturers. We can both enjoy a positive process of interaction if they show similar interest.
The other day, President Vladimir Putin spoke positively about the idea of dropping patent protection by all vaccine manufacturers for some time so that the generic drugs could quickly saturate the market.
Question (addressed to Antonio Guterres): I would like to take use this opportunity to draw your attention to the situation in Latvia. Since 2020, Latvian authorities continue to persecute journalists who cooperate with Russian media outlets. This is all-out persecution: a criminal case has been opened against over a dozen people, their homes have been searched, their documents and office equipment have been confiscated, and they have signed pledges not leave their city of residence. Technically speaking, they are being accused of violating the sanctions regime, although no sanctions apply to them, and these journalists have nothing to do with any sanctions. In my opinion, this is political persecution. On May 3, 2021, on World Press Freedom Day, we sent you a video address by one of the journalists. Are you aware of the situation in Latvia? Are you ready to monitor these developments and to ensure that Latvian authorities comply with the fundamental UN documents, at least the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and therefore do not create administrative and criminal barriers hampering the work of journalists in Latvia?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Antonio Guterres): Apart from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary-General has an assistant on human rights who is from Latvia. I believe that, if he receives your video, this will be instrumental for processing your request.
Question (addressed to Antonio Guterres): In the past few years, the United States has expanded its blockade against Cuba. What is your opinion of the US policy with regard to Cuba?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Antonio Guterres): Apart from the specific situation caused by additional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a systemic problem regarding the US blockade of Cuba. Each year, the UN General Assembly passes a resolution by an overwhelming majority of votes. Two or three countries and the United States do not support it, while all others vote in favour of the document. These resolutions reflect the UN policy.