Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions following talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Plurinational State of Bolivia Rogelio Mayta, Moscow, October 22, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Plurinational State of Bolivia is one of Russia’s priority partners in Latin America and the Caribbean. Our relations have become visibly closer over the last few months. The heads of state have had three telephone conversations. The talks were substantial and dedicated to the further development of our bilateral ties and the coordination of our international positions.
We communicated with Mr Minister over the phone this summer and a personal meeting took place in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September when I had the honour of meeting with President of Bolivia Luis Arce.
Following up on these contacts, we inventoried our bilateral projects today. We pointed out the positive dynamics in Russian-Bolivian cooperation, as agreed by our presidents. We welcomed the invigoration of inter-parliamentary exchanges and contacts between relevant ministries and agencies. We agreed on joint efforts to bring our collaboration to a new level.
We have a shared interest in increasing and diversifying trade and in implementing major investment projects. For this purpose, we have arranged to more actively use the potential of the Intergovernmental Russian-Bolivian Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation, whose next meeting will be held in Bolivia before the end of this year.
Energy offers many opportunities for expanding cooperation. Gazprom has been developing Bolivia’s Incahuasi gas and condensate field for years and is working on other projects of mutually beneficial collaboration in the hydrocarbons area. The Rosatom State Corporation is building the Centre for Nuclear Technology Research in El Alto, Bolivia, a unique project for Latin America and the Caribbean.
In addition, Rosatom proposed a number of other spheres of cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy for medical, industrial, agricultural and other purposes.
Russian Railways, Power Machines and other Russian companies are working in Bolivia and are also considering other mutually beneficial projects with their Bolivian partners.
The promising spheres of cooperation include industry, pharmaceuticals, infrastructure, medical equipment and aircraft technology. We have agreed to facilitate the development of direct contacts between our two countries’ business communities and to provide all-round assistance to them.
Special attention was given to our plans for boosting cooperation in combating the coronavirus infection in light of the currently complicated epidemiological situation. Bolivia has received nearly 2.5 million doses of Sputnik V for vaccination purposes, and the Minister has informed us of the high opinion of this vaccine in Bolivian society.
There is a positive outlook in the area of humanitarian cooperation, educational exchanges and the training of professionals.
We agreed to further develop the bilateral legal framework. We are preparing a roadmap on trade and economic cooperation, an agreement on the mutual recognition of education certificates, and documents on military-technical cooperation and ties in culture, media and sport.
We discussed ways to strengthen our foreign policy coordination. We have identical views regarding approaches to current regional and global matters. We have been consistently advocating broader democracy in international relations through the application of the norms and principles of the UN Charter, such as respect for the sovereignty of states with due regard for the generally recognised standards of international law, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, and the settlement of all disputes by peaceful, diplomatic means. In this context, we have reaffirmed our interest in revitalising and deepening cooperation within the framework of the recently established Group of Friends in Defence of the UN Charter. It held a regular meeting in Belgrade on the sidelines of the recent session of the Non-Aligned Movement.
We exchanged views on the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean. We believe that it is important to consolidate integration processes, including at such a respected venue as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
We called for the immediate termination of interference in the internal affairs of regional countries, including the illegal trade, economic and financial blockade of Cuba, and spoke out against Washington’s unacceptable activities to undermine development processes in such countries as Venezuela and Nicaragua.
We discussed methods to promote closer ties between Russia and multilateral regional organisations. Russia has recently received the status of extra-regional observer at the Central American Integration System (SICA). We are also developing ties with the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Mercosur and other organisations.
Our talks were highly productive. I would like to thank the Minister and his team for very good talks and to give him the floor.
Question: Is there any understanding of what will be the format for Russia’s participation in the G20 summit in Rome? Will President Vladimir Putin attend in person? If so, will any bilateral meetings be arranged on the sidelines?
Sergey Lavrov: The President’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov has already answered this question. The Presidential Executive Office will make an announcement as soon as they choose a format. This also applies to the possible bilateral meetings that can be held in either format.
Question: Could you comment on what Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmitry Kuleba said on President Vladimir Putin “promising” a Normandy format meeting?
Sergey Lavrov: Regarding statements by Kuleba, the leaders of Russia, Germany and France had a telephone conversation, during which our interlocutors went to great lengths to persuade Vladimir Putin to hold a Normandy format summit as soon as possible. The President of Russia made a very reasonable objection saying that Ukraine has not carried out the resolutions adopted at the previous summit, held in Paris in December 2019. There were specific agreements that Kiev had to implement, but they were completely ignored, including both on the Steinmeier Formula on the status of Donbass and holding elections, and efforts to maintain a ceasefire.
Finally, I think it was in July 2020, an agreement was reached on additional ceasefire monitoring measures, but Ukraine rejected them. A few days ago, the Ukrainian Armed Forces command made an official announcement that they will not honour these agreements. During the telephone conversation between the three leaders, President Vladimir Putin explained just how misplaced attempts to convene a new summit are, if the Ukrainian authorities do to comply with the resolutions of the second summit. In this situation, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron said that foreign ministers and foreign policy advisers could work on this matter and think it over. Vladimir Putin agreed. This is what we are doing. We are thinking. At the same time, we keep in mind what the Normandy format leaders have said, and who promised what. If Dmitry Kuleba claims that the Russian President “promised” to convene a foreign ministers’ meeting, he is distorting facts. He promised to issue an instruction to look into the question of organising a meeting of foreign ministers that would yield tangible results.
In this conversation, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel gave the Russian President an even more important promise to help ensure the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, where it is written that matters related to amnesty, special status, organising elections and amending the Ukrainian Constitution have to be addressed in consultation with and subject to consent from specific areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. We have been proceeding from this premise, but Kiev has been sabotaging direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk.
Only two days after the telephone conversation during which the leaders of France and Germany reaffirmed their full commitment to the Minsk agreements, Kiev hosted the European Union – Ukraine summit that resulted in the adoption of a lengthy statement, signed by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky praising “the constructive approach of Ukraine in the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group” and the way it has implemented the Minsk agreements. Nothing was said about Donetsk and Lugansk, or the need for direct dialogue with them. Russia was presented as an “aggressor country” and called a “party to the conflict” in Donbass. All this runs counter to what Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron promised.
Having read this statement, we immediately contacted our colleagues in Berlin and Paris and asked what it meant. They responded that this was “the EU’s collective position” and Russia was viewed as a party to the conflict in Donbass, while talking to Donetsk and Lugansk did not make any sense. This is all I have to say to Dmitry Kuleba when he laments that Russia refuses to hold a Normandy format ministerial meeting and undermines the peaceful settlement process, as he put it.
Getting four people on television to show that we are “hard at work” is one thing, but even in the popular Kvartal 95 show actors do not just go on stage and stare at the audience but follow the script and try to entertain the public. Implementing the Minsk agreements is what the public wants.