Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Communities of Guinea-Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa following their talks, Moscow, October 18, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
We had meaningful and trustworthy talks with my colleague from Guinea- Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa and discussed the entire range of major bilateral issues.
Quite recently, on October 6, we observed the 48th anniversary of our relations. By tradition, our friendly relations are based on a trustworthy dialogue and a striving to develop cooperation in most diverse areas.
We discussed the best ways of developing our trade, economic and investment cooperation and agreed to take a number of practical steps, including reciprocal visits by our entrepreneurs. We have already done some preliminary work.
Last year, Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau Nuno Gomes Nabiam met with representatives of the Russian business community. We agreed that based on these contacts, our friends from Guinea-Bissau would prepare a list of issues to be discussed at mutually beneficial talks with a view to coordinating specific projects. The areas mentioned in this respect included exploration of natural resources, construction of infrastructure facilities, as well as development of agriculture and fisheries.
We were pleased to note that five Russian fishing trawlers have recently resumed their operations in the exclusive economic zone of Guinea-Bissau. Our partners are interested in deepening bilateral cooperation in this area.
We agreed to continue the education of national personnel of Guinea-Bissau at Russian universities, which has earned a good reputation. Over 5,000 people have already entered civilian professions, and more than 3,000 people have acquired military specialties, which is important for Guinea-Bissau’s defences. Therefore, we will continue this practice. In addition, our military and technical intergovernmental cooperation agreement is about to enter in force. As you can see, we are continuing to strengthen our legal and contractual framework.
Our ministries have just signed a memorandum on political consultations. This will promote consistency in our good cooperation in the international arena. It relies on respect for international law, recognition of the UN’s central role and such principles of interstate cooperation as the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful settlement of disputes and unconditional respect for the right of nations to determine models of their political and socio-economic development for themselves.
We are cooperating well in the UN. Today, we discussed a number of areas where we could improve the effectiveness of our coordination. We are grateful to our partners for such an approach.
We paid special attention to the developments in Africa. We reviewed the situation in Mali, the Republic of Guinea and some other African areas, with an emphasis on West Africa and the Sahara-Sahel region. We have a common view on the need to do all we can to promote the principle that we proclaimed long ago: African solutions to African problems. It means that Africans themselves, the parties involved in the various conflicts should determine ways of reaching accord with the support of subregional organisations and the African Union, a continental forum. In the meantime, the international community will provide Africans with moral, political, and material assistance in setting up peacemaking operations. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a partner of Africans in a number of formats, including the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, Russia will do its best to promote this comprehensive and efficient approach.
We reviewed the implementation of the agreements reached at the first Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in October 2019. We discussed preparations for the second summit in this format in 2022. We hope all African leaders, including President of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embalo, will be able to attend it.
We have had a specific, practical discussion on many issues. I am pleased with its results and grateful to my colleague for our joint efforts.
Question: The period of turbulence continues in Africa, affecting some of Russia's traditional partner countries such as Sudan. The country is now seeing massive protests against the transitional government. Can you comment on the situation in Sudan?
Sergey Lavrov: We have not discussed Sudan today. We were not the ones who started that country’s division. We did our best to preserve the territorial integrity and unity of that major state on the African continent. But a number of external players, primarily the United States, decided it would be better for the Sudanese if they suddenly lived in two different states.
After the Sudanese parties ultimately agreed with this approach, Russia put a lot of effort into ensuring that the ‘divorce’ was peaceful. After it happened, those who had started it began to show discontent with the way the Sudanese - in Sudan and in South Sudan alike - strived to develop their countries and improve their lives.
Another external intervention began, as well as attempts to impose on the Sudanese approaches and ways to build democracy that the West deemed appropriate, as well as shock reforms to establish economic processes according to Western patterns. Unfortunately, the reaction was the opposite to what had been expected. The local population’s socioeconomic situation sharply deteriorated. Unemployment and corruption flourished. As a result, the traditional structure of Sudanese society is under serious stress now.
We believe that any interference in Sudanese internal affairs should be stopped. Intervention in any state’s internal affairs always leads to disastrous results. There are many such examples in Africa.
Today we talked about Libya. The results of the Western aggression in 2011 are still undermining stability in Libya as well as in many other countries, to which terrorists, weapons, drugs and other threats have flown via Libya.
We are adamant that the Sudanese people must determine their own future themselves. This is our fundamental principle. We do hope that all those who are trying to reject this principle are aware of their responsibility to prevent another serious hotbed of conflict and destabilisation from emerging on the long-suffering African continent.
Question: On October 6, it transpired that NATO had decided to expel eight Russian diplomats from the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to NATO in Brussels. How does Russia plan to respond?
Sergey Lavrov: The steps that are to be taken in response were announced literally today. The NATO International Secretariat has been notified thereof. The Foreign Ministry's statement will be circulated shortly.
On October 6, the NATO Secretariat issued an official notification to the effect that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg decided to revoke the accreditation of eight employees of Russia’s Permanent Mission to NATO in Brussels from November 1, 2021, and also to cut the total number of mission employees to 10 people, including administrative and technical staff. No explanation has been given.
Several days before this decision was announced, I met with Mr Stoltenberg in New York. He emphasised in every possible way NATO’s “sincere” (as he said) interest in normalising relations with the Russian Federation in the interests of de-escalating tensions in Europe.
We were not particularly surprised by this decision. The staff of our mission to NATO was reduced twice in recent years at NATO’s insistence (in 2015 and 2018). Since 2014, NATO has minimised contacts with our Permanent Mission, announced complete cessation of practical cooperation in civilian areas and the military, where we have no contacts at all. In fact, they have introduced a ban on everything for our diplomats with regard to visiting NATO headquarters for maintaining elementary communication with the International Secretariat (contacts cannot be maintained without visits). This corroborates the fact that NATO is not interested in an equal dialogue with us or any joint work. If this is the case, we do not see much reason in continuing to pretend that things may change in the foreseeable future. NATO has, in fact, announced that these changes are impossible. So, we have decided as follows.
NATO’s purposeful actions have left us with practically no proper means of conducting elementary diplomatic activities. In response to NATO steps, starting from November 1, 2021, we are suspending the activities of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to NATO in Brussels, including the military representative’s activities.
Second, the activities of the NATO Military Liaison Mission Moscow shall be suspended. The accreditation of its employees shall be withdrawn on November 1, 2021.
Third, the NATO Information Office at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Moscow shall be closed down. Should NATO members have any urgent needs, they can contact our Ambassador in Brussels, who ensures Russia-Belgium relations.
The NATO International Secretariat has been duly notified. We are releasing a corresponding Foreign Ministry statement.