Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting, Rio de Janeiro, July 26, 2019
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to Foreign Minister of Brazil Ernesto Araujo for the excellent organisation of today's meeting.
Like each of its member countries, BRICS plays a key role in making transition from a unipolar world to a polycentric global structure. Globalisation is changing the global balance of forces in favour of developing economies and emerging markets. The focus of economic activity, technological advances and, as a result, political influence is shifting from the Euro-Atlantic to other regions. Such trends are not to the liking of those who would like to slow down these objectively occurring processes of human civilisation and to artificially maintain their dominance, stooping to blackmail, threats, and unfair and unscrupulous competition.
Efforts are being made to undermine international institutions and universal agreements. Instead of genuine multilateral diplomacy, decisions by narrow “interest-based coalitions” are pushed through in order to aggressively impose them later on everyone else. The organisers of such illegal actions are trying to usurp the very notion of the “international community.”
To this end, they promote the disingenuously named “rules-based order”. This is an attempt to create a pseudo-legal reality to justify actions seeking to contain competitors. These notorious “rules” often constitute direct violation of international law and are meant to replace it. We observe this in a number of international organisations, in particular, in what is happening with the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. All this is done in order to ensure the monopoly of our Western colleagues on decision-making regarding global issues.
Russia firmly believes that international law and, above all, the UN Charter constitute the foundation of peace, security and state-to-state communication in the current era of turbulent change. Violations of its core goals and principles are resulting in increased tensions and violence in the Middle East, North Africa and other regions of the world, the expansion of untenable practices of unilateral coercive measures in circumvention of the UN Security Council, and the extraterritorial application of national laws.
The path to overcoming any crisis, be it on the Korean Peninsula, in Afghanistan, the Middle East or Africa, lies exclusively through equitable dialogue, political and diplomatic solutions with unconditional respect for international legal norms, including respect for sovereignty, the prohibition on interfering in countries’ internal affairs and on the use of force or the threat of force. Only such an approach can ensure viable and lasting settlements.
All of the above fully applies to our position regarding the situation in and around Venezuela. It is necessary to rely on international law, to support the efforts of the Venezuelans to resolve their internal problems independently without any external pressure and through talks in strict accordance with the Constitution. In this sense, we see the “Oslo process” meeting as a step towards achieving a sustainable settlement between the Venezuelans themselves. We call upon all external players to actively support this process.
Threats to international security come from an unprecedented increase of military spending and the destruction of strategic stability architecture, which took decades to create. The alarming examples include the destruction of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) by the United States, following its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty). Uncertainty is looming over the New START Treaty. We have proposed extending it, but Washington has not yet replied to this proposal.
We are alarmed by the US plans, which are being realised, to deploy weapons in outer space, which can initiate a new and fundamentally different round in the global arms race.
You know that Russia and China have long submitted a draft treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. We appreciate the fact that all BRICS states invariably support the annual resolutions on this vital matter at the UN General Assembly.
We are seriously concerned about Iran’s recent developments. Our American colleagues have not only withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme, which the UN Security Council approved, but are also threatening illegal unilateral sanctions against the other countries in a bid to prohibit them from complying with the legally binding UNSC resolution. We urge our Iranian colleagues to show restraint. It should be said that they continue to faithfully comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the IAEA Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement. At the same time, I hope you understand that it would be counterproductive to demand unilateral compliance with the JCPOA obligations from Iran at a time when the other signatories, primarily our Western colleagues, are not honouring them. We urge the three European leaders to acknowledge their responsibility for the preservation of the nuclear deal and for complying with their obligations regarding the unimpeded development of economic ties with Iran.
I would like to remind you that when the JCPOA was approved the international community hailed its importance not only for the settlement of Iran’s nuclear problem but also for the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime as a whole. If they destroy this deal, which the United States wants, they will deliver a grave – I hope not irremediable – blow at the non-proliferation regime.
The anti-Iran moves have dramatically aggravated tension in the Persian Gulf. Developments have approached a red line with the risk of a major armed conflict looming. This must be prevented at all costs. Russia is urging for the normalisation of the situation in the region without any further delay. With this aim in view, we formulated a Concept of Collective Security in the Persian Gulf. All our BRICS colleagues have the text of this concept. We hope for your support.
Regarding the Syrian settlement, Russia believes that the main objectives are to restore the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, eliminating the remaining terrorists and facilitating the return of refugees while promoting a Syrian-led political process as per UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The launch of the Constitutional Committee that is expected to meet in the near future will be an essential step in this direction.
Supporting post-conflict recovery processes in Syria is also critical. We call for more countries to contribute to this work, and note the efforts being undertaken by our Chinese and Indian friends.
There is a growing awareness of the need for external players to pool efforts in order to create conditions that will put the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan on a stable footing. Russia proactively contributes to these efforts, including as part of the Moscow Format, in which all the key Central Asian players and Afghanistan’s neighbours, including India and China, are represented.
Russia attaches great importance to strengthening peace and security in Africa, and reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the “African solutions to African problems” principle that was articulated by Africans themselves. We welcome the agreements between Sudan’s Transitional Military Council and the civilian opposition to set up a provisional government body in the run-up to the general election. We believe further steps to overcome the impasses in the disputes between Ethiopia and Eritrea and between Ethiopia and Djibouti, as well as international support for Somalia’s efforts to restore its statehood to be essential stability factors for the Horn of Africa. Russia welcomes the efforts being taken to ensure the operational readiness of the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel. This can contribute in meaningful ways to countering the terrorist threat in the region which has increased substantially after NATO countries broke Libya’s statehood into pieces. Restoring the Libyan state will be no easy job. Russia will also promote a settlement in the Central African Republic in coordination with the African Union (AU) and our international partners.
Russia values South Africa’s special and proactive role in promoting a settlement on the African continent. We know that it is a top priority of our South African colleagues to try and diffuse all conflict and crisis situations when South Africa accedes to the office of AU Chair next year.
Speaking of the development of our association, I would like to emphasise that Russia highly appreciates Brazil’s able and proactive BRICS presidency and effective drafting of the declaration adopted at the meeting of our respective leaders in Osaka on June 28.
We welcome Brazil’s priorities, which include strengthening cooperation in innovation, science, technology and in the digital economy. We support its commitment to ensuring continuity in implementing the resolutions of the preceding BRICS summits.
In this context, we believe that it would be advisable to expedite the drafting of five-party agreements on the remote sensing satellite constellation and international information security.
Russia attaches special importance to further expanding cooperation on combatting terrorism and corruption. We support South Africa’s proposal to establish a working group on fighting transnational crime.
We are grateful for including among the priorities of Brazil’s Presidency two Russian initiatives: to establish an Energy Research Platform and the BRICS Women Business Alliance.
We are confident that our countries need close coordination at international venues. We believe it is important to intensify dialogue between our diplomatic missions in third countries, particularly at multilateral organisations, and to draw up joint documents. We also think it is important to discuss sensitive matters, on which our countries may differ. An open and trust-based dialogue will always help to look for points of contact and will produce results. A good case in point is the coordination of this meeting’s final document by all our experts.
Continuous diplomatic efforts in the format of the Five are badly needed. I hope that we will continue our discussion on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 26.
We are grateful to our partners for having supported Russian resolutions at the UN General Assembly, such as those on the inadmissibility of the glorification of Nazism, on no first placement of weapons in outer space, on confidence-building measures in outer space activities, as well as on international information security and on combating cybercrime. We are grateful to India, China and South Africa for voting jointly with us against an openly provocative resolution on human rights in Crimea. Everyone concerned with human rights in Crimea can freely travel there. Those who believe that this should not be done under any circumstances and that it is necessary to condemn Russia are acting in bad faith. They are politicising human rights and are speculating on this topic. Generally, I would think it right for the members of the Five to seek to support each other at international organisations when a vote is taken on issues of fundamental importance for the national interests of each of our states.
We are willing to intensify financial and economic interaction within BRICS, as it was stated by the leaders of the five countries in Osaka. We also intend to defend the foundations of the WTO-based open, inclusive, equitable, transparent and mutually beneficial multilateral trade system.
We note that progress has been achieved in streamlining the full-scale operational activity of the New Development Bank (NDB). It has already approved 35 investment projects worth a total of over $9.2 billion. An important aspect is going forward with plans to transit to project funding in BRICS national currencies.
In Osaka, our leaders addressed the subject of increasing the number of NDB shareholders. We think that a stage-by-stage approach is needed here, which implies that the modalities of the admission of new shareholders will be additionally coordinated in detail by the finance ministries and the ministries of foreign affairs. A relevant proposal could be analysed as part of the preparations for the Brasilia Summit scheduled for September 13−14. We hope that at the summit the Five will hold a productive discussion on its three main cooperation spheres – political, financial and economic, and humanitarian.