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26 July 201921:40

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's statement and answers to questions at a media scrum following the BRICS Foreign Ministers Council meeting, Rio de Janeiro, July 26, 2019

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The BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting has just ended. Its results are presented in the joint statement which was adopted and is being spread. I will emphasise several points which I think are important.

First, all the BRICS members expressly confirmed their commitment to the principles of international law, the goals and principles of the UN Charter, its central role in matters of peace, security and development. This statement has been worded very clearly, and bears special significance now when all principles of international law are under pressure from those who would like to replace them with some sort of rules. We had an informal and very straightforward conversation about that. We have a shared understanding that universally approved norms and principles of international law must not be allowed to fade away, especially those, as I have said, that are enshrined in the UN Charter.

Second, unequivocal support was expressed for collective efforts to solve all problems exclusively by political and diplomatic means. We stressed that the BRICS countries will advocate exactly this kind of settlement for all current conflicts across the globe. Special emphasis was laid on the problems of the Middle East and North Africa, Afghanistan, the Korean Peninsula, and the Persian Gulf. The need was stressed for all these and other issues to be settled with involvement of all stakeholders including through dialogue which is currently underway on Afghanistan, Syria and other critical situations.

Third, there is a joint position on strategic stability which consists of maintaining maximum possible cooperation based on international law to prevent an arms race and halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

In this context, a series of Russian initiatives has been supported. In particular, the annual work of the UN General Assembly on preventing an arms race in outer space. All BRICS members are actively contributing to that work which has been affirmed in the adopted statement. Also, a Russian initiative was supported which was submitted several years ago at the UN Conference on Disarmament but remains blocked, primarily by the United States, on drafting the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Chemical and Biological Terrorism. A joint position was affirmed in the statement on the necessity to establish a control mechanism over the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons (BTWC). We have been long pressing for that with a majority of the nations. So far the United States has been reluctant to make such an agreement.

Speaking about other areas of our cooperation, all the BRICS member countries are united around one of Russia’s key initiatives at the UN – international information security (IIS). We have agreed in today’s statement to continue active work in the United Nations Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on international information security which was set up by the UN General Assembly at Russia’s initiative.

Our work at the UN on cybercrime issues was also supported. All BRICS participants backed a respective resolution, and today’s statement reaffirms our resolve to continue this work in order to reach agreements on the measures to be developed to protect cyberspace from criminal activity.

Support was also expressed for initiatives put forward by Russia and our partners to step up interaction between the BRICS countries on international platforms. We have agreed that our ambassadors to UN organisations and in key bilateral capitals will meet more often and exchange views, including on issues where a common position remains elusive. Such dialogues will assist in the search for shared approaches. Everyone agrees on that, on the usefulness of such work.

I want to make special mention of the fact that work will continue toward drafting a five-party agreement on international information security in addition to the efforts pursued at the UN.

The need to finish practical work on establishing the BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform and the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance as soon as possible was also affirmed. I think the outcome of the meeting, if we consider how BRICS has fared in the past years, confirms that this association is maturing. The participants sincerely wish to jointly advance our common positions internationally. I believe this is the main conclusion to be made following today’s meeting.

We have discussed the foreign policy component of the November BRICS Summit in Brasilia. It appears to be in good shape. I hope our leaders will support the proposals we have drafted for them.

Question: During the BRICS Foreign Ministers Council meeting, Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said that actions should be taken on Venezuela and also called on his BRICS colleagues to heed the “entreaties” for Venezuela’s freedom. Did you have a chance to exchange views with your BRICS colleagues?

Sergey Lavrov: We have reaffirmed our position. We hear and want to hear the voices of all those who are interested in the peaceful settlement of any problem, including Venezuela. We reaffirmed our support for the “Oslo process,” launched at the initiative of mediators from Norway, between Nicolas Maduro’s government and the opposition headed by Juan Guaido. These contacts are ongoing in the region, in particular, in Barbados. Judging by the comments from the parties, the contacts do have potential.

We have a clear-cut position reiterated in the joint statement: only a peaceful, political, diplomatic settlement involving all stakeholders should be pursued for any conflict. This is exactly what is going on within the “Oslo process.” I think we must let Venezuelans come to an agreement among themselves. Trying to dictate the substance of the agreement from outside the country is counter-productive. It will lead to no good.

We have honestly presented our position. Our partners from China, South Africa and India have a similar position. We know that Brazil has a somewhat different position. But let me reiterate, the “Oslo process” is ongoing. It involves the major protagonists. We will support any agreements they will be able to arrive at.

Question: Will you raise the issue of Venezuela at your bilateral meeting with Brazil’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo?

Sergey Lavrov: We will have a meeting where we will discuss any issues our Brazilian colleagues are interested in.

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