Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Riyadh, March 10, 2021
We had very fruitful talks with my colleague.
As Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud pointed out, we maintain friendly and multifaceted relations, which have a long history. Both sides have reaffirmed their commitment to working together to bring about their consistent progress in all spheres. We will focus on the implementation of the relevant agreements that have been reached at the highest level, in particular, during a state visit by President of Russia Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia in October 2019, as well as during other bilateral contacts, including through Vladimir Putin’s recent telephone conversation with Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.
We noted with satisfaction the maintenance of a modestly positive trend in bilateral trade despite the coronavirus pandemic. It grew in 2020 to nearly $1.7 billion. A major role is being played in this by the Joint Russian-Saudi Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. Its co-chairs have met here in Riyadh and have agreed to hold a full-scale meeting of the commission in Saudi Arabia this year.
We noted the good partner-like interaction between the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia, which have funded investment projects worth $2.5 billion within the framework of a joint platform. They are discussing additional investment across a number of sectors.
Both sides are interested in promoting joint efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus infection, including the organisation of the third stage of the clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine in Saudi Arabia and the possibility of producing it locally.
We share the opinion that we should promote our cooperation on the global hydrocarbons market and also closely coordinate our activities, including within the OPEC+ format. They are producing results.
We also noted that there is considerable potential for implementing forward-looking projects in space exploration and nuclear energy. We have agreed to stimulate our joint efforts towards improving the legal framework of our relations, including those aimed at creating more favourable conditions for businesses.
We discussed regional issues. For our part, we welcomed the restoration of unity in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and among the Arab countries in general, following the GCC summit held in the Saudi city of AlUla on January 5, 2021. We paid much attention to the prospects of long-term normalisation in the region by developing direct communication channels among the regional states and creating collective mechanisms of response to the existing and potential new challenges and threats. Russia reaffirmed its willingness to provide the necessary assistance to reach these goals – in keeping with our well-known concept for ensuring collective security in this strategically important part of the world.
We reviewed the developments in and around Syria. We confirmed our commitment to the sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity of the SAR and the right of the Syrians to decide their destiny themselves, as envisaged by UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress. I told our colleagues about Russia’s efforts to speed up the political settlement of the conflict, maintain the ceasefire, facilitate the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), and restore the destroyed infrastructure. We are making these efforts both bilaterally and in partnership with our colleagues in the Astana format.
We are concerned, as are our Saudi friends, over what is happening in Yemen. Over two thirds of its population is in need of urgent help as a result of the bloody conflict that has lasted almost six years. We share the view that the country can be prevented from sliding into an abyss of chaos and humanitarian disaster only if the armed confrontation is stopped as soon as possible and the Yemenis resolve their numerous problems and fairly serious divergences at the negotiating table and reach agreement taking into account the interests of all Yemeni political forces. In this context, we reaffirm our support for the efforts of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths.
We have agreed on the need to intensify international efforts under the UN aegis in order to settle the crisis in Libya as soon as possible and form permanent pan-Libyan government bodies. We expressed the hope that the transitional national government that is now being created will be able to join the efforts to unite the country both as regards the functioning of its government structures and as a financial and economic entity, as well as in the formation of integrated armed forces.
We, and our Saudi friends, are convinced of the need to resolve the Palestinian issue on the existing foundation of international law, which includes the Arab Peace Initiative that King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah suggested at one time. The long-term stabilisation of the entire Middle East will be substantially complicated without the resolution of all issues on the principles that were agreed upon within its framework. We reaffirmed our readiness to develop cooperation on the Palestinian problem between the Middle East Quartet and the Arab League.
I would like to express gratitude to our Saudi colleagues for the traditional hospitality that we are always given in Saudi Arabia, and thank our friends for the intensive talks and trustworthy dialogue. We appreciate this dialogue that really helps us develop bilateral relations and facilitates the conditions for stabilisation in different parts of this region.
Question: Are Russia and Saudi Arabia concerned that the increase in oil prices triggered by Riyadh’s decision to reduce supply by 1 million barrels a day might lead other countries, including the United States, to increase their oil production which would defeat the purpose of OPEC Plus efforts to cut production and ultimately send oil prices down again?
How significant are the differences between Russia and Saudi Arabia regarding further steps to stabilise the oil market? Could these differences break the OPEC Plus deal?
Sergey Lavrov: I see here one question in its various aspects. Today, my friend and colleague Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and I confirmed our commitment to strengthening our cooperation on the international hydrocarbon markets. So far, there have been no scenarios which, should they play out, will undermine the interest underlying our cooperation. This is an objective state of affairs, which, I believe, are of a long-term and sustainable nature.
With regard to the impact our actions may have on stability and growth in global oil prices or other producers, whose costs exceed the costs incurred by OPEC Plus members, we are dealing with a market economy here. Should this trend re-appear (and it has already done so for a short while), we will surely find a way to coordinate our actions in order to balance the interests of both producers and consumers.
Current prices somewhat reflect this balance. We will do our best to make sure the global economy is not affected by any major fluctuation in oil prices.
Question (translated from Arabic): What do you think about the recent attack on Ras Tanura Airport in Saudi Arabia? How did the international community respond to this? Should the international community take any additional measures in the context of that incident?
Foreign Minister Lavrov (speaking after Faisal bin Farhan): Early on, during today's talks, I stated Russia’s position on these unacceptable actions and emphasised that all parties to the conflict in Yemen, just like any other conflict for that matter, must comply with international humanitarian law under which attacks on civilian infrastructure facilities causing civilian deaths are absolutely unacceptable. We have held this position from day one. I hope all parties understand the need to stop the hostilities and will be supportive of the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths’, efforts. We see eye-to-eye on this.
Question: How will the US decision to stop supporting military operations in the republic affect the situation in Yemen?
Sergey Lavrov (answers after Faisal bin Farhan): I will not comment on relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States, including in the sphere of arms supplies. Regardless of whether the issue is about Yemen or any other hot spot, the more weapons there are, the greater the temptation and risks. On the other hand, cutting arms supplies will not guarantee peace in the region.
Most importantly, everyone with or without weapons must end the hostilities and sit down and talk. The United States decided to take the Ansar Allah group off its terrorist list. I hope this message was taken correctly. This by no means represents issuing a carte blanche to continue the violence. This is an indication that they must be part of an inclusive all-Yemeni process. We discussed this issue today from that perspective.