Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 18th meeting of heads of special services, security agencies and law-enforcement organisations of foreign states, Sochi, October 16, 2019
The annual forums of the heads of special services, security agencies and law-enforcement organisations held by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) are regarded by right as a unique format of an international dialogue of top professionals.
The theme this year, Systemic Approaches to Counterterrorism, is essential for preserving international peace as well as global and regional security.
The main goal we will be discussing is to build up joint efforts to block all sources of fostering terrorism, including manpower, ideological, material and financial assistance.
A positive example in this respect was the Second International Conference on Countering Illicit Arms Trafficking in the Context of Fighting International Terrorism, held in Moscow in September.
A solid international legal framework has been created for effective counterterrorism cooperation, including UN Security Council resolutions, universal anti-terrorist conventions and protocols, as well as the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
The special services and law-enforcement organisations have at their disposal the special UN Security Council bodies, such as the Counter-Terrorism Committee, the ISIL (Da'esh), Al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions committees, as well as the committee established pursuant to Resolution 1540 on preventing non-state actors from obtaining hold of weapons of mass destruction.
The recently established UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT) will play an important role in the revamped international architecture of counterterrorism. The practical missions of the OCT are to implement the projects that stipulate the provision of technical support to the interested member states, including in Central Asia, to strengthen border security, to block the channels of weapon supplies to militants, and to combat terrorist propaganda. The voluntary donations made by Russia to the OCT budget are used to address these vital undertakings.
One more Russian contribution to international counterterrorism efforts was the establishment by the FSB of the International Counterterrorism Database, which General of the Army Alexander Bortnikov has mentioned and which involves dozens of countries and multilateral organisations. I would like to point out that this databank can be used to track down and detain foreign terrorist fighters around the world practically in real time.
This goal is becoming increasingly more important in light of the developments in north-eastern Syria. For many of the past years, we have been trying to attract international attention to the inflammatory policies of the United States and members of the US-led coalition aimed at destroying the Syrian Arab Republic, creating quasi-states east of the Euphrates and encouraging Kurdish separatism and confrontation with Arab tribes. We are reaping the first fruits of this short-sighted policy, which has led to a new armed conflict and the proliferation of ISIS terrorists from that region throughout the Middle East and North Africa and the rest of the world.
The European countries that used every available pretext to refuse to take in their citizens who had fought for ISIS and were interned in camps in eastern Syria share responsibility for this. We believe that the countries that grant citizenship to people who later become terrorists must accept responsibility for them.
The settlement of this problem and the Syrian crisis in general is possible exclusively on the basis of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. Russia will continue to promote the signing and implementation of agreements between Damascus and the Kurds in strict compliance with international law and the relevant UN Security Council resolution, as well as interaction between Syrian and Turkish authorities aimed at protecting security on their common border in keeping with the 1998 Adana Agreement.
This approach, as well as efforts to encourage all ethnic and religious groups in Syria to join a dialogue, will help to restore the sovereignty and unity of the Syrian Arab Republic and also to efficiently coordinate measures to root out the terrorist threat in Syria.
One more major challenge is the situation in Libya and around it. Destroyed in the illegal NATO operation eight years ago, the Libyan statehood has not been rebuilt so far. The ongoing internal Libyan confrontation has created a vacuum of security, which is conducive to a rise of terrorism and is attracting militants from Iraq and Syria. Libya is at risk of becoming the largest terrorist stronghold in North Africa, from where this evil is spreading into many countries of the continent.
Because of what is happening, it is vital to forget about geopolitical competition. Only an inclusive dialogue of all the Libyan political forces and coordinated support by all external players can help overcome the deep crisis and deliver the people of Libya from the terrorist evil.
A systemic approach to counterterrorism should include measures to prevent radicalisation that can lead to terrorism and to involve civil society in these efforts. I would like to point out that the key role in and the responsibility for organising the fight against terrorism and terrorist propaganda rests with states, their special services and law-enforcement agencies. Civil society organisations should complement these efforts without substituting state functions.
Of special importance is the fight against extremist ideology, including in the information space. After the threat of the caliphate has been eliminated, ISIS started changing into a ramified terrorist network based on recruitment, above all the recruitment of young people via social media. It is becoming increasingly more important to coordinate common systemic approaches so that the use of the internet for terrorist and extremist purposes can be prevented.
Regrettably, there are obstacles in the way of this goal. In particular, our Western partners prefer to cooperate with a limited group of countries in this field, unwilling to involve such countries as Russia and China in the development of the rules and the standards for global IT companies. Nevertheless, we believe that common sense will prevail. I would like to note that the first step towards this has been made: during their summit in Osaka in June 2019, the G20 leaders adopted, with active support from Russia, a joint statement on preventing exploitation of the internet for terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism (VECT). The statement sets out the key priorities of international cooperation, including the dominant role of states in counterterrorism and condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations without any exceptions. This means that double standards must be abandoned. This is how we interpret this obligation of the G20 leaders.
A large contribution to these efforts has been made by the SCO Convention on Countering Extremism signed in 2017. This document, which sets out the tried and tested collective approaches to the fight against terrorism and extremism as its breeding ground, is open for signing. We invite all countries to join it.
Of course, the fight against extremism must be based on strict compliance with international law, renunciation of any ideological and political preferences in the fight against terrorism and attempts to divide terrorists into ones that are “good” or “bad”. It is extremely dangerous when some countries use the concept of countering violent extremism to make the international community believe that the terrorist threats stem from the policy of the so-called authoritarian regimes. In point of fact, the largest groups of the terrorist international – Al-Qaida, Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS – were born of the NATO countries’ military gambles in the Middle East. We are not reminding you about the real causes of the rapid rise of terrorism in the region because we want to ramp up rhetoric, but only because we should draw lessons from the grim experience of the past few years and start developing truly partner-like interaction in the spirit of the initiative on a global anti-terrorist coalition, which President Vladimir Putin advanced at the UN General Assembly.
Russia has consistently advocated anti-terrorist cooperation based on good will, renunciation of any hidden agendas and the use of terrorist groups for attaining one’s geopolitical goals, as well as non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, including under the pretext of combating terrorism and extremism. We are open for constructive and equal cooperation with all our foreign partners on the solid basis of the UN Charter.
I wish all of you at the forum every success.