Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to questions following his speech at the 18th meeting of heads of special services, security agencies and law-enforcement bodies, Sochi, October 16, 2019
Question: In your opening remarks you said it was necessary to cooperate on counterterrorism and that this cooperation has no borders. Can you describe in more detail this cooperation with our Western partners? What are the linchpins?
Sergey Lavrov: By and large, all those who made opening remarks at the Federal Security Service meeting today talked about this. Such meetings help us map out ways of improving our coordination. It is not quite right at this point. As I said in my remarks, regrettably, some countries try to divide terrorists into “bad” and “not so bad.” They even consider it possible to cooperate with some of them contextually in a bid to gain some geopolitical benefit and in the hope of controlling them. However, these hopes usually end in failure.
Remember how our Western colleagues in essence fought on the side of the opposition in which extremists and terrorists were the most powerful unit in 2011, having organised the bombing of Libya in 2011 in crude violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolution. The Muammar Gaddafi regime was overthrown in this illegal way. There was a vacuum of power there and terrorists started moving to the south via Libya, including to Mali. The same Western countries that supported and funded the extremists opposing the Gaddafi regime began to appeal to the international community for solidarity in Mali against these people, to fight against them and suppress the onslaught. I spoke to our French colleagues and told them we are ready to back them in their confrontation with the terrorists but reminded them that these terrorists were considered acceptable partners for changing the regime in Libya. Unfortunately, there are many examples of this. We want these double standards to be eliminated from counterterrorism cooperation.
This meeting is being attended by the leading services that are involved in counterterrorism and law enforcement from practically every NATO and EU country. Those involved in public discussions and sessions will have an opportunity to discuss professionally and in a most straightforward manner specific problems in this area. I believe events like this allow us to gain an understanding that these threats are common to all of us, and that it is impossible to hide from them by cooperating with those that have already been recognised as terrorists and who spread extremist ideology all over the world.
There are no borders and there should not be any vacuum in this cooperation. There is the foundation of international law, which was mentioned today, that is, 19 counterterrorism conventions and protocols and many UN Security Council resolutions. They describe the key principles on which the UN-established structure is based and the mechanisms for UN counterterrorism strategy. The main point is not to try to engage in politisation and geo-politisation in this area. It is inappropriate to try to reach some geopolitical goal through fighting terrorism.
I understand this is a complicated process, and every country has its goals in different regions but there is an increasing understanding that there should be no doublespeak and double standards in this respect, that we all must unite to form a common, universal anti-terrorist front. President of Russia Vladimir Putin called for this in his speech in the UN General Assembly session several years ago. I am convinced that such a universal front is the most rational way for mobilising the entire international community against the terrorist threat.
Question: When will President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey visit Russia? Have you decided what issues to discuss with him?
Sergey Lavrov: You will be informed of this as soon as it is set. I think the Presidential Executive Office will announce it. The issues were determined in yesterday’s report in a telephone conversation between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Naturally, they primarily concern the situation in Syria, the efforts to ensure its sovereignty and territorial integrity and the uncompromising struggle against leftover terrorists. At the same time, it is necessary to promote the political process, that is, organise the first inauguration meeting of the Constitutional Committee.
Question: Who will guarantee that the Turkish Army will not go beyond the limits of the Adana Agreement?
Sergey Lavrov: We have already emphasised that we stand for settling the current situation via dialogue between the government and the Kurdish groups. This dialogue has been launched and is producing specific results. At the same time, we have always said that we recognize the existence of Turkey’s lawful interests in ensuring the security of its borders and the development of practical cooperation between Damascus and Ankara along the lines of the 1998 Adana agreement. The militaries of both countries should determine the specific parameters of this cooperation locally. We are willing to facilitate this dialogue.