Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answer to a media question during a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of Nepal Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Moscow, November 25, 2019
Ladies and gentlemen,
The talks were quite productive. This is our first meeting, which we think is particularly important. The previous full-format visit by Nepal’s foreign minister to Russia was in 2005.
The talks confirmed that the meeting was very opportune for comprehensive development of all areas of our relations. Nepal is our long-standing partner in South Asia. Since diplomatic relations were established in 1956, our interaction has always been based on mutual respect, trust and consideration for each other's interests.
The bonds of friendship linking our peoples were tested in 2015 when, after a devastating earthquake in Nepal, Russia promptly sent a first responder team including doctors and humanitarian aid to the disaster area. We contributed to the speedy adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution to urgently mobilise additional aid to Nepal.
Today, we noted sustainable development of the political dialogue, including between our parliaments. The chairs of the supreme courts of Russia and Nepal visited each other’s countries this year. We noted positive trade dynamics, although the absolute figures are still not too impressive. Trade can be expanded through increasing exchanges in traditional goods and finding ways to diversify trade, economic and investment ties. In this regard, we noted the prospects in the energy sector.
The Minister of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation of Nepal Barshaman Pun visited Russia last month to participate in the International Forum, Russian Energy Week, and also held bilateral meetings where good prospects for joint development of Nepal’s hydroelectric power resources were identified. Russian aviation has a good track record in the Nepalese highlands. Previously delivered Mi-17 helicopters operate in Nepal. There are further plans for cooperation in this area. Military-technical cooperation has good prospects as well. We agreed to sign a corresponding agreement.
As for other issues related to the strengthening of our agreement framework, I would like to note the approaches we have agreed on today to expedite the work on documents in the law enforcement area, migration, readmission, emergency response, and cooperation between television channels of Russia and Nepal.
We specifically focused on the need to expedite the coordination of the bilateral consular convention, which will help resolve issues of aligning the requirements for Russians’ stay in Nepal and the Nepalese in Russia, especially in cases of mixed families.
Nepal is popular with Russian tourists. Although the number is relatively small now at 11,000 people according to last year’s statistics, it is growing steadily. We thanked our Nepalese colleague for updating us on the efforts to further develop the national tourism industry under the Visit Nepal 2020 programme. We will try to send Russian representatives responsible for the official, sports and cultural areas to participate in the relevant events at the invitation of our friends.
We are satisfied with the interaction between our foreign affairs agencies. The inter-MFA consultations format has been active and productive since 1995. We also coordinate our activities in multilateral platforms, primarily at the UN and its bodies. This is facilitated by the proximity of our approaches to key and fundamental issues on the regional and global agendas, primarily with regard to strengthening the principles of multilateralism on the solid foundation of the UN Charter and relying on and strengthening the central role of the UN, while respecting the identity of all peoples and their right to determine their own future.
We have reaffirmed our commitment to the further consolidation of efforts on an equal, democratic, and multilateral basis to counter the numerous global challenges including terrorism, climate change and various regional conflicts.
We highly praised the role of Nepal as a country which is among the largest suppliers of contingents for UN peacekeeping operations. We will support strengthening the positions of our Nepalese friends in the executive bodies of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the corresponding peacekeeping operations on the ground in a variety of regions.
I am quite satisfied with the outcome of the talks which showed the parties’ mutual willingness to expand cooperation. The Minister conveyed an invitation to representatives of the Russian leadership to visit Nepal. We will consider these invitations in a constructive manner. We will agree on the dates of the visits through diplomatic channels.
Question: What do you think about holding a second meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Committee? Damascus sees external interference as the main threat to the Committee. Do you share this concern? Do you see any signs of external interference that could possibly disrupt this process?
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, announced a possible meeting with you. When might it take place? What subjects would be discussed?
Sergey Lavrov: As far as I know, the Constitutional Committee’s second meeting is being prepared. The first meeting of the Committee itself in plenary format (150 members) and the drafting commission (45 members) went well. The parties reached a consensus and agreed on the organisational arrangements required at this point. They are now preparing for the second meeting. Importantly, it will take place in a format established for the full Committee and the drafting commission.
As for the threat of disruption, there’s always a threat, since many people want this process to fail. Then, they will have grounds to justify certain actions, possibly including stepping up military intervention in Syrian affairs in order to implement a notorious regime change. As you may recall, a little less than a year ago, the Constitutional Committee meeting was ready to be held. We could have started the processes, which began in October 2019, in December 2018. However, our Western colleagues from the so-called Small Group on Syria directly and rudely forced UN senior officials to refuse to support the process. This led to a delay in our common efforts by almost 10 months.
Nevertheless, we are not guided by a desire to take it out on someone, but solely by a desire to promote the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2254. We hope that everyone else will henceforth be guided by this desire and nothing else.
The resolution explicitly states that the solution to all issues related to settling the Syrian crisis, including preparations for constitutional reform, should be the decision of the Syrians themselves, and that all groups of Syrian society - the government and the opposition groups - must reach an agreement among themselves. Indeed, there is a threat of external interference and imposing solutions on the Syrian participants from the outside, but these attempts directly contradict UNSC Resolution 2254. Our UN colleagues, including the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy Geir Pedersen, must get tough with any such attempt.
With regard to my potential meeting with Mr Pedersen, there will be several multilateral events in early December where we will get the chance to sit and talk. If he is interested in a meeting, we will meet, no question. We will discuss the things I just mentioned, that he should act strictly in line with his mandate and make sure that everyone, without exception, respects the principle of the Syrian parties reaching an agreement between themselves, and not allow any attempt to intervene in this process. In particular, such attempts should not be coming from the Special Envoy’s office. It is therefore important to make sure that this office staff is hired based on a balanced and equitable geographical representation as enshrined in the UN Charter. I will discuss this with Mr Pedersen as well.