Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions following the joint meeting of the CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers, Council of Defence Ministers and Committee of Security Council Secretaries, Bishkek, November 27, 2019
I would like to tell you about the outcome of the joint meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Council of Defence Ministers and Committee of Security Council Secretaries of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). The meeting had a fully packed agenda. We focused on the ways to strengthen the CSTO potential in many spheres. We discussed the draft documents which will be submitted to the CSTO Collective Security Council tomorrow for consideration by the heads of state. The package is really impressive. One of the main political documents is the draft of the joint Statement on Improving Interaction and Cooperation to Strengthen International and Regional Security, which the heads of the CSTO states will approve tomorrow. It is clear that in the context of eroding global security the international community must ensure respect for the agreements set out in legally binding documents, primarily UN Security Council decisions, conventions and all the other documents that make up the body of international law based on the UN Charter.
The heads of state will focus on the CSTO efforts to combat new challenges and threats. They will discuss an action programme for the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy for 2019−2021 within the CSTO and proposals on improving the CSTO efforts to combat information crime.
Of course, the heads of state are expected to approve an Action Plan to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941−1945.
The participants in the CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting adopted documents related to their activities, including a joint Statement on Stabilisation Efforts in the Middle East and North Africa and one more vital document that has been drafted on the basis of coordinated CSTO recommendations to our countries’ ambassadors and permanent representatives, that is, a list of 14 joint statements to be adopted and distributed in 2020 on behalf of the CSTO member states at the UN, the OSCE and other international platforms.
We also held bilateral meetings with our Kyrgyz friends and signed yet another plan of consultations between our foreign ministries.
Following the CSTO Collective Security Council, Russia will take over the CSTO chairmanship for next year from the Kyrgyz Republic. In this connection, we updated our friends on the priorities of Russia’s CSTO Chairmanship. President Putin will speak about this in more detail at the council meeting tomorrow.
Question: Has President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky requested a separate meeting with President Putin on the sidelines of the upcoming Normandy format meeting in Paris?
Sergey Lavrov: You should ask the Presidential Executive Office, which is responsible for the president’s schedule.
Question: The terrorists who are being pushed out of Syria are trying to settle in other countries. Will the role of the CSTO increase in this context?
What lies in store for the CSTO? Will it incorporate new members? Are such negotiations underway?
Sergey Lavrov: The CSTO has been working for a long time to protect the member states from terrorism, drugs and other threats, including illegal migration. We have a special package of measures, which are applied on the annual basis and which are revised regularly.
Our special focus is on the border between our Central Asian allies and Afghanistan, where problems are piling up and the situation has not become simpler. We hoped that the elections, which were held in September, would help. However, vote counting is still ongoing, as per the Afghan tradition that has not raised any questions among our Western colleagues. It has lasted nearly three months, and it looks like it is unlikely to end this year. Meanwhile, problems continue to pile up, including the problem of foreign terrorist fighters (FTF), about whom you have asked. Before the Americans started playing a strange game in north-eastern Syria, the FTFs moved from there, as well as from Libya, to Afghanistan and other countries. They are fortifying positions in Afghanistan; there are already several thousand of them there. They are ISIS fighters. The CSTO has increased attention to the reinforcement of our allies’ borders with Afghanistan. In particular, special measures are being taken to provide equipment to the Tajik border guards and to improve their capability to deal with the terrorist threat and to cut short terrorist inroads.
As for the CSTO and its future, I believe that it has a very good future, including because threats are growing and fighting them together is much more effective. This is very important for Russia, because it does not have a protected border with Central Asian states. The border is actually transparent. It is our common mission to prevent the penetration of the outer perimeter of the CSTO member states.
Regarding the involvement of other countries in the CSTO efforts, such cooperation has been ongoing for years in certain spheres. For example, our Serbian colleagues participate as observers in the CSTO Parliamentary Assembly. If they show interest, they are invited to attend CSTO military exercises, especially anti-terrorist drills, as participants or observers. Other countries could use this opportunity as well.
Speaking about legal provisions, it was decided last year to introduce the status of CSTO observer and partner countries. The relevant documents have been prepared. They set out the rights of observer and partner countries. They are publicly available, and anyone can read them. We are now considering provisions in case third countries request this status.