Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions following talks with Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón, Mexico City, February 6, 2020
Ladies and gentlemen,
The visit of the Russian Foreign Minister and his delegation to Mexico is coming to an end. I believe the visit was very fruitful. We held highly constructive and useful talks with my Mexican counterpart, Mr Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón.
As you may know, the ties between our two nations have a long history. They were officially established 130 years ago: next December will see their anniversary and we have arranged with our Mexican colleagues today to celebrate this memorial date fittingly.
We have confirmed our shared interest in strengthening bilateral relations in all areas without exception. We have discussed how to promote and intensify the political dialogue, including at the high and highest levels. We have come to an agreement on how to energise the efforts to enrich the legal infrastructure, including by speeding up the coordination of documents considered by the sides. Let me mention in this context the Agreement on Cultural Centres, the Agreement on Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and the Agreement Between the Law Enforcement Agencies, which is of practical importance for fighting terrorism.
There was a separate discussion on the expedience of introducing a visa-free regime on the reciprocal basis. The overwhelming majority of Latin American and Caribbean states have already signed intergovernmental agreements on visa-free travel with the Russian Federation.
We have paid much attention to trade and economic cooperation. Trade is growing, although there was a tendency towards its deceleration last year. But Mexico confidently remains Russia’s second biggest partner in the region after Brazil. We have welcomed progress in the expansion of contacts between the business communities. We have noted in particular that the Russia-Mexico Entrepreneurial Committee created under the auspices of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry held its first meeting last April. We said that our companies were active in the two countries’ markets. Lukoil is expanding its presence in Mexico, Mexico’s Nemak, a car components manufacturer, has a facility in the Ulyanovsk Region of Russia, and the GRUMA International Food has opened a plant in the Moscow Region. I have cited just a few examples. There are many more of them.
There are good prospects in view, as we have confirmed today, in energy, car-making, shipbuilding, the aircraft industry, the chemical industry, pharmaceuticals, rail transport and agriculture. We have made good progress in the area of military-technical cooperation: Mexico operates about 50 Russian-made helicopters and a helicopter servicing centre with a pilot-training school attached to it. There are prospects in this area as well.
Generally, we share the opinion that we need to diversify our trade and investment ties, including by being more pro-active in using the potential of the Russia-Mexico Mixed Commission on Economic, Commercial, Scientific and Technological Cooperation and Maritime Navigation. Regrettably, this commission held its latest meeting in December 2011, but the current Government of Mexico is keen to reactivate this tool. We have agreed that the next session of the Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation will be held in Mexico later this year.
Cultural exchanges are making progress. In addition to the Mixed Commission on Economic, Commercial, Scientific and Technological Cooperation and Maritime Navigation, there is a Mixed Commission on Cooperation in Culture, Education and Sports. Its most recent meeting took place in 2018, where a three-year programme for promoting cooperation and contacts in these spheres was adopted.
We received an invitation from our Mexican colleagues to take part in the 48th Cervantino International Art Festival to be held in Guanajuato in October. We hope that Russia will be adequately represented at this important event.
We also noted constructive contacts between the capitals of our respective countries. In December 2019, a Moscow Government delegation visited Mexico City and renewed the Cooperation Programme to 2022.
Our colleagues were pleased to note an increase in the number of Russian tourists visiting Mexico. After we introduce visa-free entry, I think these numbers will be even more impressive.
Educational exchanges are doing well. Russia regularly allocates publicly-funded scholarships to Mexican students. We positively noted a new form of Foreign Ministry Diplomatic Academy’s cooperation with the Matias Romero Institute. The Russian Diplomatic Academy has been offering regular career development courses for Latin American diplomats since 2016. Mexican Foreign Ministry employees took the courses last autumn.
We share common approaches when it comes to international issues which we discussed at length. Like our Mexican friends, we stand firmly on the solid foundation of the UN Charter, the principles of respect for sovereignty and equality of states, non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs and the settlement of disputes exclusively by peaceful means.
We compared notes on the UN General Assembly’s agenda. Mexico supports most of Russia’s initiatives, including resolutions on countering the glorification of Nazism, non-deployment of weapons in outer space, establishing cooperation to build trust in outer space, international information security and our new resolution, which was first introduced during the most recent General Assembly session, which Mexico strongly supported. It is about taking additional practical measures to strengthen and develop the framework for arms control agreements, disarmament and non-proliferation.
We discussed the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Russia is interested in seeing this region as an important element of the emerging multipolar world order both now and in the future. We exchanged views on specific crises which continue unabated in the Latin American region and agreed that the attempts to reanimate neo-colonial doctrines, such as the Monroe Doctrine, or to repeat the scenarios of the infamous colour revolutions are fraught with a dangerous increase in tension. We share similar views regarding the situation in and around Venezuela. Like Russia, Mexico stands for resolving the problems that exist and are piling up in that country exclusively through a dialogue between the government and the opposition and an inclusive dialogue between all significant political forces in that country.
We expressed our mutual willingness to promote a dialogue between Russia and various integration associations in Latin America and the Caribbean and focused particularly on the Mexican chairmanship in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). We welcomed our Mexican colleagues’ plans to use their presidency to strengthen CELAC and to expand its foreign relations, including with our country.
As part of our efforts to improve coordination in international affairs, we agreed to draft and, in the foreseeable future, sign a plan of consultations between our respective foreign ministries.
I invited my colleague to pay a return visit to the Russian Federation. He accepted my invitation, and we will separately coordinate the date of his trip.
Question (retranslated from Spanish): Do Mexico and Russia plan to launch a dialogue between President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro and the opposition on resolving the crisis in that country?
Sergey Lavrov: Russia and Mexico believe that it is necessary to address all of Venezuela’s problems by solely peaceful methods through dialogue between all political forces, rather than in line with the Monroe Doctrine, as Washington suggests, or through attempts to provoke an armed confrontation and to obtain a pretext for an armed interference.
Mexico co-founded what we call the Montevideo Mechanism. It also supported Norway’s initiative to promote the Oslo process. Unfortunately, this process has now stalled because of the unpredictable behaviour of the self-proclaimed Mr Juan Guaido. There have been some positive shifts; I am talking about national dialogue, launched between the Government President Maduro and the patriotic opposition. Understandably, this dialogue does not involve all of the country’s political forces. Just like Mexico, Russia advocates a more inclusive dialogue. No one can step in to resolve problems facing the people of Venezuela for them, but it is quite possible to obstruct their efforts to come to agreement. We are witnessing attempts that, as I have said, aim to provoke pretexts for an armed intervention. Russia and Mexico agree that this would be absolutely unacceptable.
Question (retranslated from Spanish): What companies are interested in Russia’s involvement in megaprojects of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador?
Sergey Lavrov: As for Russia’s role in President Lopez Obrador’s plans to develop the economy and the social sector, participants in a meeting of the Russian-Mexican Joint Commission on Economic, Trade, Scientific and Technical Cooperation and Sea Navigation will discuss these matters. Most importantly, we need to receive specific proposals from our Mexican friends as regards various areas to which, in their opinion, Russian companies can effectively contribute. The Mexican side has extensive information about the capabilities of Russian companies. We hope that it will be possible to formulate and discuss proposals that can help implement Mexico’s plans with the involvement of Russian companies during the participation of Mexican delegations in forums taking place in Russia. I am talking about the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, the Eastern Economic Forum, the International Industrial Trade Fair INNOPROM and the Russian Energy Week. All these annual events are highly popular, and Mexican delegations have already participated in some of them.
Today, we have invited our colleagues to send their representatives to the relevant forums due to take place this year. We would like to receive proposals on the specific areas where our Mexican colleagues believe Russian companies could contribute to the implementation of Mexico’s economic development plans.
Question (retranslated from Spanish): You said that economic advances and changes were impending. During the talks did you discuss further efforts to develop the Mixed Commission on Economic, Commercial, Scientific and Technological Cooperation and Maritime Navigation?
Sergey Lavrov: The Mixed Commission on Economic, Commercial, Scientific and Technological Cooperation and Maritime Navigation has not met since 2011. Today, we agreed that its operations must be resumed. Its next meeting will be held in Mexico later on this year. The specific timeframes will be coordinated by our economic ministries.
Question (retranslated from English): You are going to Venezuela now. Is Russia interested in negotiating an exit for President Maduro? Could Mexico play any role? After all Mexico, unlike other countries in the region, has stayed on the sidelines on whether to back Guaido or Maduro. What are you actually going to take to Caracas as a proposal?
Sergey Lavrov: We do not take proposals to other capitals. We always respect our dialogue partners. You started by asking whether Russia could negotiate the terms for President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro’s departure. We have been down that road before. The EU, represented by the so-called Lima Group, was promoting an initiative to this effect. We do not think that these initiatives are useful or productive.
Our position – and that of Mexico – is that a national dialogue without preconditions is needed. If there are those who think (as our Western colleagues do) that a dialogue is a good thing but only if its aim is to discuss the regime change criteria, then, pardon me, this is imposing recipes from the outside rather than mediation. We hear from Washington that there can be no options other than the replacement of the current Government and President. They are openly making threats that all options are “on the table.” They regularly stage provocations, as was the case with the so-called human rights commission. This is not our approach, nor that of our Mexican partners. A dialogue without preconditions! It is only then that all sides will be able to come to terms on mutually acceptable solutions to overcome the current crisis. If the outcome of a dialogue is predetermined, this is diktat, not mediation. This is just about all I wanted to say.
Question (retranslated from English): What comments would you make on the reports on the death of Russian and Turkish soldiers in northern Syria?
Sergey Lavrov: All comments were issued in Moscow. I have nothing to add.
Question (retranslated from Spanish): Is Russia planning to support the call by OPEC+ to cut oil production, as was suggested at a recent emergency meeting? How would you comment on the reports that the United States is going to introduce sanctions against a number of oil companies, including Rosneft?
Sergey Lavrov: We are actively supporting cooperation within the framework of OPEC+ and collaboration between oil exporting countries, including both OPEC and non-OPEC countries. President of Russia Vladimir Putin and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia had a telephone conversation the other day, where this topic was also discussed, including in the light of the coronavirus epidemic’s consequences for the global economy, which is slowing down, something that is certain to influence the oil market. We are interested in holding further consultations to define the optimal market regulation measures that would be acceptable for all oil exporters. The aim is to preclude the roller-coaster effect that can harm both producers and consumers.
As for the second part of your question, I do not quite understand what compañeros you mean. I heard yet another series of threats coming from Washington; they intend to punish everyone who cooperates with Venezuela in some way or another. We are used to this. We are used to hearing US officials say, without any scruples, that Washington is committed to the Monroe Doctrine and that this doctrine should be acted upon. If Latin American countries feel comfortable under this tutelage, it is your sovereign right. I think that this is an insult to all Latin American countries, no matter what position they hold on Venezuela or any other international problem.
Question (retranslated from English): Can you comment on the recent attacks by the Turkish Armed Forces on the Syrian Army which is Russia’s ally?
Sergey Lavrov: I have already replied to this question that has already been raised. We provided all comments in Moscow. I can only say that we are in touch with our Turkish colleagues. We have reached agreements that clarify the regime of the Idlib de-escalation zone where our Turkish colleagues pledged to disengage the opposition that cooperates with them from Jabhat al-Nusra and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists. Unfortunately, these terrorists still rule supreme in the Idlib zone; therefore it is necessary to fulfil this obligation, no matter what. We discussed this with my Turkish colleague, Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu who called me a few days ago. The very next day, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The second obligation implies the need to establish a so-called weapon-free area inside the Idlib de-escalation zone. We also coordinated this aspect. This goal has not been achieved yet. Our military are addressing these specific matters on the ground as per instructions from Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. All efforts to suppress the terrorists are legal because no ceasefire agreements on Idlib and on complying with the ceasefire regime apply to terrorists who are outlawed and are not covered by any agreements.
Question (retranslated from Spanish): What are the purposes of your visit to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean? What is your position regarding hypothetical Russian assistance to President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro?
Sergey Lavrov: The purpose of my visit is quite obvious. When Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon and I met in September 2019 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, he kindly invited me to visit Mexico. I have arrived in line with his invitation. We find it customary to accept an invitation.
Speaking of our relations with Venezuela, we do not stipulate any methods to support the Venezuelan authorities, except normal trade and economic ties. On the other hand, your American colleagues and ours are obsessed with the idea of their regional diktat. I have already mentioned official statements that the Monroe Doctrine is absolutely legitimate and lawful. This doctrine as well as all US actions in this context aim to undermine lawful, legitimate trade and economic ties in flagrant violation of the UN Charter and provisions of the World Trade Organisation. We are doing nothing, except what is allowed by international law. I hope that everyone who understands the unacceptability of current US actions with regard to Venezuela and a number of other countries will send the appropriate messages because this is not just a matter of a specific crisis in Venezuela or anywhere else, but concerns the destiny of the open global international trade system. Our American colleagues rudely ignore and undermine these principles. We also discuss this matter with them. Unfortunately, they show understanding at a certain level, but a striving to prevent anyone from contradicting the United States by any means prevails. It is impossible to go far using this position, but the realities of the modern world should someday force the Americans to realise that it is necessary to work in a multilateral format, rather than try to reinstate the absolutely futile unipolar model of the international order. This model is no more, and it will never reemerge.
Question: It was reported earlier that Russia and Mexico were building up their military and technical cooperation. Have they managed to reach new agreements in this area? What share of the Latin American market does the production of the Russian defence industry sector currently hold?
Sergey Lavrov: I think that our military-technical products take a rightful place on the Latin American market. They are reputable. Many Latin American countries value quality, price and the warranty maintenance, and our products have all of that. In Mexico, the most important facility in this regard is the helicopter maintenance centre: a while back, some 50 Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters were delivered to the country. In Veracruz, there is a centre that provides helicopter repair and maintenance services, as well as training for Mexican helicopter operators.
As for future prospects, the Mexican party is now considering a concrete proposal by Rosoboronexport, including additional contracts on helicopter deliveries.
Question (translated from Spanish): Have you spoken about the nomination of Mexico as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council? Will Russia support Mexico’s candidacy?
Sergey Lavrov: Mexico is one of the region’s leading countries. It has an impeccable reputation in terms of approaches to international challenges such as strategic stability, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and most importantly, respect for the founding principles of the UN Charter. A group of Latin American and Caribbean states approved Mexico’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2021-2022. There is no reason why the resolution to approve its membership in the UN Security Council should not be adopted by consensus. We hope that we will interact even more closely with our Mexican friends at the UN when they will be directly involved in the work of the Security Council in addition to solving issues discussed by the UN General Assembly and other UN bodies.
Question (retranslated from Spanish): Can it be guaranteed that Russia-US relations will not affect relations between Russia and Mexico?
Sergey Lavrov: I have made a point of bringing along a quotation that caught my attention. Probably it will answer your question. Lisa Curtis, Senior Director for South and Central Asia on the National Security Council, was speaking at a Heritage Foundation conference in Washington the other day, and this is a quote from her remarks. Asked about Washington’s estimate of Secretary of State Pompeo’s recent tour of Central Asia (he visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan after a stopover in Ukraine and Belarus), she said this: “Russia has always had a tremendous amount of influence in this region and we do not expect that to change. We are not trying to match that. We just want to be present; we want to provide alternatives for the countries. We want to continue to protect as much as we can their ability to be sovereign, independent nations, as we have always done since they became independent.” If we put “Russia” instead of the United States and “Latin America” instead of Central Asia, I am ready to subscribe to each of these words. It is another matter that our US colleagues, while promoting these entirely correct postulates, are certain that they have the right to be present anywhere they want and that they alone can be present in the Western Hemisphere. If you read or listen to the cock-and-bull stories they write or spread by word of mouth about Russia’s role in every single Latin American crisis, you will probably understand that analysing international developments is something that requires a slightly more serious attitude. When the well-known John Bolton, while still holding his White House job, declared that no one (meaning Russia, China and other outsiders) should not so much as think of “meddling” in the Western Hemisphere, where the Americans are the chief decision-makers, the instinctive pride of countries in the region, pride for their independence and what has been achieved by the Latin American and Caribbean nations since independence, should probably snap into action. Russia has never used friendships as a hostile tool, be it in Latin America or anywhere else. Regrettably, our US colleagues believe they have a license to do just about anything, and so they are likely to stir up all their dialogue partners against China and most certainly against Russia. But these are clearly wrong methods whereby to gain international prestige. International prestige is earned through one’s own example and power of persuasion rather than gross blackmail, diktat, or sanctions. But so far I see nothing else in the arsenal of US diplomacy.
Question (retranslated from Spanish): Is the Trump presidency a threat to world peace?
Sergey Lavrov: We are doing our best so that the great powers, including Russia and the US, become aware of their responsibility for not allowing a global conflict to flare up. About a year and a half ago, we suggested that the United States reiterate what the USSR and the US said in the previous epoch marked by the end of the Cold War, when General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan signed a statement to the effect that a nuclear war cannot be won, there can be no winners in such a war, and therefore it must never be unleashed. One and a half years ago, to placate the world public opinion, we urged the United States to reiterate verbatim what had already been said by our two countries in that era. The proposal is still “on the table.” Washington has promised to reply soon. Hopefully the answer will be in the affirmative.