Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and reply to a media question at a joint news conference with Guatemalan Foreign Minister Pedro Brolo following talks, Moscow, June 24, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Foreign Minister of Guatemala and I held talks and underscored our shared commitment to furthering good, friendly and highly promising relations between our countries. We discussed our bilateral agenda and compared notes on pressing international and regional affairs.
We are bound by a long-standing friendship. Last year, we celebrated the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Today, we acknowledged progress in our political dialogue in the interest of identifying promising areas of cooperation and agreed to step up our joint work in practical matters.
Despite the current state of affairs in the global economy, which has been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, trade between our countries was up by over 6 percent last year, or about $100 million in absolute numbers.
Of course, this is not enough, and our countries’ potentials allow us to count on much better results. We agreed to take the necessary steps to diversify our trade and economic ties.
The Foreign Minister of Guatemala, Pedro Brolo, visited a number of official buildings on this trip, including the Roscosmos State Corporation, the Emergencies Ministry, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the National Committee for the Promotion of Economic Cooperation with Latin American Countries. We also noted in a positive way the participation of the Guatemalan delegation led by the Minister of the Economy at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, where he spoke at a special panel session for the Latin American countries.
Another area that we discussed today will make it possible to tap additional opportunities for expanding economic ties. I’m referring to contacts between Guatemala and the EAEU. During his stay in Moscow, Foreign Minister Brolo met with the Eurasian Economic Commission. As far as I understand, they will continue to communicate. We strongly support such contacts.
We spoke highly about our cooperation in education and civilian personnel and law enforcement personnel training. Guatemalans are studying in advanced courses offered by the FSB and the Interior Ministry of Russia. The Diplomatic Academy holds special courses for foreign diplomats every year. Guatemala is already a participant. I’m confident that this useful practice will continue into the future.
When we talk about education and university exchanges, there is one rather interesting fact. Despite the distance, nine Russian universities have partners among the universities of Guatemala. This is more than a formal relationship since they prepare and implement joint projects. Steps are underway to establish practical cooperation in scientific research and technology, including through university exchanges.
We are grateful to Guatemala for its good treatment of the Russian language. It is being taught in that country. Our museums are cooperating quite dynamically, including with the involvement of the Knorozov Centre for the Study of the History and Culture of the Maya, which was created nine years ago on our initiative and with the strong support of Guatemala, which remembers this researcher’s contribution to the study of the history of that Central American country and its indigenous population.
Sister regions and cities are also a hallmark of Russian-Guatemalan relations. Notably, Sochi and the capital of Guatemala, Guatemala City, are sister cities and this arrangement is developing quite dynamically.
Much attention was given to strengthening cooperation in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and to healthcare in general. There is a contract for Sputnik V vaccine supplies. The first batch was delivered in May and earlier in June. Today, we talked about the need to fast-track the delivery of the remaining batches. We will be working on this.
We reviewed the legal framework for our relations. We agreed to move faster on finalising several draft agreements, including those on education, customs cooperation, emergency prevention and relief operations, law enforcement and the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
We have close positions, which sometimes coincide, on the main challenges of today. We stand for compliance with international law, strengthening the central role of the UN and shaping a more fair and democratic system of polycentric international order. We reaffirmed that Russia has always seen Latin America as a pillar in a multipolar world. Of course, we strongly believe that the principles of the UN Charter must underlie any action by any country in the global arena.
We reiterated our interest in developing cooperation with the Latin American countries, focusing on the political dialogue between Russia and various integration associations in Latin America and the Caribbean, including CELAC. Today we expressed our mutual interest not only in constructive cooperation between Russia and the Central American Integration System but also in codifying this cooperation by signing the relevant document. It is being drafted now.
In a few days, on July 1, the Presidency of the Central American Integration System will be transferred to Guatemala. We appreciate the interest that our friends are showing in formalising Russia’s status in this association. We are also ready to complete, within a short timeframe, the cooperation programme, which is part of the process of giving us this status.
We also positively assessed our joint work at the Central American Parliament. It is headquartered in the capital of Guatemala. Under the auspices of this parliament and with its involvement, several major international forums have taken place over the last two-three years, with Russia having taken an active part in the preparations for those events. They included a cybercrime forum, as well as forums for international information security; space; cooperation between Latin American countries and the Eurasian Economic Union; and efforts to fight the coronavirus.
So, I want to emphasis yet again that, despite the distance and various logistics problems, the spectrum of our relations is very rich. This has not been everything we could acknowledge – far from it. We believe these relations can serve as an example for many partners involved in bilateral relations. We will be expanding our cooperation in all areas and in every way possible.
Question (retranslated from Spanish): This news came from the European Union: France and Germany have suggested a possible summit with President of Russia Vladimir Putin. What can be done in this regard and how will Russia respond?
Sergey Lavrov: We have heard about France and Germany’s proposal for a Russia-EU summit. We do not know any other details. What will they want to discuss, what would the agenda be? Nor do we know if all the other EU members agree with this. So, our colleagues need to explain what they have in mind and what they hope to accomplish.
Russia-EU summits took place regularly once every two years and crowned a diverse and intensive architecture of Russia-EU relations. All this architecture, starting with the summits, was destroyed in 2014 for obvious reasons when the EU accepted the anti-constitutional coup [in Ukraine] committed contrary to the guarantees given by Germany, France and Poland. Since then none of our colleagues has ever mentioned a summit during our contacts.
Let me recall that President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of France Emmanuel Macron and Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel have regular contacts in other formats, but this theme has surfaced for the first time. Why now? Maybe, there is some chronological connection with the Vladimir Putin-Joe Biden summit in Geneva? Europe may have seen it as a signal to show a bit more independence. Let’s wait and see. Many things are unclear now, and before we give a specific response, we need to know what this is about. One thing is clear though: in a few days, the EU will approve its new policy on the Russian Federation formulated as a triad policy – push back, constrain and engage (where it serves the EU’s interests). If this philosophy underlies the proposed summit, I am eager to see how this hypothetical event will open. So, “push back” will come first immediately and be followed by restraint. It is hard for me to say how this would fit together. Let’s see what this comes to, and then we can study it in detail.