Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Iran Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Moscow, October 6, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
We held talks during Mr Amirabdollahian’s first visit to our country as the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
We discussed specific ways of expanding cooperation on bilateral projects based on the decisions made at the top level, including telephone conversations on August 18 and September 14 of this year between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi.
We focused on bilateral trade and economic cooperation. Our trade is steadily growing. Despite the pandemic and the US’ unlawful sanctions, it increased by 42 percent in the first seven months of this year to reach $1.9 billion. We agreed not to stop at this figure and to continue promoting this trend by developing business ties, including at the regional level.
We expressed a positive view on our humanitarian cooperation. Our priority is to counter the COVID-19 pandemic with joint efforts. The related departments are working for this purpose. We signed a contract on sending the Sputnik V vaccine to Iran and agreed to take measures to expedite this. We also reviewed the possibility of producing the vaccine in Iran.
We spoke about international and regional problems and supported the development of international relations on the firm principles of the UN Charter. Our Iranian friends and Russia reject the West-promoted neocolonial “rules-based world order.” The West drafts this behind the scenes, obviating universal associations, with a view to imposing it on others later. As we have said more than once, our rules are based on the UN Charter.
We coordinated our approaches at different international venues. We again welcomed the decision made at the 21st SCO summit in Dushanbe on the start of the procedure of accepting Iran in the SCO as a full member of this organisation.
We reviewed the issues linked with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on settling Iran’s nuclear deal. We believe the way to restore the agreement, fixed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, lies only in consistent and full implementation by all parties based on the initially recorded balance of interests. Both Moscow and Tehran believe the Vienna talks must be resumed as soon as possible. My colleague confirmed to me that Iran is ready for this. There is also an understanding that the talks are not an end in itself. The international community is waiting for the US to return to the legal field of the nuclear deal and the abrogation of illegal restrictions on Iran and its trade and economic partners.
We consider pointless the attempts by some countries to link the JCPOA’s preservation to Tehran’s consent to make concessions on other issues that are unrelated to the deal. We are convinced that we must discuss the situation in the region all-together, at one negotiating table and beyond the JCPOA’s framework. This approach rests at the foundation of the Russian concept on security in the Persian Gulf. It was updated in August and published as an official document of the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council. We urge our Iranian and Arab friends to continue moving to mutual rapprochement, discussing and coordinating their positions on any issues in response to any concerns.
We talked a lot about the developments in Afghanistan. Our countries are solidary in their belief that the Afghans that suffered from Washington’s geopolitical experiments for two decades, have a lawful right to well-being and tranquility in their homeland. They can implement this right by achieving internal political stabilisation, ensuring a balance of interests between all ethnic and religious groups and adhering to the principle of inclusivity in forming institutions of authority. All these things should help this ancient nation restore its economy and bring life back to normal with consideration for its centuries-long traditions.
Afghanistan should stop being a source of regional and global instability. We urge the new Afghan authorities to wage an uncompromising struggle against terrorist groups, illegal drug trafficking and arms sales.
Noting the extreme character of Afghanistan’s economic problems, we recalled that responsibility for this rests with Washington and its supporters. We believe it is necessary to involve relevant international agencies in resolving the entire range of humanitarian problems. We are seeing serious practical steps by international organisations and Afghanistan’s neighbours in this regard. We welcome the tangible contribution of Iran that hosted millions of Afghan refugees. In this context, we discussed prospects for stepping up regional and international cooperation in facilitating Afghanistan’s post-conflict recovery. Russia and Iran have initiatives in this respect. We discussed the best ways of pooling our efforts in implementing them.
We exchanged views on the military, political and humanitarian situation in Syria and expressed our mutual resolve to continue closely coordinating our actions with a view to reaching long-term peace and improving the socio-economic situation in Syria. We will continue our vigorous cooperation in the Astana format. This format includes Russia, Iran and Turkey and has already proved its efficiency. The three countries will convene their third summit in Iran as soon as the sanitary and epidemiological situation allows. For now, we will focus our efforts on promoting the success of a regular session of the Small Body of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva later this month. We reviewed a number of other regional issues, including cooperation between the Caspian Five, and efforts to ensure the ratification of the convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea. We discussed developments in the South Caucasus, the Middle East and North Africa.
We will stay in touch on all issues discussed.
Question: With Iran as an SCO member and closely cooperating with the EAEU, how do you assess Iran-Russia interaction in these organisations?
Sergey Lavrov: We assess it positively. We welcomed last month’s decision of the SCO summit in Dushanbe to start the procedure for Iran to become a full SCO member. Even now, Tehran, as an observer, can participate in practically all SCO activities, including the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. This format is becoming increasingly important. We are interested in making effective use of it and other areas of the organisation's activities, such as security, fighting terrorism, extremism and separatism, and ensuring economic and transport connectivity. All the above fully meet the interests of the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
With regard to the EAEU, Iran has been a party to the interim agreement on liberalising mutual trade for a long time now. More recently, we have begun to negotiate a comprehensive permanent agreement on a free trade area between the EAEU and Iran. I think the benefits arising from this process are clear to the participants.
Question: The latest developments in the Caucasus clearly show that some regimes in that region are trying to strengthen their relations, to sow discord and to deliver a blow to Iran’s vital interests. On the other hand, as it conducts trilateral exercises with Turkey and Pakistan, Azerbaijan is setting the stage for the presence of foreign states in the Caspian Sea region. This runs counter to the obligations that these countries have assumed with regard to the Caspian Sea. Russia's position on this matter is not very clear. What does Russia think can be done to settle this issue and how does it approach this matter?
Sergey Lavrov: We have stated our position on multiple occasions. Russia played a decisive role in stopping the war one year ago and having a trilateral declaration signed at the level of the President of Azerbaijan, President of Russia and Prime Minister of Armenia, under which a Russian peacekeeping contingent was deployed in the conflict zone in Nagorno-Karabakh to ensure peace and create a proper environment for a return to peaceful life. In addition, the same joint declaration contained principles defining further steps to advance the settlement, including unblocking all transport links and economic ties in the region. This will benefit not only Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also Georgia as another South Caucasus country, as well as Iran, Russia and Turkey as the closest neighbours of these three South Caucasus republics.
In this context, we discussed today the initiative to create a “3+3” format to include the three South Caucasus countries and the three “big” neighbours, namely, Russia, Iran and Turkey. Our Iranian friends are supportive of this initiative, as are Azerbaijan and Turkey. We are working on it with our Armenian colleagues. We hope that despite its current problems, Georgia will be able to realise its fundamental interest in creating such a mechanism for consultations and approving decisions for the accelerated development of this region, which had been held back for a long time by the ongoing conflicts. We are opposed to building up military activity in this region or conducting any exercises of a provocative nature. Azerbaijan has expressed concern over the exercises that were recently held by our Iranian friends near its borders.
With regard to the Caspian Sea region and setting the stage for foreign states’ interference in the affairs of the Caspian Sea region countries, we spoke with our partners and friends today and have more than once underscored the need to ensure the entry into force of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea which explicitly prohibits the presence of military forces or any non-Caspian states in the Caspian Sea as soon as possible. The convention will enter into force as soon as the last instrument of ratification is received. This matter is now being reviewed by the parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I hope that the decision on ratification will be taken swiftly, and the convention will become a full-fledged international legal document that ensures a proper state of affairs in the Caspian Sea region.