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30 May 201713:25

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Geoffrey Onyeama, Moscow, May 30, 2017


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We held productive talks with Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Geoffrey Onyeama.

We reviewed the state of our bilateral relations that invariably hinge on the principles of equality, mutual respect and consideration for the interests of each other. We voiced a mutual willingness to expand our political dialogue. We agreed to further our trade and economic, and cultural-humanitarian ties and to take essential action to streamline the bilateral contractual-legal framework. A number of important documents are currently being discussed. We have agreed that it is necessary to expedite this work.

We noted the strong potential for cooperation in areas such as hydrocarbon production and processing, nuclear power industry and agriculture. We expressed our mutual interest in continued military-technical and military cooperation and training civilian specialists and law enforcement officers for Nigeria at Russian universities.

We discussed key issues on the regional and global agendas, and we are satisfied to note coinciding or similar approaches on most items. Russia and Nigeria consistently advocate the democratisation of international affairs based on the central role of the UN, which calls for respecting the UN Charter’s principles regarding non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states and respect for the right of a nation to independently choose their development options. We are firmly committed to resolving conflicts and crises that, unfortunately, plague our world, exclusively by political-diplomatic methods. We have agreed to continue coordinating our approaches at the UN and other multilateral venues.

Certainly, the complicated problems that persist on the African continent require coordinated actions of the Africans themselves, with the support of the international community. Russia consistently demands that Africans, first, find the “keys” to African problems, and that the international community should provide moral, political and material support to these efforts.

We advocate the fastest possible elimination of instability on the continent, primarily in the Sahara-Sahel zone, South Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic. Today, we have noted Nigeria’s considerable contribution to peacekeeping efforts in all these regions. In turn, we will be ready to contribute to common efforts to strengthen regional stability through the appropriate efforts at the UN Security Council, through our bilateral relations with African countries, including training peacekeepers and equipping peacekeeping contingents in African countries.

We exchanged opinions on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, primarily in Syria and Libya. We are ready to inform our partners about constant Russian efforts to advance the political process in Syria and to implement the concept of de-escalation zones. As with any conflict, including Syria, Libya and the other African countries I mentioned, solutions can only be found through all-inclusive national dialogue without attempts to impose any influence from the outside.

We focused on the need to step up the uncompromising fight against international terrorism that threatens national security, including that of our states and, objectively, the security of all countries. With regard to Nigeria, this of course refers to the heightened activity of the Boko Haram terrorist organisation that was associated with so-called ISIS. We will continue to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to fight this evil. Of course, the well-known initiative of President Vladimir Putin on establishing a wide-ranging anti-terrorist front based on international law and without attempts to artificially bar someone from taking part in it remains relevant.

On the whole, as I said, the talks were quite productive, and they confirmed our mutual desire to expand our cooperation further.

I am very grateful to Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Geoffrey Onyeama for this opportunity.

Question: How does the Russian Foreign Ministry plan to develop relations with France if President Emmanuel Macron is openly and without evidence accusing Russia’s state media of distributing fake propaganda? The international coalition threatened the Syrian army and its allies with strikes if they move towards Al-Tanf, a district in southern Syria on the border with Iraq. At the same time the United States declares that this district will be part of a de-escalation zone. What do you think about these threats and statements? Are there talks with the United States to prevent violations in this district?

Sergey Lavrov: As you know, there were not just threats but also the use of force in this district. I think the situation is fairly alarming because it directly concerns the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic. Of course, these issues must be settled and this is what our military is dealing with now. They are using a channel that was created earlier to prevent unpremeditated incidents between the Russian Aerospace Forces and the US-led coalition. But it would be much easier to achieve progress if in addition to this fairly limited channel the United States would agree to join the efforts to coordinate the parameters of the de-escalation zones. These efforts continue and the results will be submitted to a regular meeting of the participants in the Astana format, which will take place fairly soon. Let me repeat that we would welcome US participation in the efforts not only to avoid incidents but also to coordinate these de-escalation zones.

As for the question about Russia Today and Sputnik, first, President Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, and Editor-in-Chief of Rossiya Segodnya Margarita Simonyan commented on this yesterday. This is the opinion of those who are professionally monitoring the activities of the media.

I think the assessments you quoted reflect the inertia of the anti-Russia campaign that was initiated by the Barack Obama Administration and spread to a number of other Western countries, including European countries. Our Western partners are still unable to get beyond this even though there are no hard facts.  

As for Sputnik and Russia Today, not long ago Britain’s Ofcom was dealing with similar accusations. It did not find any violations of journalistic ethics. I would like to repeat that this is the opinion of those that are considered independent agencies that are in a position to conduct an expert evaluation.

The main point is that these accusations do not contain a single fact about hackers, behind-the-scenes interference in the elections of Western countries or encroachments on the rights of LGBT representatives in Chechnya or some other region of the Russian Federation. Let me repeat that not a single specific fact or family name has been quoted. If they are quoted we will provide specific answers.

I repeat that we have nothing to do with the overwhelming majority of accusations. If there is anything specific, please present the facts to us.

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