15 November 201210:58

Speech and answers of S.V. Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, to mass media questions in the course of joint press conference with Kh. Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, summarizing the results of the Second Ministerial Meeting of Russia - CCASG strategic dialogue, Riyadh, November 14, 2012


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Dear ladies and gentlemen,

We had very important meeting. As strategic partners we fully and frankly discussed number of issues, focusing on the Syrian crisis for obvious reasons. We agree that it is necessary to ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, to ensure settlement of the crisis by the Syrians through inclusive dialogue without any external interference. I shall emphasize that these principles are set in two resolutions, which were approved by the UN Security Council on the basis of consensus.

We proceed from the fact that it is necessary to cease bloodshed in Syria. Terrible things are happening there. We receive reports from non-governmental organizations involved in the observation of human rights ensuring, which state that both warring parties in Syria commit outrages. There are violations of international humanitarian law both by the government and by the opposition. We worry about this very much. Russia believes that the most important priority is to stop the bloodshed. The Geneva communique which is the basis for further work, as we all agree today, directs exactly at this.

We are convinced that it is necessary to search for agreement on the structure of the transitional governing body which was recommended to be created at the meeting in Geneva. The Geneva document contained the appeal to the government and opposition to sit down at the negotiating table and agree on the structure of such transitional governing body. We have a strong belief that, in addition to preserving of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, it is necessary to provide such arrangements, which will ensure social and economic rights, security, worthy place in the political system of the country for all Syrians, all ethnic and religious groups.

Of course, not all our points of view concerning the aspects of current situation coincide – it is natural. Few people exactly know what shall be done. Our colleagues say that probably it is necessary to adopt a resolution of the UN Security Council in furtherance of the Geneva document, but to do it with some specific deadlines after which nobody knows what is going to happen. We believe that, above all things, all external players shall try to force the Syrians to fulfill the Geneva document – nobody tried to do this. If we bring pressure on all those who make war in Syria to fulfill the Geneva arrangements, we will need no resolution, as the communique contains all the components necessary for settlement.

It is pleasant that our colleagues (in CCASG) consider the Geneva document to be good basis for further work. We will continue to consult, share our estimations and opinions on how to make all the Syrians take destiny of their country into their own hands and agree among themselves, because they still have to live in this country together.

It was confirmed at the meeting today that the relations within the strategic dialogue between Russia and the CCASG are multifaceted. No matter how acute the Syrian crisis is, it shall not repress the acuteness of other problems, primarily, the problem of Palestine. What is happening today in the region and in the Palestinian territories worries us very much. We believe that it is necessary to cease fire, attacks and any kind of violence immediately. We are sorry that the Middle East "Quartet" in the previous months, when negative potential already accumulated, was not able to get together and take a clear stand in favor of the early creation of the conditions for the revival of direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Now we pay for that missed opportunity, rather, not we, but those who suffer directly on that territory. We are still convinced that the "quartet" shall resume their work as soon as possible, and to act in close cooperation with the League of Arab States. It becomes difficult and ineffective to work separately.

We do not want to forget about the important issue of decision fulfillment of the Review conference of participant-states of the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty, namely on the necessity to summon a conference till the end of this year, in order to discuss the tasks of creation of Middle East area free from the mass destruction weapon and means of its delivery. Russia as one of depository states of the NWNPT is directly engaged in this work. We also consider the aspiration of some our partners to protract the convocation of such conference to be unjustified.

We are all interested in the building of the ways to ensure security and stability in the Persian Gulf together. In the framework of previous contacts with the CCASG states Russia passed their ideas as for this subject. We are grateful to colleagues from the Cooperation Council who expressed positive attitude to our proposals - Bahrain was among them. We are interested in promoting of this topic which is equally important for the whole region.

We are unified by the commitment to fight against the new threats such as terrorism, drug traffic and piracy. I am convinced that this meeting will allow us to develop specific measures on all these directions, which will strengthen our partnership and help to resolve massive problems that have accumulated in the region and around it.

Certainly, we are always open to the expansion of economic and investment cooperation. We have agreed to develop mutually beneficial projects in the field of peaceful application of nuclear power, space exploration and other high-technology industries with a number of the Gulf countries. We stand for the investments from here to Russia and from Russia to the region. It is not as urgent as the crisis settlement, but the more we increase the economic cooperation, the greater benefits will get people of the region, and the fewer opportunities will remain for the extremists to recruit supporters.

I would like to express my appreciation to the hosts for this meeting once again and special thanks to Kh. Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, the CCASG Chairman, my friend and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain.

Question: Taking into account the developments in the region, especially the Syrian crisis, unification of different groups of Syrian opposition, may Russia once again raise the question in the UN Security Council without using priority of veto which blocks the adoption of the resolution? Is it condition for transition process, in Russia's point of view, that B. Assad stays in power?

S.V. Lavrov: If you take a look at the merits of the case, with all the short history of this issue, you will know that the Russian Federation was the first who suggested the UN Security Council to get on with the Syrian crisis. It was done at the beginning of August 2011, when the UN Security Council approved by consensus the Statement by the Chairman, which conceived all the approaches that are unchallenged now, namely retention of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, inter-Syrian dialogue, non-interference in the internal affairs of the SAR, etc. Later two resolutions on the K. Annan plan and on the deployment of a UN Observation Mission in Syria were adopted. Those who did not want to calm the situation disrupted the mission activity, having created unbearable conditions for the stay of observers, who were forced to leave that place.

As for the current situation, after the achievement of consensus in Geneva, we suggested to approve by the resolution the communique of the UN Security Council adopted there. Our partners were not ready for this. They wanted to include in the resolution the provisions, which were absent in the Geneva arrangements, including demand of the regime change, the prospect of sanctions, establishment of false deadlines, after which some threats will be activated.

You understand that it was impossible to negotiate on this basis. But, again, Russia proposed to approve the Geneva consensus in the UN Security Council. We also offered to get together the "Action Group" in New York in August of this year, which met in Geneva and draw out the communique. But our partners, unfortunately, escaped the continuation of the "Action group" work.

As for the last part of your question, I can say that Russia is not engaged in regime change and does not dictate what to do to any heads of states. Russia does not hold on to any regime, does not protect B. Assad - nothing like that. We are on the side of the Syrian people. If destiny of B. Assad is the most important thing in this story for someone, then it is necessary to realize that the blood will continue to shed. He publicly stated his intention to stay and die in his own country, to continue the fight, not because someone makes him do it, but because it is his decision, which he said about. I shall repeat if the most important thing is the destiny of B. Assad, the cost of this priority will be a lot of new victims in Syria. Our main priority is to avoid these victims.

As I have already said, the Geneva communique contains all components which may be used by external players (if everyone acts fairly) to give a chance to cease the fire and start the political dialogue on formation of transitional body to agree on the content and terms of the transitional period.

The Syrians themselves shall negotiate, but nobody shall prescribe and impose arrangements for them. In such case, they will not be efficient.

Question: You have always wanted the Syrian opposition to be consolidated. Now it has happened. What is the official position of Russia on the formation of the corresponding coalition of the Syrian opposition?

S.V. Lavrov: As we stated at the meeting today, not all the Syrian opposition is consolidated yet. Certain groups, which were presented at the meeting in Doha, are consolidated. But leading intra-Syrian opposition structures did not go there. As they claim that they have difference of opinion on ways of the Syrian crisis solution. First of all, these differences relate to the attitude to the external military actions.

We inevitably stand for consolidation of the Syrian opposition and meet all its representatives - both internal and external opposition. Contacts take place in Moscow, in places where the relevant groups are represented, whether it is Damascus, Istanbul, Paris, London, and the United States. We call up all the oppositionists to consolidate and to form a negotiation team. But they have to be consolidated on the platform of readiness for negotiations and dialogue.

We still have to analyze the results of the meeting in Doha. But cursory examination of the document adopted there leaves a lot of questions. For example, it says that the consolidation took place on uncompromising base of the regime overthrow and destruction of all the institutions of this regime; and only when all the institutions will be dismantled, the need for nationwide conference, which will decide what to do next, will be discussed. There was a moment in our national history when Bolsheviks sang after the European revolutionaries that "we will raze the whole world, and then we build our world". So first of all, it is necessary to destroy everything.

I do not think that this way will allow avoiding the chaos. The document adopted in Doha states that all oppositionists, who got together there, flatly refuse to be engaged in dialogue with the government. Hence, the consolidation took place not on the basis that was laid down in the Geneva document, adopted by consensus.

Of course we will have to understand what stands behind the formulations adopted in Doha.

Question: Will the second meeting of the "Action group" with the participation of the Persian Gulf countries take place? If yes, when?

And yet, the Syrian opposition coalition did not include "internal opposition". How, in your opinion, is it possible to stop the bloodshed and start the dialogue without the group representing the majority of the Syrian opposition forces?

S.V. Lavrov: When the agreement on the text of the communique was reached in Geneva, we proposed to hold another meeting of the "Action Group" in New York, to discuss practical ways of work with all opposition groups and the government in order to implement the Geneva compromise. Our partners were not ready for this. As you can see, they now have a slightly different course to influence the situation.

The internal opposition for the most part was not represented in Doha and had disagreement with some participants of the meeting concerning the reliance on military intervention from outside. I think that without internal opposition and its involvement in the process it is difficult to expect that it will be inclusive and all-Syrian as written in the decisions of the UN Security Council.

We stand for the fact that internal opposition shall be included in the constructive processes rather than those based on the rejection of dialogue.

Question: Russia has lost the Arab people due to its position in support of B. Assad. What else do you want to lose?

S.V. Lavrov: It is obviously not a question, but the statement, and you made it. I respect your point of view. But since I live in Russia and regularly meet the representatives of the Arab states, I would say that I do not feel that they consider us to be lost for them. This also applies to each and all groups of the Syrian opposition, which we met. All of them are interested in presence of Russia in the region, emphasize the balancing, compensating role of the Russian Federation and understand well that the region problems are not limited to the Syrian crisis. When it is overcome (and it will be overcome), these problems break out with new urgency. It is already happening.

Look at what is happening in and around the Gaza Strip. Arab people know the history of all these problems, as well as our consistent position, including in favor of respect for the principles of international law. Among them is the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, including respect for the prerogatives of the UN Security Council, which is destined to deal with the settlement of disputes and which among its authority has no ability to maintain the revolution and regime change. Do not make decisions instead of the Arab people, they are wise, they see and understand everything.

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