Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and replies to media questions at a joint news conference with Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the United Mexican States Marcelo Ebrard following talks, Moscow, April 28, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have held trust-based and constructive talks with my colleague, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the United Mexican States Marcelo Ebrard.
We called for further unlocking the substantial and rich potential of Russian-Mexican partnership in the most diverse fields. We have agreed to intensify our political contacts. Our presidents hold regular telephone conversations. It will be possible to plan the resumption of in-person highest-level and high-level meetings as soon as the epidemiological situation returns to normal.
The Russian Government has been invited to attend official festivities in Mexico City marking the country’s 200th anniversary of independence and other anniversaries, including the 700th anniversary of the founding of Mexico City, the capital of Mexico. We are assessing various formats of our involvement. We will certainly make our own contribution to these celebrations, and we will ensure the Russian party is well-represented.
We discussed joint efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 infection and to ensure epidemiological safety. So far, Mexico is the first and only country on the North American continent to approve Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The Foreign Secretary and members of his delegation have plans to meet with officials at the Russian Direct Investment Fund, where contacts have already taken place. Today, they will also hold meetings at the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. We agree that regular vaccine supplies to Mexico will continue unabated under the contract that has been signed.
We agreed on additional steps to expand our trade and economic ties. Resuming the work of the Inter-Governmental Russian-Mexican Joint Commission on Economic, Trade, Scientific and Technological Cooperation and Maritime Navigation as soon as possible is a priority. The relevant agencies are working to hold the Commission’s sixth meeting in the next few months.
We believe that the more active involvement of Mexican entrepreneurs in international economic forums held in Russia will help boost mutual investment. First and foremost is the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, scheduled for June 2-5. We are expecting a large Mexican delegation to attend this event. We praise the efforts of the Russia-Mexico Entrepreneurial Committee, which was established at Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
We discussed the condition of our legal and contractual framework and agreed to expedite the agreement of some bilateral documents of great practical importance: a treaty on cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, on establishing a Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Mexico City, and on mutual recognition of education degrees. We also touched on an issue discussed previously as well, to the effect that a mutual visa-free travel provision for the citizens of our countries, as has been done in most Latin American and Caribbean countries, would promote business, increase cultural, humanitarian and education exchanges, and enhance mutual tourist flows.
We repeated to our Mexican partners our appreciation for the close cooperation in ensuring good conditions for the operation of our diplomatic missions in Mexico. We reciprocate this approach to our colleagues here in Russia. We are grateful for the agreement to our candidate for the position of honorary Russian consul in Puebla as well as for the support in establishing such a position in Merida. Cooperation with respect to honorary consuls is especially important amid the pandemic where there is a need for responding to the needs of Russian citizens in Mexico and Mexican citizens in Russia.
We thanked our friends again for their assistance in arranging evacuation flights to return our citizens who found themselves in Mexico at the height of the pandemic last year.
We emphasised our interest in increasing the activity of the Joint Commission on Cooperation in Culture, Education and Sports. The commission is preparing another programme of cooperation for the next three years.
Early this year we signed one more document in the humanitarian area – the Memorandum on Cooperation in Cinematography. We are satisfied that the interaction between Moscow and Mexico City is being carried out as planned.
We welcome the traditionally high interest of Mexican young people in studying at Russian universities, including medical schools. At the request of our partners, we have allocated an additional 10 scholarships for the Pulmonology programme for the next academic year beginning September 2021.
Mexico is our important partner in international and regional affairs. We highly appreciate our two countries’ coordination at the UN Security Council, UN Human Rights Council, ECOSOC, the G20 and APEC. We, like our Mexican partners, are consistent supporters of enhancing legal and democratic principles in international affairs. We support unconditional observance of the principles of the UN Charter.
In order to improve coordination between our foreign ministries, we have just signed the Plan for Ministerial Consultations for 2021-2024.
We welcome Mexico’s efforts to advance the integration processes in Latin America, including as the current chair of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). We regard the Russia-CELAC format dialogue, now temporarily suspended, as an important component of our foreign policy course. It reflects our interest in contributing to a unified, politically and economically stable Latin America as an important pillar in the emerging multipolar world order. The minister has reaffirmed his interest in resuming regular ministerial meetings between Russia and the CELAC Troika.
I would like to emphasise that Mr Minister’s visit is taking place shortly before Victory Day. We remember (and we mentioned this to our friends today) the contribution that Mexico made to that huge achievement of humanity – the victory over Nazism. I will only mention that the Aztec Eagles, a Mexican Air Force fighter squadron fought the Japanese alongside Allied forces on the Pacific Front. Two Mexican citizens, the Vivo brothers, survived the siege of Leningrad. One of them died in battle and was buried near St Petersburg. The other one continued fighting throughout the war and participated in the partisan movement. He later returned to his homeland and lived a long and happy life. He is not with us anymore, but we will remember this profound contribution by our Mexican friends to the victory over our common enemy. Throughout the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, Mexico conducted numerous campaigns to raise funds, to send grain and cotton to help the Red Army and the Soviet people. We will never forget this, just as we will not forget the rallies of solidarity with our fight in those years, and calls to open a second front as soon as possible.
I think we have had a good meeting. I am happy that my colleague and friend found the time to accept my invitation. In return, my colleagues and I had a chance to reciprocate the hospitality extended to our delegation during our visit to Mexico in February 2020.
Question: The media have reported that Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will allegedly be put on Russia’s list of unfriendly countries. It has also been reported that there is a possibility of including the United Kingdom, Canada, Ukraine and Australia. Can you confirm that this list does exist? When will it be released?
Sergey Lavrov: I already answered this question recently. As instructed by President Vladimir Putin and in accordance with his executive order, the Government is working on this list.
As you remember, this step was prompted by inappropriate actions on behalf of some of our partners towards the Russian diplomatic missions on their territories.
We have drawn attention to the fact that, if somebody wants to establish parity, this parity will also apply to the recruitment of Russian citizens (individuals) and third country nationals in our country because there is no parity existing in this area whatsoever. This practice is non-existent.
When it comes to the United States, some time ago (during my visit to Washington, DC in late 2019), they waited until the talks were finished, so that nothing could be done, before informing us that the United States was soon introducing a new practice with respect to the work of Russian diplomats on US territory. Specifically, our diplomats would be able to work in the United States for a maximum of three years. When we asked why and how that rule correlated with the United States’ obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, we were told that the Vienna Convention is an independent document and it is customary for US diplomats to serve abroad for around three years; therefore, we must do accordingly. We warned them a long time ago that, should this be the case, we would also transfer our own practices into the relations between our countries with respect to the operation of diplomatic missions.
It is not our practice to hire citizens of the countries where Russian diplomatic missions are based. We also have every right to transfer this practice to the rules regulating the operation of the US embassies and consulates general in the Russian Federation.
I want to stress once again that the list is in development. I would not jump ahead. This matter will not take much time. But the list will soon come out and you will know everything.
Question: Could you comment on today’s statement by Bulgarian prosecutors regarding allegations against Russian nationals who are suspected of organising, between 2011 and 2020, explosions at Bulgarian arms depots that were storing products owned by arms trader Emilian Gebrev?
Sergey Lavrov: At least we have not been accused of assassinating Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, not yet. It may come to that, by the sound of things.
As for Bulgaria’s statements concerning the Russian nationals suspected of organising explosions at some arms depots where trader Emilian Gebrev’s products were stored, since 2011, the very timeframe of the past ten years raises questions. Either Bulgaria had no clue and only now, after the Czech Republic suddenly remembered events from 2014, decided to upstage the Czechs and plunge even deeper into history; or Bulgaria knew what was happening all along but did not make it public for some reason.
I can imagine that the European Union will eventually look into the fact that private entrepreneurs have been involved in storing arms and ammunition in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. The European Union must answer the question we asked, which is how the EU is overseeing the fulfilment of its members’ obligations under various arms trade documents, especially because there are plenty of materials on this subject in the Western media.
It was declared that no anti-personnel landmines were stored at Czech depots and that there were “only” landmine casings. Still, the media have reported several instances when Emilian Gebrev exported those landmine casings to a country where they were promptly “filled.” Numerous combinations are possible here. Knowing the disingenuity of people who trade weapons in violation of laws and international conventions, I would still suggest that the European Union take these media reports seriously. It would not hurt the EU to explain to the international community how all this correlates with the international conventions and treaties that all the EU members signed.