Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic Saleumxay Kommasith, Vientiane, July 7, 2021
Thank you very much, my dear friend,
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have held intensive, detailed and friendly talks, during which we reviewed a wide range of issues pertaining to bilateral and international affairs.
Our relationship is a relationship between good, loyal and reliable friends. Their international law aspect relies on the Declaration on Strategic Partnership in the Asia Pacific Region, whose tenth anniversary we will mark this year.
In 2018, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of the Lao People's Democratic Republic Thongloun Sisoulith met on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, and our two countries’ prime ministers met in 2019. The agreements reached at those summits determined the main contents of our current discussions here in Vientiane.
We noted the effective and trust-based political dialogue at various levels and the need to expand the parameters of our trade and economic ties. Due to a number of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, bilateral trade does not reflect the potential of our countries. We have agreed to hold a meeting of the Russian-Lao Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation before the end of the year. There are a number of issues the Commission should address, which will allow us to considerably expand our economic and investment cooperation.
Ties in the field of military and military-technical cooperation continue to develop steadily. Today, we discussed the planned deliveries of additional military equipment and materiel to Laos. Russian and Lao law enforcement agencies and security councils continue to expand their ties. We are implementing a number of purely applied joint projects, including humanitarian mine disposal missions and the training of Laotian combat engineers at Russian facilities.
In March 2021, Laos issued the required documents for the Sputnik V vaccine. Today, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and its Lao partners are completing talks on the vaccine’s deliveries to the Lao People's Democratic Republic. We are reviewing the request made by the Lao leaders that, in addition to commercial deliveries, a part of the vaccines be shipped as humanitarian relief.
We voiced identical positions regarding the situation on the international scene. We believe that all issues should be resolved in strict compliance with the norms of international law, primarily the principles of the UN Charter. We closely coordinate our practical activities in various UN agencies and organisations and also at such multilateral forums as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
We discussed Russia-ASEAN relations in detail, including in the light of the yesterday’s ministerial meeting held online when I was on a visit to Indonesia. It was very intense and helpful. By increasing the number of applied projects in their dialogue partnership, Russia and ASEAN considered the general situation in the region in the geopolitical context. We are interested in providing the Asia-Pacific Region with an up-to-date architecture of equal and indivisible security that adequately reflects the realities and promotes peace, stability and maximally favourable conditions for sustainable development here. Russia is convinced that such an architecture can only be provided on the basis of what has been achieved over the past decades within the framework of the processes evolving around ASEAN’s central role. We consider the attempts made over the last couple of years to undermine ASEAN’s central role as dangerous, imposing separating formats, based on the concepts of deterrence and drawing dividing lines instead of unification formats of cooperation in the region. All this is at variance with the hopes and interests of peoples in this leading region that has become a locomotive of the world economy. We will consistently defend the positions taken by ASEAN, developing useful forms of multilateral cooperation, primarily the East Asia Summit (EAS), the ASEAN Regional Forum on security and the meeting of ASEAN defence ministers and dialogue partners.
We are sure that all extraregional countries should respect the traditions of this region supported by ASEAN’s central role. And we will continue to act in this way.
We are satisfied with the talks. They made it possible for us to identify new areas in bilateral cooperation and to confidentially exchange views on key international and regional issues.
I want to thank my colleague and friend. I am pleased to invite him to Russia for a return visit.
Question: In light of the recent developments in Afghanistan, what measures can Russia take to stabilise the situation on the external borders of its CSTO partners? Is it possible that, among other things, we might use our armed forces for this?
Sergey Lavrov: We are closely monitoring the developments in Afghanistan, where the situation seems to be rapidly deteriorating, including in the context of the hasty pull-out of US and other NATO countries’ troops. During the decades they have been deployed there, they have not achieved any visible results in terms of stabilisation.
The other day, President of Russia Vladimir Putin held telephone conversations with President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and he also maintains contact with other Central Asian leaders. The obligations under the CSTO remain in force. Representatives of the CSTO Secretariat have visited the Tajik-Afghan border to take stock of the situation and will report their conclusions to the Permanent Council.
We will do everything necessary, including by employing the capabilities of the Russian military base deployed on Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan, to prevent any aggressive encroachments on our allies.
Question: A while ago, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un mentioned a serious healthcare challenge and accused the agencies concerned of reckless disregard for the sanitary and epidemiological measures. This was interpreted as a sign of the spread of the coronavirus in North Korea despite the strict quarantine measures enforced there. Is Russia considering the delivery of vaccines or medical equipment to North Korea in this regard? The North Korean authorities have admitted that the economic situation in the country is challenging. Is Moscow planning to increase its humanitarian aid to Pyongyang?
Sergey Lavrov: From the outset, the North Korean authorities adopted strict measures to close its borders to keep out the virus. This amounted to a virtually total lockdown, which has been maintained to this very day. We have not registered any developments that would indicate an outbreak of the coronavirus in North Korea.
We mentioned our readiness to provide any necessary assistance during contacts between our embassy staff with the North Korean leadership. This includes the supply of the vaccine and medical equipment, if and when necessary. As for humanitarian aid, we regularly provide it in other formats to our North Korean neighbour.
The Russian Embassy in Pyongyang regularly reports on changes in the situation. We have complete information.