Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand Tanasak Patimapragorn, Moscow, July 16, 2015
Ladies and gentlemen,
The talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand Tanasak Patimapragorn have been very useful and meaningful.
Thailand is one of Russia’s oldest partners in Southeast Asia. Our relations are based on traditions of friendship, mutual respect and trust. In July 2017 we will mark the 120th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. Today we have agreed to do everything in order to hold befitting celebrations of this date, including several major events.
We discussed extensively the status and prospects of our bilateral cooperation and noted that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Thailand last April provided an additional impetus to our ties. We also examined the implementation of the agreements reached during his visit.
We were pleased to note that yesterday’s sixth session of the Russian-Thai Mixed Commission on Bilateral Cooperation, co-chaired by Mr Patimapragorn and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, was quite practical and successful. The decisions made there are bound to promote fuller use of the existing potential of trade and investment contacts.
We also agreed to take additional steps for the consistent development of our political dialogue, promotion of contacts between various departments and deepening of cultural and humanitarian exchanges in which our nations are sincerely interested.
We discussed topical issues of the global and regional agendas. Our positions on international issues are closely aligned, and most often correspond. We stand for a collective search for ways of addressing current challenges and threats on the basis of international law, and support respect for the right of nations to determine their future for themselves.
Consolidation of regional stability is an indispensable condition of developing cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region. We agree with our Thai friends that it is necessary to create reliable mechanisms of ensuring equal and indivisible security in the Asia-Pacific Region. At the same time we are working under the auspices of East Asian summits on the implementation of the Russian initiative on drafting framework principles of the new architecture in the Asia-Pacific Region. Three rounds of consultations on this issue have already taken place. The next round will be held in a few days. We hope it will bring us closer toward reaching a comprehensive agreement.
We will continue building up our cooperation in different mechanisms of the Asia-Pacific Region: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the ASEAN regional security forum and many other agencies that are being or have already been established around the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
We are successfully cooperating in the United Nations. We are grateful to Thailand for its support of many of our initiatives, including the resolutions on the inadmissibility of glorification of Nazism, development of cooperation and the buildup of trust in space and on the promotion of international information security.
In general, we have planned our contacts for the near future. We have just signed a document that contains a list of consultations between our foreign ministries for 2016-2018.
We are quite pleased with the results of the talks. They confirm our mutual striving for the consistent development of multifaceted relations between Russia and Thailand. I am sincerely grateful to my colleague.
Question: How does the recent agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme benefit Russia and how can it impact security in the Middle East and the resolution of the Syria crisis?
Sergey Lavrov: In this case, it would be more appropriate to discuss the agreement in terms other than its benefits for Russia, as it is not meant to provide unilateral advantages to any one party. Originally, the agreement was aimed at working out a comprehensive approach towards eliminating any risks to the nuclear non-proliferation regime and doing so by recognising the rights of states (in this case, of Iran) – as enshrined in international law – to peaceful nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment. This comprehensive agreement has been achieved and it corresponds with the interests of everyone. Needless to say, it has strengthened the non-proliferation regime and, of course, it should significantly ease tensions in this troubled part of the world and help search for points of contact between Iranians, Arabs and Israelis. One indirect but substantial outcome, in my opinion, is the fact that this agreement has strengthened the groundwork for the implementation of the decision that was made back in 2010 but has yet to be implemented. This refers to the convocation of a conference on the creation of a zone free from nuclear weapons in the Middle East. If we look at the root cause of this confidence regarding the positive influence that the agreement will have on the regional security situation, I would like to draw your attention to a number of key points in the documents that have been coordinated.
First, Iran has agreed to limit its nuclear activity significantly over an extended period – eight to 10 years in most areas and up to 25 years on other issues, particularly in terms of the so-called enhanced verification measures through the IAEA. Iran has agreed to limit its enrichment activity to one facility (in the past, there were several), where centrifuges will be located, the number of which will be substantially reduced. Moreover, these will be first-generation centrifuges. Other centrifuges will not be used.
Second, enrichment activity at this single installation with a fixed number of centrifuges will be limited to uranium enriched to 3.67 percent. The entire stockpile of low enriched uranium produced by Iran, except for 300 kilogrammes, will be moved abroad. The heavy water reactor at Arak will be shut down. It will be redesigned so that it will be unable to produce weapons-grade plutonium. Also, the underground enrichment facility in Fordow will be closed and reprogrammed to produce stable isotopes for medical purposes. These are the steps taken by Iran. They will be subject to strict verification. It is important that Tehran will abide by (as provided for in the agreements) what is known as an additional protocol to the safeguards agreement and modified Code 3.1. Russia has always stressed that these tools are key to the verification of the purely peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.
Furthermore, the staff of IAEA inspectors, who will be present at Iranian nuclear facilities at all times, will expand. They will have the most advanced monitoring and verification technology, including electronic seals and continuous electronic enrichment monitoring systems. To reiterate, continuous monitoring, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to the two documents that I have mentioned, the agreement provides for additional IAEA surveillance measures, which will cover Iran’s entire nuclear fuel cycle without exception, starting from uranium ore mining and processing.
Another point. An effective mechanism to resolve disputes and dispel suspicions has been put in place, including the agency’s access to installations in Iran where activity that is not in line with the comprehensive programme of action that has been signed is even hypothetically possible. Should the IAEA have any reasonable doubts, all delays in providing inspectors with access will be ruled out. Clear-cut procedures and deadlines regarding access have been established. It is also important that Tehran has undertaken, before the year’s end, in cooperation with the IAEA, to clarify all remaining questions in the context of purported research projects that could have a military nuclear dimension. This work will be based on a special roadmap that Iran and the IAEA signed at the same time as the approval of the comprehensive agreement. A line will therefore be drawn under this issue. All blank spots in the history of Iran’s nuclear programme will be eliminated. Therefore, both the IAEA and the entire international community will have a complete and credible picture not only of the present status of Iran’s nuclear programme, but also of its development history. I am confident that the sum total of these measures will help consolidate trust between the P5+1 and Iran and, as I said earlier, between Iran and the countries in the region. On the whole, it provides reliable safeguards that any attempts to violate the agreements in some way or another will be spotted immediately by IAEA inspectors. The logic of Iran’s nuclear programme’s development in the future will be completely understandable and controllable.
So, without any exaggeration, this is a fair and honest balance of interests of all parties to the talks. Each has made a significant contribution to achieving the positive outcome – the European troika, China, the United States, Russia and, of course, Iran and the EU, which has coordinated the negotiations process over all these years.
Speaking about the ingredients for success, I would also like to note the important role played by the hosts of these negotiations, above all Austria, where the decisive rounds were held, and Switzerland, where previous contacts took place. At some point, our Kazakh friends also hosted several rounds. All of them helped provide the necessary conditions for everything to end the way that it has ended.
I should also note that Russia has actively facilitated the reaching of a consensus both by proposing specific technological solutions and by dealing with challenging political issues.
Today, we often hear that this deal would have been impossible without Russia. I think that this is true, but I would like to conclude by saying that the main, decisive and incontestable contribution to achieving this agreement has been made by US negotiators. This is an undeniable fact. Without the US focus on the result, without its commitment to a search for mutually acceptable solutions and compromises, this deal would not have materialised.
Question: Tomorrow, it will be one year since the Malaysian Boeing tragedy. Could you comment on the initiative of a number of countries regarding the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the catastrophe, as well as the recent remarks by some officials, such as US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, to the effect that the United States already knows exactly who shot down the Boeing?
Sergey Lavrov: Yes, I remember the interview with US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, where he categorically stated that Washington knows exactly who brought down this plane, but he added immediately: We will wait for the investigation to be completed. This is a somewhat contradictory phrase, if the United States is so confident. If Washington truly believes this, as Ambassador Tefft says, then the motives behind the idea of establishing an international tribunal become clear. If Washington knows everything and the US actively supports the establishment of the tribunal through the UN Security Council resolution, then it is perhaps very easy to tie up the loose ends and to understand what goal this tribunal will pursue. It turns out that it is designed to ensure punishment for those who Washington is sure are to blame. I leave this on Mr Tefft’s conscience. In his interview – if I remember correctly – he said many other things, including his categorical statement that the immediate cause of the crisis in Ukraine was the “annexation” of Crimea; that he categorically rejects the argument about the Maidan as the cause of the coup d’etat in Ukraine; that he doubts that the Crimea referendum results really reflect the will of the people – I leave all this on his conscience.
When this terrible catastrophe, this tragedy, took place almost a year ago, we were among those who initiated the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2166. Since then, we have been repeatedly calling for this resolution to be implemented in good faith in all aspects. As you remember, the resolution was to ensure a comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation of the catastrophe, which would be carried out in full compliance with that same resolution and the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Unfortunately, the resolution has not been implemented in this respect, and others. The investigation is being carried out without affirming the key role of the ICAO, not under the authority of this organisation. Instead, a specific investigation scenario was chosen, based on bilateral agreements between certain countries and Ukraine. Moreover, if I remember correctly, these agreements were not published in full. In accordance with Resolution 2166, the UN Secretary General was to have submitted proposals to the Security Council regarding the measures that the UN and the UN Security Council could take to facilitate the investigation. No such proposals were made. No information was provided to the UN Security Council regarding the course of the investigation in accordance with those bilateral agreements, even though the resolution expressly requires this. All attempts by the Russian side, two or three months after the resolution was adopted, to organise a discussion of the course of the investigation at the UN Security Council, were blocked by the countries that are now advocating the creation of a tribunal. The questions asked by our aviation authorities and Defence Ministry experts, which were published and circulated at the UN Security Council, have not received any answer or response from those who conducted this investigation. Our experts were invited to join an international investigation team, but so far we are on unequal footing there in terms of access to the information that the international team has at its disposal. Some members receive access to all documents and materials whereas our experts receive this information in carefully dosed amounts. We asked why that was happening but did not receive any coherent explanation.
The investigation itself raises many questions, starting from the fact that the removal of the plane debris from the site and the study of the wreckage (a compulsory first step) began only several months after the tragedy. Some of these objects still remain at the site of the tragedy. The recordings of radio exchanges between Ukrainian air traffic controllers handling the warplanes, the data on the flights of the warplanes from nearby airports in Ukraine that we requested and so on, have not been provided to us yet. We proposed that the UN Security Council sanction the sending of a UN mission at an early stage of the investigation. This idea failed to get support and was rejected. We came forward with the initiative that the Security Council task the UN Secretary General not only with submitting the proposal, which he has failed to submit (although the resolution provided for that), but also with appointing a special representative who would oversee all matters related to the investigation of this terrible tragedy, but this was also turned down. It so happens that after almost a year of inaction, during which Russia’s numerous calls for the UN Security Council to enhance its role in this issue were ignored, we are now being asked to create an international tribunal. Furthermore, plans related to the establishment of the tribunal and the texts that have been released raise a lot of questions. I will not go into detail, but the main thing is that the catastrophe is being qualified as a threat to international peace and security even though Resolution 2166 has not offered such an interpretation. The UN Security Council has never treated such air accidents as a threat to international peace and security. This is a crime that is being investigated by the Dutch authorities and other members of the international team as a felony. There is a technical investigation and there is a criminal investigation. The UN Security Council has absolutely nothing to do with this. The parameters of its mobilisation role have already been defined in Resolution 2166.
The UN Security Council has never established any tribunals on civil air accidents, neither in 1988, when the Americans mistakenly shot down an Iranian airliner, nor in 2001, when the Ukrainian military brought down a Russian passenger plane (Siberia airlines), nor in other similar cases. Even in the high-profile Lockerbie case, the Security Council repeatedly addressed the issue but the trial took place in the Netherlands under Scottish law.
Now we are guided by the principle that it is wrong to put the cart before the horse. The investigation is not over yet. Resolution 2166 has indeed called for justice to be ensured and for those responsible to be held to account after the investigation is complete, which will not be before October, as our Dutch colleagues tell us, or maybe a little later (they hope before the end of the year). Taking all this into account, there are two important things for us. First is access for all states concerned (as a minimum, those represented in the international team) to the results of the investigation, without any discrimination; second, we operate on the premise that only after this can the issue of responsibility of those guilty be considered on a preliminary basis, after which we will be able to discuss the optimal procedure for this, so as not to abuse the functions, prerogatives and authority of the UN Security Council.