Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a reception for the Islamic New Year, September 25, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
Following a good tradition started many years ago, we are celebrating the Islamic New Year with the ambassadors of the member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), representatives of Russian federal authorities and major Russian religious associations, public figures, academics and political scientists.
Supporting friendly relations with Muslim nations is one of the priorities of Russian foreign policy. Our cooperation – both bilateral and in the OIC – serves to improve the world and helps to promote the objective process of moving to a polycentric and democratic international order. It is based on respect for international law, cultural and civilisational diversity in the world, and the natural aspirations of peoples to independently determine their fate.
Today we all are deeply concerned with the many unresolved conflicts in the Islamic world, first of all, in the Middle East and North Africa: in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq. The Palestinian problem remains a chronic factor of instability and should be solved via direct dialogue between Palestine and Israel based on UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. Russia, as a member of the Middle East Quartet, is ready to actively work toward this in close cooperation with the Arab League. We are for overcoming the rift between Palestinians, and note the active role of Egypt in finding a solution, which is already producing results. We seek to help restore the unity of the Palestinian people. It is obvious that there is no military solution to the crises. We believe there is no alternative to overcoming them by political and diplomatic means, via constructive nationwide dialogue free of external interference, with the aim of preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states. It is necessary to make every effort to prevent the disintegration of states, to resist attempts to incite ethnic or religious discord. We must help overcome the dispute between the two branches of Islam, Sunnis and Shiites. Russia is known to consistently promote an initiative to strengthen trust and security in the Persian Gulf region, which has recently become even more important. We support Kuwait’s efforts to restore the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) for stability in the region.
The positive dynamics in Syria are encouraging. The Astana process that we launched together with Turkey and Iran allowed us to reach agreements resulting in the creation of four de-escalation zones, including in the south, with Jordan and the US. The level of violence is dramatically lower there, the rebuilding of destroyed objects and socioeconomic infrastructure has begun there, and the humanitarian situation is improving. Conditions have been created to rapidly wipe out the terrorist stronghold, establish peace all across Syria and conduct an inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue based on UN Resolution 2254. On the eve of the resumption of the Geneva process, we welcome the efforts of Saudi Arabia to unite the opposition on a constructive platform of direct talks with the Syrian government.
Russia consistently advocates for the settlement of the internal Afghan conflict within the framework of a national reconciliation process led by Afghans themselves. We see the Moscow format for Afghanistan consultations, which we started at the beginning of this year, as an optimal platform for working together to establish direct dialogue between the government and the Taliban, while respecting the criteria set by the UN Security Council. The work of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group is being resumed as part of coordinating regional efforts. The first meeting is scheduled to take place on October 11 in Moscow.
Russia is an old and reliable partner of African countries and seeks to expand its counter-terrorism cooperation with states in the region. The relevant interaction is carried out both bilaterally and with the African Union and leading sub-regional associations of the continent. A significant contribution to combating extremism and terrorism is Russia’s participation in international efforts to settle conflicts and crises on the African continent. We help train security forces in African countries, provide assistance in educational development and help solve humanitarian problems.
Reports of civilian and police deaths during the clashes in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the mass exodus of refugees and the threat of a humanitarian crisis are causing serious concern. Our consistent position is that all the problems in the region, which are complicated and multifaceted, should be solved only by political means, via dialogue between representatives of all nationalities and confessions. We call on the parties to show restraint and to take an objective view of current events.
I am pleased to note that Russia’s diplomatic efforts to develop cooperation in various areas with Muslim nations and their largest organisation, the OIC, are supported by Russian regions, business communities, religious associations, academics and cultural figures. I would like to highlight the activities of the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group headed by President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov. Its regular meeting took place this spring in Grozny. Another popular platform for building contacts with the foreign Islamic business community is the annual Russia-Islamic World international economic summit in Kazan, also called KazanSummit.
In conclusion, I would like once again to wish you all a happy New Year. I wish you good health and success, and I wish your people and your countries peace and prosperity.
Thank you for your attention.