Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Argentina’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship Susana Malcorra, Moscow, April 13, 2016
Ladies and gentlemen,
Ms Susana Malcorra and I have held very useful and detailed talks.
Argentina ranks among Russia’s key partners in Latin America. Relations between our countries have been elevated to that of a high level, all-encompassing strategic partnership making it possible to expand mutually beneficial cooperation in all areas. We are satisfied that the new administration that has assumed power in Buenos Aires also continues to strengthen strategic cooperation.
Today, we discussed practical steps to further our ties in line with agreements reached by the presidents of our states during their telephone conversation of December 16, soon after the election of Mauricio Macri as President of Argentina. We also discussed the schedule of Russia-Argentina political contacts, as well as contacts between departments and heads of various aspects of both governments’ economic sectors.
We are interested in the continued expansion of our trade and economic ties. We have agreed to take the necessary action in order to start implementing a number of joint investment projects, including energy projects, as soon as possible.
During her visit to Russia, Argentina’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship Susana Malcorra has held and will hold numerous useful meetings allowing us to clarify a number of issues calling for an additional discussion.
We support the further expansion of humanitarian, cultural and sport ties. We hope that Argentina will be represented at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. We wish every success to this unique team, which is loved by many people.
We have reviewed key issues of the international agenda and the regional situation in various parts of the world. Our approaches coincide on such principled issues as adherence to multilateral principles in international affairs, the importance of democratising international relations, respect for international law, a collective search for answers to numerous challenges and threats, primarily terrorism, illegal drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime, as well as the rejection of unilateral sanctions and double standards. We praise our coordinated efforts within the format of the UN, the G20 and other international forums.
We are grateful to Argentina, including the new Government, for continued support for Russia’s expanding ties with such Latin American integration associations as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR). We have agreed to help establish contacts between MERCOSUR and the Eurasian Economic Union. These contacts have been launched, and we hope that they will soon culminate in the coordination of a document outlining the parameters of cooperation.
Russia and Argentina are of the same opinion on the need to resolve crises in the Middle East and North Africa and in other parts of the world by pooling the efforts of the international community and by promoting political-diplomatic solutions in the fight against international terrorism and extremism, which pose an unprecedented challenge to the entire international community.
The results of the talks are reflected in a joint statement that we have just signed. The statement confirms the commitment of our countries to existing agreements and to the continued promotion of strategic partnership.
I am sincerely grateful to Argentina’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship Susana Malcorra for these very fruitful talks. We wish her every success during her posting in this new position.
Question (addressed to Susana Malcorra): Russia-Argentina relations are developing rapidly, and the two countries share similar views on the key issues on international agenda. In this connection, is there a chance that the relations of Moscow and Buenos Aires go to a new, closer level? Is Argentina striving to become a BRICS member?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Susana Malcorra): Within BRICS there is an understanding that at the current stage we, all the five countries, want to see how this association works in the current situation and format. BRICS is relatively young. Apart from regular top-level meetings, there are sectoral mechanisms for various forms of interaction: we regularly hold meetings of foreign ministers, finance ministers, and so on. I’d like to say that BRICS has an outreach mechanism, when a member country hosts summits and the neighbouring countries are also invited. The summit in South Africa serves as an example. During the summit in Brazil, Argentina was one of the invited participants; together with BRICS members it discussed promising joint projects in areas of mutual interest. This tradition will be continued, it helps adjust the BRICS agenda with the interests of other rapidly growing economies.
Another consideration. BRICS has cooperated with Argentina as part of G20. Our views on main issues discussed by G20, first of all, reform of the international monetary and financial system, are similar to those of BRICS, Argentina and most other partners. Together we cooperate as part of G20 in order to ensure that the decisions on reforming the international monetary and financial system, and first of all, the IMF quota and governance reform, are implemented and respected by all. Today we also discussed another aspect of the activity of G20 as well as international monetary and financial institutions in general, namely, the sovereign debt issue, which as you know is of special importance to Argentina. It is another issue on which we cooperate. We think it is necessary to reach a consensus on this important element of international discussions on monetary, financial and credit relations.
Question: What does Moscow think about today's parliamentary elections in Syria, which take place in the run-up to another round of Geneva talks amid continuing hostilities in Syria, and also keeping in mind that the external opposition is not disposed to accepting their results? Which Syrian party do you believe is displaying more flexibility.
Sergey Lavrov: Parliamentary elections are being held in Syria today. We aren’t overly concerned with their outcome, because we believe that they are being held in order to ensure proper functioning of the governance institutions in Syria, the existence of which is stipulated by the current constitution of that country. As agreed with the ISSG, and in accordance with the UN Security Council decision, the participants of the Geneva talks, which will resume this week, will discuss political reform in Syria. The Syrian sides will have to agree on a new constitution and their vision of the arrangements, which will make it possible to effect a smooth transition to the new system. Of course, the Syrians above all must agree among themselves. There is already an understanding that this political process must end in adopting a new constitution, which will be used as a basis to hold new early elections. Until that, we cannot allow a legal vacuum to be created, or a vacuum in the sphere of executive power in Syria. Today's elections must ensure that no such void exists. This is what we think of them.
I will reiterate what we have repeatedly mentioned earlier: we remain fully committed to the agreements on holding talks between the Syrian groups in order to agree on political reforms. These agreements are enshrined in the ISSG decisions and the UNSC resolutions, and everyone must comply with them.
With regard to the fact that the current opposition is against recognising the results of today’s elections in Syria, this is covered by what I mentioned earlier. Most importantly, all the opposition groups – there are several of them represented in Geneva – should be able to participate in the talks with the Syrian government as equal partners. It is imperative to invite the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria, which has so far remained on the sidelines of the Geneva process. All opposition groups should seek compromises, because the key benchmark approved by the UN Security Council is achieving, between the government and the entire range of opposition, a mutual agreement regarding the new constitution, the elections procedure and the creation of new executive bodies. Therefore, all parties to the intra-Syrian talks should be pressed to make it happen.
Occasionally, we hear, as we keep hearing with regard to Ukraine, that Russia must comply with the Minsk agreements, although all it takes to understand who should comply with what is to read that document. By the same token, we hear that Russia must force the Syrian government to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions regarding the reform of the Syrian political system. This is also an incorrect position. Unfortunately, we can hear it sometimes from US representatives, including in the UN Security Council. Of course, we explain what’s what to them, and they have a pretty good idea about everything. However, the tendency to claim, in just about any conflict that is under the scrutiny of the international community, that Russia must do something to right the wrongs, while everyone else will be waiting for things to be taken care of for them, is wrong. It just further complicates things.
I’ve already heard from some of our European colleagues that Russia must do something with regard to Ukraine, Syria and now Libya. This is not how things work. We are all aware that only teamwork can bring results. Therefore, in any conflict, the Russian side works with the parties to make sure that they honour their commitments. In the case of the Syrian settlement, we are working with the Syrian government and the opposition. Our Western partners, who do not want to contact the Syrian government, should take upon themselves the bulk of responsibility for forcing the opposition, including numerous radical opposition groups, to accept the terms agreed upon earlier, which include holding talks with the Syrian government with an eye toward achieving a compromise and mutual agreement of all the Syrians to particular reforms. Our decisions spell it out clearly that only the Syrians themselves can determine the future of Syria. There may be no flexibility in that regard whatsoever. The Syrian sides, though, should demonstrate flexibility in order to reach common agreements. All the external actors should do is demand that they comply with the agreed upon principles.
I think that much will depend on how faithfully our partners from the United States, the EU, the Gulf region and the Middle East follow the UNSC resolutions. We will do our best to get there. We will stick to our part of the bargain, as we have always done.