Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions following a meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers, Ashgabat, October 10, 2019
We are grateful to our Turkmen hosts for their excellent work in organising the CIS Foreign Ministers Council of work.
Today marks the completion of the approval process for an important document initiated by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. I am talking about the Action Programme for enhancing the partnership between the foreign ministries of the CIS member states. This important document outlines our upcoming work with international organisations and at other venues, including regional organisations, such as the OSCE. It is very useful.
A draft appeal by the heads of the CIS member states to the people of the commonwealth and the international community on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Victory of the Soviet people in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War was adopted, which will be reviewed by the heads of state tomorrow. We agreed to promote corresponding commemorative events within the UN and the OSCE.
Upon Russia’s proposal, a statement of the CIS member states On Support for Practical Steps to Prevent an Arms Race in Outer Space was approved. This document is new to the CIS Foreign Ministers Council. There are many alarming signs that some countries nurture such plans. It is important to draw attention to them and to ensure working at negotiating platforms to agree on the terms for the non-placement of weapons in outer space.
A draft Strategy for Ensuring the Information Security of the CIS Member States was adopted, as well as draft documents on strengthening military interaction, including the formation of a joint unit for humanitarian demining and creating joint communications systems.
Overall, we had a very busy agenda. I think we have done a good job preparing tomorrow's summit. I’m sure that the heads of state will make important strategic decisions aimed at deepening and strengthening the CIS.
Question: How would you evaluate Russia-Turkmenistan relations at present?
Sergey Lavrov: Our relations are very good. They are constantly progressing. Our presidents meet regularly; our foreign ministries, including the ministers, heads of departments and deputy ministers, maintain constant contact. We agree on a wide range of issues, which later become important matters on the UN agenda, and we cooperate on the Caspian issues. We actively support Turkmenistan’s initiatives on the principles of international cooperation in energy.
Today’s visit reaffirmed that our bilateral relations are on the rise. We have every reason to believe that all the agreements between our presidents will be implemented.
Question: Turkey has, nevertheless, launched a military operation in Syria. How does Moscow see this scenario today? How could it affect a peaceful political settlement of the Syrian crisis?
Sergey Lavrov: From the onset of the crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) we have invariably drawn attention to the fact that we understand the legitimate concerns of the Republic of Turkey about the security of its borders. At the same time, we have strongly stressed the need to settle these concerns within the existing agreements between Damascus and Ankara – the so-called 1998 Adana Agreement. Unfortunately, the effective practical implementation of the agreement, which envisioned joint efforts to thwart terrorist activity on the Turkey-Syria border, was complicated by the actions of the United States and the US-led coalition on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. We have been warning for many years about the extreme danger of the experiment launched there by the Americans who tried to set the Kurds against the local Arab tribes in every possible way. We cautioned against playing the Kurdish card because it could have a sorry end, and we were also warned about this by our colleagues from other countries in the region with large Kurdish communities.
This is why we are now insisting on opening a dialogue between Turkey and the SAR. We have grounds to believe that this will serve the interests of both sides. We will simultaneously be making efforts to somehow establish contact between Damascus and Kurdish organisations that reject extremism and terrorist approaches in their activities. We heard that both Syrian officials and representatives of Kurdish organisations expressed interest in Russia using its good relations with all parties to the process in arranging such talks. We will see what we can do.
As you know, President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prior to that, I had a telephone call from the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. We have a de-conflicting channel, a regular communications channel. Our militaries are in contact with each other. We are interested in quelling this situation quickly, but based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the SAR.
Question: Ukraine insists on seven days of silence before disengagement in Petrovskoye and Zolotoye. Was this condition included in the agreement?
Sergey Lavrov: When the first disengagement agreement was reached for three pilot areas – Stanitsa Luganskaya, Petrovskoye and Zolotoye – and approved by the Normandy format leaders in October 2016, disengagement in the latter two areas was completed rather quickly and was maintained to the satisfaction of all sides. As for Stanitsa Luganskaya, the Ukrainian authorities insisted on seven days of total silence before the actual disengagement. This condition was not made before the second disengagement agreement for Zolotoye and Petrovskoye.
When the Poroshenko government postponed the implementation of the agreement in Stanitsa Luganskaya until the seven-day condition is honoured, we requested the assistance of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM), which subsequently reported that according to its observations the silence regime had held for over a week many times; over 50 times, in fact. But every time Kiev representatives said they disagreed because they had allegedly heard a couple of shots.
In the meantime, the disengagement agreement for Petrovskoye and Zolotoye was derailed again because Kiev quietly returned its forces to these areas. After the disengagement was completed in Stanitsa Luganskaya in June, something that all sides welcomed, the second disengagement was to begin in Petrovskoye and Zolotoye. No seven-day ultimatums were made by anyone. When the disengagement process failed to start several times, new conditions were put forth several days ago. I see only one explanation: somebody cannot or does not want to implement the agreement. We have been accused of delaying the Normandy summit, but this is a futile attempt made through foul means. It seems to me that the signing of the Steinmeier formula with strange reservations and in a strange format, as well as the disengagement or non-disengagement in Petrovskoye and Zolotoye, are intended to increase attention to the Normandy summit for no other reason than the summit itself. My another suspicion is that Ukraine is insisting on holding a Normandy summit in the hope of revising the agreements reached at the previous meetings by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France. I believe this will be a blow to the reputation of the Normandy Four. We will do everything in our power to prevent this.