Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ayman Safadi, Moscow, February 3, 2021
We have discussed in detail the status of our bilateral relations. We reaffirmed our mutual interest in further developing cooperation in all areas in accordance with the agreements reached at the top level by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan.
We noted our support for the holding of a regular meeting of the Russia-Jordan Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation as soon as the epidemiological situation permits.
We noted the positive prospects for our continuing cooperation in energy (including nuclear energy), as well as in the humanitarian, education and military-technical areas.
We discussed in detail the settlement in Syria and reaffirmed the need to approach the existing problems through direct dialogue with the Syrians themselves, including under the auspices of the Constitutional Committee, in full conformity with the principles approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
We expressed satisfaction with our cooperation in the Astana format, in which Jordan takes part as an observer. We discussed preparations for the regular meeting in this format, which is scheduled to take place in Sochi in the middle of February.
We have very close positions on the need to eradicate the surviving small hotbeds of terrorism in the Syrian Arab Republic, create conditions for the return of refugees and start international assistance for the reconstruction of the country.
We spoke about the role that the Arab League can play in creating the most favourable conditions for resolving these tasks that are facing the Syrian people.
We share the opinion on the Palestinian problem about the need to promote the two-state solution. We welcome normalisation of Israel’s relations with many Arab countries, but this must not be used in an effort to sidestep the need to create a Palestinian state.
We reaffirmed the role of the Quartet of international mediators. In cooperation with the Arab League, it can play a very important role in resuming direct talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.
We exchanged views on the developments in Iraq, Libya and Yemen. We are interested in the efforts of the international community to create conditions for an effective and inclusive national dialogue.
Russia and Jordan are striving to overcome the crisis phenomena in the Persian Gulf and ensure stability in this part of the Middle East. We discussed relevant initiatives, including the Russian proposal to create a collective security system in the Persian Gulf with the involvement of external participants. We drew attention to the Russian concept on the main parameters of this proposal.
We and our Jordanian friends plan to hold meetings with our other partners, during which all these issues will be discussed in detail. We agreed to coordinate these steps given that we have practically overlapping goals on the crises in the region.
Question: You touched on the issue of direct talks between Palestine and Israel. Do you think the two countries are prepared for the likely resumption of talks? How might the change of US administration influence the course of the peace settlement process?
Do you see the intra-Palestine split as an obstacle to the resumption of peace negotiations? Given that recently many Palestine politicians have visited Moscow, can elections help remove this obstacle?
Sergey Lavrov: As for Palestine and Israel's readiness to resume direct talks, we believe this has to be strongly encouraged, primarily by the Quartet of international mediators and the Arab countries. We must keep in mind that some upcoming events are likely to play a role in setting the stage for a direct dialogue.
Early parliamentary elections in Israel, scheduled for March, will show if the Israelis are ready to consider proposals for direct talks.
If we want the Quartet of international mediators to perform their functions in full, it is important to wait until the US administration completes filling the relevant positions and outlines the approach of the new masters of the White House to the Palestine-Israeli problem. After that it will be clear what position the renewed Quartet might take. It is obvious for us that their position cannot be other than pursuing the two-state solution.
As for the situation in Palestine, the split, as you said, is gradually but consistently being resolved, including through the efforts of external players like the Arab countries and, primarily, Egypt. The Russian Federation is also contributing to the reconciliation process in Palestine. Our Jordanian friends are also working towards this goal. Thanks to all these efforts, it was announced that parliamentary, presidential elections and elections to the Palestine National Council there would take place this summer. I believe this will be an important and decisive step on the way to rebuilding national unity in Palestine.
Question (translated from Arabic): Moscow’s rhetoric on protests in the West, in part, on Capitol Hill, and the Western response to unauthorized actions in Moscow are very different. Don’t you think that the Russian position is too diplomatic, thereby giving the West more opportunity to interfere in Russia’s domestic affairs? Shouldn’t Moscow start referring to those that were arrested for the riots on the Capitol as political prisoners?
Sergey Lavrov: I’d say that the West presents very specific, one-sided coverage of not only the events linked with Alexei Navalny but also everything that is taking place in Russia. The hysteria caused by his trial is out of proportion. The public is not told that the regulations for holding demonstrations, rallies and protests are much tougher in the West than in Russia. The police in the West have the right to curb any assembly that is not authorised or notified of in advance, or, if a notification was submitted, violate the procedures for holding it as agreed with the authorities. If demonstrators in Germany, France, the US or other Western countries take to the streets and prevent the normal functioning of transport, they can face several years in prison, huge fines and other penalties. The police are much tougher with them than our law-enforcement bodies as regards participating in illegal actions.
Coverage of these actions in Russia and actions by opposition leaders in the West is also based on double standards. When they show events in Russia, the focus is on the police response to the behaviour of the demonstrators. The latter’s actions are not shown at all, although looking at the footage on the internet, it is easy to see how aggressive those who took part in illegal actions were in Moscow and other Russian cities in the past few days. When the Western media cover similar events at home, they usually show outrageous behaviour by demonstrators like broken shop windows and cars on fire, but not the cruelty of the police. This applies to the footage of a police car driving over the bodies of demonstrators lying on the asphalt. As a rule, such footage is kept behind the scenes and can only be found on social media.
To have this discussion (if the West is interested) along the lines of common sense and facts (the West is reluctant to discuss facts), we have prepared a video on how illegal actions are held and suppressed in the West and how our police reacted to the excesses of demonstrators during the recent events. Yesterday, we handed over this video to Foreign Minister of Sweden Ann Linde who is also the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. Today, I sent the same video to Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. We want him to see the objective picture based on specific facts from both sides rather than groundless accusations as he prepares for his visit to Moscow on Friday. Unfortunately, our Western colleagues have become used to such accusations, whether it’s the Skripal case or the so-called Navalny “poisoning” or the events related to his arrest and yesterday’s court verdict.
I understand those who think that Russia could be more aggressive in reacting to the openly high-handed, unseemly rhetoric from Western leaders. In our diplomatic and political culture, we are not used to resorting to thuggish rhetoric. We are polite people and are used to achieving our goals in a civil and civilised manner. As we say: “God is not in power but in truth.” We also have a good proverb that should be remembered: “Honey is sweet, but the bee stings.” Those who take our polite manners for a sign of weakness are making a big mistake.
Question: The White Helmets activists were evacuated to Jordan when the south of Syria was cleared from terrorists and commandos in 2018. Later they were taken to other countries that agreed to give them shelter. However, there was a recent report that Germany supposedly returned one of their leaders to Jordan because of his extremist views, notably Khalid al-Saleh. What can you tell us about this?
Sergey Lavrov: I remember how the German press wrote about his evacuation from Jordan to Germany. I think the German government even provided a government plane for this operation (which is rare). I don’t know whether he returned to Jordan or whether the Germans deported him for his extremist views. My colleague can probably give you a better answer.
Since you mentioned the White Helmets, I would like to say a few words about this special project of our Western colleagues. This so-called “humanitarian” organisation was created with the active participation of Western secret services and was funded by them. It never provided its so-called “humanitarian” services on the territories controlled by the Syrian government. They worked exclusively in the parts of Syria that were ruled by the terrorists, primarily from Jabhat al-Nusra with which the White Helmets cooperated very closely. With Western money, they staged overt provocations and orchestrated scenes and videos on the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government in the country. These so-called “facts” that any even remotely unbiased expert would consider far-fetched, were used by the West to deal air strikes at a sovereign state without grounds, like a UN Security Council resolution.
When things were getting hot for the White Helmets – instigators, swindlers and their terrorist accomplices – as a result of the liberation of Syrian territory, the West decided to save its clients by deflecting the hit from them. Despite singing praises to the White Helmets as all but the ideal of a humanitarian organisation, the West was well aware of whom it was dealing and whom it had nurtured. This is exactly when the West asked our Jordanian colleagues to temporarily provide shelter to the White Helmets. This was two and a half years ago. As I understand it, dozens of these characters still remain in Jordan. We believe it is necessary to fulfil the promise to remove them in a couple of months, but we know how true the West is to its words.
I hope my friend will show understanding for my comments because this matter deals not so much with Jordan as with an element of the common Western strategy to replace the regime in Syria contrary to UN Security Council resolutions. This is a very important issue that we cannot forget.
As for whether al-Saleh returned to Jordan, I don’t know.