2 November 201114:17

Summary of Remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the First Ministerial Meeting of the Strategic Dialogue between Russia and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Abu Dhabi, November 1, 2011

1693-02-11-2011

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I'm glad to have the opportunity to revisit the hospitable land of the United Arab Emirates, to come to Abu Dhabi and to meet my friends and colleagues from the Gulf States.

I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to the UAE leaders, presiding over the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the GCC General Secretariat for the excellent organization of our meeting. We very highly appreciate our evolving collaboration.

Today we have a unique opportunity to jointly consider the ways and means of enhancing and developing relations between the Russian Federation and the GCC member states.

The interaction between Russia and the GCC, which began last century, is distinguished by an advanced level of political dialogue and good potential for business cooperation. But today we face the challenge to bring partnership to a new, higher level. It must match the new realities, which, on the one hand, dictate the need for deeper regional integration, and on the other require qualitative development of cooperation between the various centers of power and integration associations so as to create a solid foundation of the world order of the XXI century. In this case, of course, we want to fully take into account the experience of interaction between Russia and the GCC.

Developing relations with the GCC member states took shape as one of the priorities of Russian foreign policy in the Middle East and the Arab Islamic world in general. We are satisfied that in the last two or three years, the intensity of contacts at various levels and in different areas has increased. It is, above all, about maintaining an active political dialogue, diversifying trade and economic exchanges and fostering ties in the field of culture and education.

In this regard, I would like to particularly emphasize the importance of the 2007 visit by Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, the first ever by a Russian President to the region. During that visit, the head of the Russian state visited the country for the first time, where the main shrines of Islam are located and where more than twenty thousand Russian pilgrims go every year. We are grateful to the leaders of Saudi Arabia for their constant attention to the needs of Russian pilgrims.

We note the desire of the GCC countries, drawing lessons from the global financial and economic crisis, to diversify trade and investment ties and elaborate new development programs. Russia could participate significantly in the implementation of these plans. This applies primarily to the tasks of improving the oil and gas sector and related infrastructure. However, both politically and economically, it would be unwise to be limited to that sphere of interaction alone. We are ready to effectively and mutually advantageously cooperate in the development in the Gulf States of nuclear energy and other science-intensive industries, and in the field of peaceful uses of outer space. There are also solid opportunities for attracting capital of GCC states for the modernization of the Russian economy – the introduction of new health, energy and information technologies, development of space and telecommunication systems, radical improvement of energy efficiency. Created by decision of the President of Russia, the centre of innovative technologies at Skolkovo could become a venue for establishing useful interactions in the area of high technologies.

We are confident that of considerable interest to our foreign partners, from the Gulf States in particular, may be investments into the large-scale infrastructure of sports facilities being constructed for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. We also count on practical cooperation in the context of the organization and conduct in Russia of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2013 World University Games in Kazan.

It is necessary to increasingly exploit the potential of civil society in our countries, to give new impetus to cooperation between Russia and the GCC nations and provide it with considerable social support. I think that the exchange of delegations of young people and nongovernmental organizations could be of great help in improving our country's diverse ties with the GCC member states. All of this will strengthen our relationship.

Our work with the GCC is also an integral part of Russian activity in the Islamic sector as part of our line on rapprochement with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. This is especially important for us as the country that has accumulated a unique experience not only of the peaceful coexistence, but also of fruitful interaction and mutual cultural enrichment of various religious confessions, especially the biggest of them – Christianity and Islam. In today's turbulent world the consolidated efforts of Russia and the GCC could be a substantial contribution to the strengthening of dialogue among religions and cultures and prevention of fault lines between civilizations.

The new realities unfolding in the vast geopolitical space of the Middle East and North Africa, affect the sphere of security and stability not only of individual states, but also of the whole region. Our countries possess ample opportunities for deepening partnerships in resolving conflict situations and in combating international terrorism and other threats and challenges to security. It is clear that progress in these areas would also contribute to the solution of such strategic problems as the provision of energy, clean water and the fight against environmental pollution. Put forward in 2007, the Russian concept of Gulf security, collectively underpinned and involving all regional and other stakeholders, aims to help solve these tasks exactly. We are grateful to Bahrain and Oman for the already expressed positive attitude to our ideas.

I would like to suggest in this connection that consideration be given to holding in Moscow next year, on the Russian academic base, a meeting of high-level experts from Russia and the GCC countries on issues relating to the development and implementation of this concept.

I think we have all the necessary prerequisites for the successful development of long-term productive interaction between Russia and the GCC in international affairs. We are united by the desire to advance towards establishing a polycentric international system, while relying on the rule of international law and the UN's central role, and to ensure the settlement of conflicts by political means.

Basically our countries have similar positions on the Middle East's key issues. We share a strong belief in the need for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region, which would be free from weapons of mass destruction.

The Russian approach to solving the Palestinian problem is well known to our partners. We welcomed the PNA's admission to UNESCO as a full member, and are ready to back a decision in favor of full-fledged participation of Palestine in the UN itself. The ultimate goal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process must be the creation of an independent, viable, territorially contiguous and sovereign Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

For us, it is important that the Palestinian leadership remains committed to a negotiated settlement of the conflict and to the previous agreements, including the renunciation of violence. We are convinced that in the current regional situation the peace process can, more than ever before, be a stabilizing factor in the Middle East. The Quartet is to play the main role in international efforts toward this end. It is good that at its latest meeting on 23 September, it was able to send an unambiguous signal for the need for an early restart of negotiations. Russia both in the Quartet and through bilateral channels will continue to call for the resumption of talks in the interests of the establishment of peace on the internationally accepted legal basis.

In the context of changes in the Arab world, we believe that the main task of the international community, including such regional players as the Arab League and GCC, as well as Russia as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a participant of other major international forums, is to promote sustained regional advancement towards democratic development and prosperity, harmony among civilizations, as well as to maintain regional and international stability and security, and fight the challenges to the WMD nonproliferation regimes.

No matter how acute the overdue domestic problems may be, they can and should be solved peacefully, via a national dialogue involving all political, ethnic and religious forces and population groups. External assistance for the settlement of internal conflicts should be predicated on these approaches and carried out with the utmost responsibility and taking into consideration the real needs and interests of the citizens of the states of the Middle East and North Africa. Relevant decisions of the UN Security Council should be formulated based on objective facts, in a rigid international legal framework and should be undeviatingly adhered to.

The accumulated experience of our cooperation in the international arena has helped translate into action the establishment of a permanent Russia-GCC dialogue mechanism which could cover the full range of our interactions and would put this dialogue on a firm systemic basis. Hopefully, one of the results of our forum will be institutionalizing the arrangement and signing an appropriate Memorandum of Cooperation as well as a Plan of Action. I hope that the next meeting will be held in the Russian Federation, and I am pleased to convey this invitation to all of you today.

I am convinced that the many-sided ties between the Russian Federation and the GCC states will continue to flourish for the benefit of the peoples of our countries, in the interests of stronger peace, security and stability in the world and the region.

Thank you for your attention.

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