Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and replies to media questions at the joint news conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt Sameh Shoukry following two-plus-two format Russian-Egyptian talks with the foreign and defence ministers, Moscow, June 24, 2019
We have held the fifth round of consultations in the two-plus-two format with Russia and Egypt’s foreign and defence ministers. This format has proven to be effective and has become an inseparable part of our relations, which have advanced to the level of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation. This is the status as fixed in the Declaration signed by presidents Putin and El-Sisi in Sochi last October.
We have coordinated our positions on current regional and global issues. Special attention was given to the uncompromising fight against terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa. We spoke in favour of overcoming all hotbeds of tension, conflict and crisis in this part of the world through political and diplomatic means under international law and with unconditional respect for the peoples’ right to determine their own destiny.
Special attention was paid to the Arab-Israeli conflict. We welcomed Egypt’s constructive role in the effort to restore Palestinian unity. We expressed concern over US attempts to quietly promote ideas that imply the abandonment of a two-state solution in solving the Palestine problem, that depart from the international legal base for settlement including UN resolutions, the Madrid Principles, and the Arab Peace Initiative. Russia and Egypt have confirmed their commitment to these basic documents.
We have close approaches towards ensuring peace and security in the Persian Gulf area – through dialogue, agreeing on transparent measures, and stepping up trust. In this respect we drew attention to the well-known Russian initiative on establishing a collective security architecture in the Persian Gulf area.
We spoke about the conference next November on setting up a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Russia and Egypt held coordinated positions when the respective decision was being approved at the UNGA. We have agreed to synchronise our approaches in preparing for this significant event.
We have a common stance regarding Syria on the need to finally eliminate the terrorist presence while strictly abiding by the provisions of UNSC Resolution 2254. This includes above all respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the organisation of a national dialogue process by the Syrians themselves without outside interference, the need for the international community to assist in solving humanitarian problems, and providing conditions for restoring socioeconomic infrastructure.
Russia stressed its commitment to completing the tasks agreed on, with support from the Astana process guarantors (Russia, Turkey and Iran), during the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi last year, where conditions were created for a political settlement. Along with our partners, we are working with the government and the opposition, and our colleagues at the UN to finish creating a Constitutional Committee. We also talked about the need to restore Syria’s relations with the League of Arab States.
Concerning Libya, we also see no alternative to a political settlement. We believe that all Libyan sides should unite in looking for ways to restore the statehood of their nation and to jointly repel terrorism and extremist ideology.
We have overlapping positions on other crisis situations in the region that we discussed, in particular, in Sudan and Yemen.
Our colleagues, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Egyptian Minister of Defence and Military Production Mohamed Zaki, held a detailed discussion on issues of military and technical cooperation including the interaction of defence ministries in regard to Syrian, Libyan and a number of other conflicts.
As to our bilateral relations with the Arab Republic of Egypt, prior to today’s two-plus-two meeting, we thoroughly reviewed the progress in the implementation of the agreements reached by our presidents, including large-scale strategic projects such as nuclear power station construction and setting up a Russian industrial zone in Egypt where 19 Russian companies are willing to participate. I am sure this number will increase.
Russian Railways, Rosneft and Lukoil are actively engaged in Egypt, and we have continuing cooperation on space issues. An Egyptian remote sensing satellite was launched. The Russian Federation is assisting in Egypt’s negotiations with the EAEU on establishing a free trade zone. The next round of the negotiations is scheduled for the next month.
In the context of Egypt’s chairmanship in the African Union, we shared views on the course of preparations for the first ever Russia-Africa Summit to be held in Sochi on October 24, co-chaired by the presidents of Russia and Egypt. We agreed to coordinate the activities on the final documents of this crucial forum.
Overall, the talks have been very practical. We reaffirmed our mutual commitment to strengthening our strategic partnership in all areas. We will continue this line following instructions from presidents Putin and El-Sisi.
Question: Today, Russian Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev is in Israel where he already met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will also have talks in a tripartite format: Israel, Russia and the US. Why are these talks to be held in Israel?
Before he left for Israel, Patrushev said the Syrian crisis would be at the centre of the upcoming talks. Do you think the issue of Iran’s presence in Syria will be raised during the talks, as Israel has already said? Is it realistic to take decisions like these in this type of format?
Sergey Lavrov: As for the meeting which is taking place is Israel today between the secretaries of the Russian, US and Israeli security councils, this meeting was proposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his regular meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin not long ago.
We see that Iran is at the heart of Israel and US’ concerns. Not only in the context of Syria but regarding the entire region and in a wider geographical context. We believe this approach to be counterproductive. It is counterproductive to tie one’s policy in a region to a struggle against one country, focusing on efforts to isolate it, and accusing it of committing crimes without taking the trouble to investigate the incidents.
As I have said, we are in favour of a dialogue between the Arabs and Iran, including on confidence-building measures and measures to ensure security in the Persian Gulf area. The current developments in this part of the region and in Syria seem very dangerous to us. It is bad that attempts are being made to turn the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic into an arena of opposition between Israel and Iran, the Sunnis and the Shiites. This is only exacerbating the crisis.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed that this meeting be held, Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted the idea, having confirmed and emphasised that during this meeting we would be guided by the considerations that I mentioned, that is, by the necessity for all of us to concentrate on implementing Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council, under which Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be honoured and the Syrian people allowed to seek a solution to а political settlement. Our involvement in these efforts has been approved by the Syrian government, much like the involvement of Iran, which is legitimately present in Syria to help it fight the terrorists, as it was invited by the legitimate Syrian government.
This will be our position during the talks which are being held today in Israel and at any other talks on the Syria issue, for that matter. We will try to convince all of our partners, that take an interest in our position, of the need to establish dialogue, rather than try to encourage separatist trends in various parts of Syria or to forbid the legitimate Syrian government to build relations with the rest of the world on its own.
Let me emphasise upfront: we have talked today, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, about the importance, in the context of all processes, of resuming cooperation and relations in general between Syria and all other Arab countries in full, including the reinstatement of Syria in the League of Arab States.