MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –
Question (translated from English): What opportunities and risks does the new Taliban “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” carry? Does Russia fear that the Taliban’s presence may somehow fuel Islamic extremism in the region? What can be done in this case?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Everyone is hearing about Afghanistan. We proceed (and from the very beginning proceeded) from the fact that what happened is reality. Unfortunately, the hasty withdrawal (let’s call it that) of the US troops and other NATO countries was carried out without understanding the consequences, which, as you know, are that there are many weapons left in Afghanistan. Apparently, we all need to make sure that these weapons are not used for non-constructive purposes.
The reality existing there now rests on the statements of the Taliban, who proclaimed their determination to fight extremism and terrorism, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda, not to project instability onto their neighbors. They announced that they would respect the rights of women and strive for the creation of an inclusive government. You know about this. The most important thing now is to keep these promises.
The first step with the formation of a transitional government structure does not reflect the entire palette of Afghan society from an ethno-confessional, political point of view. We continue contacts with the Taliban. They have been implemented for many years now. We are doing this, including within the framework of the expanded “troika” – Russia, the United States, China, Pakistan. Most recently, Russian, Chinese and Pakistani representatives were in Doha, then visited Kabul, where they talked with the Taliban and with representatives of the secular authorities. I mean the former President H. Karzai and the former head of the Council of National Accord Abdullah Abdullah. The conversation was primarily about the need to ensure the formation of a government structure that will be truly representative. The Taliban say that this is also the current option – a temporary one. The most important thing is to ensure that the promises they made publicly are kept. For us, the main priority is exactly what you mentioned – the inadmissibility of the spread of extremism to neighboring countries and the persistence of terrorist threats on Afghan territory. We will in every possible way support the resolve of the Taliban, which they have declared, to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups, to ensure that it is embodied in practical steps.
Question: Is Russia considering the possibility of easing or lifting the national sanctions regime against the Taliban, who have now joined the new Afghan government, to facilitate contacts? What position does Russia plan to take when discussing at the UN on easing or lifting sanctions against the Taliban?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: The current state of affairs does not limit or hinder our contacts with the Taliban. Moreover, the sanctions of the UN Security Council, as they are formulated in the relevant resolutions, do not prohibit such contacts. On the contrary, the UN Security Council resolutions contain the need to advance the political process, which cannot be done without working with the Taliban.
Our contacts, which we have been carrying out with this movement for more than one year, are aimed primarily at ensuring the security of Russian citizens, promoting inter-Afghan reconciliation and the political process. I have not heard that in the UN Security Council someone raised the issue of the need at one of the upcoming meetings to talk about softening or lifting international sanctions. For the purposes of the current work with diesel fuel, this is not required.
We will all expect the Taliban to fulfill all the correct promises they made. Then we will see how the terrorist and drug threats really left the territory of Afghanistan.
Question (translated from English): The UN Secretary General has warned of the catastrophic consequences that could happen if an economic collapse occurs in Afghanistan. What do you think about the idea of “unfreezing” Afghan funds in the hands of international structures?
From what you said, you have a politician to judge the Taliban on their deeds. How does the DT ideology differ from other Islamic groups in other parts of the world? For example, the groups in Syria that you oppose by bombing.
Foreign Minister Lavrov: As you know, there is a terrorist “nest” in Syria. Almost the entire Syrian territory was liberated, but in the province of Idlib, in the so-called de-escalation zone, “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham”, the offspring of Jabhat al-Nusra, “rules the ball”. In all decisions of the UN Security Council, it is recorded what these terrorist organizations are. I don’t see a problem here in terms of eliminating terrorists in Syria.
We are talking with our Turkish partners, who signed a special agreement with us two years ago that they will fight terrorists in the Idlib de-escalation zone and will separate them from non-terrorist armed groups that cooperate with the Turkish military. In a few days, the next meeting of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and the President of Turkey R. Erdogan will take place. There will be substantive consideration of the question of how this commitment is being fulfilled. It runs slowly. It is obvious.
As for the DT, in comparison with other groups, we cannot divide terrorists into good and bad. The sanctions against the Taliban were introduced with a sufficient number of exemptions, first of all, so that it was possible to conduct a dialogue with them. This means that the UN Security Council recognizes the Taliban as an integral part of Afghan society, which Jabhat al-Nusra and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are not for Syria. This is the difference.
We will encourage those who took power in Kabul after the flight of foreign contingents to behave in a civilized manner.
We have already spoken about the “unfreezing” of funds. We believe that this issue should be considered on a practical plane from the positions that you mentioned, quoting the UN Secretary General.
Question: The Taliban government has decided on the candidates for the post of ambassador in Moscow. Will Russia be ready to issue an agreman to the people who are nominated by the DT?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: We have no information that someone turned to us for an agreman. An ambassador appointed by the previous government is working in Moscow. Nobody is raising the issue of international recognition of the Taliban at this stage. We will proceed exactly from this principle if and when we receive a request for the appointment of a new ambassador.
Question: We have heard the speech of the President of the United States John Biden. He proclaimed that the era of war is over and an era of intense diplomacy is coming. How much do you believe in this?
What about our diplomatic property? Is there any progress?
Even members of the delegation had problems with visas, not to mention that there was a danger that our delegation might not be allowed into the UN General Assembly because of the requirements for vaccination. Moreover, as we understand it, with vaccines approved in the United States. Are these attempts to do harm wherever possible?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I do not think that this is an attempt to “do harm”. Most likely, a little confusion due to the fact that face-to-face meetings of the UN General Assembly are resumed. I cannot blame the New York authorities for their desire to play it safe somewhere. This is a serious event. There are many people here from all over the world. The strains are no longer one option. Precautions will not hurt.
Another thing is that you said absolutely right, we do not accept attempts to discriminate against vaccines that are not registered in the United States, but have repeatedly proven their effectiveness. This also applies to Sputnik V. We have a number of EU countries (for example, Hungary, Slovakia) registered our vaccines. This is an example for the rest of the EU and the North Atlantic Alliance.
About visas for the delegation. Visas were issued not only for epidemiological reasons, but also with a certain political delay. We have seen it. A number of our employees have not yet received visas, including the State Duma deputies included in the delegation. We will seek from the leadership of the UN Secretariat to fulfill its obligations to ensure all the agreements enshrined in the agreement between the UN and the hostess of the headquarters – the United States. Numerous problems have accumulated in the gross violation of this agreement and the obligations of the host country of the UN headquarters, including the seizure of diplomatic property you mentioned. The General Assembly Committee on Relations with the Host Country has expressed the opinion that this is unacceptable and wrong. The Secretary General has been for years to begin the arbitration process over these US actions. We met with him yesterday, I reminded him. I am glad that his legal adviser M. de Soares was present during the conversation, who is obliged to initiate the necessary steps. These steps are significantly delayed.
US President George Biden said that the US will never again use force to change the order in other countries. “Never say never”. We know how the Trump administration took and withdrew from the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, which was concluded by the Obama administration. Now, when negotiations are underway to fully restore the JCPOA to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians, among other things, are asking the Americans: can they write down when this plan is renewed that the next administrations will respect what will they agree now? The Americans answer that they cannot do that – they have such a system. There is international law, and there is a “drawbar”.
US President George Biden said that now the era of “intensive diplomacy” is coming. This means that they will use other means to try to arrange the life of other countries in the way that the Americans think is right. The same color revolutions. This is not the use of force, but it works no less destructively: look at Libya, Iraq, Syria, our neighbor Ukraine.
We would like the United States to take the next step and, following the commitment not to use force to remake others, not to do so at all. Recognize that everyone is different. We have different cultural and civilizational roots. But we live on the same planet. We must respect each other.
Question: According to our information, a visit to Moscow by Deputy Secretary of State V. Nuland is now actively being prepared. At what stage are these negotiations? When can I expect a visit? What does Moscow expect in response to the temporary lifting of restrictions from the figure on the Russian “black” list?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: If you have sources of information that you know about it, ask those who gave you this information. We are preparing a number of contacts through the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US State Department. This is not the only direction in which discussions are taking place.
We presume that when both parties agree that the contact will take place on a specific day and on such and such an issue, a corresponding announcement will be made.
Question (translated from English): I would like to ask a question on the JCPOA. US Secretary of State E. Blinken said that we need to act faster, time is running out. Iranian Foreign Minister A. Abdollahian said yesterday that they are ready. It looks like they are receiving conflicting signals from the US, but an agreement is due soon. You were involved in achieving this “deal.” As a negotiator, can you imagine what will happen if the US does not return to the agreement and Iran continues to develop its nuclear program? What’s the worst-case scenario?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Iran is not doing anything that would be prohibited to it. Because it complies with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, an additional protocol to a comprehensive safeguards agreement. Iran is now not complying with most of its obligations, which were included in the JCPOA and which are now not valid, because the Americans have destroyed this agreement.
The point is to restore it in full. Then Iran will have no reason to make exceptions to what it has pledged to do. The IAEA, including in the person of the Director General, is in contact with the Iranians. They have a complete picture of what is happening there. They are not denied access to the work that Iran is carrying out as part of its nuclear program. The IAEA has no reason to believe that the 2015 conclusion that there were no signs of diversion of the nuclear program to military needs has ceased to work. They have no reason to reconsider this conclusion. They speak about this directly.
Of course, we want the talks on the full restoration of the JCPOA to resume as soon as possible. But, firstly, the government in Iran has just been formed. They say it will take them another week or two (hopefully not more) to put together their negotiating team. There have been personnel changes. Secondly, when the United States withdrew from the JCPOA, Iran for more than a year conscientiously carried out everything that it undertook to do under this document, expecting that the United States would come to its senses and return to this “deal.” Anyone can say that time is up now, but not Washington. Yes, it was the past Administration, but this is the legacy that the current one received, especially since it is the author of the JCPOA. Here God himself ordered to be more active in solving all the issues related to this.
There is one topic there – these are the sanctions that the Americans illegally imposed against Iran, allegedly for violating the JCPOA. But the sanctions apply not only to the Iranian side. They also imposed sanctions against all who carry out legal trade with Iran, including the supply of military products, the ban on which has ended. These sanctions should be lifted as part of the reinstatement of the JCPOA. And all of Iran’s trading partners in all areas of commercial exchanges should not suffer from the American unilateral gesture.
Question (translated from English): Is Iran’s economy threatened with collapse if the JCPOA is not restored?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: We are not even considering such scenarios. We have serious hope and thoughtful optimism that we will be able to achieve a result. At least everyone wants it, including the US and Iran.
Question (translated from English): The situation in northwest Syria has escalated after Russia has intensified its air strikes in the area in recent weeks. This is happening on the eve of the summit of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin and the President of the Republic of Turkey R.T. Erdogan. Does Russia plan to stop attacks ahead of the summit talks?
Was it possible to reach an agreement or consensus on the situation east of the Euphrates as a result of the talks in Geneva between the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia S.V. Vershinin and the coordinator of the Middle East policy of the US National Security Council B. McGerk?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: We are using force in northwestern Syria in accordance with the requirements contained in UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which decided to uncompromisingly fight terrorism on Syrian soil.
He mentioned that there was a special agreement on Idlib between the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin and the President of the Republic of Turkey R.T. Erdogan. The Turkish colleagues have committed themselves to separating the normal, sane opposition from the terrorists. This should have been done a long time ago. Until that happened. There is slow progress, but the terrorist threats projected by the bandits from the Idlib de-escalation zone are constantly renewed. These people are attacking the positions of the Syrian army and have repeatedly tried to launch attack drones in order to attack our Khmeimim air base.
Turkish friends know very well that we will not put up with such behavior and the attitude of these bandits to the role played by Turkish soldiers in the Idlib de-escalation zone. We will talk substantively in the context of preparations for the meeting of the presidents. At the summit on September 29, one of the main questions will be: how to achieve what we agreed on and not let the terrorists “run the show”?
As for contacts with the United States on the issues of the right bank of the Euphrates, they periodically take place. We draw attention to the illegitimacy of the US presence in Syrian territory, to the outrageous situation with the zone called Al-Tanf (with a radius of 55 km), which they occupied, and the situation in the American-controlled territory in the Rukban camp. It’s a long story.
The contacts between the Foreign Ministries and the Security Councils mainly concern the fact that the Americans are there illegally, illegitimate, but they are there. This is reality. Taking into account their desire to shoot from all guns with or without reason, we agree with them on the so-called. deconflicting mechanism. He works. I draw your attention to the fact that it functions in spite of the legal prohibitions on contacts between the military, introduced by the US Congress. Recently, the leadership of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff publicly expressed their assessments that this is unwise and that restrictions on military contacts should be lifted. I think this will benefit not only the de-conflict in Syria, but also the development of our dialogue on arms issues in general.
Question (translated from English): The Turkish side expressed concern over the participation of Crimean residents in the recent elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation. And this is despite the humanitarian assistance provided by Russia to Turkey to combat the coronavirus pandemic, as well as military-technical cooperation. How could you comment on this imbalance in bilateral relations?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Not only Turkey has declared that they are “concerned”, “condemn” the voting in Crimea. I attribute this “noise” to two things. Firstly, five years ago, when there were elections to the State Duma of the previous convocation, no one made such statements. At least they didn’t sound that loud. I would have remembered that this happened, but this was not.
Now they seized on the “Crimean theme”, including the feverish convocation of the so-called. Crimean platform in Kiev, noise about the vote. I think this is an attempt to divert attention from the fact that Kiev, headed by President V.A. Zelensky, ignominiously failed its obligations under the Minsk agreements regarding overcoming the internal Ukrainian conflict in the east of the country. The obvious thing. Laws are being passed, in fact, prohibiting the granting of status to the south-east of Ukraine, as required by the Minsk agreements.
We drew the attention of our German and French colleagues and the European Union to the fact that their “clients” cancel out the decisions of the UN Security Council, because it was the Security Council that approved the Minsk agreements. Unfortunately, they all “hide their gaze” shyly. In the meantime, President V.A. Zelensky realized that he needed to turn his attention away from his own failure, sabotaging the Minsk agreements. So they began to play the “Crimean theme”.
The second reason why they do it is diplomatic lack of professionalism. Professionals are well aware that the issue with Crimea is closed once and for all.
Question (translated from English): France, along with other European states, has expressed concern about the presence of Russian military “contractors” in Mali. What is Moscow’s position on this issue?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I’ve heard these questions. They were asked to me by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France J.-I. Le Drian and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy J. Borrell.
Mali is now in transition. She is making efforts to return to life according to the constitutional order, prepare elections, return to a civil form of government. Elections are scheduled for February under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) and the African Union.
The transitional authorities of Mali emphasize their adherence to international obligations and are fighting terrorism. They turned to a private military company from Russia in connection with the fact that, as I understand it, France wants to significantly reduce its military contingent, which was there and was supposed to fight the terrorists who settled in the north, in an area called Kidal. But they failed to do anything, and the terrorists are still “running the show” there.
Since the Malian authorities assessed their own capabilities as insufficient without external support, and this is dwindling from those who pledged to help eradicate terrorism there, they turned to a Russian private military company. We have nothing to do with this. This activity is carried out on a legal basis and concerns the relationship between the host – this is the legitimate government, recognized by all as a legitimate transitional structure – on the one hand, and those who offer services through foreign specialists.
Let me emphasize that through the state (not private military companies), we also contribute to ensuring the defense capability of Mali, its combat readiness to eradicate terrorist and other threats, supplying military-technical products as our assistance. Within the framework of the UN Security Council, we are participating in the development of optimal approaches to the continuation of peacekeeping efforts.
I see no reason to question this in any way. Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali A. Diop, with whom he met yesterday, spoke with journalists on this topic. There are no questions here. Better to talk about something else. Our colleagues from the European Union, as J. Borrell told me, are asking us “not to work at all” in Africa, because “this is their place”. It would be better to synchronize the actions of the EU and the Russian Federation with regard to the fight against terrorism not only in Mali, but in the Sahara-Sahel region as a whole. And to say that “they are the first here, so we must leave”, firstly, is offensive for the government in Bamako, which has invited external partners, and secondly, it is generally impossible to talk to anyone like that.
Question: On the eve of the Russian parliamentary elections, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the European Commission not to recognize the results of the Russian vote. Did you discuss this with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy J. Borrell? Will the EU recognize the results of the elections to the Russian State Duma?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: We have not heard any assessments from the European Union as such, because the European Parliament is not a structure that determines EU policy. I talked about this with J. Borrell. He quoted some of the assessments made during his speech in the European Parliament, including the absolutely unacceptable statements that the European Union distinguishes between the “regime” in Moscow and the Russian people.
He made excuses awkwardly and indistinctly. It was evident: he understands that this was a bad phrase, at least. I hope this is just a phrase, not a thought. Sometimes it happens that the word flies off the tongue, and then the person regrets.
We have no information that anyone is officially rejecting the results of our elections, which have just been announced.
Question: France calls for a review of the agreement between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom on the sale of nuclear submarine technology for compliance with this agreement with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). What is your opinion on this matter? What do you generally think of this new “triple alliance”, which has caused so much noise and is in conflict with partnership agreements within NATO and beyond?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: This event, which took place immediately after the flight from Afghanistan, inevitably raises questions from those who are members of these alliances. Probably, in addition to resentment from a commercial point of view, France is also thinking in this direction: how reliable are these alliances and how much more relevant is now the conversation about the strategic autonomy of Europe? For the “western camp” these are big questions that they must solve.
We are not going to interfere in these matters. But we can feel the consequences of what is happening there. This may affect our relations with the European Union, may arouse the EU’s interest in cooperating with us, using the obvious geopolitical and geostrategic advantages of being on one huge continent, especially since the center of world development is shifting to the Asian region.
We talked about this with many of my interlocutors, who represent the European Union here and who do not like what is happening. All the more so when the EU declares that we will be “repelled, restrained and involved”. I asked J. Borrel what they would “involve” us in. Do you know what he answered? “Get out of Mali.” That’s all this politics, this “triad”. That’s what it is worth. I am speaking about this frankly. I don’t think there is a violation of ethical norms here, because they themselves are talking about it publicly. Just giving examples to illustrate their way of thinking.
From the point of view of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, this issue is being actively discussed “on the sidelines” in Vienna. The IAEA is responsible for the non-proliferation regime and for ensuring that nuclear activities are not diverted to military needs. For a submarine, uranium must be enriched to ninety percent. This is weapons grade uranium. Probably, we will have to ask for the IAEA expertise.
Attempts by a non-nuclear country to create such submarines were several decades ago. Then the project was “removed from the run”, and the question disappeared. But now this deal has taken place. If the IAEA confirms that everything is in order there from the point of view of safety and non-switching to military needs, there is already a whole queue for such submarines.
Question (translated from English): On the eve of the high-level week, UN Secretary General A. Guterres issued a warning that the world could be drawn into a new and very dangerous “cold war” if the US and China did not mend their completely collapsed relations. He urged to avoid the start of a new confrontation at any cost, and also warned that it would be more dangerous than the Cold War between the USSR and the United States, and it would be much more difficult to overcome its consequences. What is Russia’s reaction to such statements?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Do not think that we did not pay attention to this problem until UN Secretary General A. Guterres outlined it. We see how tensions are escalating in relations between the PRC and the United States. We know who “plays the first violin” in this not very pleasant development of events. This worries us. Any confrontational schemes do not help the population of our common planet to live a normal life. Be it the recently announced “Indo-Pacific Strategies”, which explicitly proclaimed one of the main tasks of containing the development of China, including in the South China Sea. Whether it is QUAD, formed within the framework of these strategies. Or the announced “triple alliance” Australia-US-UK, the purpose of which is to help Australia contain the “Chinese threat”.
Today and yesterday I met with a number of ministers representing ASEAN member countries. I was interested in how things were going. China and ASEAN are not moving quickly, but negotiations are underway to prepare a legally binding code of conduct in the South China Sea. This is the most reliable way to ensure freedom of navigation and everything that worries Western partners so much, for the sake of which they undertake constant provocative and non-provocative naval maneuvers and create geopolitical anti-Chinese schemes. We are for the relationship between the great powers to be mutually respectful and never escalate into a nuclear war. The Presidents of Russia and the United States, Vladimir Putin and George Biden, at the Geneva summit confirmed its inadmissibility. Any war between nuclear powers is unacceptable, because the risks of escalating into a nuclear conflict are enormous. Humanity has not invented anything new here. We must negotiate, strive to find a compromise, get along. As D. Trump said, “to deal”. This is the right word not only in business, but also in politics. Politics is needed to create conditions for a normal life, and not so that someone promotes someone’s ambitions, so that everyone decides that he is “the coolest on earth.” This is obvious to normal people. Great powers must feel responsible to their peoples and to the rest of humanity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed holding a summit of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Due to the pandemic, this work was somewhat delayed. Now we are renewing it. We would like to come to an agreement with our partners from China and the three western permanent members of the UN Security Council on specific issues to be brought up on the agenda, and on the format (maybe we will use online for a start). Negotiation is the only way to solve all problems. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council should set an example for the rest.
Question (translated from English): In connection with the withdrawal of foreign contingents, official and unofficial mercenaries from Libya, disputes arose whether it would not be better to withdraw them only after the elections and the official request of the new government. Some say this should happen before December 24, 2021 to ensure fair, legitimate elections. The spokesman for the Presidential Council said today that at a meeting with M. Menfi, you stressed two points: the need for a settlement between the Libyan parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. According to Russia, when should it be done: before or after the elections?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: This is of no fundamental importance: before or after the elections. The main thing is that at the second International Conference on Libya in Berlin in June this year. was written in the final document: all foreign armed people must leave Libya. Our Turkish colleagues made a reservation that they were invited there by the legitimate leadership in the person of the Chairman of the Government of National Accord F. Sarraj. But another part of Libyan society – the Parliament in Tobruk – is no less legitimate. Both of these bodies were created in accordance with the Skhirat Agreement. The legitimate parliament, along with the legitimate Libyan national army, invited armed men from abroad, for whom they were paying, to their side. In parallel, those who can be called mercenaries appeared. People are being transferred from Syria (and they are present on both sides), from Chad and other African countries.
From the very beginning, when this was discussed, they said that we are in favor of doing this. Considering that on both sides of the Libyan confrontation there were military forces from abroad, it is necessary to make sure that they leave in stages and synchronously, at no time to create a military advantage on one side. A ceasefire has been observed in Libya for over a year. There is no need to create the temptation that someone can again return to military methods and try to solve the problems of this country by force.
Question (translated from English): Is Russia facilitating the withdrawal of troops from Libya?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: They should deal with this in their “five plus five” committee. We are ready to help, but if they continue to do something non-priority, then there will be no elections on December 24, 2021. They have just adopted the legislative framework for the elections. Then the Parliament voted on the legitimacy of the Government of National Unity of A. Dbeiba. They need to be pushed in the direction of a serious conversation about how to live on. There are already speculations about whether the current leaders can run for office (like there was an agreement that they would not participate, but they want to). Our colleagues in the Secretariat are beginning to try to create artificial difficulties with the format of the UN presence in Libya. Now it is better to concentrate on fulfilling what we were able to agree on a year ago. Nobody expected this. Don’t try to overplay it in someone’s favor and push hidden agendas.
Question (translated from English): At what stage are the talks between Russia and the United States on strategic stability now? In terms of the use of nuclear weapons, what is Russia’s reaction to the recent missile launches of the DPRK and South Korea? What could be the incentive for Kim Jong-un to return to the negotiating table?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I heard that Pyongyang is receiving signals about the DPRK’s interest in normalizing relations with the Republic of Korea. We have always maintained a direct dialogue between North and South. This was not always supported by the previous US Administration, which wanted to control this process. I hope that under the new conditions the Biden administration will be ready for more constructive steps to encourage the resumption of normal contacts between the DPRK and South Korea.
Missile launches don’t help. We noticed that in Seoul this time they tried not to dramatize the situation. I think this is correct. As soon as we begin to resort to public condemnation and rhetoric, this significantly reduces the incentives for diplomatic, professional, calm dialogue. The final agreement can be reached only through confidential, quiet negotiations, and not through accusations of each other “through the microphone.”
With regard to negotiations with the United States on strategic stability. There was the first round in July of this year. The second is due next week.
Question: When the UN General Assembly is sitting in New York these days, the court of the Southern District of New York again denied the application to the Russian citizen K. Yaroshenko. He continues to remain in American “dungeons”, like V. Booth. Information about the possible exchange of them for Americans has appeared in the press more than once. Which side is the “ball” on? How realistic is the exchange scenario?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: It is difficult to make predictions and promises for the United States. We have tried many times to decide the fate of our citizens by invoking the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons to Serve Sentences in Their Own Country. Americans are parties to this Convention, as are we. They categorically do not want to hear anything, including arguments that both these citizens (as well as a number of others) were in fact dragged into a trap by provocative cunning. They were literally kidnapped in violation of the law. In the case of V. Bout – Thai legislation (not all procedures were followed), with K. Yaroshenko – Liberia. There is also a situation when they took R. Seleznev in the Maldives in a bandit manner – they put him on an airplane and drove away. Nobody knew anything. Such methods of provoked attack on our people in an effort to achieve something. Either to persuade them to cooperate, or for some other reason. This is unacceptable.
About exchanges. Presidents Vladimir Putin and George Biden in Geneva, among other things, touched upon this issue. We agreed that through the relevant security services in charge of this area in our country and in Washington, talks will be held to agree on generally acceptable options. So far we haven’t come to anything. The United States is only interested in picking up its citizens and does not take our wishes very seriously. They are interested in P. Whelan, convicted of espionage (he was caught red-handed). This crime cannot in any way be compared with the reasons for which K. Yaroshenko and V. But are imprisoned for more than 20 years. We are ready to talk. There are other American citizens as well. For some reason they are not of interest to the Administration in Washington. But talking is always better than the other way around.
Question (translated from English): My first question is about the JCPOA. The US wants to include the Iranian nuclear program in the negotiations. What do you think? And second, why does Damascus prevent the UN from deploying humanitarian troops in Syria? As far as I know, there is an agreement in the UN Security Council. Syria believes that it is not worthwhile to allow UN humanitarian contingents to enter its territory.
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Regarding the JCPOA. We are talking exclusively about fully renewing its effect without any preconditions. Attempts to “hang” them in the form of demands to include the Iranian missile program in the negotiations or to discuss, as our Western colleagues say, Iran’s “behavior” in the region are futile. Do not confuse apples and oranges. The agreement on the nuclear program must be dealt with separately. If there are concerns about who is behaving how, then they exist not only among Iran’s partners in the region. Tehran also has its own claims to them, as in any normal region of the world.
The Gulf countries have extensive foreign policy activities that go far beyond the region. This must be taken into account. In this regard, they recalled that many years ago Russia developed the Concept of Collective Security in the Persian Gulf Zone, within the framework of which a dialogue was supposed to be conditionally similar to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Discuss confidence-building measures, transparency in military affairs, invite each other to exercises and engage in positive joint projects. We have already conducted political science discussions on this topic with the participation of scientists from the countries of the region and other states. In August of this year. we have renewed our approach to collective security in the Persian Gulf. It was issued as an official document of the UN General Assembly and Security Council. It seems to us that it is during this kind of forum (I hope that we will be able to convene it) that concerns about the appearance of missiles in the region (not only Iran have them) and those who are pursuing what policy should be discussed. The conflict in Yemen is a vivid example when the interests of the Arab countries and Iran are in plain sight. We need to negotiate. We keep in mind that such a forum will be broader than just covering the Gulf area. It is impossible to separate Iraq, Egypt, Jordan as participants in the process in the interests of forming a common platform for constructive dialogue. The League of Arab States, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, should participate. The European Union, apparently, will also be interested. We believe that this is a concrete and realistic approach. At least I felt the interest of our colleagues. I met yesterday with the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). They have an interest in this topic. We agreed that within the framework of the ministerial contacts renewing between us, we will give it priority attention.
With regard to humanitarian aid to Syria. Yesterday I spoke in detail about this with Secretary General A. Guterres. We cannot be satisfied with the situation when the most rude, screaming double standards are applied. The problem of refugees – of which there are six million, if not more – in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey. In November last year, Damascus, with our support and with the support of 20 more countries, held a conference on refugees with a view to creating conditions for their return to their homeland, where the overwhelming majority of them are probably striving. We were amazed that the United States did everything to intimidate those who were expected at this conference in Damascus and that the UN did not participate in this conference. Only its representative in Damascus attended this conference as an observer. I then wrote to the UN Secretary General A. Guterres that this is, in general, a failure to comply with the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which should underlie the UN activities in the Syrian direction, and which clearly states that it is necessary to organize the delivery of humanitarian aid in every possible way and help create conditions for the return of refugees.
Earlier this year, the European Union hosted its annual conference on Syrian refugees in Brussels, which did not include the participation of the Syrian Arab Republic, but which was co-chaired by the UN Secretary General with the European Union. This surprises us. Moreover, not only Syria did not participate there (a gross violation of international humanitarian law), but money was also collected there not in order to establish infrastructure inside Syria for the return of refugees, but in order to pay for the accommodation of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. … If only they did not return to their homeland. Therefore, I would ask that part of our friends from the mass media who are concerned about the situation of ordinary people in conflict zones to pay attention to such mockery of international humanitarian law.
And we adopted a “compromise” resolution in July. It really extends the so-called six-month period. a cross-border mechanism for the supply of humanitarian aid, primarily from Turkey to the Idlib de-escalation zone. But in conditions when the West simply clings to this mechanism, which is not coordinated with Damascus and which also runs counter to international humanitarian law, we have serious reasons to believe that there is some hidden agenda here. We are not provided with information that these trucks are going to the Idlib de-escalation zone. The UN swears that they inspect every truck, but it is impossible to verify this. Moreover, no one knows how exactly this aid (whatever it is in these boxes) is distributed within the Idlib de-escalation zone, and whether terrorists from Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham and other unacceptable structures use this help.
If now no concrete measures are taken to unblock the delivery of humanitarian aid through Damascus, as required by the norms of international humanitarian law, then we will cover up these transboundary non-transparent cases. Moreover, since the adoption of the resolution, which demanded to send aid also through Damascus, one convoy passed, but not in full force. About half of the cargo that had been waiting for almost a year could not be delivered to the respective areas. And the convoy, which the International Committee of the Red Cross together with the Syrian Red Crescent Society prepared in April 2020, is not moving anywhere. Therefore, those who care about the hungry must “lose out” a little, firstly, the Western countries that can influence this situation, and secondly, the UN leadership, which is obliged to comply with this resolution. In addition to the purely humanitarian aspects of assistance to Syria and humanitarian routes, this resolution also contains requirements to start working on projects of the so-called. early recovery: water supply, electricity, housing, schools, health care. All this must be done. And the UN Secretariat knows this. It’s not easy for the Syrians now. In a situation where, throughout the Syrian crisis, the UN Secretariat was extremely passive in helping to create conditions for the return of refugees. But there is a UN Security Council resolution. It was adopted unanimously. It must be done.
Question (translated from English): Yesterday, President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas said that if Israel does not end its occupation within a year, the Palestinians will withdraw their recognition of the State of Israel. This will lead to a state of chaos in the Middle East. What can the Russian Federation, as a friend of the Palestinians and a country that maintains good relations with Israel, do to prevent such a scenario from developing? After the Palestinians have lost faith in the effectiveness of the peace process, do they have the right to defend themselves, resist the occupation?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Regarding the Palestinian-Israeli problems. Yes, the problems are serious. They are not helped by the “throwing” that we observed in the past American Administration – both the recognition of the Golan Heights and the attempt to promote, in fact, annexation within the framework of the creation of a quasi-Palestinian state. It is important that the Biden Administration has reaffirmed its commitment to the two-state approach. But the Prime Minister of Israel does not confirm such a commitment, although politicians in Israel, in his parliament, have different views on how to ensure the security of the Jewish state, without living in constant tension and hitting targets from which Israel could be threatened, and having agreed and steadily establishing a peaceful life through the coexistence of two states in security and prosperity, as stated in the principles of settlement approved by the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. The current Israeli leadership maintains contacts, which are mainly limited to ensuring security in the Palestinian territories.
We believe that it will be a major mistake if, behind all the processes in the region – Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen – we forget about the Palestinian issue. After all, it is the result of the longest modern conflict on Earth, a conflict that they tried to resolve through the creation of two states. One state was created rapidly. The second state has not yet been created.
I believe that the decision taken by the League of Arab States at the initiative of the King of Saudi Arabia almost 20 years ago was wise. The Arab Peace Initiative was adopted, which stated that as soon as a viable Palestinian state was created that met all the criteria that were defined in the UN, the Arab countries would immediately normalize their relations with Israel. It was a wise government approach. The Trump administration tried to turn everything upside down. The “Abraham Accords”, which were promoted by a number of Arab countries, proceeded from the logic that first we need to normalize relations between Arabs and Israel, and then think about what to do with the Palestinian problem. We welcome any normalization of relations between any states. In this case, not at the expense of Palestine. It is gratifying that all those who signed these agreements, including Bahrain, UAE, Sudan, Morocco, stressed that they are fully committed to the UN decisions on the Palestinian problem. We must “stand” on this.
You asked if they have the right to fight. They won’t ask anyone. The unsettledness of the Palestinian problem is the most serious factor fueling radical sentiments on the Arab street. When extremist preachers talk about how they offend their people, as 80 years ago they were promised by the state, but deceived. Young people, especially those with little education, are susceptible to this kind of propaganda. When I explain to my Israeli colleagues this aspect of the Middle East situation and the impact of the unresolved Palestinian problem on stability in the entire region, they are offended. They say that this is not at all the case, that the problem is not very serious. This is a shortsighted approach.
Therefore, we supported the proposal of the President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas to convene an international conference. But we are convinced that it needs to be well prepared, for which we definitely want to resume the activities of the “quartet” of international mediators in the person of Russia, the United States, the European Union and the UN, as well as involve in joint work, for example, the four Arab countries that have relations with Israel: Egypt, Jordan, UAE and Bahrain. Probably, Saudi Arabia should also be invited as the author of the Arab Peace Initiative. That is, “4 + 4 + 1 + 2 (Israel and Palestine)”. If it seems premature to some of the parties to gather in this format, we are ready to provide them with our territory and support any other invitation from Israel and Palestine for direct negotiations. But this should not be delayed. We will do our best to promote this approach.
The most important thing. If everything that we have just discussed with you depends on many factors (something from Israel, something from other members of regional structures), then there is one issue that does not depend on anyone but the Palestinians. This is Palestinian unity. A couple of years ago, attempts were made to restore it. It seems that some agreements were reached, they announced a cycle of elections. None of this happened. The lack of understanding between Ramallah and Gaza carries a serious negative charge. If the Palestinians regained their unity, it would be easier and more effective for them to talk with Israel in future negotiations.
Prime Minister of Israel B. Netanyahu once said that he did not know with whom to negotiate, when it was not clear whom M. Abbas represented. It seems that he only has Ramallah, and there are other people in Gaza. These issues greatly influence attempts to achieve major political results. The Palestinians do not want to address the issue of restoring unity. But we are actively working with all factions of the Palestinians. They were invited to Moscow more than once. Everyone came. During the discussions, they agree that they need to reunite, but then somehow all this does not work out.
Question (translated from English): This week, the European Commission accused Russia of involvement in hacker attacks on European politicians and media representatives, in particular on German politicians and officials, ahead of the elections with their participation, which will take place tomorrow. How could you comment on these accusations? Do you have any expectations regarding the outcome of the elections in Germany?
T. Reed’s family believes that he was unjustly accused and given an unreasonably long term. Could you also comment on these statements?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I have already spoken about T. Reed, as well as about P. Whelan. One was arrested, I mean P. Whelan, for espionage. He was caught red-handed. The second was arrested for attacking and hitting a police officer more than once. Not sure how much is charged in the United States for a violent attack on a police officer? In my opinion, a lot. And K.V. Yaroshenko and V.A.Buta were simply lured by deception into an agreement that they were using the plane for some purpose, and then it turned out that they were “sewn up” with a case of arms and drug smuggling. They received more than 20 years without hitting anyone and having no plans to violate international rules on trade in certain types of goods. Therefore, our American colleagues need to be consistent if they are already offended that someone has been arrested here. Common standards should be applied. In the case of an attack on police officers, see what will happen at the trial on the so-called. storming the Capitol.
About the accusations of the European Commission. We are ready to consider any facts, but they just do not give them to us. They just hang on us unfounded responsibility for the fact that in 2007 we allegedly poisoned A.V. Litvinenko with polonium in London. They have not yet provided a single fact, but they closed the process, made it “official”, which allows the judges to consider secret materials behind closed doors. Now they want to do the same with the trial of the woman who died in Salisbury in the context of the so-called. cases of the Skripals. They also want to make the process of her death closed in order not to reveal some secret documents. Nobody provides them to us. But they blame us for everything. And according to the Skripals, the story is the same as in the case of the Malaysian Boeing – they blame us. The court in The Hague ruled that they had reason to believe the United States, which said it had satellite images to prove that Russia did it. But they did not show these satellite images to anyone. The Dutch court considers this to be normal. If the Americans said, then they believe them. A. Schwarzenegger says: “trust me”, and R. Reagan adds: “but verify”. So we want to carry out verification. In the situation with the Malaysian Boeing, they provided all the data from the radars and much more. Ukrainians refuse to give data from radars. Allegedly, they all “turned off” for the period of this catastrophe. They refuse to provide negotiations between the dispatcher and the aircraft. This is an obvious thing. And much more.
They accuse us of meddling in the American elections. Repeatedly I talked about this with my colleagues, in particular with the former US Secretary of State R. Tillerson. When he once said that they had irrefutable data on Russian interference in the 2016 American elections, I asked to be shown them. He said that they would not show them to us, so that we would turn to our special services, they would understand what this was about. This is the whole conversation. This is fine?
It’s the same with cyberattacks. The American authorities accused us (US President George Biden raised this issue at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin) that our ransomware hackers attacked some kind of meat processing plant, a gas pipeline, demanding payment of money. Nobody showed us anything. US President George Biden, however, said that according to their data, it is not the Russian Government that is doing this, but people from the territory of the Russian Federation.
We drew their attention to the fact that over the past year the largest number of hacker attacks on our resources were carried out from the USA (about half). Partly also from Germany and other countries. 45 times we sent official requests to our American colleagues with specific indication of the facts requiring investigation. There were only nine replies. We have received about 10 official requests. Answers were given to each of them. I am pleased that after the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and US President George Biden discussed this topic in Geneva, the Americans agreed to move from sporadic accusations and complaints to systematic work. Established special channels between services that deal with cybersecurity. We have hope that the case will move forward.
About the elections in Germany. We wish you all success!
Question: Last week, the preliminary results of the investigation in America of the special prosecutor J. Darem, who was engaged in the audit of “Russia”, were published. Among other things, one of the initiators is exposed there – the man who was at the heart of this whole case. This is not the first time already such a paradoxical situation. American officials themselves have denied accusations that the United States has made against Russia.
The paradox is that there is a refutation, but the sanctions that were preemptively adopted, they remain. What is Moscow’s position and what are the American partners saying?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: You answered yourself. It is inadequate to declare such things without thinking and understanding. And once you figure it out, do nothing to rewind the situation and not damage bilateral relations. These are American “manners.” We are used to them. We will never ask for the sanctions to be lifted. With requests, the entire “limit” was chosen by neighboring Ukraine, which asks and asks for everything, did not understand anything about what was happening. We will not do this.
We have no other partners. But gradually, in some areas – strategic stability, cybersecurity – a dialogue begins to build, which gives hope that someday we will establish a systemic mutually respectful process at least in some areas of interstate life of communication.
Question (translated from English): My question is about Palestine. Many say that Palestinian settlements take up a lot of land, and there are already half a million settlers there. Do you think it’s time for the international community to solve the problem by creating one state for two peoples. How can you comment on this?
As you know, WFP Executive Director J. Beazley said two days ago that at least 50,000 Yemenis are starving and millions of those in need of humanitarian aid and food. Do you think that the international community, of which Russia is a part, let down the Yemeni people by not putting the necessary pressure on all the parties involved in this conflict, including Saudi Arabia?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I cannot say that the international community is not doing enough to persuade the parties to this conflict to sit down at the table not just to exchange accusations, but to come to an agreement. There are a number of factors here that, unfortunately, being absolutely subjective, connected with the wishes of individuals to stay in power for longer, negatively affect the negotiation process and the possibility of reaching a compromise. I will not go into details, but the fact that Yemen is the country where the largest humanitarian catastrophe in the world erupted was said long ago, even when the conflict was just beginning and there was a hot phase.
We participate through our Embassy. Now our ambassador to Yemen is working from Riyadh. There has formed a group of ambassadors who support this process and the envoy of the Secretary-General. I hope that the dead end of the way of continuing to delay the agreement will be gradually realized by everyone.
As for the settlements, we have always condemned the settlement activity, warned exactly what you said – that this would create “on the ground” facts that simply would not allow the formation of a Palestinian state. I’ve heard talk about a one-state solution in which everyone would be equal. I think it is unrealistic. Many scholars argue that if this is the case, it will undermine the Jewish character of the State of Israel. And if you do not provide equal rights to all who inhabit Israel, then they say that this is the risk of the emergence of an apartheid state.
I am convinced that a two-state solution is the only way. Let me emphasize that many in Israel’s political elite agree with this and believe that this should be actively pursued.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and / or sentence structure not be perfect.