September 6, 2013
Answers to questions regarding the situation over Syria by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia S. Lavrov during the joint press conference with the South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation M. Nkoana-Mashanabe
(September 2, 2013, Moscow)
Question: Do you consider that “Group Twenty” summit in Saint Petersburg could become a basis for the resumption of the dialogue concerning peaceful regulation of the situation in Syria?
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia S. Lavrov: As you know, “Twenty” was initially created only for solving financial and economical problems, where regulation is necessary for the world’s economy and finances to recover from the crisis. That’s why the agenda of the forthcoming summit in Saint Petersburg does not include the topic of Syria.
It appeared – and I will discuss this later – in the agenda of the “Group Eight” summit that took place in Lough Erne in June of this year, but it is not include in the agenda of “Twenty”. Besides that, any leader participating in the “Group Twenty” summit may touch on any question. This is mutually understood. We will be ready for such conversations.
The position of Russia is clear and consistent. It was absolutely unambiguously confirmed these days by the President of Russian Federation V. Putin. We are dedicated to achieving agreements at the “Group Eight” summit, including with regard to the chemical weapon problem. All eight leaders of the “eight” participating countries, along with the EU direction, formally announced that the use of chemical weapons by anyone is unacceptable, and they announced that any hints about possible use of such weapons must be investigated professionally and dispassionately, and the investigation results must be presented to UNSF. We hope that those who signed this claim will respect our general agreement and will act in accordance with it.
We still believe in uniform political regulation. In this regard I do not recall anybody doubting the necessity of convening the Geneva conference for the implementation of the communique accepted on June 30, 2012. Even our American partners, in their announcement of their decision to strike against Syria, which was based on some super-convincing and at the same time super-secret information which can’t be presented to anybody, still mentioned that they prefer a political approach. And after “having bombed” Syria they will be ready to convene a conference again, conditionally called “Geneva-2”. But while at the time of the announcement of the Russian-American initiative regarding conference convention (which happened in this building on May 7 this year during the visit of US Secretary of State J. Kerry) Americans and other sponsors of the opposition still were not able to announce loudly and unambiguously that they were ready to forego prior conditions to such a conference for the purpose of establishing a consensus alongside government delegation about the methods for the complete implementation of the Geneva communique dated June 30, 2012 (until now the opposition have not agreed to participate in any conference without any external military threats), then I doubt very much that after striking Syria –except if intelligence triumphs, making it possible to avoid it, of course – the opposition will become more pliable. The opposite is more likely. Appeals to the USA can already be heard: “Don’t limit yourself with pinpoint strikes! Bomb wider, deeper!”
If, to our great regret, any action announced by US President B. Obama will happen, then, regardless of words about “Geneva-2”, this will put off the perspective of conducting such a forum far away, if not forever. But in some other ways the political regulations will prevail anyway. It is just necessary to understand that the more we defer, the longer we (especially those who are influencing the opposition) will not be able to make them agree to participate in the conference, and the more victims we see, including civilians. I very much expect that the response to what is happening with regard to the incident with supposedly applied chemical weapons dated August 21 of this year is not absolutely justified, and we will consider directing natural specialist questions in response to naked charges about the application of such weaponry to the Syrian government, who, is despite everything, is “pushing” the military scenario, searching for anything make-believe.
Question: the USA is justifying its possible invasion of Syria in the protection of its own national security interests. In particular, as B. Obama declared, despite guaranteeing the supply of sources of hydrocarbonic resources and providing safety for Israel, Israel has already started pinpoint strikes against SAR. Is Moscow wary that, in the event that the US directs aggression against Syria, the national security of Russia will be also affected? What will be the Russian position be if SAR strikes back at Israel in response?
S. Lavrov: I will not read “coffee ground”. I will say only one thing: national security applies above all to the security of the people and their right to live. Of course, the supply of hydrocarbons in addition to the huge reserves that you have yourself perhaps fits very well with the notion of national security, but it’s not a top priority.
The national security of the countries in the region will undoubtedly suffer – and we have seen how it suffered after the invasion of Iraq after what happened in Libya. According to available statistics, illegal weaponry and fighters have already spread to a minimum of twelve countries from Libya. Of course, national security in the countries in the surrounding region is suffering as a result of the main evil of today – terrorism. Whichever way you turn – Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria – terrorists have gained ground and feel quite comfortable.
This common challenge must unite all of us. If in our handling of national security we are putting the lives of the people at the top then we will be united by the fight against terrorists and extremists. And then we must say to ourselves that, regarding politics in this region and other regions, we will be governed not by personal passions, preferences and dislikes, but by a principle of fighting against those who support, finance and promote terrorist methods for achieving political aims. In this senså our national interest is connected directly to the situation in the Near East, particularly in Syria.
For a quite long time now we have experienced quite a negative influence of increased international terrorism, whose operatives are trying to influence our allies in Central Asia via Afghanistan and non-controlled areas of Pakistan, and via their Russian territories. We have become more efficient in catching them, but they continue to creep in and find new ways to perform their dirty business. I am stressing again that this counteraction must be uniting the beginning as the main element of providing national security to all countries without exception.
In the wider perspective, this concerns the national security of everybody i.e. States, because depending on what questions are being solved, the state of the international system depends on it. If anybody is trying to make rude violations of international legislation a norm, then this will create chaos and a situation where the UN Charter and principles are signed by all the states of the world, including the principle of unanimity of permanent members of UNSF – “veto” (and USA insisted on it) – then all these principles will just collapse. If anybody considers that to create such controlled chaos will be more useful than to respect international legislation and strengthen UNSF, its reputation and the UN in general, then we strongly disagree with such estimations and will be doing everything to protect international legislation, the UN Charter and UNSF prerogatives.