Press-releases of the Embassy

Speech by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and his answers to questions from the mass media during the press conference summarising the results of the negotiations with the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister, Nabil Fahmy, Moscow, 16 September 2013


Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have just conducted some very valuable negotiations with the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister, Nabil Fahmy. For obvious reasons, our attention was focussed mainly on the situation in Egypt.

Cairo is our long-time partner in the Middle East. We are connected through traditionally friendly relations, with many decades of experience of mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas. This year we celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations between our countries. Russia is certainly interested not only in the preservation, but also the augmentation of this heritage, which is based on a firm foundation of mutual respect, harmony of interests and the aspiration to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East. Therefore, we have shown much interest in the information provided to us by Nabil Fahmy regarding uneasy, profound and complex processes in Egypt processes which affect political, economic and social institutes. It was important for us to hear and this was confirmed during our meeting that the new government of the Arab Republic of Egypt is aimed at renewing the political process, which is expected to bring the country to the path of sustainable development on the basis of effective functioning of civil institutes of power, economic growth, and strengthening of social infrastructure. We also support the Egyptian authorities in their efforts to enforce the fundamental rights and liberties of nationals of the country, and the proper level of social security and law enforcement in their efforts to combat terrorism. We share these efforts.

We are convinced that the Egyptian people are able to find the correct solutions which will determine the future of this very important country of the region, themselves. Russia is doing what it can to help in this respect, acting strictly on a policy of non-interference into internal affairs, and respecting the sovereignty of this country. And we will continue to do this. We value that our position is respected and understood by Cairo. And not only in Cairo, by the way.

In this context, we discussed the tasks of proposing bilateral interaction in different fields, including economic, humanitarian and cultural areas, as well as military and technical cooperation. Our high-priority tasks include, but are not limited to, the renewal of the Joint Russian-Egyptian Trade and Economic Commission, and science and technical cooperation. We agreed to undertake such practical steps to make the Commission start its work faster. We discussed interaction in the field of tourism, and the build-up of ties in the humanitarian and scientific areas.

We reviewed different regional problems. Egypt is the leading country in the Middle East and North Africa, and the leader of the League of Arab States. And we hope that Cairo will fully perform its role and have a healing effect on the situation in the region, after the situation in the Arab Republic of Egypt has fully stabilised.

We agree with our Egyptian friends that people of the region have the right to determine their fate freely and independently, and to settle the emerging internal problems peacefully, without external interference. From these positions, we discussed various regional situations, including the situation in Syria.

We reviewed the state of affairs in the Middle East peace process. Our positions are very close; they almost match. This also refers to the consensus task determined by the global community three and a half years ago, but we have still not been able to implement it. I am talking about the convention of a conference on the creation of a zone in the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. Moscow and Cairo are interested in preventing the disruption of this very important initiative, which was approved by all members of the global community in May 2010. We agreed on how to implement the work on the preparation of this very important event on a practical scale, taking into consideration decisions of the Syrian government regarding its acquiescence to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the conclusion of Russian-American agreements for ensuring the maximum effective work of the OPCW in the achievement of the aim of the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria.

We share many common approaches with other problems of the region as well, including the situation in Sudan, as well as in other trouble spots. We agreed to set up regular political consultations between foreign ministries in order to allow for substantial exchange of professional opinions on these important problems, which are of interest to both parties.

Nabil Fahmy cordially invited me to visit Cairo. I accept this invitation again. I hope that we will agree on optimum deadlines.

Question: The Egyptian army is staging a large-scale military operation in the Sinai Peninsula. How serious is the threat of the groups which are acting there? What is Russias position on the anti-terrorism effort in Egypt?

Sergey Lavrov (answers after Nabil Fahmy): Out attitude to terrorism is negative and uncompromising no matter where it is. We deem it necessary to do everything to eradicate this evil in accordance with numerous decisions of the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, and those of world forums, including Group Eight. And we should eradicate it in an integrated manner, not only neutralising its manifestations, but also ensuring non-acceptance of anything that could become a basis for extremism and terrorism. This is a very broad problem, of course. It includes poverty alleviation, reduction of the number of persons who are subject to the negative influence of extremists who try to draw the young in, and many other things.

As for Egypt, like I said in my introductory speech, we presume that the authorities of any country, including the Arab Republic of Egypt, must protect the fundamental rights and liberties of its nationals and maintain a sufficient level of security and public order, which involves decisive confronting of terrorists of course.

Question: The last Egyptian government created a quartet consisting of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran. Russia once supported any initiatives toward the stabilisation of the situation in Syria. The new Egyptian authorities support the latest Russian initiative for settling the Syrian crisis. How do you view the participation of Egypt in the preparation and holding of the Geneva-2 conference, which may be held next month?

Sergey Lavrov: We certainly welcome the initiative of the creation of some sort of a Muslim quartet (Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia). Soon after the launch of this initiative, Saudi Arabia (as far as I understand it) distanced itself from it somewhat.

Our earnest conviction is that, to make the Syrian crisis settlement process sustainable, and for it to have a positive effect on the events in the region (nothing else!), it is very important to combine the efforts of the above mentioned countries. Egypt is the largest country of the Arab world; while Turkey and Iran are Muslim rather than Arab countries, and all of them play a very big role in the region. I am deeply convinced that all these countries, including Egypt, of course, must participate in efforts to find a settlement. It is hard to find a sustainable solution for the crisis without any notice of their positions and concerns.

Therefore, we would welcome it if all these countries, including Egypt, participated in the Geneva-2 conference. However, to make it happen, we first need to convince (we always use this word, but maybe it is time to start using another verb to force) the opposition to participate in the conference. Unfortunately, we still fail to do that.

We discussed this issue at the meeting in Geneva a couple of days ago with the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN/LAS Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. My colleagues think that it is time to start discussing some date and, maybe, to launch the work of such conference somewhere in October.

We are ready to start this work as soon as tomorrow. We presume that the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has given its consent to send its delegation to the conference without preconditions for full and comprehensive implementation of the Geneva Communiqu of 30 June 2012. The opposition has still not done this. Moreover, as I understand it, its leaders the leaders of the National Coalition publicly rejected the Russian-American initiative on the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria.

Therefore, we have some idea of the group of external participants in the conference; however, it is the participation of all main Syrian groups in Geneva-2 which will be of key importance. The National Coalition, which our Western partners and some countries of the region consider the main player among opponents of the regime, has not provided such consent and also refuses any steps to transfer the situation from a destructive path into a constructive one.

Sergey Lavrov (adds after Nabil Fahmy): We do not just speak of the need for the opposition to accept the Russian-American initiative about holding the conference; we work with the opposition. Leaders of almost all opposition groups except the National Coalition visited us. The National Coalition has such an invitation and we will always be ready to welcome its leaders in Moscow, because we think that we need to talk to everybody. Whatever the scenario of the conflict, the key to success is involvement of any party rather than its isolation.

I am convinced that, if all participants of the Syrian drama who are outside the Syrian Arab Republic will pursue the line of involvement of all Syrian groups, including the government of the country and all opposition groups, we will attain a result. But if the approach, whereby our partners will claim that this team of opponents will represent the entire opposition while we simply exclude others, prevails, then we will remain in the dead-lock in which have been for several years.

Question: France and some other western countries have welcomed the Russian-American agreements on Syria recently. At the same time, they actively speak in favour of the coordination of a UNSC resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. By doing this they say that they pursue the goal to make the propositions of Moscow and Washington stronger and binding for the government of the Syrian Arab Republic. Today, at the trilateral meeting of the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, the British one William Hague and the US Secretary of State John Kerry, there were statements that the UNSC resolution should clearly state the deadlines for Syrias refusal regarding chemical weapons and tough actions if they are violated. How could you comment on this?

Sergey Lavrov: I think that, to a known extent, it is a distorted reality, because we clearly agreed with the Secretary of State John Kerry that we need to act on the basis of international law. Since Syria has officially acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention and announced that it is not ready to fulfil all the liabilities under the Convention within one month as this document requires, right now the main role lies with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The substance of the Russian-American agreement, which was reached in Geneva, is that Russia and the United States will prepare a draft decision for the OPCW Executive Committee specifying the deadlines, procedures, and mechanisms which need to be used to determine places of storage and deployment of chemical weapons and their ingredients, and precursors for the purposes of determining of the number of experts required for the implementation of all the measures naturally having direct contacts with representatives of the Syrian Government, etc. The Russian-American initiative, which was approved in Geneva on the basis of professional contribution of respective profile specialists of Russia and the United States, contains a proposition for these time and substance parameters. The final decision rests with the OPCW.

As for the role of the UNSC, the Geneva document unambiguously states that the Security Council will approve a resolution (at least the Russian-American initiative mentions the adoption of such a proposition by the Security Council) which will primarily support OPCW decisions, as well as containing additional measures, which are outside the competence of this Organisation. For example, there will probably be the requirement to allocate additional personnel compared to that available to the OPCW. We will have to understand and agree on the required security measures in addition to those, which are expected to be ensured by Syrian authorities and opposition groups.

The documents coordinated with the Americans state that the Government and other Syrian parties bear responsibility for security. In addition to national measures, measures of the international community may be required, with the allocation of additional personnel, who will ensure security around the perimeters of the places of deactivation and other sites for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons.

The agreements between Russia and the United States (and these will be reflected in any UNSC document) state that the Syrian Government and the opposition are responsible for ensuring the security of the work of inspectors. The Russian-American agreements do not contain anything about Chapter VII. Our American colleague wished indeed the resolution be adopted under Chapter VII. However, the final document approved by us, which is a guide which outlines our mutual liabilities, does not contain such a mention. It will be a different story in the event of: cases of refusal to cooperate, non-fulfilment of liabilities, security problems, disclosure of actions of the Government or the opposition jeopardising the work of inspectors during the implementation of OPCW decisions, or if somebody (no matter who) uses chemical weapons as we agreed with our American colleagues, a UN Security Council resolution must envisage immediate review of this issue by the Council and the presentation of convincing evidence of guilt of one party another. On the basis of established facts, the Security Council may adopt a new resolution, probably under Chapter VII, taking into account the set of different sanctions against violating parties, starting from a warning and so called admonition. However, this is another resolution and nobody can say anything about its content.

Therefore, our agreement is very easy. The leading role is allocated to the OPCW, which must make this decision. Right now Russian and American experts are already working in Hague together with their colleagues from other countries. The other step is a UNSC resolution (not under Chapter VII) in support of the OPCW decision.

Regarding the statements of some of our partners that we urgently need to adopt a UNSC resolution under Chapter VII (I even heard that by the end of this week): firstly, this indicates a lack of understanding of what we have agreed on with the US Secretary of State John Kerry, and also a lack of interest in reading the agreed documents. I repeat that it is up to the OPCW to make a decision first, and the UN Security Council will support it. By the way, Chapter VII is not considered here.

All this reminds me of a story revolving around non-acceptance of the Geneva Communiqu. In June 2012 in Geneva, foreign ministers of five permanent members of the UNSC (representatives of the League of Arab States, Turkey, the EU and the UN) discussed the proposition of Kofi Annan for drawing up a plan of the Syrian peace process, for almost 10 hours. (Russia actively supported his proposition.) The Geneva Communiqu was adopted and is currently extolled as the only alternative-free way of resolving the crisis. The Communiqu, which everybody is ready to take as a basis for the convening of Geneva-2, if the opposition agrees. We are still failing to do that. At that time we also had a dispute regarding the inclusion of the obligation of participants to adopt a UNSC resolution under Chapter VII in the Geneva Communiqu. We had long negotiations, and as a result the text agreed by consensus did not contain such a mention. Then the Russian Federation submitted the Communiqu to the UNSC, proposing to approve it in the form in which it was adopted in Geneva. Our Western partners did not agree to mention that it is not enough for them and that we need to add Chapter VII. But excuse us we told them we discussed this for 10 hours, and you finally agreed to have no reference to Chapter VII. Let us simply approve this Communiqu. Let the political process work without any horror stories.

We face the same thing now at least the situation is a similar one. Chapter VII was a subject of fierce debates during the Russian-American negotiations. Ultimately, this is not mentioned in the final text, though our partners wish to replay everything we have agreed on with Americans unilaterally.

Things are not done in this way. I am convinced that, despite the statements heard from some European capital cities, the American party will strictly adhere to our agreements like all normal negotiators do. I am convinced that negotiability is a key not only to the settlement of a crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic, but also to the resolution of the majority of international problems. We need to understand: if we wish to resolve the problem of the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria, then the Russian-American roadmap opens up a real, professional, specific and practical way for that. If for some people it is more important to threaten, to intimidate, to look for a reason to strike, this is a way to prompt the inexorable opponents of the regime, that they are expected to organise new provocations. It is also a path to the final disruption of the prospects to convene Geneva-2.

Question: A meeting between the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and his Iranian colleague Hassan Rouhani has been held recently, during which the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran mentioned that now was the best time for Russia to take some new actions in its search for a political settlement of Irans nuclear problem. Do you also think that, regarding the latest successes of Russia regarding Syria, today is the best period for renewing Irans nuclear settlement with new forces?

Sergey Lavrov: You know, when the world faces problems, there can be no bad time for their resolution. To that end, I would also mention the same thing that I have already mentioned today namely, the task of the creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, as well as the Palestine-Israel Peace Process and many other things.

Irans nuclear programme is one of the topics in Russias international agenda which, in my opinion, does not need any initiatives, because all the propositions have already been stated, including in the statements of President Vladimir Putin and in the Concept of the Foreign Policy of Russia. It is clearly stated in such statements that we acknowledge the right of Iran to peaceful use of nuclear energy, including its right to enrich, if all of the IAEAs questions related to the nuclear programme and all Irans nuclear activities are under the safe monitoring of this Agency according to its usual, normal and standard rules. We are convinced and we feel this with our contacts with our Iranian colleagues, and with other countries who are not indifferent to this situation that if this stand (NB that it is fully compliant with all provisions of international law) was supported by all other participants in the talks with Tehran, we could expect to have more steady advancements. It would be an answer to the question asked by the Iranians regarding the purposes of these talks: is it about eradicating risks in the area of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, or rather a replacement of the regime in the Islamic Republic of Iran? Here we presume that a quite good framework for advancements has been gathered over the last year and a half. In particular, our Iranian colleagues are ready to discuss issues with putting to an end to 20% enrichment of uranium during the P5+1 talks this will be a very important step. However, it is expected that the P5+1 is ready to provide an adequate response to such a potential agreement.

I will not go deep into details. I will just say that we value the statement of the new Iranian leaders about their readiness to ensure more transparency in their nuclear programme, to look for ways of removing concerns. However, all this should not be done unilaterally, but with oncoming movement ahead, after which should occur the removal of the burden of sanctions (primarily unilateral sanctions) which were adopted in violation of the liabilities of Western and some other countries under UNSC resolutions.

Question:It is clear that our current priority in international affairs is settlement of the Syrian situation. Dont you think that Egypt and Russia should also take a tougher stance in respect of the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

Sergey Lavrov:I have just said this, when I answered the question of your colleague from Bloomberg that not only does Irans nuclear programme require our constant attention, but so do the task of creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, as well as the course of the Palestine-Israel Peace Process. I greatly hope that, when our Egyptian friends deal with urgent tasks concerning the stabilisation of the situation in their country, and the establishment of further political processes, enforcement of law and order, they will make use of all their possibilities in the region as the largest Arab country and the leading country of the League of Arab States; we hope that they will continue to contribute to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. We all support actions of the United States to establish direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine. However, whatever the conflict, no country, no matter how strong, powerful, and decisive it is, can resolve any crisis situation alone. Therefore, supporting efforts of our American partners, we constantly remind them that there is an internationally acknowledged structure the Quartet of Middle East mediator and it cannot continue its work without the help of representatives of the region. Over the recent years, Russia insistently proposes its partners to involve the League of Arab States in its activities. The role of Egypt is rather important here.