Press-releases of the Embassy

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrovs statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following tripartite consultations with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour and South Sudanese Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Benjamin Barnaba,
Moscow, September 10, 2015



Ladies and gentlemen,

The three-way consultations with the participation of Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour and South Sudanese Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Benjamin Barnaba, which we held in Moscow yesterday and today, are unique in their own way. This is the first time talks on the issue of inter-Sudanese settlement have taken place within this format.

We are grateful to our colleagues and friends from Sudan and South Sudan for accepting our invitation to utilise the Moscow platform to continue the dialogue on the issues that remain in the relations between the two states. We felt that this platform is useful and convenient for our guests, and that they are interested in continuing to use it in the future. Of course, we will also be willing to provide it. My colleagues will speak about this themselves.

We were informed that some important decisions were made at a bilateral meeting of the Sudanese and South Sudanese foreign ministers, above all, regarding the need to implement to the maximum degree and as soon as possible all the provisions of the document on the inter-Sudanese settlement that were signed over the past two or three years. In response to requests from our partners and within the framework of the efforts undertaken by the African Unions mediation mechanism, we will be prepared to continue providing not only logistical but also substantive support in these talks. We act on the assumption that the African Union, through its mechanisms, will continue to play a leading role in providing support to the inter-Sudanese settlement. We will support these efforts not only by making the Moscow platform available, in addition to the AU platform, but also at the UN Security Council, where the relevant aspects of this situation are regularly addressed.

During the meetings yesterday and today, we also discussed other issues, primarily those related to the situation in Africa and the Middle East. We held talks, among other things, on bilateral relations between Russia and Sudan and between Russia and South Sudan. We appreciate the high level of relations between Moscow and Khartoum. We maintain ongoing political dialogue and we take concrete measures to develop investment, trade and economic cooperation. An important role in this work is played by the Russian-Sudanese Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation. We reaffirmed the need for and our readiness to hold its third meeting in Khartoum at the end of this year.

We were informed about President Omar al-Bashirs initiative to launch a comprehensive nationwide dialogue. We support these efforts and hope that its implementation will help strengthen the unity of Sudanese society and normalise the situation in the south of the country. This naturally relates to Darfur and the issues involved in the provision of humanitarian assistance to the people via international organisations. Mr Barnaba and I are in touch often. Last year, he visited Moscow twice. Yesterday, we continued our discussion about the prospects for deepening cooperation, including in such areas as construction, power engineering, transport, the oil and gas sector and personnel training. Of course, personnel training is one important area of our cooperation with the Republic of the Sudan. In the past, thousands of Sudanese and South Sudanese were trained in the Soviet Union and Russia. This is a very important sphere of our humanitarian and cultural contacts, which helps develop bilateral relations by relying on good, close human ties. We will also promote direct contacts among the business circles of our three countries.

We welcome the efforts to stabilise the situation in the Republic of South Sudan, where a conflict has been ongoing since 2013, as well as the signing of a peace agreement between the South Sudanese government and the opposition this past August. We hope that the parties to the conflict will honour their obligations. We will support them in this respect and continue to advocate for a political, diplomatic settlement of all outstanding issues, among other things, by following a corresponding approach at the UN Security Council.

I believe that the exchange of opinions with my colleagues on bilateral matters and key issues on the international and regional agenda has confirmed the correspondence or similarity of our positions on most of the issues on the international agenda.

We closely cooperate at the UN. We are appreciative to both countries for their support of the fundamental approaches that the Russian Federation promotes at the UN and on the international arena as a whole.

I would like once again to thank our colleagues for their cooperation and for accepting our invitation.

Question: Can the forthcoming foreign minister meeting in the Normandy format help promote the Minsk negotiating process, which continues to stall? What is Russias approach towards the elections in Donbass? Can the republics hold them considering that Kiev is blocking the adoption of the legislation on their special status?

Sergey Lavrov: Today, everything revolves around local elections in Donbass. The February 12 Minsk agreements provided for the immediate start of consultations between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk on the details of holding local elections in these territories in accordance with Ukrainian law and under OSCE monitoring. Everything has been recorded. For a long time after the Minsk agreements entered into force and became international legal documents after their approval by the relevant UN resolutions, the Ukrainian authorities refused to comply with their provisions on direct consultations with Donetsk and Lugansk on the details of holding local elections. They have insisted that these elections should be held in line with the law adopted by the Verkhovna Rada, and with the full involvement of the OSCE, notably its Office for Democratic Institutions andHuman Rights(ODIHR).

Let me repeat that direct consultations and the coordination of the details of the elections are the primary condition for the preparations for the elections in Donbass. Donetsk and Lugansk are ready to hold them on the basis of Ukrainian law and are ready to accept the OSCEs right to monitor this process, but they want to coordinate all of these details during consultations with the Ukrainian authorities as there are a number of aspects that cannot be resolved without them. Thus, the self-proclaimed republics are against participation in the elections of such organisations as the Right Sector (and this is fairly understandable) and other radicals, which contradicts Ukrainian law, which entitles them to take part in the elections. So, there are some nuances that are quite important. I dont understand how radicals who daily threaten the population of Donbass, humiliate their culture and historical memory and call them insulting names can be allowed to take part in the local elections. They have threatened to purge the republics and now they want to be part of the political field? This is hardly possible.

Importantly, the lack of direct consultations on local elections is not limited to this issue. There is no direct dialogue on Constitutional reform, and the introduction of the law on Donbass special status. The leaders of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine discussed this in detail by phone yesterday. During this conversation, they reaffirmed their decision to convene a foreign minister meeting in Berlin on September 12 and to meet personally in Paris on October 2.

Id like to mention one more important circumstance related to the elections. It concerns a systemic problem. Contrary to the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian government insists that all of the issues linked to the Minsk agreements should be resolved after the local elections. At the same time, they are doing everything to prevent them. The law on the local elections scheduled in Ukraine on October 25 directly rules out these elections in the areas outside Kievs control and many other territories that are contiguous to the contact line in Donbass. This is a vicious circle. On the one hand, Kiev insists that it will fulfill its commitments only after the elections that will be held without consultations with Donbass. On the other hand, its executive bodies pass a law that forbids holding the elections prior to the change of government there. There is no logic in this approach except for one (it is impossible to interpret Kievs position otherwise). Kiev wants to wreck the whole concept of the Minsk agreements and turn everything upside down, thereby making impossible the implementation of the Minsk package of measures. In this context, we paid notice to the start of a dangerous game by our Western partners some European countries and the United States. They are declaring that if the local elections are held in Donetsk and Lugansk based on the decisions that they had to make due to the lack of steps taken by Kiev regarding holding consultations for these elections, this will mean the end of the Minsk agreements. We would like to emphasise that Kiev has acted in complete contradiction with the Minsk agreements since their entry into force. This applies to the introduction of the law on the special status of Donbass (or rather its absence), the lack of direct dialogue on constitutional reform, the adoption of a fairly ambiguous constitutional provision on the details of local self-government, and the absence of the promised law on amnesty, without which it is hard to hope that the elections will be honest and fair.

We are fully devoted to the latter and the spirit of the Minsk agreements. We will insist that their implementation should be assessed without bias, but rather on a comprehensive basis in strict compliance with their logic. This will be the main issue for foreign ministers to discuss in Berlin next Saturday. Our leaders agreed that this meeting will focus on the political aspects of the Minsk agreements. This concerns the elections, the status of Donbass, amendments to the Constitution, the issues of amnesty and the exchange of prisoners everything needed to create the right atmosphere to implement the political aspects of the February 12 package of measures.

Question: What does the Foreign Ministry have to say about selfies with Russian servicemen in Syria?

Sergey Lavrov: We have already commented on this. There are Russian servicemen in Syria. Theyve been there for many years now. They are there because Russia supplies arms to the Syrian army, which bears the brunt of fighting terrorism represented by the Islamic State group and other extremist groups. The Russian servicemen are there to help Syrians with this equipment and get it ready for use in anti-terrorist activities.

Question: What was in the Russian planes that landed in Latakia?

Sergey Lavrov: Russia uses airplanes to deliver military products under contracts and humanitarian aid. Depending on the cargo, we ask for permission in full accordance with international regulations.

Question: How can media coverage of an alleged increase in Russia's military presence in Syria affect international efforts to resolve the crisis in that country?

Sergey Lavrov: This logic is beyond my comprehension. Rather, I dont see any of it here. We mentioned in our comments more than once that the Syrian army is the most effective force that opposes the terrorist threat on the ground. From the very start of the Syrian conflict, when many of our international colleagues would get in bed with just about anyone who fought the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and didnt even rule out contacts with openly extremist groups, we have helped, and will continue to help, the Syrian government to equip the Syrian army with everything it may need to prevent the recurrence of the Libya scenario, or the other unfortunate events that took place in that region, because of some of our Western partners' obsessive ideas about toppling undesirable regimes.

By the way, we are helping not only Syria. Russia is supplying weapons to Iraq and other countries in the region that are at the forefront of fighting the terrorist threat. We are doing this without any political strings attached, at a time when other Baghdad partners conditioned their willingness to provide help in equipping the Iraqi army with political demands, which is also a serious obstacle on the way towards effectively joining efforts to counter this political threat.

Once again, heres what President Putin came up with. Russia advocates creating an effective coordinated coalition to counter the Islamic State and other such groups. In order for this fight to be effective, it must be free from double standards and rely on the principle of uniting everyone who fights the Islamic State group, opposes its ideology and practice, and is willing to do his best to prevent the implementation of the most dangerous ideas of creating a caliphate on the vast expanse stretching from Portugal to Pakistan, as the masterminds of this terrorist group preach.

Perhaps, this should not be a coalition in its classical sense. There should be no single super-army led by a joint command. This isnt realistic. It should be a flexible force that lends itself to the coordination of the efforts and actions of units that fight the Islamic State group on the ground, in the air and at sea. This includes involving in such coordination the armies of Syria, Iraq and the Kurdish militias in these countries, the joint orientation of the patriotic Syrian opposition groups, which are armed by their foreign sponsors, an appropriate understanding and standardised signals coming from all external players. It also involves the participation and consideration of all of these aspects and missions, which are to be addressed on the ground during the planning of strikes by the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, which, unfortunately, was created by the United States outside the UN Security Council.

We have never made a secret of our military presence there. Our military experts are working in Syria, helping the Syrian army to master Russian-made weapons. Russia is not taking any additional steps. If necessary, we will act in full accordance with Russian law, international law and our commitments, and only upon the request and with the consent of the Syrian government and governments of other countries in that region, if they ask for help in fighting terrorism.

In my regular contacts with US Secretary of State John Kerry, including yesterday's telephone conversation, we cover this issue extensively. He expressed concern regarding rumours carried by Western media, and voiced the strange idea that supporting Bashar al-Assad in his fight against terrorism only strengthens the Islamic State group, because, in response, its sponsors pump even more weapons, money and everything else that is necessary for implementing its sinister plans, into this terrorist organisation. This is a case of twisted logic and another attempt to pander to those who use terrorism to fight unwanted regimes. The fact that the US-led coalition did not interact with the Syrian government and didnt inform it about the coalitions plans as it delivered strikes on Syrian territory, as they say, "against the positions of the Islamic State, was a huge mistake.

Notably, Australia stated yesterday that it will join the strikes against Syria without making contacts with the Syrian government. According to British Prime Minister David Cameron, his country has destroyed several jihadists who were British nationals in Syria, which is part of Britains inalienable right to self-defense. So, when someone is alleging that we are doing something illegal and contribute in some way to strengthening the Islamic State, Id encourage them to take a closer look at the specific methods used by the US-led coalition.

We are confident that coordinating the efforts of all actors of this important anti-terrorist front is a feasible task, if, I reiterate, we abandon the practice of double standards and proceed on the basis of international law and the central coordinating role of the UN Security Council. We are willing to follow that path.