16.06.04. Speech by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at the 31st Session of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference,
Istanbul, June 16, 2004

Esteemed Mr. President,

Esteemed colleagues and friends,

I would like first of all to express gratitude to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. gul, for the invitation to take part in your high forum.

The Russian delegation has arrived in Istanbul with the intention to promote the further strengthening of ties with the Organization of the Islamic Conference. We note with satisfaction that since President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin put forward the initiative for expanding cooperation between Russia and the OIC our contacts have been continually developing and acquiring an increasingly specific content. At the base of this lies the common desire of our states to develop a constructive dialogue on key problems of today, and to jointly search for ways to tackle them on a just, collective basis. This applies fully to the global and regional problems included in the agenda of the OIC's 31st session of Foreign Ministers, on most of which we are ready for substantive cooperation on the basis of the appropriate decisions of the United Nations and the rules and principles of international law.

The recent talks in Moscow with the OIC delegation led by the Malaysian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Albar, have confirmed the similarity or identity of our positions on a broad range of international and regional questions. In particular, we again stated that a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and the realization of the national aspirations of the Palestinian people are possible only with the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1515 and the Madrid principles. The roadmap, endorsed by both the parties in conflict and by the entire international community, indicates the real way towards that settlement.

Russia and the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference are unanimous regarding the necessity of the speediest restoration of the sovereignty of Iraq, the creation of conditions for its democratic development and the preservation of the unity and territorial integrity of that country. In our common belief, Iraqi settlement will hardly be able to acquire positive dynamics without an active role of the UN, as also of Iraq's neighbors and other Muslim states. The convocation of an international conference or meeting on Iraq, in whose favor the UN Security Council spoke in its unanimously adopted Resolution 1546, would facilitate this.

Our countries also adhere to close positions in questions of counteraction against the most acute threats and challenges of the 21st century, such as international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These global challenges require the efforts in solidarity of the entire world community based on UN instruments and international law.

Terrorism carries a threat to life and human rights, it is trying to provoke chaos and to destabilize states and whole regions. Without the most resolute struggle against this evil, it is impossible to count on the sustainable development of our countries and a successful solution of existing socioeconomic problems.

Russia was one of the first to have personal experience of the blows from international terrorists. A new link in the string of their crimes was the brutal murder of the President of Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov. It is obvious that this terrorist act pursued the aim of scuttling the momentum-gathering peace process and to disorganize the work of the constitutional bodies of power of the Chechen Republic, which were elected in democratic elections with the participation of international observers, including those from the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

But contrary to the designs of the terrorists our line on a political settlement in Chechnya, relying upon the support of the Chechen people, remains invariable. We highly appreciate the understanding that it has met with in the Islamic world. We are interested in practical cooperation with the OIC member states in the matter of reviving the national economy, culture, education and other spheres of life in the Chechen Republic. We would welcome the contribution of your states to implementing the projects for the Chechen Republic being carried out under the auspices of UNESCO. We are open for the participation of OIC observers both in the early election for President of Chechnya and in the subsequent election for the legislative body of the Chechen Republic.

Russia and the OIC countries can do a great deal for the establishment in the world of the values of dialogue and understanding between peoples of different religions and cultures. This is particularly important in the conditions when extremists of all kinds are seeking to sow the seeds of alienation in the world and to draw it into the so called "conflict of civilizations." It is in our common interests to prevent a split of humanity on religious or civilizational grounds, and to ensure the unity of the international community in the name of creating a more equitable and secure world order. Russia has accumulated a unique historical experience of the coexistence and fruitful cooperation of Christianity, Islam and other world religions. We attach great importance to the dialogue of religions and cultures, to the education of youth in the spirit of tolerance and respect for the spiritual and cultural values of other peoples.

I am certain that there is an extensive field in this sphere for cooperation between Russia and the OIC. At the present time we are discussing with the General Secretariat of the Organization questions related to the holding of a conference on the theme "Islam, Peace, Development and the Fight Against Terrorism" in Moscow under the patronage of the OIC. I would also like to note the special decision of our Government on the establishment of an Islamic University - the Academic Center of Islamic History and Culture at Moscow State University.

Russia is sincerely striving to maintain and develop friendly ties with the Islamic countries and is grateful for the support expressed by leaders of many of your states of our request for the granting to the Russian Federation of observer status at the OIC. Our interest in rapprochement with the Islamic world derives from the very multinational and multiconfessional nature of our state. By pursuing this line, we are ready to cooperate with the Organization of the Islamic Conference in forms which would be acceptable both to Russia and to the OIC members. I am convinced that our relations can be an important factor of international stability and multilateral cooperation in tackling the pressing problems now facing humanity. We are satisfied with the level of relations we have developed with the current OIC Secretary General, Mr. Belkaziz, and are ready to develop cooperation with the new Secretary General, Mr. Ihsanoglu, whom we congratulate on his election and wish him success.

June 16, 2004