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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

26.11.2014

Save Christians in the Middle East! (Ambassador Yakovenko, for Russia Today)

 

Russia is currently considering the possibility of initiating a draft decision of the UN Human Rights Council on the protection of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa. Russian experts are now working on this document. Besides, at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Basel on 4-5 December, the Russian side will be calling for a thorough analysis of the processes leading to “Christianophobia” in the Middle East and the broader region. The scale of the problems demands the coordination of international efforts to protect Christians in the Middle East. Further initiatives, new measures and relevant discussions aimed at finding durable solutions in this regard are strongly needed. Of course, we believe that Europe, including the UK, should make its contribution to these efforts, taking into account the Christian roots of the European civilization, now often forgotten for the sake of political correctness.
Today the Middle East is at the very top of the international agenda. The wave of conflicts in the Arab world affects the interests not only of the region but also of the world's leading players and can have far-reaching consequences, including in the context of intercultural and inter-religious relations. The fate of the region’s religious minorities is of the greatest concern. The mass exodus of Christians, who have been an integral part of Middle Eastern mosaic for centuries, is particularly troubling.
The war in Syria between government forces and numerous extremist and terrorist groups is continuing. In fact, this country has been turned into a hotbed of international terrorism. Extremists, gathered from around the world, are causing chaos, destroying the cultural and demographic lifestyle that has been formed for centuries, creating an atmosphere of intolerance. The extremists in Syria aim at a genocide of ethno-religious minorities – Christians, Alawites, Kurds.
You may know that ISIL has levied head tax on all Christians staying on the respective territories. Moreover, Christians are prohibited from building new and repairing old churches and monasteries. They cannot place crosses on their temples, organize services outside their cult buildings, ring bells and organize sacred processions, distribute religious attributes and literature. Women are obliged to wear traditional Muslim clothes and cover their heads. And this is only the official policy. In reality, Christians have suffered torture, shelling of residential areas, schools and other civilian targets, hostage-taking. Such a situation brings the modern Syrian society, which has always been characterized by peaceful and respectful co-existence of different ethnic and confessional groups, back to medieval times. All that is absolutely contrary to the true values of Islam as one of the major world religions.
And as the Syrian conflict continues, more reasons appear to seriously fear for the fate of the 2000-year presence of Christianity in this land. At best, we can expect a repeat of 2003 scenario in Iraq, where the Christian presence has decreased dramatically – from 1.5 million to 150 thousand people.
Regarding Syria we have always been stressing the need for the Syrian authorities and the opposition to reach a common ground in the fight against extremism. Unfortunately, some of our Western and regional partners adhere to a different point of view and bet on overthrowing Bashar al-Assad and supporting the armed opposition. As a result, such groups as “Islamic State”, “Jabhat al-Nusra” and others have emerged and gained ground.
Moscow is also deeply concerned over the persecution of religious minorities living in northwestern Iraq by ISIL militants, forcing thousands of Christians and representatives of other faiths to leave their homes. Moreover, extremists openly declare their intention to throw the whole region of the Middle East and North Africa into the abyss of religious wars. They try to impose on Muslims an unacceptable attitude towards other confessions. Such aggressive and systematic actions of Islamic radicals against particular groups of Iraqi society motivated by religious hatred are completely unacceptable and criminal. We are convinced that jihadists’ attempts to bet on inter-religious conflict and undermine the historical tradition of peaceful coexistence of different faiths on Iraqi soil should be countered in the most decisive and robust way. We favour the achievement of consensus between the political and national forces in Iraq, which subsequently would become the basis for the stabilization of the Iraqi society.
In order to effectively address the terrorist challenge, it is imperative to understand its roots and real scale and to develop a comprehensive strategy. The resolve to fight all forms and manifestations of terrorism without distinguishing between “bad” and “good” terrorists has always been at the centre of international anti-terrorist efforts. Regrettably, in the Middle East and North Africa this cornerstone principle has begun to fail and was repeatedly sacrificed for the desire to change a regime in this or that country.
Preventing persecution of Christians in this part of the world is one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities. We are pursuing a consistent policy in favour of the implementation of reforms in an evolutionary way, taking into account the historical and cultural features of the peoples living in this region. The most important element of our position is to promote a political settlement of the various crises on the basis of international law, without outside interference, by ensuring the recognition and respect for the rights of all ethnic and religious groups.
The statement “On the brutal and mass violations of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities in connection with the worsening situation in Syria and Iraq” adopted by the State Duma of the Russian Federation on 14 November is the most recent manifestation of Russia's strong position on the protection of Christians in the Middle East. The document notes the deep concern over the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria and Iraq-related terrorist activity that lead to mass violence against religious and ethnic minorities. The statement calls on the international community to take action against terrorism in the region, including by cutting off all sources of assistance and funding. The State Duma urges for developing common approaches to counter terrorism in the Middle East and insists that these should be coordinated by the UN.
In addition to the efforts of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, other Russian ministries and agencies are involved in protection of the Middle East Christians. Among those – the Ministry of Emergencies and the Ministry of Health, which on a regular basis deliver humanitarian aid to Iraq and Syria. Some regions of the Russian Federation also participate in support for the Middle East Christians. In June, the second forum of Christian youth of Russia featuring a conference “Christianity in the Middle East” took place in the Republic of North Ossetia - Alania. It brought together young people from Arab countries as well.
As for Russian NGOs, the most active role is played by the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society. Within the last three years its humanitarian missions repeatedly visited Latakia, Damascus, Baghdad and Erbil, bringing assistance not only to the Christian communities, but also the Kurds, who suffered hugely in northern Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan. Among other major activities of this organization is support for educational programs in the Middle East and participation in the negotiation process aimed at rescuing the suffering people of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

 




LATEST EVENTS

27.09.2018 - Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the UN Security Council meeting, September 26, 2018

Mr President, Colleagues, In the modern world, an efficient fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is becoming increasingly important for global and regional stability and the reliable security of all states without exception. Constructive cooperation in this area is an important component of the efforts to shape a positive international agenda. I think everybody agrees that the UN Security Council resolutions that outline specific measures against violations of non-proliferation must be strictly observed. Resolution 1540 remains the basis for this and contains obligations for the member states to take specific measures to prevent non-government agents from accessing weapons of mass destruction and their components. The UNSC decisions taken in pursuance of this resolution are particularly important as they include sanctions for handing over any types of weapons to terrorists. There have been incidents of such handovers and they must be thoroughly investigated.


07.09.2018 - Remarks by Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, following the UNSC meeting on the incident in Salisbury

Q: Do you expect British sanctions on Russia soon? A: We are not expecting or afraid of anything. Taking to the account how things have been developing during the recent years we do not exclude anything. This discussion and yesterday’s speech by the British Prime-Minister in the British Parliament are not coincidental. I think that’s looks like a prelude to a new political season. Q: So, Ambassador it’s really coming from the highest level in the UK. A: It always comes from the highest level. Last time when the incident took place it also came from the highest level. Q: But it seems that you are not taking it seriously. A: We are taking it very seriously. We were saying it all the time. Why we’ve been asking for cooperation with the UK from day one. Only few minutes ago Ambassador Pierce was referring to an ultimatum that Boris Johnson made in his letter to the Russian Ambassador in London when the incident took place presented as a request by the British site to cooperate while in fact it was a demand to to accept the gilt. At the same time our requests which we sent to British authorities constantly through OPCW and bilaterally were ignored.


06.09.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at Bolshaya Igra (Great Game) talk show on Channel One, Moscow, September 4, 2018

Question: Today we have a special guest in our studio, one of the main participants in the “great game”, someone the future of the world really depends on in many ways: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We are happy to welcome you in the Great Game studio. Sergey Lavrov: Thanks for inviting me.


22.08.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's comment on UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's anti-Russian claims

At a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's urges to European partners to slap their own sanctions on Russia in connection with the Salisbury incident.


16.08.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Salisbury Journal"

The Russian Ambassador said he stands together with the people of Salisbury in a meeting with the Journal last week, as the United States announced new sanctions against the country. Speaking at his official residence in Kensington Palace Gardens on Thursday, Alexander Yakovenko said: “We are together with the people of Salisbury.”


24.06.2018 - Greeting by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for the Znaniye school Family Day (Ealing, 24 June 2018)

Dear friends and guests, I am delighted to welcome you at a Family Day celebrating Russia and the World Cup. Today, Russia is the place to be for the whole world. It is a great pleasure to hear fans from all continents appreciating Russia’s hospitality, friendliness and openness to everyone. Right now, people from virtually every country see the 11 host cities, from the Baltic Sea to the Urals on the border of Europe and Asia, and realize how diverse and beautiful our country is. We’d like to bring a bit of Russia and the excitement of the World Cup to Ealing, for those who couldn’t make it to the tournament. By the way, so far both our teams are doing very well, and let us hope they keep up this good work. We cheer for both Russia and England but I’m afraid this can change if both teams meet at the semi-finals.


20.06.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, May 30, 2018

Mr Dynkin, Colleagues and friends, Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for a new opportunity to speak at the international forum named after Academician Evgeny Primakov, an outstanding Russian statesman, academic and public figure. It is indeed a great honour for me. I consider Mr Primakov, with whom I worked at the Foreign Ministry in the latter half of the 1990s, my senior comrade and teacher, as probably do the majority of those who crossed paths with him at one point. Holding this representative conference under the aegis of one of Russia’s leading academic institutes – National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) that also bears Primakov’s name – has become a good tradition. The Primakov Readings have earned a reputation as a venue for serious dialogue of authoritative specialists on the most pressing issues of international politics and the global economy. Today, there is no lack of buzzwords used by politicians, experts and scientists to capture the current moment in international relations. They talk about the crisis of the “liberal world order” and the advent of the post-Western era, “hot peace” and the “new cold war”. The abundance of terms itself shows that there is probably no common understanding of what is happening. It also points to the fairly dynamic and contradictory state of the system of international relations that is hard to characterise, at least at the present stage, with one resounding phrase. The authors of the overarching theme of the current Primakov Readings probably handled the challenge better than others. In its title “Risks of an unstable world order’ they provocatively, and unacademically, combine the words “unstable” and “order”.


21.04.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's talking points at the Press Conference, 20 April 2018

Since we met last time a lot of events took place: - Military strikes of the United States, UK and France against Syria in violation of the international law - Mission by OPCW inspectors to Douma - Speech of Prime Minister May in Parliament in support of the British aggression against Syria - Special meeting of the OPCW Executive Council (18 April 2018) - New developments in the classified case of Salisbury poisoning of Skripal family - No meaningful developments on the Glushkov case - and Cyber security threats I plan to comment all these issues. And I will be happy to answer all our questions, if you have any.


17.03.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Mail on Sunday" (full text)

Q: Bearing in mind that the US, France and Germany have said they agree with Britain that all the evidence suggests the attacks in Salisbury were the responsibility of the Russian state, what credibility can be placed on the denials issued by the Russian Government? A:We don't know if UK presented any evidence to US, France and Germany - highly likely none - but if they did, why not present it through the channels outlined in the Chemical Weapons Convention? Universal legal principle is presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof lies with the British Government. Its record includes the Iraq WMD dossier - you will remember that at some point doubting US and UK claims was considered a wild conspiracy theory. It is not any more.


26.01.2018 - Main foreign policy outcomes of 2017

In 2017, Russian diplomacy addressed multidimensional tasks to ensure national security and create a favourable external environment for our country's progressive development. Russia maintained an independent foreign policy, promoted a unifying agenda, and proposed constructive solutions to international problems and conflicts. It developed mutually beneficial relations with all interested states, and played an active role in the work of the UN, multilateral organisations and forums, including the G20, BRICS, the SCO, the OSCE, and the CSTO. Among other things, Russian policy has sought to prevent the destabilisation of international relations, and this responsible policy has met with broad understanding in the international community.



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