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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

16.01.2020

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at a plenary session of the Raisina Dialogue international conference, New Delhi, January 15, 2020

Good morning and bon appetit to those who have some food on their tables.

I would like first of all to thank the organisers of this conference for the invitation. I understand this is a young forum, but it managed already in a few years to acquire importance, popularity and reputation. It is indeed very appropriate that we get together more often than in the past to discuss where we are in international relations and which way we are heading.

We are convinced that the overriding trend of global development is the objective process of the formation of a multipolar world. New centres of economic might, financial power and political influence emerge. India is obviously one of them. And it is important to make sure that no serious matter of the global dimension is considered without these new centres of influence.

As President Putin recently mentioned, we believe that the equitable and democratic world order should be based not on the balance of brutal force, but rather should be built as a concert of interests, models of development, cultures and traditions. Actually, such structures are being organised in international relations. I would mention BRICS and RIC, which was the first step towards the creation of BRICS and brought together Russia, India and China. I would also mention the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which India joined recently and made even more embracive, if you wish.

And I would mention the G20. The creation of the G20 was the recognition that the G7 cannot anymore decide any issue of any significance. The G20, which embraces the G7, BRICS and like-minded countries who support the BRICS’ position on many occasions. This is a workable organisation, especially in a situation when the developing countries have grievances regarding the lack of progress in the reform of the Security Council. Since I mentioned the reform of the Security Council, I would say that the deficiency, the main and probably the only deficiency of the Security Council, is the underrepresentation of developing countries. And we repeatedly reiterated our position that India and Brazil absolutely deserve to be on the Council together with an African candidate, and our position is that the purpose of the reform is to make sure that the developing countries enjoy a better treatment in the central organ of the United Nations.

The UN Charter is the anchor of any discussions that we are having as well as the principles, such as the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in internal matters, respect for territorial integrity, peaceful resolution of disputes. They should be applicable to each and every situation in the world. They should be the guiding point for any discussion to develop any new ideas in the world arena.

Unfortunately, those who do not like the emergence of a multipolar, more democratic world, they try to hamper this process. If you have noticed, our Western friends use the language of international law less and less. Instead, they coined a new concept, which they call rules-based world order. And what kind of rules they offer, you can easily understand if you take a look at what is going on in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, when in gross violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which requires a consensus on any new ideas, they voted through by minority of the member states of this convention a decision to give the Technical Secretariat a function to attribute guilt. This is a very blunt example of how they perceive the rules which they promote, the rules designed in a very narrow circle and then presented as the final solution for any world problem. I think that this way is very dangerous. By unilateral matters, by trying to impose upon others your own egoistic ideas, we are getting farther from the situation when we must handle the global issues of transnational nature, such as terrorism, drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime, food security, water security, as well as many other things, including the dangers of bringing weapons to outer space, the danger of weaponising cyberspace and many other risks. We can handle them only together.

Speaking of this region, we have the common continent, the vast huge continent of Eurasia, and many people were trying, many great people were trying to promote the ideas of making this continent really united and competitive in the global world. You remember when Charles de Gaulle had a vision of Europe from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains. Then the ideas were broadened from Lisbon to Vladivostok. I believe now we can indicate that what we actually have in mind when we speak about Eurasia is the entire space from Lisbon to Jakarta. And when we had a summit in 2016, the Russia-ASEAN Summit, President Putin shared his vision of the Grand Eurasian Space, which would include the Eurasian Economic Union, the ASEAN members, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation members, and we should be open to all countries who are part of this common geopolitical space, part of this huge continent, including members of the European Union and any other countries that are not members of any organisation but that have been established on this territory.

And we have been promoting Asia-Pacific Cooperation in the context of these ideas together with our friends from ASEAN and all partners, dialogue partners of ASEAN, developing what we called cooperative structures, cooperative architecture for the Asia-Pacific Region, centred on the various formats invented by ASEAN: the ASEAN Regional Security Forum, ASEAN plus dialogue partners defence ministers, many other institutions have been respected and have been usefully promoting cooperation between ASEAN and all its partners, and of course, not least, the East Asia summits were very successful.

Speaking of the rules-based world order, unexpectedly a new concept was coined, Indo-Pacific Strategies, not Asia-Pacific but Indo-Pacific Strategies, initiated and promoted, first of all, by the United States, Australia, Japan and the Republic of Korea. When we asked the initiators about the difference between Indo-Pacific Strategies and Asia-Pacific Region cooperation, they said: “Well, Indo-Pacific is more open, more democratic.” If you look at it closely, I would not go into details, it is not at all the case. It is an attempt, I think, to reconfigure the existing structures of the Asia-Pacific Region and to move from ASEAN-centred consensus-seeking forms of interaction to something that would be divisive. You know what is meant by these Indo-Pacific Strategies, and we appreciate the position of ASEAN itself and the position of India, the position which clearly says that these Indo-Pacific Strategies should not be discussed in a way which would imply that somebody should be contained by this cooperation.       

And of course, when we ask those who promote this new terminology whether the Indo-Pacific region includes East Africa, for example, they say “no”. Does it include the Persian Gulf as part of the Indian Ocean? No. So, it is rather tricky, you know, and we have to be careful with this terminology, which looks very benign but might mean something else. 

Since I mentioned the Persian Gulf, we are very concerned about what is going on there. There are many ideas floating around. The Americans want a coalition and the Europeans want a coalition, but with a slightly different mandate. Recently we had military exercises with China and Iran, exercises meant to see how we can ensure the safety of shipping in this area, which is crucial for the global economy.

Many years ago, in a situation which was less dangerous than today, we suggested to the Persian Gulf countries to start thinking about a collective security mechanism, something like the OSCE for Europe, starting with confidence-building measures and inviting each other to military exercises. We talked to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Three of them supported this initiative immediately, and three other countries said they needed more time. Recently we revived that idea and had a conference in Moscow in September on the collective security system and a confidence-building system in and around the Persian Gulf. Iran has proposed a non-aggression pact for the GCC countries. Our proposal is a bit broader and more far-reaching. It is not just about not fighting with each other, but about being more transparent and cooperative with each other. We believe that, apart from the Gulf countries – the GCC plus Iran – the participation of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the EU, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is necessary. The idea is still on the table and we hope it will be looked at.

The last thing I wanted to say is about Eurasia. The Eurasian economic project could be very promising in harmonising various integration groups in this space, including the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. The interest we see in the activities of the Eurasian Economic Union, which Russia created together with its neighbours, is proof of this. We have already signed free trade area agreements with Vietnam, Singapore and Serbia. We signed agreements with Iran and China. We are negotiating with Israel and Egypt. The Eurasian Economic Commission has an agreement with ASEAN. I believe this process will certainly be moving forward.

The 21st century is the time when we must get rid of any methods of dealing in international relations which smack of colonial or neo-colonial times. Unilaterally imposed sanctions are not going to work. This is not diplomacy, so I don’t believe we should discuss sanctions and other non-diplomatic means when we think about the future of the world.

I would like to conclude by recalling that 20 years ago Russia and India signed the Declaration of Strategic Partnership. Some years later “privileged” was added to the term “strategic partnership”, and a few years ago our Indian friends proposed to call our relations “an especially privileged strategic partnership.” We want to develop such relations with all countries of the region and we hope our Indian friends will be promoting the same ideology.

Thank you very much and I am ready to take your questions.

Question: Across the Atlantic there is a lot of talk of a deal-making. But most of the deal-making seems to have been done by Russia. You’ve intervened decisively in Syria. After that we’ve seen your actions over the last few years and in the last few months particularly in Libya, where something that was happening under the Berlin process has been taken over by Russia. You almost got a ceasefire agreement signed, but then something went wrong. How hopeful are you of things turning out the right way in Libya now, after Haftar has walked out of the agreement as it seems?

Sergey Lavrov: Commander of the Libyan National Army Marshal Khalifa Haftar and President of the Libyan House of Representatives in Tobruk Aguila Saleh said they needed more time to consult with their people. Aguila Saleh was saying that he is the head of parliament and the parliament members must be briefed, must be informed.

We are not overdramatising the situation. These things happened in the past. There were meetings on Libya held in Paris, Palermo and Abu Dhabi. When they met in France, a date of elections was even announced, which is past two years ago. Then there were Palermo and Abu Dhabi. It is a pity that the Abu Dhabi deal failed, because it was really about the key political matters, such as power sharing and sharing the wealth of the country in a way which will make everybody satisfied.

Actually, the ceasefire which President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for has been announced by both groups – the Libyan National Army and the fighters who support the Government of National Accord in Tripoli. Unfortunately, the document was not signed by everybody. But it was signed by Prime Minister of the GNA Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj and Chairman of the High Council of State Khalid al-Mishri. As I said, Haftar and Saleh said that they needed more time for consultations. We never pretended that this would be the final meeting to resolve each and every issue. We have been promoting this meeting in Moscow as a contribution to the conference in Berlin, which will be held this coming Sunday, to which we recommended the conference organisers to invite all Libyan parties. I believe they are considering our proposal positively. It would be really crucial to make sure that whatever is decided in Berlin is acceptable to all parties.

This is a process, it is a thing in the making, and we will continue to contribute to the success of this endeavour.

 

To be continued...




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Your Holiness, colleagues, friends, I am happy to join you in greeting the hosts, participants and guests of the 28th International Educational Christmas Readings.



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