Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has given an interview to Interfax in which he sums up results of 2015, in particular with regard to Ukraine and Syria, and tells about Russia‘s foreign political agenda in 2016.
Question: Mr. Lavrov, what has the outgoing year brought to the Russian diplomacy?
Answer: The year of 2015 has been complicated in foreign affairs. Growing competition for influence on the ongoing process of the transformation of the international system has constituted itself. Two main trends have become clearer. On the one hand, to channel this competition into a civilized track, to put atop the list the need to fine-tune serious collective work to reflect rising challenges and to strengthen in common interests the mechanisms of global governance on the basis of international law and the central role of the United Nations. On the other [hand] there is a line towards ensuring one‘s domination in global affairs notwithstanding objective reality, towards imposing one‘s will on everyone and everywhere in the calculation of gaining unilateral advantages.
Other instability factors, especially in the global economy, have stockpiled as well. Attempts to protect one‘s interests at the expense of others and to split global economic space have become more active against the backdrop of crisis events in the Eurozone, as well as continued disproportion of economic development. As to the information sphere, we have encountered rare in their intensity media campaigns, including the one directed against our country.
Unparalleled strengthening of the terrorist threat has made the situation particularly acute. Terrorists from ISIL and other extremist groups have kept significant territories in Syria and Iraq, have committed numerous barbaric crimes, including against Russian citizens, EU member states, the Middle East, Africa, the United States, have provoked mass migration of people, including in the direction of EU member states, have conceived plans to create ‘caliphate‘ from the Atlantic Ocean to Pakistan. Their actions have created a real threat not only to regional but also international security.
In such conditions Russia acted actively and with good dynamics, trying to rise up to the responsibility for the course of events in the world, as one of the largest countries, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The key objective of Russian diplomatic efforts was to secure the leading role of our country in mobilizing the international repulsion of the terrorist aggression and form a broad antiterrorist front. Decisive actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces at the request of the Syrian government helped withstand the onslaught of the militants. The picture of events became considerably clearer as a result and now we can see who actually fights extremists and who acts as their abettor, trying to use them for their own selfish purposes, unleashing, like Turkey, a stab in the back of those who confront the terrorist threat.
We have been steadily proceeding from the notion that terrorism cannot be defeated by military means only; this fight must be accompanied by a political solution to the conflict situations, with facilitating economic rehabilitation of the affected countries, with an opposition to extremist ideology. Our approaches contributed to the launch of the so-called ‘Vienna process‘ on the facilitation of the political settlement in Syria with participation of all countries capable of making a tangible contribution to these efforts.
We believe that finding solutions to the most difficult problems of modern times is only possible on the basis of international law, the principles of equality, mutual respect and consideration of mutual interests, through paying tribute to the cultural and civilizational diversity in the modern world and the right of nations to independently choose their destiny.
The overwhelming majority of states today share such approaches. Togetyher with our neighbors we consecutively promote integration processes within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union. These efforts open new horizons for fruitful interaction and cooperation on the vast Eurasian space, including with the participation of partners in the Asian-Pacific region. A principal agreement on coupling the work in the EEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt project promoted by China was reached and an agreement on the creation of a free-trade zone between the EEU and Vietnam was reached.
Russia successfully presided in two promising multilateral formats, the SCO and the BRICS, whose summits in Ufa confirmed the growing demand for these unions and defined the areas of their further development.
The completion of chemical demilitarization of Syria, as well as the agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue reached in hard talks, have become important examples of the efficiency of serious multilateral efforts. Our country, and everyone recognizes this, has made a significant contribution to both the creation of a conceptual base for this agreement and the development of practical solutions called to ensure its implementation.
One would like a no less sober and responsible approach to come to prevail in issues relating to overcoming the Ukrainian crisis, which was fanned directly on Russian borders as a result of the irresponsible actions taken by the U.S. and the EU to expand the geopolitical space controlled by them and brought countless suffering to the people of Ukraine and continues to poison the atmosphere on the European continent. Throughout this year, our country did everything to help the people of Ukraine overcome their internal conflict, restore national accord and go back to sustainable development. The Minsk Package of Measures, which is a balanced foundation for political settlement, for which there is no alternative, was approved with active personal participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin in February. A ceasefire was achieved on its basis, which is generally being observed, although with breaches.
Q.: What does Russia expect from the upcoming year in the foreign political sphere? Do you think that the year of 2016 can become a breakthrough in the Syrian settlement? Is there a chance that the Minsk agreements on Ukraine will finally be implemented?
A.: Problems that exist in international affairs will not disappear over the New Year night. Russian diplomacy will continue its intensive work in the interests of revitalizing international relations, will protect unifying and constructive agenda in global politics. We are open for enhancing cooperation with all who share such an attitude.
We will actively interact with partners in bilateral and various multilateral formats. In particular, we reached an agreement on holding a Russia-ASEAN summit in 2016.
As to the situation in Syria, a lot will depend on the effectiveness of the efforts to establish coordination in the fight against terrorism. We believe that we should set all secondary things aside in the face of this challenge and focus on facing the main danger, like it happened in the years of the fight against Nazism. Right now we see a dispersion of efforts, which is not good for the cause.
The UN Security Council resolution adopted on December 18 that approved agreements worked out within the framework of the International Group for Support of Syria gives a vector of joint actions, which include fight against terrorists on the Syrian territory, which suggest having unanimity in identifying terrorist groups and the promotion of political process.
It is expected that Syrians on the basis of mutual consent between the government and the whole opposition range should agree on the joint governance in their country on extra-confessional basis, to work out a new constitution and hold elections under the UN supervision. Approximately, 18 months is given to this process.
The key principle is the that the future of Syria should be defined by Syrians themselves on the basis of maintaining sovereignty, unity, and territory integrity of the country. Now the issue is about opposition forming a collective platform under the aegis of the UN envoy for Syria and define the composition of its delegation.
There is no common vision in the opposition camp yet, while the Syrian government announced that it‘s ready for the negotiations. Все это - непростые задачи, их с наскока не решить. But we do not want this process be endless. We will assist its promotion the basis of the agreed benchmarks.
As to the implementation of the Minsk agreements - and the ‘Normandy four‘ have reached an understanding that they will stay in effect - a lot will depend on the effectiveness of the dialogue between Kyiv, Donetsk and Luhansk.
The conflicting parties, primarily Ukrainian authorities, should find political will for the implementation through negotiations of compromises provided in the Package of Measures. It is totally pointless to force our position unilaterally, let alone try to shift the blame for the delay in the settlement by Kyiv onto Russia, and also to use it to justify further absurd sanctions policies on our country. Europe increasingly understands the essence of what is going on, including that a new attempt by the Kyiv authorities to use military force - and such plans are being nursed - would have heavy, tragic consequences, primarily for all people of Ukraine.
Russia will continue its consistent work aimed to persuade the parties that it is necessary to promptly settle the crisis on the basis of a clear and honest implementation of all the provisions of the Minsk agreements. We hope that all the other states that can influence the situation will act likewise. In this case there are some real chances to succeed.