LM.GEOPOL - Cold war 2.0 seen from russia III fronts (2018 01 25) ENGL (1)



Quotidien géopolitique – Geopolitical Daily/

2018 01 25/


On January 15, 2018, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to questions from the media at a news conference on RUSSIAN DIPLOMACY IN 2017. During the meeting, Lavrov tackled all the main issues of Russian foreign policy ans the view of Russian Geopolitics.

Devoting a long series of questions and answers to the hotspots and crises that shake the "new Cold War 2.0" …


* Résumé français :

Ce 15 janvier 2018, le ministre russe des Affaires étrangères Sergueï Lavrov a répondu aux questions des médias lors d'une conférence de presse sur LA DIPLOMATIE RUSSE EN 2017. Lors de la réunion, M. Lavrov a abordé toutes les questions principales de la politique étrangère russe et de la géopolitique russe.

Consacrant une longue série de questions-réponses aux points chauds et aux crises qui secouent la « nouvelle guerre froide 2.0 » …


Part III-



Question: Mr. Lavrov, you are probably aware that the media often publishes lists of key issues and expressions at the end of the year. If you were to compile such a list in the sphere of international relations for 2017, what key stories and phrases would you include in it?


Lavrov: "I'll stay away from the phrases, or else I may be misunderstood again.

"As for the stories, of course, it's Syria. This issue is a focal point for many interests of many actors. We are trying, as I said, to use the initiative of convening the Syrian National Dialogue Congress to harmonize the interests of all Syrian parties and all external players who have influence on the situation and want to secure their interests in this region, including as part of the Syrian settlement. This is a complex process. To reiterate, we have reasons to believe that the pro-active role of Russia, Iran and Turkey will remain unchanged. It made the Astana process possible one year ago, helped create de-escalation zones, which continue to operate despite individual violations and the attempts to thwart it. It is also important that the Astana process stimulated UN activity, which, prior to the meetings in Astana, remained, in fact, inactive for some ten months. I hope that the initiative of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress will also act as an incentive for the UN to step up its activities. In any case, the Congress in Sochi is aimed at promoting the Geneva talks. We are saying it unambiguously to all our colleagues, including the UN leadership and the countries involved in the Syrian settlement process in one way or another.

"The second topic, probably, includes everything else that concerns the Middle East and North Africa. The Syrian settlement process is only a part of the complex tangle of issues in this region. I will mention Libya and Yemen. I have already mentioned the Palestinian-Israeli settlement process, which has ended up at an impasse. I remain convinced that the dead-end in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement process, in moving towards creating a Palestinian state, has a part to play in radicalizing the Arab street.

"There is another topic – Ukraine, which is artificially inflated to make it look bigger than it is, and is seen as a touchstone in the confrontation between Russia and the West in general. I consider this approach to be erroneous and absolutely politicized. If we were to abandon the assessment, the prism of confrontation between 'authoritarian Russia' and the 'liberal West' through which the Ukrainian crisis is being viewed, and focus instead on what's written in the Minsk Agreements (everything is clearly spelled out there and cannot be construed in more than one way), then, I think, the Ukraine crisis would have been settled a long time ago. This would mean that rejecting the ideology-driven interpretation of the situation as supposedly having global significance for relations between Russia and the West would allow our Western colleagues to move away from their thoughtless and reckless support of the policies pursued by official Kiev designed to shirk its commitments under the Minsk Agreements.

"Of course, we can talk at length about positive trends as well – there's no end to such conversations. They include promoting Eurasian integration, implementing the greater Eurasia project with the participation of the EAEU, the SCO, and ASEAN, its openness to new participants in the East and the West. Of course, it is also necessary to talk about integration processes on a broader scale – in the Asia-Pacific region, the activities of APEC, the G20, and BRICS. These associations embody major trends of the modern world, namely, the objective emergence of a polycentric system of international relations.

"I'm sure I forgot to mention a thing or two. I was speaking off the cuff about issues that we have on our desks on a daily basis.

"Concerning The Nuclear Problem On The Korean Peninsula, We Suggest That Everybody Calm Down And Freeze All Confrontational Activities.”





Commenting on the North Korean crisis, Lavrov said:

”To begin with, we suggest that everybody calm down and freeze all confrontational activities, primarily those linked with military undertakings, whether missile launches, nuclear weapons tests or large-scale exercises that the United States has been holding in this region with the Republic of Korea and later on also with Japan." He then slammed then slams Vancouver diplomatic summit on the Korean peninsula, calling it "harmful." Lavrov said: "We and China were not invited, but we were told that the meeting would start tonight, January 15, while the main meetings would be held on January 16; and they invited Russia and China to come and join them in the evening to hear what they had agreed on. You certainly understand that it was unacceptable… A few words about the American diplomacy manners these days. As far as I know, the day before yesterday, there was a briefing at the U.S. Department of State. The spokesperson, who actually talked about the meeting in Vancouver, was asked why China and Russia had not been invited. The answer was evasive, but essentially the spokesperson said that Moscow and Beijing had been informed about the preparations for the meeting and that both countries had allegedly supported the effort. These are plain lies. We said bluntly that we considered that effort and that meeting harmful."


Question: Before the New Year the leaders of Russia and China announced that they would like to continue cooperating in international affairs. Could you name the main international issues on which Russia could maintain effective cooperation with China this year?


Lavrov: "I am very grateful that you were given the floor second because you raised the subject that I did not mention when answering the first question about what keeps us busiest.

"Of course, the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula is one of the most serious items on the international agenda. Russia and China are actively cooperating on this track. As you know we have a joint initiative with China on transitioning from confrontation to political settlement of the problem that has arisen on the Korean Peninsula. To begin with, we suggest that everybody calm down and freeze all confrontational activities, primarily those linked with military undertakings, whether missile launches, nuclear weapons tests or large-scale exercises that the United States has been holding in this region with the Republic of Korea and later on also with Japan. When these activities are frozen and a moratorium on hostile, confrontational steps enters in force, we will actively support direct contacts between the main stakeholders. Speaking about the nuclear issue, these are primarily Pyongyang and Washington but we will be ready to accompany their bilateral dialogue also in the framework of the six-party process with the participation of Russia, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. This is probably the most important issue on the bilateral agenda that Russia and China are now working to resolve.

"I must say that the work on this issue is difficult. I have already said that the United States is almost openly talking about the inevitability of a military solution although everyone understands the disastrous consequences of such a venture. When there were conditions for transitioning to dialogue, provocative actions were undertaken in the vast majority of cases – increasingly large-scale military exercises around North Korea, which provoked another round of tensions. We have a joint roadmap with China and we will actively promote it.”


Lavrov: "Speaking of one specific consequence, I have to return to the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula. If Kim Jong-un is required to wrap up his nuclear military program, in exchange for a promise to lift the sanctions, then this is precisely the essence of the agreements between Iran and the international community. If they just put it aside now and tell Iran it should stick to its obligations, and they re-impose the sanctions, put yourselves in North Korea's shoes. They are promised that sanctions will be lifted in exchange for abandoning its nuclear program, so they do, but the sanctions are not lifted. Or, on the contrary, an agreement is reached, and then the Americans just say the next morning that they are 'men of their word' – they give their word, then break their word. This is a popular joke.

"By the way, a meeting on North Korea opens today in Vancouver, called by the Americans and Canadians, involving the countries that were members of the UN-led coalition during the Korean War of 1950-1953. When we heard about this meeting, we asked why this composition? Greece, Belgium, Colombia and Luxembourg. They were in that coalition. How do they relate to the efforts to resolve the current problem of the Korean Peninsula? What will they do there? The Americans told us that it was important to expand support for our common efforts, but the agenda is to develop a mechanism for additional pressure on Pyongyang. Just a couple of weeks ago now, another resolution was adopted. Two days later, it was announced that a meeting in Vancouver would be convened. We and China were not invited, but we were told that the meeting would start tonight, January 15, while the main meetings would be held on January 16; and they invited Russia and China to come and join them in the evening to hear what they had agreed on. You certainly understand that it was unacceptable. We insisted that the UN should not accept the invitations either, as the invitations had been sent to UN representatives.

"A few words about the American diplomacy manners these days. As far as I know, the day before yesterday, there was a briefing at the US Department of State. The spokesperson, who actually talked about the meeting in Vancouver, was asked why China and Russia had not been invited. The answer was evasive, but essentially spokesperson said that Moscow and Beijing had been informed about the preparations for the meeting and that both countries had allegedly supported the effort. These are plain lies. We said bluntly that we considered that effort and that meeting harmful.

"Let's see how the situation unfolds. But for the time being, it is difficult for me to say what will happen to the European position on the Iranian nuclear program. In my opinion, they are already beginning to call for certain compromises. It looks like the situation is likely to slide in a very dangerous direction."


Question: (via interpreter) And I'll come back to what you said about the North Korea meeting in Vancouver today. Do you think anything productive can come out of that without Russia there?


Lavrov: "Russia was not the only country that was not invited; China wasn't either. With all due respect to those who initiated this, I do not expect anything productive from it; I will be glad if only nothing counterproductive happens. But this looks unlikely, because the agenda sounds like 'increasing pressure on North Korea'."





Discussing Ukraine, Lavrov stressed that Ukrainian crisis is being "politicized" and seen through the prism of confrontation between "authoritarian Russia" and the "liberal West." Lavrov then stressed that Russia did not violated the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances for Ukraine (1) .Ukraine's representative in the security subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group, former prime minister, former defense minister and former secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Yevhen Marchuk, criticized Lavrov's words. "Lavrov just blatantly deceives journalists, hoping that no one will look in the original text. The memorandum says that not only nuclear, but also any of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine," Marchuk stated.


Lavrov: 'We Neither Used Nor Threatened To Use Nuclear Weapons Against Ukraine, So There Was No Violation Of The Budapest Memorandum'


Question: "In 1998, Russia ratified the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry made a real effort to have the treaty signed. Since 2014, the treaty has ceased to be realistic. What are you going to do about it, given that it is automatically extended for 10 years unless it is terminated? Will the treaty be automatically extended or will it be terminated? If there is no decision as yet, what would you advise your leadership to do as an expert on international affairs?"


Lavrov: "How can I advise anyone on this if I do not know what advice I should give? State Duma Deputy Konstantin Zatulin brought up this subject in public just the other day. He noted that one of the treaty's key articles, the one about the mutual respect of Russia and Ukraine's territorial integrity, was irrelevant now after the free expression of Crimeans' will. By virtue of their referendum people in Crimea achieved independence and joined the Russian Federation of their own free will.


"You know, this does not sound relevant to me. International legal documents are important but these matters are handled by legal experts. I believe that at a political level we continue to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine within the boundaries that took shape after the referendum in Crimea and its reunification with the Russian Federation. We have many times answered legal questions, including those about the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which was also recently brought up. Under this memorandum, Ukraine refused to have nuclear weapons while Russia, the United States and Britain pledged not to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. Let me remind you that we neither used nor threatened to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine, so there was no violation of the Budapest Memorandum. At the same time Ukraine reaffirmed in a separate statement its commitment not to stir up anti-Russian, neo-Nazi and xenophobic sentiments. What happened after Maidan was a flagrant violation of these obligations by our Ukrainian neighbors.


"I assure you that, in political terms, we are interested in that, as recently Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated yet again, that the Minsk Agreements are implemented in full, without any exceptions. This fits in with our position based on full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within the existing boundaries that took shape after the referendum in Crimea, which was held in full compliance with international law."


Lavrov: “Ukraine Is Deliberately Not Fulfilling The Minsk Package Of Measures.”


Question: The treaty refers to the boundaries that existed in 1998. Is it necessary to adopt an updated document?


Lavrov: "This topic that you are touching upon is diverting our attention away from the actual theme. The real matter here is that Ukraine signed the Minsk Agreements, which have nothing to do with the Crimea issue. These agreements must be implemented. If we now instead of making the Ukrainian leaders do, at last, what they promised to do and what was later formalized in a UN Security Council decision, start mulling over how this or that line of the treaty should be read, we, as it seems to me, will only give them an excuse to further drag their feet when it comes to the fulfillment of this very important document, which, I would like to point out once again, was unanimously approved by the UN Security Council. Our Western colleagues in both Europe and the United States – we know this from our talks with them – fully understand the tactics of the incumbent Ukrainian leaders regarding the Minsk Agreements. They are well aware that our Ukrainian neighbors are still trying to provoke the use of force in this stand-off in order to divert attention away from the fact they are deliberately not fulfilling the Minsk Package of Measures. Let us not theorize now – I do not want this to be seen as a lack of respect for international law. Utter disregard for it was demonstrated by those who incited, organized and supported Maidan. After all, I will remind you that in February 2014, former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, together with the opposition leaders reached an agreement, which was certified by the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France. A day later the opposition scrapped the agreement. It turns out that those who on behalf of the EU signed this agreement had deceived the Ukrainian people because the agreement provided for the creation of a government of national accord but, instead, a 'government of winners', as it was named by Arseny Yatsenyuk, was formed. Just one day later, if I may refresh your memories, a congress of people's deputies of the Southeast [of Ukraine] and Crimea was held in Kharkov, with the deputies having been elected in compliance with the Ukrainian Constitution. They decided to take control of their regions until law and order were restored in Ukraine. They did not use force against the putschists but on February 23 the putschists approved a language law. Although it was not enacted, its message was clear to everybody – it was an absolutely anti-Russian and, essentially, a Russophobic law.

"A short time after this, on February 26, the putschists – those who had seized power in Kiev – directly authorized the use of force by the Right Sector, as well as such organizations as Hizb ut-Tahrir and a Wahhabite group to take the Crimean Supreme Council building by storm. Many tend to forget about this now. All this happened within five days of the European grandees' failure to persuade members of the opposition to deliver what they signed up to on February 20. Only after that all processes were triggered. They all started when the use of force against the Crimean Supreme Council was authorized and it immediately became crystal clear that the Crimeans had nothing to do with these illegitimate authorities. This was also a violation of international law, including the Budapest Memorandum I mentioned earlier on, under which Ukraine undertook not to support xenophobic sentiments.

"We entirely support [the rule of] international law but.”





Lavrov: "We are also cooperating (with China) on the problem posed by the Syrian settlement process. Our Chinese colleagues occupy the same positions as the Russian Federation. I am referring to the need for an exclusively political settlement on the basis of the resolutions of the UN Security Council, which provide for political dialogue without preconditions and with the participation of the full spectrum of Syrian society – both the Government and all key elements of the opposition representing the diversity of political, ethnic and religious groups in Syria.”


Lavrov: "The Astana peace process is being covered by the media quite thoroughly. As I have already said, we began the talks after the Obama administration failed to deliver on its obligation to separate the U.S.-controlled opposition from Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorists. That agreement was reached by President Putin and President Obama after their meeting in China in September 2016. Later, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and I formalized it on paper. The Americans could not fulfill it because they were either incapable or did not want to really suppress Jabhat al-Nusra. Our suspicions remain valid and are receiving more and more substantiation.

"The United Nations was sitting on its hands at the time. Turkey, Iran and Russia decided to begin a process that would be based on the actual situation on the ground rather than on speculations. We started cooperating with the armed opposition and the Syrian Government, who later met in Astana for several rounds of talks. Four de-escalation zones became the provisional outcome of the talks. One of the zones was created with the involvement of Russia, the United States and Jordan. The level of violence in those zones has since decreased significantly.

"Right now, however, provocateurs are trying to shatter the situation in Idlib and East Ghouta. The groups in Idlib who signed the agreement on behalf of the opposition and who are being controlled by our Turkish counterparts are subject to some external influence, as I understand it. Just recently, they carried out several raids against the Syrian troops. At the same time, there have been provocations against our base in Khmeimim. We could not but respond as those acts were direct violations of the de-escalation agreement. Our western counterparts' current attempts to make it look like it was the Syrian army that breached the agreement are dishonest. The situation was absolutely the reverse. We do rely on our Turkish partners to finish establishing the remaining observation points around the de-escalation zone in Idlib as soon as possible. They have so far established only three out of twenty. This was discussed during the contacts between our leaders. We were assured that Turkey would accelerate its efforts. I hope this will help stabilize the situation in Idlib and prevent any further disruptions.

"The status of East Ghouta is similar. Western media and politicians are sounding the alarm over the Syrian army continuing the operation in East Ghouta despite the agreement to de-escalate. All actions of the Syrian army are responsive because the militants allegedly close to Jabhat al-Nusra continue to shell residential neighbourhoods in Damascus, including the Russian Embassy area, from East Ghouta. It would be absolutely wrong to pretend nothing is happening and not to try to prevent these unlawful actions.

"But the work continues. The Astana peace process produced agreements regarding additional humanitarian measures, prisoner exchange and a number of other issues that are helping to build trust on the ground and start a process of nationwide reconciliation based on the de-escalation zones at the local level. The said agreements will be put into practice.

"We have repeatedly stressed that the Astana peace process is not competing with the UN efforts. There is always a UN representative at the international meetings in Astana. The Syrian National Dialogue Congress is also aimed at promoting the talks and not the other way around. UNSC Resolution 2254 states that the talks must involve a government delegation and representatives of as many oppositional groups as possible. The delegation formed by Saudi Arabia with Russia's support that was sent to Geneva was, in my opinion, not diverse enough and mostly represented the external opposition. Those were people who live in Riyadh, Moscow, Cairo, Paris, London, the UAE or Istanbul. The Syrian National Dialogue Congress seeks to involve the opposition based in Syria in the political resolution and peace process, including not only the opposition directly opposing the Government but also the peaceful tribes whose territory has not been shaken by major military activity and who are not technically parties to the conflict but live in that country. Of course, it is important to consider the views of these tribes when making decisions on Syria's future through its constitution or otherwise."


Lavrov: “Washington's Desire Does Not Want To Resolve The Conflict As Soon As Possible, But Rather To Help Those Who Try To Make Practical Steps To Change The Regime In Syria.”


Question: Do you see any changes in U.S. President Donald Trump's approach to the Syrian crisis as compared with his predecessor, Barack Obama?


Lavrov: "There are hardly any dramatic differences. Unfortunately, in both cases, what we see is not a desire to help resolve the conflict as soon as possible, but rather to help those who try to make practical steps to change the regime in Syria. I already said that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, like John Kerry, has repeatedly assured me that the only purpose of the U.S. presence in Syria, including the Air Force and special forces 'on the ground,' together with the coalition, is the destruction of terrorists, including ISIS. Even keeping this in mind, according to the Americans, ISIS has not been completely destroyed, that separate hotbeds and disbanded fighter groups have remained, the actions we observe now show that the U.S. does not really want to preserve Syria's territorial integrity.

"A new U.S. initiative was announced only yesterday, allegedly aimed at helping the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to create certain areas of border security. By and large, this means the isolation of a vast territory along the borders with Turkey and Iraq, east of the Euphrates River. These areas are now controlled by the SDF, but there are complicated relations between the Kurds and the Arabs there. The announcement that this zone will be controlled by U.S.-led groups and forces of up to 30,000 troops is a very serious matter, which raises fears that they have taken a course for breaking up Syria. This is being done without any reasons arising from UN Security Council resolutions or earlier reached agreements from the Geneva talks. We, like our Turkish and Iranian colleagues, like many others, I am sure, now expect the U.S. to give detailed explanations."


Lavrov: “The Kurds Are Part Of The Syrian Nation And Their Interests Should Be Taken Into Account.”


Question: Over the past 24 hours, the Turkish armed forces have made at least forty strikes on the positions of the Syrian Kurds from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the Afrin area. What is Russia's position on this matter?


Lavrov: "This is a common area for our work. We are working for a full compliance with the ceasefire agreements. The Kurds are definitely part of the Syrian nation and their interests should be taken into account in the work we are doing, including in the preparations for the NDC. I have mentioned the new U.S. project to build border security forces relying on the SDF which is mostly formed by Kurdish groups. You know that this has already caused a negative reaction from Turkey. I said that this raises serious questions about respect for Syria's territorial integrity. But there is also a problem when it comes to the relations between the Kurds and Turkey. This new one-sided ultimatum step and project does little to calm down the situation around Afrin."


Lavrov: “The Attempt To Reduce The Geneva Process To Talks Between The Government And The Opposition Émigrés, Without Involving Opposition Forces From Within Syria, Was Doomed From The Start.”


Question: My second question is about attempts to disrupt preparations for the Syria National Dialogue Congress. A State Department spokesperson declared the other day that the US was not going to recognize the legitimacy of this platform on a par with Geneva and Astana. Will we take cues from the United States? Will we manage to hold this congress as planned, given the huge number of difficulties – I mean differences between the guarantor countries and some even greater differences between other international players, problems with Kurdish participation and that of Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura?


Lavrov: "As for our U.S. colleagues' attitude to the Astana initiatives and the Syria National Dialogue Congress, we invited the Americans and they participated in the Astana meetings, including by sending a State Department representative from Washington on several occasions. I would be glad if the Geneva process led us at full speed towards a settlement. Regrettably, the initial attempt to reduce the Geneva process to talks between the Government and the opposition émigrés, without involving opposition forces from within Syria, was doomed from the start. We attended these meetings, but we constantly said that the UN Security Council resolution, of which we invariably remind [our opposite numbers], called for the participation of the entire spectrum of Syrian society. People who have lived abroad for years can hardly be regarded as representatives of the entire spectrum.

"Hence the emergence of the Astana process: people confronting the Government with arms in hand had to be brought to the negotiating table to come to terms with the Assad Government on a ceasefire and joint moves to support everyday life in these de-escalation zones.

"In the same way, following the main stage in the fight against ISIS, the Syria National Dialogue Congress is due to use this opportunity to start the political process. It is aimed at involving the people not covered by the Geneva structures. And they are a majority, if we speak about the Syrian participants in all these events.

"We believe the UN will thank us on seeing the results of this congress. We will expand their capabilities as much as we will the number of participants. The constitutional reform and the subsequent election rules should be such that they enjoy support from the entire Syrian people, and not just those who held secret, backstage meetings at the Palace of Nations in Geneva."





Question: The conflict between Erbil and Baghdad is still going on. Dozens of Kurdish residents have been killed in Kirkuk, and about 200,000 Kurds became refugees. What role can Russia play in resolving the conflict between Erbil and Baghdad?"


Lavrov: "The answer is very simple: the role that will be acceptable and in which Erbil and Baghdad will be interested. We support the territorial integrity of Iraq, we stand for the settlement of all problems through negotiations and national dialogue. If the parties need a mediator's efforts, if they mention Russia's efforts as a potential mediator, then, I assure you, we will take this positively."





Lavrov: “We Are Confident That The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action For The Iranian Nuclear Program Is Among The International Community's Most Important Achievements.”


Question: U.S. President Donald Trump said in terms of an ultimatum at the end of last week that it was the last prolongation of the freeze on anti-Iran sanctions. What could the Iranian nuclear deal collapse lead to? What will Russia's reaction be?


Lavrov: "We have already responded to this situation. We are confident that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for the Iranian nuclear program is among the international community's most important achievements toward stabilizing the situation in the Middle East, confirming the unacceptability of undermining the WMD non-proliferation arrangement. Our position has been repeatedly brought to the attention of the United States.

"Ever since the first doubts were raised in Washington about the desirability of preserving the JCPOA, we have repeatedly, together with the Chinese and European signatories, conveyed to Washington our convictions about the detrimental nature of this step and its unpredictable consequences. Unfortunately, this did not fall on the right ground. So far, our efforts have not been crowned with success.

"We will continue to work to make sure that the U.S. recognizes the reality that Iran is fulfilling all its obligations under the JCPOA. This is being regularly verified by the IAEA Director General. The IAEA has not mentioned a single problem with the nuclear program obligations Iran had assumed.

"Now the U.S. is trying to modify the text of the agreement to include clauses that will be absolutely unacceptable for Iran. We will not support them. Access to any facility on first request is beyond the scope of the agreement, as is the indefinite nature of Iran's waiver of the rights it has under the NPT and in accordance with the IAEA Statute. At the same time, Iran is being pressured in a broader sense. The U.S. demands that it stop the development of ballistic missiles, which has never been negotiated. Iran has never assumed any such commitments. And in a more abstract way, the U.S. demands that Iran cease interfering in the affairs of neighboring countries and the region as a whole, and stop violating human rights at home. A whole package of sanctions against that country is being prepared, including for its 'transgressions' outside the agreement's framework. This is quite regrettable.

"In a few months, there will be another review. If the U.S. really slams the door, I do not even want to think about the consequences. Iran will no longer consider itself bound by the JCPOA. I very much hope that our European partners, whom the Americans will certainly begin to entice to side with them, will adhere to what is written in the JCPOA that was approved by a UN Security Council resolution and is mandatory for execution by all. Sadly, the United States once again gives reason to doubt its ability to negotiate.





Lavrov: “Russia Cannot Have Any Concrete Plans To Solve The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict (1), Because It Can Only Be Solved By The Parties Themselves.”


Question: In 2017, Russia made a huge contribution to the Syrian conflict settlement and generally acted as a peacemaker. How successful, in your opinion, was Russian diplomacy in settling other conflicts, specifically one in Nagorno-Karabakh? Are there plans to settle the conflict in 2018? Are there plans to cooperate with Azerbaijan this year?


Lavrov: "As far as a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement is concerned, the Russian Federation cannot have any concrete plans to solve this problem because it can only be solved by the parties themselves. Russia, along with the United States and France as the three OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, is doing its best to create conditions for this settlement. In recent years, we have made a real effort to generalize the parties' positions, identify converging approaches to some or other aspects of this settlement as well as we have simultaneously tried to suggest as it were the compromises that can lead the parties to a common denominator on matters in which they still diverge.

"This work has been pursued in an intensive and regular manner, including over the past year. The parties have all our proposals, the co-chairs' proposals (Russia, the U.S. and France share a common stance). The parties know what the co-chairs think, but it is up to them to decide. Of course, we expect some positive impulses to follow from both parties.

"We are glad that both countries' presidents and foreign ministers met last year. Representatives of the co-chair countries participated in these processes. I think, it would be important now to take additional steps to induce more calm on the line of contact. This would also help a transition to a political settlement.

"Let me comment generally: This problem cannot be solved once and for all by just one document. We need a stage-by-stage approach reflecting an understanding with regard to what is possible now and defining the ways of working on matters that require additional discussions in the interests of achieving a final settlement, including that of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

"As for plans to promote relations with Azerbaijan, let me say that they are based on a most intensive dialogue between the presidents and the foreign ministers. This year, my Azerbaijani colleague and I have exchanged visits; humanitarian events, including a joint humanitarian forum, are held regularly; mutual trade and investment grow, and plenty more. This work is proceeding under its own steam and there is no need for any specific documents on how to regulate it. We have intergovernmental commissions in various fields and officials concerned draw up appropriate schedules. We are highly satisfied with our strategic partnership with the Republic of Azerbaijan."





Lavrov: 'We Have Been Working With All Libyan Parties Without Exception From The Very Beginning.”


Question: My first question is about Libya. How much could Russian diplomatic actions help in the settlement of the current Libyan crisis?



Lavrov: "Speaking about Libya, we are not playing the key role in the international efforts there. As you know, Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj and Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar held a meeting in Paris. They reached some agreements that seemed promising, but failed to gain traction, though. We also welcome the efforts taken by Libya's neighbors – Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia. We support the energetic efforts by UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salamé, who has put forward an interesting roadmap. At the least, the several rounds of talks held under his auspices in Tunisia give grounds to believe that the situation is moving in the right direction, even if slowly, including the preparations for the elections. Everyone agrees that it will be a vital stage.

"Unlike many other countries, we have been working with all Libyan parties without exception from the very beginning, just as we did in any other conflict, including the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, the Tobruk Chamber of Deputies, Mr. Khalifa al-Ghawil and many others. Initially, some of our Western colleagues placed all their stakes only on one of these people, but now they have taken a more balanced position – better late than never – and agree that it will be extremely difficult to reach a desired result without bringing all the key figures together at the negotiating table.”





Question: My second question concerns the Vatican. What other important events in bilateral relations can we expect after the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, visited Russia in August 2017?


Lavrov: "As for our relations with the Vatican, they have been rather intensive even before Cardinal Parolin's visit. President Putin has had meetings with Pope Francis several times. We can report practical results in the area of humanitarian cooperation and exchange of exhibitions, as well as an agreement on visa-free travel for the holders of diplomatic passports, which the Vatican described as historical, became effective last year. We also have common interests, including in the context of developments in the Middle East and North Africa. We have held several conferences together with the Vatican and some of our other colleagues on the protection of Christians in these bloody conflicts on the sidelines of UN and OSCE events. The latest such conference was held on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council in December 2017. There are many more examples of our prolific relationship with the Vatican."





Lavrov: We Have A Stake In Suppressing The Terrorist Threat That Is Spreading To The Territories Of Pakistan And Afghanistan


Question: In 2017, Russia and Pakistan had intensive contacts on combating terrorism and drug trafficking, plus the issues of Afghanistan as well. What will the situation be like in 2018? What is expected in the area of relations between Russia and Pakistan?


Lavrov: "You were absolutely right to point out how actively we had collaborated in combating terrorism. We have a stake in suppressing the terrorist threat that is spreading to the territories of Pakistan and Afghanistan and 'spilling over' the Pakistani-Afghan border. The agreement we made on supplying Pakistan with special equipment, such as, first and foremost, helicopters for antiterrorist units, only further confirms the seriousness of our intentions.

"In addition, we are interested in promoting our economic cooperation. Like India, Pakistan joined the SCO as a full-fledged member last year. This expands opportunities for joint work in various areas, since the SCO is a structure aimed at both ensuring security in our common region, including combating new threats, and at developing economic and humanitarian cooperation. I believe that this will enrich the Russian-Pakistani ties as well.

"Incidentally, with regard to the SCO's role in fighting radicalism, let me note the important, signature nature of the document signed by the SCO leaders last year. I am referring to the Convention on Counteraction to Extremism, which has established a highly important framework, including the principle of unacceptability of using terrorist and extremist groups to put pressure on sovereign states. There are plenty of examples of this, as we know, including the mayhem in Libya, when Muammar Gaddafi was being toppled. These attempts were once made and continue to be made in Syria, too. I believe this Convention to be highly relevant. India and Pakistan will join it. Apart from the SCO member states, many other countries are also showing an interest in joining the Convention, since it is open to everyone, not just the SCO members."





Lavrov: “The Deployment Of Aegis Ashore In Japan Is Darkening Our Relations With Tokyo”


Question: In May of this year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Russia. Are you planning to visit Japan? What prospects, objectives, possible documents or agreements do you envisage for these meetings? When will the meeting in Tokyo take place – before the Russian presidential elections or after?


Lavrov: "A new problem has sprung up between our two countries recently – the deployment of Aegis Ashore in Japan. Our Government explains to us that this system is different from the U.S. antimissile defenses in Europe or THAAD in South Korea. Japan will buy and control this system, while staying outside of the US global antimissile system. It was also announced that the system cannot use Tomahawk cruise missiles. What would you like to say about these statements?"


Lavrov: "Let me start with the good things. In fact, we really are expecting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. There is an understanding on a meeting between the foreign ministers ahead of this visit. The timeframe for the ministerial meeting will be determined by mutual consent at mutually acceptable dates.

"Now about our concrete plans. Prime Minister Abe and President Putin will certainly consider the implementation of the agreements on joint economic activities on the South Kuril Islands. Five priorities, albeit sufficiently modest, have been outlined, but we hope that some more serious cooperation areas will be added. This is being tackled by specialized joint working groups at the level of deputy foreign ministers. We are pleased to have resumed the '2 + 2' dialogue at the level of foreign and defense ministers. Last December, Chief of Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov visited Tokyo and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Land Forces Oleg Salyukov had been there before him. In the autumn, the Intergovernmental Commission held a meeting, while at the same time my colleague, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, visited Moscow. We held separate talks and now we will have to decide on a new meeting.

"Apart from joint economic activities, bilateral economic cooperation has been developing quite well. There is Japanese investment in the Russian Federation. Japanese banks have extended sizeable credits for Yamal LNG. This is a long-term investment that adds stability to our investment cooperation.

"Humanitarian cooperation is traditionally in high demand as far as our populations are concerned, along with annual festivals of Russian culture. Last year, cultural seasons were organized. We are really happy with many areas of our interaction with Japan.

"One would like greater international coordination, which we mentioned during the '2 + 2' meeting. Of course, we would like to see more Japanese independence during discussions of key international matters at international organizations.

"The ABM problem is darkening our relations, let me say this outright. We discussed this in detail with our Japanese colleagues and they brought up the same arguments you have mentioned, namely that the Aegis Ashore system was different from what was in South Korea and Europe. We don't have these details. Our data say that the system to be deployed in Japan is based on universal launchers that can use offensive arms.

"We heard the allegations that Japan would control this system and that the United States would have no relation thereto. We have serious doubts that this is so. We would like to receive more convincing information within the framework of the security dialogue between Security Council secretaries of Russia and Japan. We don't know any cases anywhere in this world where the US, having deployed its weapons systems, would hand the control over them to a host country. I have strong doubts that they will make an exception in this case.

"To reiterate: We are open to dialogue and have a stake in the ABM dialogue, which we proposed 11 years ago, being finally started. We have a number of questions about how this is being done by the United States, lest it becomes yet another most serious destabilizer of the international situation. So far, our American colleagues say that we should not worry and that the systems are not directed against us, as they did under both the Obama and Bush administrations. But there is a lot of evidence to the contrary."





Lavrov: 'We Understand Very Well How The Palestinians Feel Today. For Many Years They Have Been Making Unilateral Concessions, Step By Step, Without Getting Anything In Return.”


Question: "Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of putting an end to the Oslo peace agreements by its actions and described Donald Trump's proposals for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict as the 'slap of the century.' Can you comment on this?"


Lavrov: "We have already commented on the situation connected with Donald Trump's announcement concerning the transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. We have commented even more frequently and for a longer time on the harm and the risks involved in this impasse in Palestinian-Israeli settlement. We understand very well how the Palestinians feel today. For many years they have been making unilateral concessions, step by step, without getting anything in return. As I have said, they were ready for direct negotiations with the Israelis without pre-conditions. We were ready to host them on Russian territory and to provide a venue for this purpose. So far, however, no contacts without pre-conditions have taken place. In the current situation, I am afraid the chances of such contacts happening are nil, which is sad. At the same time, over the past few months we have repeatedly heard that the U.S. is about to unveil 'a grand deal' which would put everything in place and please everyone. We have yet to come upon any such document or statement.

"Let me repeat, the fact that the Palestinian problem has not been settled is one of the most serious factors that enable radicals to recruit ever new generations of terrorists. My Israeli colleagues felt offended by these remarks, but this is objective reality. All serious analysts in the region see the relevant statistics.

"Having said that, let me stress that we should not give up. We do not want to see a total halt in communication between the sides. I very much hope that we will shortly be able to consult with our Quartet partners (along with the U.S., they include UN and EU) and hold a brainstorm session on what to do next. The situation must not be allowed to get out of control.

"I am aware that there are voices in Palestine that call for disbanding the national administration, declaring Palestine to be an occupied territory and handing to Israel full responsibility for how Palestine lives and functions, how the life support systems work and how people live there. I hope that we will be able to somehow come out of this crisis situation. I repeat, we will consult with our Quartet partners. We are planning, among other things, to have bilateral contacts with the U.S."






On http://www.lucmichel.net/2017/09/16/luc-michels-geopolitical-daily-armenia-i-the-weak-link-of-the-eurasian-economic-union/

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On http://www.lucmichel.net/2017/09/18/luc-michels-geopolitical-daily-armenia-ii-azerbaidjan-armenia-nagorno-karabakh-tension-in-caucasus/


(Source: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – Mid.ru)




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