Question: Can you comment on cooperation between Russia and Belarus?
Sergey Lavrov: We cooperate closely with Belarus on many issues, including security. We have a joint system in place that securely protects our borders. Regarding details, we need to consider each area specifically. In this particular case, we are talking about military cooperation; our social unit is in charge of humanitarian issues. Question: When do you plan to participate in the UN General Assembly session next week? Sergey Lavrov: It’s all clear and has been written on paper a long time ago. The UN summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda will be held from September 25 to 27. The GA summit begins on September 28.
Question: Has Turkey approached Russia regarding Syrian refugees?
Sergey Lavrov: We regularly discuss all aspects of the Syrian crisis. Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon have always been the focus of international humanitarian organisations. The refugees receive assistance from the World Food Programme, the UN Children's Fund and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They haven’t approached us directly. It's just an aspect that underscores the urgency of such measures, first, to curb the terrorist threat and, second, to achieve a political settlement.
Question: The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Russian troops are building two new bases in Syria.
Sergey Lavrov: You should ask The Wall Street Journal. All that we are doing in Syria has been covered by President Putin. I spoke about this in detail, as have our other representatives. Go ahead and read what they publish in Germany, France, the United States and Ukraine about those who violate the Minsk agreements. It doesn’t mean that what they write is a true description of the actual situation. Now they are saying that if elections in the DPR and the LPR take place on October 18 and November 1, it will be a violation of the Minsk agreements. The Minsk agreements do not indicate a specific election date. There are several provisions that were violated by the Ukrainian government a long time ago. First, on the day of the beginning of the withdrawal of artillery (precisely at the beginning, around April, not in the end) Kiev had to engage in a dialogue, to start consultations with the DPR and the LPR to agree on the modalities of the elections, such as holding them on the basis of the Ukrainian law and inviting the OSCE observers. I reiterate, Kiev was supposed to coordinate the modalities with the DPR and LPR in April. The second date outlined in the document is March 12. When the 30 days following the signing of the Minsk agreements elapsed, Kiev was required to enact a special status law by adopting a special resolution designating the territory that this law was supposed to cover. However, this wasn’t done. A law was passed, the territories marked, but the law said that it didn’t apply to Donetsk, Lugansk and proclaimed people's republics. Here are two specific examples showing dates that you cannot ignore, and that suggest that the Minsk agreements have been grossly violated. I would like to ask our Western colleagues whether they consider Kiev’s refusal to act as it had pledged to be a violation of the Minsk agreements. If so, why didn't they say so immediately, and why are they making such claims only now? I reiterate regarding the commitment to coordinate matters: the Minsk agreements on elections involve harmonising their modalities between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. There are no time limits. When Kiev was unable to begin consultations on the modalities, the DPR and the LPR waited, and then, in May, published their own draft law, which is an important point. But there was no response. After that, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked President Putin to have this project re-submitted to the Contact Group. This was done in August, but things haven’t budged an inch since then. Let me also remind you about an amnesty, because the Minsk agreements clearly say that elections should be held in accordance with the OSCE criteria, one of which is to ensure that no one will be subjected to intimidation, harassment, etc. The statement by the Kiev authorities on "elections first, then amnesty" constitute a fairly serious distortion of what’s really happening. In accordance with the OSCE elections criteria, the amnesty should be held before the elections.
Question: Can we talk about the convergence of Russia’s and the United States’ positions on the Syrian crisis?
Sergey Lavrov: I think that the Americans are much more receptive to the arguments that we have been using in this work for several years now. I noted US Secretary of State John Kerry saying that the United States wants to cooperate with Russia, and has ways to do so. Following the conversation between our respective defence ministers – Sergei Shoigu and Ashton Carter – both sides spoke positively about this contact. I think that they are becoming more receptive to the objective situation.
Question: What are the key points of convergence?
Sergey Lavrov: You are aware of our position, and they are advancing.
September 23, 2015