Press release on Sergey Lavrov’s press conference following Russia’s Presidency of the UN Security Council

Monday, 05 October 2015 11:03

Good morning,

I’ll speak Russian with your permission, just to give respect to the official languages of the United Nations. Ladies and gentlemen, Yesterday was the last day of Russia's presidency of the UN Security Council. It coincided with the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and a number of top level events that marked the anniversary. We believe that the UN has proved on many occasions that it is an efficient instrument for resolving conflicts, meeting global challenges, coordinating positions between different states and alliances. Russia is one of the UN founders, and is now a permanent member of the Security Council. And we took our presidential responsibilities very seriously, striving to promote a positive agenda and organize collective steps on the basis of the UN Charter principles. We presided over the Security Council at a time when the situation in the Middle East and North Africa continued to deteriorate, with terrorism and extremism surging, including the activities of so called Islamic State. Seeing these tendencies, a year ago we came up with a proposal to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the situation in the region, stressing the connection between settling the existing conflicts and the war on terror. This initiative became a basis for yesterday's Security Council ministerial meeting. Different opinions were voiced during our discussion. You all had a chance to follow the discussion. But we are all united when it comes to realizing that the terrorist threat is on our doorstep. And it is a threat not only to the region, but also to the neighbouring countries, and even states that are relatively far from the Middle East and North Africa geographically. And in this context, many have welcomed President's Putin initiative to set up a broad anti-terrorist front, which would be based on international law, the UN Charter first of all, and would coordinate its efforts with the countries in the region that bear the brunt of the war on terror and extremism. Yesterday we presented a draft resolution to the members of the Security Council. We believe that such a resolution could become a basis for further discussions, which will help form a common understanding of how to approach the war on terror. We expect that Spain, this month's Security Council president, will develop this project. In September, we also saw the migration crisis which happened in the Middle East and North Africa and directly affected Europe. EU countries initiated the discussion of a draft resolution that would allow implementing first measures to neutralise these threats and risks, to meet this serious challenge. We are satisfied with the fact that the result of long negotiations - the draft in its present form - is adequate. It abides by international law and does not allow for extended interpretations of the mandate it proposes. We hope that all other Security Council members who still have some questions about other sections of the document will be able to address it to cosponsors, and we will pass the resolution in the foreseeable future. We also worked hard on the so-called Syrian chemical weapons dossier. We were able to take practical steps with a joint mechanism of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN investigating instances when toxic substances were used as chemical weapons in Syria. We strive for extending this mechanism to Iraq, where we registered and confirmed several instances when ISIS and other terrorist groups used poisonous chemical substances. We had a special meeting about humanitarian consequences of the Syrian crisis, and looked at the situation in other countries in the region, first of all - Yemen. We discussed this problem on a number of occasions. All the members of the Security Council are united when it comes to the necessity of stopping the violence and looking for a political settlement through an inclusive national dialogue with the mediation of the United Nations. We issued a statement on September 4, condemning the terrorist attacks in Sana’a, which took place earlier that month, and the killings of two International Committee of the Red Cross staff members. Unfortunately, on September 21, we were not able to agree on a statement concerning the escalating violence and destruction caused by air bombings in some areas. We passed a resolution giving a 1-year extension to the UN mission to Liberia. The situation there is stabilising. And we agree that it is time to start reducing the UN presence there gradually. Another resolution extended the mandate of the UN mission in Libya. It confirms that the current situation in the country with the conflict between two opposing camps and ISIS is advancing to new territories and calls for more effort on the part of the international community searching for political and diplomatic solutions. We support UN Special Representative Bernardino León and hope that his steps towards establishing a political process will be successful. We discussed relations between Sudan and South Sudan on the situation in Abyei. Everyone agreed that prospects for normalisation of the situation in South Sudan inspire hope that there will be further positive developments in the inter-Sudanese settlement, which include the Abyei issue. A number of Security Council members welcomed Russia's efforts in these processes. As you know, in September, Moscow hosted a historic 3-party meeting attended by the foreign ministers of Sudan and South Sudan, where settling disagreements between the two countries was discussed. We took on this mediation mission to support the efforts of the African Union and its special mediators. There was an extended Afghanistan meeting. The participants noted the unprecedented surge in terrorist activities resulting in the high number of civilian deaths. We are convinced, and all Security Council members agree, that prospects for finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan unfortunately remain unclear. We are concerned with the tense situation on Afghanistan’s borders with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, where several terrorist groups, including ISIS, are active. We are also concerned with the continuing growth in drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan. Similar concerns were voiced during a closed meeting that focused on the issues of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia. So the UN Security Council's agenda remains full. I think that September was very dynamic, all members were active participants. At least we can say that we understand each other better now, especially regarding the terrorist threat in the Middle East and North Africa. We hope that our Spanish colleagues who will preside over the Security Council this month will continue to discuss these problems aiming at reaching new agreements. Thank you, and now I can take your questions. Question: Minister Lavrov, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association thank you very much for this press conference. It is very well needed at this point. My question is this. You circulate a resolution that practically says that states that are attacked by terrorists must be part of the anti-terrorism coalition. Do you think that this resolution has any chance to fly or to get to a vote soon? S.Lavrov: You know, we are in the middle of a diplomatic process. Many resolutions have been proposed but later turned out to be unrealistic. I don't know how you can argue with a simple statement. If a state is under a terrorist attack, how can we not involve this state in a joint effort to combat this terrorist attack? First of all, it contradicts international law and the UN Charter principles. Secondly, it is just not practical. Pragmatically speaking, those who are attacked and are defending themselves - or you want to fight against the same terrorists who carried out that attack - then you need to work with everyone who fights against them. Question: I want to ask you about the issue of Palestine. Will Russia in the nearest future contribute to the establishing of the Palestinian state given the Russian position regarding the situation in the region? S.Lavrov: The way you are asking the question it sounds like Russia is the only country that is not looking for a two-state solution. This has been our position all along - since the Soviet times. In the late 1980s, our country recognized the Palestinian state. We've been consistent in this. I don't think anybody doubts that it was not Russia's fault that this issue ended in a deadlock. We met with the foreign ministers of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. I also met with the Arab League leaders and its General Secretary. They all voice their gratitude to Russia for its consistent and unchanged stance on the Palestinian issue. Question: The US coalition says it's fighting ISIL. With your air-strikes you now say your military is targeting terrorists. Can you be specific for us? In addition to ISIL, which specific groups in Syria do you believe to be terrorists? S.Lavrov: If it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist - it's a terrorist. Right? I would recall that we always were saying that we are going to fight ISIL and other terrorist groups. This is the same position which the Americans are taking. The representatives of the coalition command have always been saying that their targets are ISIL, the al-Nusra and other terrorist groups. This is basically our position as well. We see eye to eye with the coalition on this one. Question: Mr. Foreign Minister, are you saying that Russia is now in complete synchronized military action with the West in combating terrorism? And is Russia going to take a lead role in the battle now? As we are seeing now - it's quite active. S.Lavrov: Don't put words in my mouth. I said what I said. I said, and I repeat it once again. As regards what are the targets of the coalition, and what are the targets announced by Russia - we have the same approach. It's ISIL, Nusra and other terrorist groups. Question: You just said, as you mentioned yourself that you met with the GCC and Arab countries, their ministers. Sure you've heard some reservations from their part on your position vis-a-vis Bashar al-Assad - if he stays, when does he go. Is it in the beginning of that transition or at the end. So why are you allying yourself with Iran and Hezbollah and the regime in Damascus, and creating this impression that you are entering a civil war on their side, whereas all the Gulf states are trying to build new relationships with you and trying to work with you on a transition out of the situation? Why are you spearheading the fight against ISIS? S.Lavrov: This is a very distorted and perverted perception. We stated bluntly that the goal of our operation in response to the request of President Assad and on the basis of the decision granted by the Russian Parliament to the Russian President in accordance with the Russian Constitution, the goal is terrorism. And we are not supporting anyone against their own people. We fight terrorism. As far I understand, the coalition announced ISIL and other associated groups as the enemy. And the coalition does the same as Russia. Somehow some people try to present the coalition action as leading to a political settlement, and Russia fighting the same people is being perceived or presented like defending the regime. It's absolutely unfair, and I believe that honest journalism is required in this situation and that the analysis which you do must not ignore repeated explanations given to the world media, to the world public by my president and by other Russian leaders. Question: What did you hear from the GCC countries in your meeting? Did you agree on anything? Or are you remaining in disagreement? S.Lavrov: No, we agreed on many things, including the need to fight terrorism, including the need to promote political settlement in Syria in strict compliance with the Geneva Communique. Transition on the basis of mutual consent between the government and broad spectrum of the Syrian society opposition. Question: Minister Lavrov, Russia has dropped bombs on opposition groups who've received backing from the CIA. Do you regard them as terrorists? S.Lavrov: You stated this as a fact? Do you know something I don't know? Question: They've been widely reported by reliable sources. S.Lavrov: Many things have been widely reported, for example, during the hot phase of the crisis in Ukraine. Some respected TV channels were showing images as if this was happening in Ukraine, while later they apologized and said that those images were a few years ago taken in Iraq. The Russian ministry of defense presented a full report on what was hit and what were the targets. We targeted ISIL associated depots, armaments and sites. Question: Thank you very much, Minister Lavrov. For those of us who remember you from your days here - welcome back to the United Nations. Two questions. First - is Russia coordinating its air-strikes with the United States? I know you mentioned this with Secretary Kerry yesterday, also with the French. Is there any kind of joining military and diplomatic strategy. And as a second question, since you are trying to clear the air of all of these possible misperceptions. How do you answer those people who are saying that military action that Russia is taking now is a diversionary strategy to take attention away from Ukraine and what was going on there? Thank you. S.Lavrov: I cannot speak about something which sick minds are presenting to the media. It's always possible to find some absurd interpretation of what is going on. I hope that you don't share these views, and I hope no one in this room believes that in order not to distract attention from Ukraine, you should not fight terrorism. I hope this is not the case. Some governments, some politicians cannot handle more than one situation at a time. But the situation in the Middle East and North Africa is requiring urgent response. Everyone is saying that ISIL is expanding more than one year after the coalition started its work. The ISIL territories expanded. And they want to grab more and more. On the coordination - I don't know why you highlighted the French participation. They are part of the coalition as far as I understand. And we have many questions regarding the explanation of their activities, their strikes on Syrian territory. They say that they enjoy the right of preventive self-defense. In accordance with Article 51 of the Charter, I haven't heard of any preventive self-defense concept, because what they did - and I believe the Brits did the same - they said, "We hit the target, we killed a couple of people who were contemplating bad things on our territory from Syria." No proof, no nothing. And I think that you cannot avoid the impression that the legal basis of the coalition's activities in Syria is really flawed. You cannot operate without a Security Council mandate. You cannot operate the consent of the country in question. We said from the very beginning, when the coalition was announced that it was a mistake not to go to the Security Council, it was another mistake not to engage the Syrian government. Had they come to the Security Council, I believe we would be able to agree on a concept which would be acceptable to all. The words about illegitimacy of the Syrian regime... Against the background of what we did on chemical disarmament I believe this is very hypocritical. The Syrian regime was perfectly legitimate when we all agreed to deprive Syria of its chemical weapons. We welcomed in our resolutions in the Security Council the decision of the Syrian government to join the OPCW. And everything was fine with everybody. I don't understand why getting rid of chemical weapons requires legitimate regime cooperation, and on the other hand, fighting terrorism requires no cooperation with this regime. Question: I want to switch for a moment to the issue of refugees. Does Russia support the proposal that's been circulating regarding establishment of global quotas for admission of asylum seekers from Syria and neighboring countries in which Russia would agree to participate? Thank you. S.Lavrov: You mean the Egyptian billionaire’s proposal? To buy and island or what? Question: Actually, I heard high level UN officials and also the Hungarian foreign minister sitting where you are now proposed a couple days ago the notion that rather than Western Europe have to absorb disproportionately refugees that there'd be more of a global distribution of the allocation of these refugees. So I am just wondering what your reaction to that proposal is. S.Lavrov: Frankly, I haven't looked into it. I've heard of an island idea - to buy an island for refugees, but I believe instead of trying to work with the symptoms you have to go to the root cause of the problem. And the root cause of the problem is havoc in the Middle East and North Africa created by the military interventions starting from 2003 and continuing. Question: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. The Syrian Coalition Opposition president was here yesterday and said that the Free Syrian Army is prepared to confront Russian forces which it considers illegitimate. Do you put the Free Syrian Army on that all other terrorist groups? Are they considered a terrorist group by you and therefore are you reading from the same page, because the Unites States and the coalition do not? S.Lavrov: No, we don't consider the Free Syrian Army a terrorist group. We believe that the Free Syrian Army should be part of the political process, like some other armed groups on the ground composed of the Syrian patriotic opposition individuals. This is absolutely necessary for the political process to get hold and to be sustainable. We consider terrorists those who have been recognized as such by the United Nations and by the Russian Federation's legal system. Jabhat al-Nusra has been listed as a terrorist organization. And by the way, interestingly enough, ISIL was not. We proposed to list ISIL, I think, two months ago. The Americans tried to persuade us that ISIL is part of Al-Qaeda, which, according to our expertise, is not true. So yesterday in my speech on the Security Council I reminded about our proposal and said that we must come back to the need to list ISIL as a terrorist organization in the Security Council. Question: Thank you, Foreign Minister, for you press briefing, and my question is about Palestine. I have noticed that President Putin did not mention Palestine. The Russian policy is very determined, very bold when it comes to every issue. Only when it comes to Palestine. Now do you believe that this Quartet gave Israel a chance to confiscate more land, build more settlements, put thousands of Palestinians in jail and build the separation wall? Why is the Quartet silent? Why are still clinging to keep this mechanism in place when it's not doing anything except seeing the Palestinian land as almost finished, and the two-state solution is an illusion now? S.Lavrov: First, President Putin met with President Abbas on the 21st of September in Moscow. They meet regularly, I think several times a year. Sometimes they talk over the phone. And there is no misunderstanding on the part of our Palestinian friends about the Russian position. Second, yesterday in my speech on the Security Council I specifically said that the key conflict which breeds extremism is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And that decades and decades of unsettled nature of the Palestinian problem in my view is probably the most important single factor allowing the bad guys to recruit more and more extremists to their ranks. And this position is absolutely unshakable. And number three. The Quartet is not silent. The Quartet adopted yesterday a statement which says most everything we wanted to say, including the settlements, including other unilateral steps, including the need to implement the resolutions of the United Nations on the state of Palestine, on Jerusalem and so on. The Quartet, unfortunately, can only speak at this time. It is not silent, but it doesn't do more than speaking. Our envoys are visiting the region, are talking to Israelis, are talking to Palestinians, to Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis, and everyone expresses dissatisfaction with this deadlock. But somehow so far we are not able to move forward. We have been taking some pauses in the Quartet activity, when the United States asked for nine months to deliver. Then it was not possible. In any case, the Quartet resumed its work, we decided, and this I think is a very important step, on which Russia has been insisting for many years, - we decided to engage much closer with the Arab League. If only because the Arab League is the author of the Arab Peace Initiative, which is about comprehensive settlement in the Middle East and which is accepted by everyone, including the Security Council. And we do believe that the goodwill incorporated in the Arab Peace Initiative must be respected, recognized, and we would be continuing our insistence that the Arab League is more and more involved in the work of the Quartet. Probably this might make a difference, though at the end of the day we have to lean on the parties to make sure that both of them do what they obliged themselves to do in the previous agreements. Question: Thank you, Foreign Minister. We understand yesterday Secretary Kerry mentioned that there will be a military meeting to deconflict the strategies of Russia and the United States during the period of the bombings. How is that going to happen and how is it going to work, when just yesterday, it's been reported, the US Defense Secretary Ash Carter mentioned that this is not the kind of behavior that we should expect professionally from the Russian military referring to the bombings and also saying that this is like pouring gasoline on fire referring to what's happening in Syria. How do you expect now to have a meeting and what is the outcome that you are foreseeing? S.Lavrov: First, I cannot really share Secretary Carter's assessment. We know about many fires, gasoline (ed) by Pentagon in the region. And we believe that our position is absolutely in line with international law. If Secretary Carter says that we behaved in unprofessional way, because we didn't do what? Question: He is referring to the bombing from the Russian military on the Syrian area Homs, referring to what is being reported on the ground, that was not specifically targets... S.Lavrov: If I recall it right, I think he wasn't able to confirm those reports that it was a wrong target. But I think he used the word 'unprofessional' regarding the communications between us and them. Well, for more than one year, the coalition has been bombing Syria without the consent of the Syrian government, without the OK from the Security Council, without informing anyone. And some coalition members complain to us privately that sometimes they are prevented from using their air force by the command of the coalition. For whatever reasons - I don't know. We indeed are interested in cooperation with the coalition. We cannot be part of the coalition, which operates without the Security Council mandate and without the request from one of the countries on whose territories they operate. But we understand the reality and we want to avoid any misunderstandings at minimum. At maximum - we want to have a cooperation which would the counter-terrorist fight more efficient overall. Therefore presidents Putin and Obama, when they met on the 20th of September in this building, they agreed to establish military to military contacts. We discussed some details of how to get there with Secretary Kerry yesterday. And very-very soon the first contact would take place, and you would know about this. Question: In terms of cooperation in the Syrian crisis, what kind of expectation do you have for the Chinese side. And secondly, Chinese President Xi Jinping just visited the United States and has a lot of collaboration with America. What is your concern or what is comment on his visit? S.Lavrov: First, our Chinese colleagues are very close partners of Russia on international affairs, not to mention our bilateral relationship of strategic partnership, which is (are) really blooming and reached an unprecedented level. On international affairs we believe, and our Chinese friends share this belief, that our cooperation and coordination on the international arena is one of the most important stabilizing factors of the world system. And we regularly coordinate our approaches to various conflicts, be it the Middle East, be it North Africa, be it the Korean Peninsula. Very frank, very confidential consultations take place regularly. China has been helping on the Syrian crisis, in particular as a permanent member of the Security Council. We have been preventing the radical approaches, including the request to endorse the use against Syria in the Security Council. And I believe we managed to reach a situation which allowed us to adopt the Geneva Communique for political settlement of the Syrian crisis, which everyone supported and everyone believes that this document is the basis for any future activities. The Chinese minister of foreign affairs, my good friend, participated together with me and others in the Geneva Conference, where this Geneva Communique was agreed and endorsed. There are many other examples. If we all want to ensure success of the process which Staffan de Mistura is launching, he would require support from outside players. And I am convinced that among these outside players must be Russia, United States, countries of the region and China as well. We are trying to find a way to create necessary conditions for de Mistura's process to get launched. Not easy, because of some preliminary demands, which should not be the case. And on the visit of President Xi Jinping to the United States... I have nothing to comment. We watch, of course, this event, as we watch other events and we are interested in big powers to be in consent with each other, to resolve inevitable differences by negotiations, by meeting of minds. We do the same with our partners in the West and in the East. And, of course, our Chinese friends have briefed us about their impressions about this visit. Question: First of all, gasoline is a much better word than deconfliction. On the Quartet statement that you mentioned before. This was, as far as I remember, that the Quartet failed to call for a direct negotiation between the two sides. Could you explain why? S.Lavrov: The Quartet reaffirmed all the basic resolutions and all the principles on which the settlement must be achieved. And the Quartet agreed that the envoys of the Quartet would continue working with both sides. I don't believe that we need to bluntly reiterate the obvious every time. Question: Just to clarify. Are you or are you not targeting with your air-strikes any groups supported by the US-led coalition? And secondly, are you planning to expand your air-strikes to Iraq and would you do that only with Security Council authorization? S.Lavrov: No, we are not planning to expand our air-strikes to Iraq. We were not invited, we were not asked. And we are polite people, as you know, we don't come if not invited. If you the US-led coalition targets only terrorist groups, then we do the same. Question: The US-led coalition has been launching air-strikes against Islamic State for some time now. They speak about degrading and destroying the group over an extended period of time, possibly years. With the Russian addition in military involvement, what are you military objectives in terms of destroying the group and how long to you expect it to take? S.Lavrov: I cannot speak for the military planners. I can only say that the difference which we believe we can make is explained by the fact that we would be coordinating with the Syrian army. And it is I think common place recognized everywhere that air-strikes alone would not resolve the problem. Question: We all know that you are a master of diplomacy and you like to praise your counterparts. You talk about nice things... S.Lavrov: No, we talk about bad things nicely. Question: Would you please... As journalist, you are giving us kindly this press conference. Tell us what are you differences, what are your worries about how deep the differences are between the United States and Russia. And are you just as a master of diplomacy, you and Mr. Kerry are trying to contain the spillover of this heavy involvement in the Syrian crisis? S.Lavrov: I will recommend President Putin's speech at the General Assembly and some of his other speeches, including his interview to Charlie Rose. It's partly a philosophical question, partly - practical. We believe in collective action. We believe in the effort which is based on international law, on the agreements reached and never broken. And we also believe in the need for serious countries to respect legitimate interests of others. That's basic approach of Russia and our not only Americans, but some other Western colleagues, not always reciprocate. There are plenty of examples of broken promises, broken deals, including in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis two years ago, some other situations. I don't want to get into these details unless you ask me... Question: Syria please. What are the major differences? S.Lavrov: But you said about diffusing the differences. And presidents Putin and Obama met, I can assure you that it was a very constructive atmosphere, very friendly. And they discussed things in a very open way. And they understand each other. I believe they completely understand each other. But for some reason this complete understanding cannot be translated into complete joint action, complete cooperation. And on Syria - it is the reading of the Geneva Communique, if you want to be bureaucratic. The Geneva Communique says transitional governing organ, and that's what the Americans say must be done. In their view this means that Assad is going out - we ask them to read the deal completely, because the end of this phrase says 'on the basis of mutual consent'. That's what was agreed in Geneva in June 2012. And if we all are credible with what we negotiate, then we have to find the solution within the parameters agreed, and any preconditions - 'anything is possible, and ISIL would be defeated if only Assad disappears' - for me, not very serious. We have been demonizing individual leaders. 'We' - not us, but the international community, or part of international community, I beg your pardon. Saddam Hussein - hanged. Is Iraq a better place? A safer place? Gaddafi - murdered, in front of the viewers. Is Libya a better place? Now we are demonizing Assad. Can we try to draw lessons? There must be priorities. Yes, there must be political change in Syria, no doubt about it. And the Geneva Communique is something to which we committed ourselves and we would never change this position. But ISIL is building a caliphate. It is not Al-Qaeda, which strikes and goes. They are occupying territories for creation of the caliphate. They have their own financial system, even the currency I think. They provide social services with this ideology. It's dangerous. They want to build a caliphate from Portugal to Pakistan, taking everything in-between. So we cannot forget about the political process, but we cannot condition fighting ISIL by changing the political system in Syria. We believe that first of all, fighting terrorism must be a priority, but parallel with this, not after, but parallel with this, many things could be done on the political front. And for this all the Syrians, the entire spectrum of the Syrian society, as the Geneva Communique goes, must get together and must agree on the key parameters of the state - secular, democratic, elections, periodicity and the rights of all ethnic and confessional groups to be respected and mutually consolidate in a document. When everyone - Alawites, Sunnis, the Druze, Armenians, other Christians - when all of them know that there is a deal between the opposition and the government, that this would be the new Syria, and this deal has been endorsed, for example, by key powers, maybe by the Security Council, maybe when all these minorities and majorities know that their interests are being taken into account in the constitution or whatever law must be agreed, I think that the problems of one or another personality would be much easier to resolve. That's what we discussed with John Kerry, with Gulf Countries. Yes, we disagree on it, but I still think putting a precondition... I gave you examples of Iraq, Libya, where people believed and publically claimed 'Remove this guy - and everything will be fine and democratic'. Question: Syrian and Iranian troops and Hezbollah fighters are preparing for a major ground offensive backed by Russia’s air-strikes. Is this true? S.Lavrov: I told you what the Russian Air Force is doing. The Russian Air Force is targeting ISIL and other terrorist positions in coordination with the Syrian army. Question: Are you planning to back this major ground offensive? S.Lavrov: I am not a military planner. I told you the political concept which was endorsed by the President. Question: Russia is now involved in the war in Syria. And you mentioned fighting ISIS and coordinating with the Iraqi government also, intelligence wise. I want to ask - will the effort countering ISIS from the Russian Air Force be short to only air-strikes? Will Russia provide arms to non-state actors, such as the Kurds, which are widely known as the most effective force fighting ISIS in Iraq and in Syria with agreement with the Iraqi government and the Syrian government? Will Russia arm the Kurds? S.Lavrov: We provide arms to the Kurds through the Iraqi government. The information center which was established in Baghdad, it embraces the representatives of the military of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Russia, and the Kurds are represented, the Kurdish autonomous government is also represented there. This information center is important, because all participants either have troops on the ground, as Iraq and Syria on their own territories, or have intelligence information, which is useful for planning counter-terrorist actions. And especially it is important, because as a result of the coalition activities ISIL - yes, it's being hit in Iraq - but quite a number of ISIL fighters are pushed out into Syria. So this is an information center, which could make the counter-terrorist activities more efficient. And yes, we respond to Kurdish requests for arms and do it through informing the government in Bagdad. Question: I wanted to ask about Turkish air-strikes on Kurds. There was a briefing here earlier today, when the Turkish minister was pretty critical of Russia's air-strikes, saying that if they go beyond ISIS, they are against them. What do you think of the Turkish air campaign largely against the Kurds? And also if you could.. Yemen was an issue on the Security Council agenda this month, which seems like the Council is not having a lot of success. What do you think could be done to bring those air-strikes to an end there? S.Lavrov: Our strikes do not go beyond ISIS. ISIS and Nusra and other terrorist groups recognized as such by the Security Council or by the Russian law. The crisis in Turkey, we hope, could be resolved politically. We hope that the elections which are planned for next week I think could help resolve these domestic difficulties. And of course we hope that the use of force against terrorists would not be spread to just other opposition groups. On Yemen. As I said, we proposed the statement of the president's of the Security Council to urgently stop the bombings and to have some humanitarian access. We talked to Under-Secretary O'Brien, the OCHA chief. They have very serious concerns. We talked to all the Gulf countries about this. We hope very much that the responsible approach and that the interest in keeping Yemen a place you can live in, would prevail. Thank you and all the best to you.

 

New York, October 1, 2015

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