Question: Mr Lavrov, what was the last year like for Russian diplomacy?
Sergey Lavrov: The outgoing year was a difficult one for international relations, what with the growing competition for influence on the transformation of the world order. There were two obvious trends.
On the one hand, we see efforts to launch a civilised competition focused on the need for serious collective work for dealing with the rising challenges and strengthen global governance mechanisms in the common interests of all countries and based on international law and with the UN playing a central role. On the other hand, we see again attempts to gain unilateral domination of global affairs in contradiction with objective realities in order to dictate one’s control over other countries with the sole purpose of securing unilateral advantages. There were also other factors of instability, including those we continue to see in the global economy. The Eurozone and other regional crises and persisting economic inequality were used to protect one’s interests at the expense of others’ and to split apart the global economic playing field. We witnessed the launching of highly emotionally charged media campaigns, some aimed at discrediting Russia.
This instability has been further aggravated by the unprecedented growth of the terrorist threat. ISIS and other terrorist and extremist groups now control large territories in Syria and Iraq and have staged many barbarous crimes, including terrorist attacks against the citizens of Russia, the EU, the Middle East, Africa and the United States, provoking a migration exodus that spills into EU countries. The terrorists’ ultimate goal was to create a caliphate from the Atlantic to Pakistan and this represents a major threat, not only to regional, but also to international security.
Russia acted dynamically and effectively in these conditions, assuming responsibility for these global developments as one of the world’s largest countries and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Russia’s diplomatic efforts were aimed at showing leadership in mobilising the international community in the fight against terrorist aggression and at creating a broad anti-terrorist front. The resolute actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces at the request of the Syrian government have helped stop the terrorist offensive in its tracks. This has brought clarity to the general picture of recent events and now paints a different picture, one in which we see who is really fighting the extremists and who is acting as their accomplices, manipulating them for selfish geopolitical purposes, and stabbing in the back those who are truly fighting against the terrorist threat, in the same manner Turkey struck a blow to Russia.
At the same time, we have always said that terrorism cannot be defeated solely militarily, that military operations must be complemented with a political settlement of conflicts, economic assistance to revive the affected countries and continued resistance to extremist ideology. Our efforts have helped launch the so-called Vienna process, which is aimed at the facilitation of a political settlement in Syria and welcomes the assistance of all countries willing to make palpable contributions to these efforts.
We believe that solutions can be found to the most difficult of today’s problems just by relying on international law, the principles of equality, and respect for each other’s interests, by appreciating the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world and recognising the right of nations to decide their future.
These views are shared by the overwhelming majority of countries. Russia has been working consistently with its neighbours to promote integration within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). These efforts offer new vistas for fruitful cooperation over the vast Eurasian territory, including with our Asian-Pacific partners. We have reached a framework agreement on combining the EAEU project with China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, and the EAEU has signed a free trade area agreement with Vietnam.
Russia held the rotating presidency of two promising multilateral platforms, the SCO and BRICS, and the summits that were held in Ufa last July confirmed the rising prestige of these two groups and outlined their development trends. India and Pakistan have applied for the SCO full membership.
The removal of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal and the reaching of a solution to Iran’s nuclear deadlock, were only achieved following difficult negotiations. These victories of diplomacy serve as evidence that serious multilateral efforts can produce a positive result. It is generally agreed that Russia has greatly contributed to the formulation of a framework for resolving Iran’s nuclear issue and to developing practical mechanisms for its implementation.
We would like a similar responsible attitude to be applied to the Ukrainian crisis, which flared up directly on Russia’s border and as a result of irresponsible US and EU actions undertaken to expand the geopolitical space under their control. It has brought innumerable suffering to the Ukrainian people and continues to poison the atmosphere in Europe. This past year, Russia has been doing everything in its power to help Ukrainians overcome their internal conflict, restore national accord and return to the path of sustainable development. The Minsk Package of Measures, which was coordinated last February with the personal involvement of President Vladimir Putin, provides a balanced and, possibly the only reasonable basis for a political settlement. It has been used to attain a ceasefire, which is being observed, in general, but with minor breaches.
To be continued...
December 28, 2015