Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov At Ministerial Session Of Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum – Speech

Colleagues,

Your Excellency,

Friends,

To begin with, I would like, on behalf of our entire delegation, to express sincere gratitude to the United Arab Emirates and our host, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for their hospitality and for organising our work here at a very high level.

We met in Moscow a year ago, when the last session of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum was held. We approved a Plan of Action to implement the principles, aims and goals of our joint mechanism for 2016−2018. It is gratifying that the majority of this plan’s provisions are being implemented in practice and are facilitating both cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Arab world and the efforts to settle the many conflicts that, regrettably, have emerged in this region. I mean Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq. The period of disturbances that this region is passing through is a result of the misguided practice known as “geopolitical engineering”, which includes interference in internal affairs of sovereign states and regime change. As a consequence, we see an unprecedented upsurge in the level of the terrorist threat. Suppressing it, we are convinced, remains a priority for all states in the world and, of course, for the UN.

We consistently advocate higher efficiency of the international counterterrorism cooperation, with the central and coordinating role of the United Nations, based on international law and without double standards. As you know, in his address to the UN General Assembly one and a half year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested forming a broad front in the fight against terrorism, which would unite all states. In my view, the awareness that there is no alternative to this approach has been asserting itself in the international community. We see it as a matter of fundamental importance to effectively implement all of the UN Security Council resolutions on countering terrorism and to ensure that the monitoring mechanisms established on their basis operate smoothly. We call on our Arab friends to join the Russian initiative to activate Article 41 of the UN Charter and impose an all-out trade and economic embargo on all territories that are still under ISIS control.

Simultaneously, it is of importance to continue working for the destruction of terrorist organisations’ military and economic potential and, of course, to counter the funding of terrorism.

Showing more resolve in combatting the spread of terrorist ideology and radicalisation is another essential task. Russia has submitted to the UN Security Council a draft resolution on combatting terrorist and extremist ideologies. We hope that these efforts too will be coordinated with our Arab friends. Russia firmly believes that traditional religious denominations are the key allies states can rely on as they seek to counter the spread of terrorist ideology and prevent people from becoming radicalised. We attach great importance to promoting dialogue among civilisations as part of global efforts to preserve traditional values and counter all forms of intolerance, discrimination and attempts to achieve superiority.

It is with satisfaction that we take note of the proactive operations of the “Russia-Islamic World” Group of Strategic Vision established by Russia and the Arab League. It has made a major contribution to promoting dialogue among civilisations.

As for the specific challenges in the Middle East, I cannot fail to mention the need to overcome the deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian talks. Russia is confident that efforts to resolve issues the Palestinians are facing, including the Jerusalem problem, should be guided by the resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly. We strongly believe that no effort should be spared to launch a direct dialogue between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders. As you know, President of Russia Vladimir Putin has offered to host a meeting between the President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow with a view to starting a direct conversation on unblocking the peace process. This invitation remains valid, and we appreciate the fact that the two sides have accepted it in principle.

We also believe in the need to revitalise the Middle East Quartet. For several years now, Russia has been calling on it to refrain from isolation and establish close coordination with the Arab League. It was the Arab League that spearheaded the Arab Peace Initiative, thereby creating a solid foundation for resolving all fundamental aspects of the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli- conflict. It is for this reason that we believe that the Arab League should be represented in all undertakings of the Middle East Quartet. As you know, Russia supports all initiatives that enable us to move forward. Russia has taken part in the so-called French initiative, including the conference held in Paris last month. However, it is our conviction that all efforts should have added value. Of course, it is important to have a dialogue and repeat well-known truths, but we have to move forward. For us, restoring Palestinian unity is a decisive prerequisite. It is not the first time that we are trying to help our Palestinian friends. Several years ago Moscow hosted an inter-Palestinian meeting. Two weeks ago Moscow hosted another high-level Palestinian meeting attended by the key Palestinian groups, including Fatah and Hamas. All participants reaffirmed their commitment to keep moving in this direction, set up common government bodies and prepare elections.

As for the Syrian settlement, we are grateful for the support given to our initiative that has resulted in the International Meeting on Syrian Settlement in Astana. We note that those who are fighting arms in hand in Syria were represented for the first time at this meeting. They met after agreeing on a ceasefire, which is mostly holding. They reaffirmed their commitment to the ceasefire at the Astana meeting. Russia, Turkey and Iran have created a coordination mechanism, which is being used to monitor compliance with the ceasefire. We have formulated a provision according to which all armed opposition groups were invited to join the ceasefire and political talks. We are glad that several days before the meeting in Astana several groups from the [Free Syrian Army’s] Southern Front joined the ceasefire with support from our Jordanian friends.

Our position is that the ceasefire cannot include ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (or however it is called – it has changed its name again). This position was reaffirmed unambiguously by participants in the Astana meeting. I know that the Arab League supports this view too. We are acting in concert on this issue.

The meeting in Astana became an additional venue but it will not replace the Geneva process. We still believe that our friends at the UN should redouble their efforts and stop putting off the resumption of the talks. We will use the Astana venue to monitor compliance with the agreements that were reached at the first meeting between the Syrian Government and the armed opposition.

We also call for lunching the search for a political settlement to the Yemeni conflict as soon as possible. We welcome a similar approach regarding Libya. In particular, we have always supported the UAE initiative for a meeting between the main parties in the Libyan conflict – Chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council Fayez al-Sarraj, Libyan Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh and Libyan National Army commander General Khalifa Haftar.

We support the Iraqi people’s struggle against ISIS and their leaders’ resolute actions to regain control over the national territory held by extremists. We provide assistance to them by delivering Russian weapons and military equipment to Iraq and by helping strengthen the combat ability of Iraq’s armed forces. We believe it important to carry through the operation in Mosul, which must be completed with measures to protect civilians.

We call for strengthening national accord in Iraq through an inclusive intra-Iraqi dialogue. We also demand respect for Iraq’s sovereignty. We are convinced that foreign military presence in Iraq is only admissible with the permission of the country’s authorities. We welcome the nascent normalisation in Turkish-Iraqi relations.

We support the Sudanese government’s policy for settling outstanding problems with South Sudan. We hope that the South Sudan’s authorities will live up to their pledge to expel the armed Sudanese opposition groups from their territory. We note with satisfaction that considerable progress has been made in normalising the situation in Darfur.

It is alarming that the security situation in Somalia has not improved despite the ongoing political reforms. The tide has not yet turned in the struggle against the Al-Shabaab group of militant radicals. We believe that the international community should continue to help strengthen the combat capability of Somali National Armed Forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which bear the brunt of the struggle against Al-Shabaab.

I have only mentioned several aspects of the situation in the region. I would like to express our satisfaction with the fact that Russia and the Arab League have similar or identical views on the majority of fundamental issues. I hope that during our discussions today we will consider ways of enhancing the effectiveness of our joint efforts.

Once again, we are grateful to our hosts for their hospitality and to all those who have decided to attend this important meeting.

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