Speech of and answers to questions of mass media by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during joint press conference summarizing the results of negotiations with UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, Sochi, 17 May 2013

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have completed the main part of our negotiations with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He will have a meeting with the President of Russia in a few hours. As always, our conversation was very substantial and honest. We are sincerely interested in the consolidation of the role of the UN. This is one of the main tasks in the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation approved by the President Vladimir Putin on 12 February 2013.

Most acute and crisis situations of the international agenda were in the focus of our attention. We are convinced that we need to consolidate the entire global community around the UN to achieve establishment of a stable peace in all regions, the atmosphere of cooperation within the framework of which we may successfully solve all most topical problems of social and economic development.

We value the initiatives made by the Secretary General to that end. In particular, we discussed complex tasks to be solved within the framework of the problems of climate change. We are convinced that the situation will become even more unbalanced, if we do not strictly observe regulations of the UN Charter. Unfortunately, we are observing consequences of free handling of principles of the Charter and decisions of the UN Security Council. These consequences can make nobody happy. We hope that all the members of the global community will act in a more consistent way in accordance with their statements made in support of the UN and principles of its Charter.

For obvious reasons, reviewing of the situation around Syria had a special place in our discussion. Not only the fate of Syria and the entire region, but also the future line of the international community in the sphere of crisis management will depend on the solution of this long conflict.

We are convinced (and we have complete concordance with the Secretary General here) that the climax for the Syrian crisis may be found only through establishment of all-Syria dialog with participation of all Syrian forces without any external interference as soon as possible. We are interested that SAR preserves its territorial integrity and remains a sovereign state. We agree that the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 is a platform for actions of the international community.

Today we also discussed issues related to the preparation of the international conference – the initiative formulated during the visit of John Kerry to Moscow on 7 May. This Russian-American proposition is supported by many countries. Today Mr Ban Ki-moon confirmed his support of this initiative. It is certainly very important to solve organizational and preparatory issues – we have a lot of them. We need to decide on delegations from Syrian parties and the range of participants of the conference. Our preferences consist in convening the conference under the aegis of the UN.

Our agenda also includes many other issues – Middle East peace process, Palestine-Israel conflict. We have a common understanding of the need to consolidate the role of the Quarter of international mediators, which has been rather passive recently, though Russia and the UN think that this is not correct. I think that we will be able to agree on such meeting in the foreseeable future. LAS will be involved into participation in it, because many things depend on it. The Arab Peace Initiative still remains the most important landmark in all our efforts, allowing ensuring stable and sustainable peace between Israel and its neighbours – all Arab and Islamic countries – if it is implemented.

We also talked about Afghanistan. We presume that the current period, when preparations to the withdrawal of ISAF troops in 2014 are under way, and the presidential election is forthcoming in IRA, requires very coordinated and reconciled actions of the international community. We view the role of the UN as one of the leading roles. The mission of the Organization in Afghanistan is working effectively. We deem it important to talk in advance, in which form the UN will be present in Afghanistan after 2014. We will count on the propositions planned to be prepared by the Secretary General of the Organisation together with his colleagues. We presume that the UN is a very important player, but countries of the region should also play their role, their positions have to be taken into account, including within the framework of SCO and CSTO.

The UN has many other conflict situations in its agenda – Africa, nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula, nuclear program of Iran. We wish to move in the direction of finding compromising climaxes without violation of the earlier reached agreements, in strict observance of the UNSC resolutions concerned in all the lines.

I wish to express my satisfaction with the cooperation with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and our today’s negotiations again.

Question (addressed to Ban Ki-moon): Provisional deadlines for holding the international conference for Syria have already appeared. June 10 to 13 and June 14-15 are named. Could you confirm this?

Sergey Lavrov (ads after Ban Ki-moon): The sooner we have this conference, the better, because we are all interested in stopping the current situation and bringing the process into a political track, the track of negotiations. I wish to emphasize again that the Russian Federation does not intend to time the beginning of the conference to coincide with some memorable date or event. We did this before. We wish to guide ourselves by practical considerations. The main thing now is to understand, which Syrian parties are ready to participate in this conference. Nothing will happen without it. The second task is to define the range of participants from other countries, beside Syria. We presume that all those, who were present at the Geneva meeting in June 2012, should be invited. The absence of Iran and Saudi Arabia that time in Geneva was a great flaw, as I have already told. I think that all members of Syria should be invited to the conference.

Question (addressed to Ban Ki-moon): What made you change the mandate of the commission for investigation of the specific request – use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Asal near Aleppo? Did you discuss this issue at the negotiations?

Sergey Lavrov (adds after Ban Ki-moon): We discussed this issue, because it is a serious problem. If chemical weapons were really used (some people say that these were not weapons, but poisonous substances), I repeat, the thing is too dangerous to take it easy. Therefore, we have immediately supported the application of the Syrian government to the UN about local inspection. This application was made almost immediately after have received messages about an incident near Aleppo on 19 March 2013, presumably with the use of chemical weapons. We think that it is important to investigate it.

Another two applications mentioned by the Secretary-General, were received a couple of days later and were not dedicated to the recent accident, but to the case that might take place in December 2012. I do not know why these two interested states were waiting for almost three months. However, this makes us think that the clarification of the situation with chemical weapons was certainly not the main thing for them; otherwise they would do it in December. Nevertheless, as the Secretary-General has told, we are convinced that we need to find a solution for this problem. As we know, the Syrian government – and we work with it, including on the mentioned topic – expressed its readiness to consider requests to conduct inspections in other parts of Syria as well after the inspection of the location near Aleppo. We hope that the UN Secretariat and the Syrian Government will reach an agreement. We are trying to promote it in all possible ways.

Question (addressed to Ban Ki-moon): Do you plan to make further steps to return North Korea to the negotiation table?

Sergey Lavrov (adds to the answer of Ban Ki-moon): The actions made by DPRK in violation of UNSC resolution are unacceptable. We have said immediately, that an adequate response is required here. And it was given in the resolution unanimously adopted by the UNSC on this topic for the fifth time. At the same time we are convinced that we need to avoid inadequate responses that may only discharge military tension on the Korean Peninsula and around it. Our earnest conviction is that we should not use the current situation as pretence for building up armaments in this already sufficiently complex region.

Question: The West accuses Russia in supplying weapons, missiles to the Syrian Government. In your opinion, doesn’t it undermine the opportunity of holding the conference on Syria?

Sergey Lavrov: I do not understand why mass media are trying to make a sensation out of it. We have never hidden that we supply weapons to Syria based on signed contracts, without violating any international treaties and the Russian law (one of the strictest laws in the world in respect of export control). We supply defence armaments, antiaircraft defence systems. This does not disrupt the balance of forces in the region and does not create any advantages in combat with the opposition.