Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of El Salvador Hugo Martinez Bonilla, Moscow, June 9, 2015
We had very substantive, productive and concrete talks. We discussed practically the entire spectrum of issues that are of mutual interest. We agreed to work further along many lines.
We especially stressed the importance of expanding trade and economic ties, primarily by getting businesses in both countries involved in the process. Last year, a Russian business mission visited El Salvador. We agreed to prepare a visit by a Salvadoran business mission to Russia. There are already certain prospects and concrete projects, including in processing agricultural produce, prospecting for bioresources and cooperation in fishing and other areas. I’m sure that we will be able to actively support companies in both countries in translating these potentialities into practice.
We hope that the upcoming participation by a Salvadoran delegation in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will also produce concrete results. We invited our Salvadoran friends to other economic forums in Russia.
We agreed to reinforce our legal framework. We discussed drafting an agreement on the mutual protection of investment, which is also important for stimulating business ties. We agreed to accelerate the drafting of intergovernmental agreements on the mutual recognition of educational documents and academic degrees and cooperation in combating crime and drug trafficking. An intergovernmental agreement on the mutual cancellation of visa formalities for citizens of the Russian Federation and El Salvador, which Mr Martinez and I signed in Guatemala on March 26, will soon come into force. It will help develop business contacts and tourism.
We also have gained some experience in anti-terrorism and anti-drug cooperation. There are bilateral programmes, including for personnel training and upgrading the skills of police officers and officers from other agencies at Federal Drug Control Service training centres and at Interior Ministry educational sites in Russia and in Central America (drug control personnel, firefighters, rescuers and similar specialists). In addition to bilateral contacts in combating crime, we cooperate via Latin American anti-terrorist and drug control organisations — the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) and the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE). We agreed to expand our contacts in these formats.
Regarding cooperation between our foreign ministries, we have an agreement on cooperation between the diplomatic academies of the Russian and Salvadoran foreign ministries (incidentally, Mr Minister heads the diplomatic academy in his country). We already have some experience in diplomatic personnel training for Latin American and Caribbean countries. We agreed to expand this practice at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry and implement it on a regular basis. At least, El Salvador has a concrete interest. We will do everything that we can to meet it.
We discussed international and regional affairs. We have similar positions on key issues, including the consolidation of multilateralism in international affairs, an emphasis on the collective search for ways to respond to current challenges, respect for international law, the UN’s central coordinating role and respect for people’s identity and their right to determine their own future. All of these principles are actively asserted in the activity of Latin American countries, in their efforts to create and develop regional and sub-regional integration associations in the economic and political areas. We welcome this trend. We believe that Latin America and the Caribbean basin are an absolutely natural region that is emerging as a centre of a polycentric world order.
We reaffirmed our interest in developing cooperation with Latin American associations, in particular the Central American Integration System (SICA). On March 26, the SICA and Russian foreign ministers met in Guatemala, where we submitted Russia’s official application for the status of an extraregional observer in the organisation. Also, in Guatemala, the SICA and Russian ministers adopted a joint statement outlining the principal areas of our cooperation – from political dialogue to consolidating security ties to averting emergency situations to joint projects and the deepening of cultural, humanitarian, scientific and educational exchanges. I would like to express our sincere gratitude to our Salvadoran colleagues for their consistent support of the establishment of stable relations between Russia and the SICA, as well as with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
I am satisfied with the results of today’s talks, which reaffirmed our mutual commitment to the active and effective development of our ties for the benefit of our nations. I am sincerely grateful to my colleague and friend for accepting our invitation to visit the Russian Federation. I hope that he is also satisfied with the results of the talks.
Question: Were Russia’s active foreign policy moves in the Central American region related to a desire to make a proportionate response to the Americans' intention to enhance their presence in the CIS?
Sergey Lavrov: We do not support the “backyard” approach to foreign policy or use this kind of logic. We never shut anyone out or forbid any friendships. I recall the beginning of the 2000s.
President Vladimir Putin, who spoke at one of the first conferences of Russian ambassadors and permanent representatives at the Foreign Ministry, clearly said, referring to cooperation within the CIS as one of our main priorities, that Russia has no monopoly on relations with these countries. As in any other region, partners here select each other based on national interests and mutual benefits and comparative advantages. This is the multivector idea that underlies Russia’s foreign policy. It is important that non-regional countries act transparently in this region, on the basis of generally accepted principles of international law and the practice of interstate relations, and not work against anybody’s legitimate interests in the regions concerned, including, of course, the interests of the Russian Federation. We are guided by these principles as we develop relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries. Russia has no “off-limits projects” that are kept secret from anyone. We are guided by international law, and always build contacts on the basis of intergovernmental and interstate agreements representing a balance of interests based on the principles of mutual respect and benefit.
It is not entirely true that we have only recently begun to work in Latin America, since in many instances now, after a certain period when our country weakened in the 1990s, we simply have the opportunity to go back to our good old friends. We have been receiving invitations from many Latin American countries to restore industrial, energy and military technical cooperation, which began in Soviet times. I do not remember the exact figure, but a significant share of electricity in Argentina is generated by hydropower plants built with Soviet assistance. It would be unwise to renounce the groundwork built by the Soviet Union, because our businesses now can operate and implement mutually beneficial projects in any region of the world.
In regard to your question about the response being proportionate, the information on this is probably not classified, and can be viewed. You'd be surprised if you compared the US embassies staff in the CIS region and our embassies in Latin America and the Caribbean. Moreover, it would be useful to compare the Russian and US embassies in the CIS countries. In most cases, there are two to three times more American diplomats in the countries surrounding the Russian Federation than there are Russian diplomats in the same capital cities.
We do not want to compete with anyone, but rather, we want to try to build our relationships openly and expect our other partners from outside the CIS to be guided by the same principles and to work for the strengthening of their relations with the countries concerned and not against someone else’s interests.
Question: There are media reports quoting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey on American plans to deploy cruise and ballistic missiles in Europe and Asia to attack Russia. There have also been reports saying the UK plans to station US nuclear-armed medium-range missiles on its soil. All of this is being done purportedly in response to Russia’s violation of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles. Do you share the view that with such actions, the US and its allies want to render this document meaningless? If these weapon systems are deployed, does Russia consider it possible to withdraw from the treaty in response?
Sergey Lavrov: I prefer a professional, thorough approach, as opposed to spur-of-the-moment reaction. We are hearing and studying these statements. Here, it is very important to understand who said exactly what, because sometimes statements are taken out of context. These issues are too serious to respond to them off the cuff.
As a matter of principle, we consider it absolutely counterproductive and harmful to escalate militaristic rhetoric, especially given that all our partners are saying in a single voice that they do not want to return to the cold war era. If this is indeed the case, then perhaps it would be wise to exercise caution in making comments. On a practical level, concerns naturally arise over issues of military development, which have always been resolved through direct and honest dialogue. We have had such opportunities with all of our Western partners both on a bilateral basis and in the context of the Russia-NATO Council. All channels of communication between defense departments were frozen, through no fault of ours, but on our partners’ initiative. This refers, among other things, to mechanisms that we have with the Americans and the British in the 2+2 format, i.e., meetings between foreign and defense ministers. In addition to that, there were direct channels of communication between our militaries. If there are questions concerning a particular area of military activity, then these questions should be asked directly and explanations should be provided. Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry, including during his recent visit to Russia, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, during the course of meetings on the sidelines of a number of international events, showed interest in resuming military contacts. If this interest exists, go ahead and make official proposals – we will consider them in a constructive manner. To reiterate, we did not freeze contacts. I am far from suggesting that they were frozen to fuel suspicions in the media regarding Russia’s intentions.
Concerning the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, our American colleagues have long been asking questions about how faithfully we comply with it. We reply to the effect that there is a mechanism of Russian-American consultations to consider the implementation of the Treaty and possible complaints. We asked the Americans to formulate exactly what their concerns and complaints to Russia are. There were two rounds of consultations (last autumn and this spring). Unfortunately, our American colleagues did not specify their suspicions, neither at the preparatory stage nor during the consultations. They say: You have tested a missile and you know what we're talking about. This is not a serious approach. We will be ready to consider concrete evidence that gives Americans grounds to believe that we have violated something. For our part, we have formulated our concrete questions to the US side, as we believe that a number of their actions, including in the context of deploying a global missile defense system, directly violate the Treaty.
I reaffirm officially: We are still ready for an honest, but substantive, not groundless, dialogue to address any concerns. The Russian side has no intention to break this Treaty.