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Statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq, Paris, 15 September 2014

2130-15-09-2014

Dear colleagues,

In welcoming the initiative of France to convene this meeting to discuss ways to assist the Republic of Iraq in overcoming grave challenges to its security and stability, we listen carefully to President F.Hollande’s and President Fuad Masum’s presentations this morning.

Russia consistently stands for the continued independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. We strongly support the advancement of inclusive political process with a view to ensuring accord among all the political groups and ethno-confessional groups in that country.

Today, aggressive actions by the terrorist organization which calls itself “Islamic State” and is also known as ISIL threaten the future of Iraq. Extremists bring death and destruction to neighboring Syria as well. Moreover, they openly declare their intention to edge the whole region of the Middle East and North Africa to the abyss of religious wars. They try to impose on Muslims unacceptable attitude towards other confessions and the entire world. They murdered and humiliate Christians, state horrific executions of journalists. All this is absolutely inconsistent with genuine values of Islam as one of the leading world religions. And I think that “The Islamic State” leaders must have no illusions: they do not represent Islam and they would never be allowed to create their State.

In order to effectively address the terrorist challenge, it is imperative to understand its roots and real scale and to develop a comprehensive strategy.

The resolve to fight with all forms and manifestations of terrorism without distinguishing between “bad” and “good” terrorists has always been at the centre of international anti-terrorist efforts. Regrettably, in the Middle East and North Africa this cornerstone principle began to fail and was repeatedly sacrificed for a desire to change a regime in this or that country.

In Libya some of the countries represented in this room closed their eyes on the rise of extremists in the fight to topple Muammar Gaddaffi and even supplied arms to them and went to war on their side. We now see what Libya is facing as a result of such reckless policies, and what consequences they had on neighboring Mali and many many other countries. The fact that Bashar al-Asad was hastily declared “illegitimate” more than three yeas ago, has prevented a timely and adequate response to terrorist groups in Syria. Things could have changed after the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in June last year called upon the Syrian government and opposition to unite against terrorists and to expel them from the country. But that call remained on paper, and our proposal to endorse the Lough Erne approach in the UN Security Council was not supported. As a result, many things happened, including the ISIL consolidation of its forces and its action in Iraq and Syria.

In Iraq itself the handling of postSaddam situation was grossly mismanaged, totally ignoring the realities and traditions of that ancient country, thus bringing it into the turmoil of a prolonged civil war and creating a huge risk of it falling apart. We welcome the firm intend of Iraqi leaders to overcome that legacy and to promote national reconciliation and unit.

Today we are not in the business of blame sharing. I mentioned all this only because it is vitally important to learn proper lessons from all mistakes of the past. Nobody is perfect. And if we want to achieve success then all our actions must be based on a firm and clear understanding that the rise of extremism constitutes the main threat to the region. To suppress it must become the key priority, leaving aside all other items on somebody’s wishlist for the region. All states, both in the region and outside, who are genuinely committed to oppose terrorists should unite in deeds, not in words.

One cannot but feel concerned by publicly stated intentions to attack the ISIL positions in the Syria’s territory without any interaction with the Syrian government. I would like to emphasize the point: the terrorist threat is too serious to be addressed from a position of ideological bias, and disrespect of international law. Syria as well as Iran, are our natural allies in the fight against ISIL, and their participation would have enriched our work today. Moral standards which underlie counter-terrorism efforts should not be eroded.

The achievements of the “Islamic State” and many other terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere would have been impossible without financial and material support from outside, including supply of weapons and purchase of oil from fields controlled by terrorists. Shutting down all the channels of such support must become a matter of priority.

The countries of counterterrorist coalition should demonstrate genuine unity, not allowing disputes between them on other issues to hamper the efficiency of joint counter-terrorist efforts. The extremists will try to make use of any differences in our positions to undermine the united front against them. A truly collective approach should be developed through putting our minds and potentials together. No one can pretend that he knows better than others what kind of strategy we’ll need to help the region. And of course, we must build our common action on a solid foundation of United Nations Charter and UN counter-terrorist instruments and mechanisms. We face the same enemies in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, and there is no room for double standards.

Russia is ready to participate in working out additional common steps to fight terrorism. We already provide considerable military and other relevant assistance to strengthen the counterterrorist capacity of Iraq, Syria and other frontline states of the region in their struggle against ISIL and the like.

The terrorist threat is much more complex than our today’s agenda, and much broader geographically. Welcoming the French initiative, we propose for the consideration of all regional and international players, an idea of initiating through the UN Security Council of a deep and comprehensive examination of the problems of extremism and terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa in their entirety. We believe it is necessary to address root causes, not just the symptoms of the rise of extremism. We must be able to discuss honestly the ramifications of past wars and interventions, the reasons for deadlocked negotiations on very old disputes, including lack of progress on the Arab Peace Initiative. It is a generally shared feeling, for example, that the unresolved nature of the Palestinian issue helps radicals to brainwash children and youth and recruit more and more new members to the ranks of ISIL, An-Nusra, Al-Kaida and other terrorist groups.

We hope that today’s meeting will be useful to consider the immediate needs of the government of Iraq, but will also contribute to mobilizing practical support for more concerted global counterterrorism efforts under the auspices of the United Nations.