Opening remarks and answers to media questions by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a news conference following talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry and the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, Paris, 14 October 2014
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, in Paris, we have had talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry and the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius.
With John Kerry we discussed a wide range of issues on the international agenda which were at the forefront of our attention. Of course, we touched on bilateral relations because there are some problems there, including humanitarian problems that have to do with the fate of Russian citizens. The overall conclusion was that we understand that Russia and the US play a special role in global efforts to solve the problems that affect all peoples and states without exception. In a range of cases we can interact more effectively to make the efforts of the entire world community more effective. These are primarily related to the fight against terrorism which is becoming the main threat in large areas of Middle East and North Africa.
The second area we want to see success in international efforts is the fight against the Ebola virus. Russia was among the first countries to send its medical personnel and specialists to Guinea and Sierra Leone where this disease had hit the hardest. We will continue to build up our efforts. We support what other states are doing under the initiative launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
There are some issues on which our positions differ. They are also well-known. Today we confirmed that these differences remain, but that it is in our common interests to seek solutions to these issues through a respectful dialogue based on equal agreements and taking into account each other’s interests.
In my view, it was a useful meeting. We have agreed to remain in touch in order to move forward on all these issues, to interact where we can, make our joint efforts more effective where differences persist and to seek agreements that reflect a fair and equal balance of interests.
Also today, we had a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. We discussed Iraq and Syria, mainly in the context of the struggle against the Islamic State which is posing a growing threat that affects everyone. We also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and the issues of interaction in various formats, including the UN Security Council and other international fora.
We discussed the situation in Ukraine both with John Kerry and with Laurent Fabius. We talked about the efforts Russian leadership is exerting to ensure complete and comprehensive compliance with the agreements achieved with our support and with the cooperation of the OSCE between the Kiev authorities and the representatives of the self-defence forces. I am referring to the Minsk Protocol, signed on 5 September, and the Minsk Memorandum of 19 September 2014. The main thing now is to not “water down” the process that has been set in motion, not to divert attention to some artificial formats being proposed but to get the participants in the Minsk process to fully comply with the accords between Kiev, Lugansk and Donetsk. This applies to the cease-fire, the separation of forces, the pulling back of heavy weapons and, most importantly, the start of a comprehensive political dialogue that the Ukrainian authorities promised as early as April of this year when the foreign ministers of Russia, the US and Ukraine met in Geneva and proclaimed the need for an immediate start to a political dialogue involving all the regions and political forces in Ukraine.
These are my main impressions of the talks that have been held.
Question: Was the issue of mass graves near Donetsk raised during the talks with John Kerry? If so, what was the Secretary of State’s reaction?
Sergey Lavrov: There is no need to discuss all the episodes connected with the Ukrainian tragedy in every conversation. We have constantly and at all levels reaffirmed our position and demanded a concrete reaction on the part of the relevant international organisations. Our position is that all the crimes perpetrated during the course of the Ukrainian crisis must be investigated, beginning with the “snipers’ case” on Maidan Square, including the tragedies in Odessa and Mariupol, the Malaysian plane catastrophe, the mass graves and many other incidents that have become known to the public. We believe that international organisations, notably the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN human rights bodies, must take the initiative and assume a greater share of the responsibility for carrying through with these investigations because the Ukrainian authorities obviously are not doing enough. One would not like to suspect anyone of anything, but one does have the impression that they have something to hide. The international organisations must not allow this to happen.
Question: Were any clear promises given during your talks with Secretary of State Kerry on Ukraine about easing the sanctions, withdrawal of troops and armaments or handing over control of the border where possible?
Sergey Lavrov: John Kerry and I do not represent the warring sides. As I have said, the Ukrainian crisis can only be resolved through direct talks and the reaching of an accord between the conflicting sides. This is precisely what the Minsk process implies.
The agreements reached in Minsk on 5 and 19 September between the representatives of the Kiev authorities and the self-defence forces stipulate all the necessary steps towards settling the crisis, beginning with the cease- fire and ending with the long-promised political dialogue, which has yet to begin. US Secretary of State John Kerry and all of our other friends and colleagues from foreign countries should not try to invent something new, but should induce those they have influence on to fully and honestly comply with the existing accords. This is our position which John Kerry considers to be justified. He fully backed the Minsk accords and has urged honest compliance with them by all parties concerned.
Question: The discussion of the Iranian nuclear programme (INP) continues in Vienna. John Kerry is due there tomorrow for talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton. Another round of the Six at the level of political directors is also expected to take place. Does this imply a “brain storm” that could bring the parties to an agreement on the settlement of the INP by 24 November?
Sergey Lavrov: We are doing all we can to achieve an early and comprehensive agreement on the Iran nuclear programme. We are in contact practically on a daily basis. This week will see another meeting of the Six at the level of deputy foreign ministers and the Foreign Minister of Iran. At first glance the issues that still remain to be agreed to are not all that complicated. But, as always, before the end of the marathon talks, at the final stage, everyone wants to get a little more. I’m sure that a compromise is possible. I cannot guarantee that it will happen before 24 November. This is not a “sacred” date, we seek to achieve a result before that date, but I’m convinced that it is not about setting artificial deadlines, but about the substance and quality of the agreements. This is what we consider to be the main accomplishment. I got a feeling during my talks with John Kerry and Laurent Fabius that our partners also proceed from this principle. I hope we will achieve the result.