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We are completing our talks in Kuwait. We have met with the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, and with Prime Minister Jaber Al Mubarak Al Hamad Al Sabah and have held talks with the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah.
We pointed out that Russian-Kuwaiti relations are developing well in the areas that were outlined during a visit to Russia made by the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, in November 2015. Following that visit, we have had contacts at the level of Russian and Kuwaiti ministers, primarily economics ministers and also energy ministers and foreign ministers. My Kuwaiti colleague and I maintain regular dialogue.
We pointed out that bilateral trade increased by 14 per cent last year and by 43 per cent in the first months of this year. This may mean that our trade will soon exceed $500 million, which is not the limit, of course.
Our companies are doing very well in the area of investment. The Russian Direct Investment Fund has created a common platform with the Kuwait Investment Authority. They are actively investing in specific projects.
We are glad that our parliaments also maintain regular contacts. In October of this year, Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly Marzouq Al Ghanim will attend the 137th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, which will be held in Russia.
We have similar views on international topics and share views on the key problems in the region, including Syria, Libya, Yemen and the situation concerning Qatar. Our Kuwaiti partners are willing to provide mediation assistance to settle the latter problem. We are ready to promote this in the forms that would be acceptable to all sides involved.
We maintain contacts with absolutely all Persian Gulf countries. We want the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) to be united. The GCC is a vital player in the nascent polycentric world. We have and highly value our close relations with it.
I would like to remind you that Russia has been promoting a certain initiative, the Russian Security Concept for the Persian Gulf, for many years now. It is gratifying that Kuwait, alongside other GCC members such as Bahrain and Oman, supported this Russian initiative from the very beginning, as our colleagues pointed out today.
Of course, we also discussed Palestine. Kuwait and Russia are equally concerned about the deadlocked talks on the Middle East settlement. We believe that the Palestinian topic must not be pushed onto the back burner, because we must give special attention to this crisis, which has been described as one of the oldest crises or the mother of all conflicts in the region, especially in the current situation. We have agreed to continue to closely coordinate our positions on all of these matters.
On January 1, 2018, Kuwait will take a non-permanent member seat at the UN Security Council, which will become an additional platform for this close coordination. I am convinced that the Kuwaiti contribution to the efforts of the UN Security Council will help promote constructive and non-confrontational approaches and the search for generally acceptable compromises.
Question: Russia maintains friendly relations with all parties to the Persian Gulf conflict. Can Russia, while supporting the Kuwaiti initiative, act as an intermediary in the settlement of this conflict?
Sergei Lavrov: We support the Kuwaiti initiative and do not intend to compete with anyone. It is true that we maintain good relations with all countries that have become involved in this difficult circumstance. We believe that the Kuwaiti initiative should be supported by everyone who can influence this situation positively.
We will always provide support in the forms that will be acceptable to all those parties involved.
Question: What does Kuwait think about the latest progress made towards a settlement in Syria, such as direct talks held with Russian mediation?
Sergei Lavrov: Our partners have expressed their appreciation at Russia’s efforts towards this end. They supported the Astana process from its very beginning. The agreements that have been reached in Astana through the mediation of Russia, Turkey and Iran in the presence of observers from Jordan and the United States and with contribution from the UN have not remained on paper but are being implemented, as observers have noticed with satisfaction, although not as quickly as we wanted, but the situation is not simple at all. Anyway, three de-escalation zones have been created and the fourth one is in the making near Idlib. The next meeting will soon be held in the Astana format, where, I hope, these agreements will be formalised.
Kuwait has highly assessed Russia’s role. Today our colleague, Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah pointed out that the chances the political process now has, including at the Geneva talks, would not have come about without Astana.
Building of the Russian Embassy in Kingston