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Ladies and gentlemen,
We have held very good talks. We have discussed the current issues of our countries’ relations as well as issues on the regional and international agenda. We have specified a number of cooperation areas we had discussed during my visit to Maputo this March.
We have reaffirmed mutual commitment to promoting trade and economic cooperation. We believe joint efforts in geological exploration and mineral extraction as well as telecommunications, energy and agriculture are the main priorities.
We enjoy mutual support for Russian businesses’ growing interest in working in Africa, in particular, in Mozambique. We especially welcome the Mozambique delegation’s active and engaged participation in the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), where Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mozambique Jose Pacheco was representing Mozambique’s official circles. We are satisfied with the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation held in Maputo in late April. The participants in the meeting agreed on next steps, which are quite promising and result-oriented.
We praised the training Mozambique specialists receive at Russian universities in civilian professions as well as cadets and law enforcement officers trained at the educational institutions of the Russian Ministry of Defence and Ministry of the Interior. We confirmed that we are ready to consider the possibility of increasing the number of students in these areas.
Speaking about the international agenda, we have the identical view on the need to build international relations on the basis of international law, respect for national identity and the wish and right of nations to determine their destiny. We noted the high level of our efforts’ coordination in the UN and other multilateral platforms. We agreed to develop and strengthen this coordination.
Our friends gave us their detailed estimation of the situation in Africa. Russia and Mozambique have consistently maintained that all the problems, conflicts and crises that, unfortunately, still remain on this continent, should be resolved based on the approaches of Africans themselves; of course, with moral, political and material support from the UN and the UN Security Council on behalf of the international community.
We pointed out Mozambique’s very active and ambitious work in regional organisations, such as the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, as well as its participation as a mediator in resolving a number of conflicts, in particular, on Madagascar. We discussed possibilities of strengthening Russian-African cooperation in the context of forming a continental free trade area: the process initiated by the African South, where Mozambique is actively promoting integration projects. We also discussed the prospects of establishing contacts between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the African Union Commission, the area where we already have a number of proposals, which are being analysed by the corresponding organisations.
We share the same view on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa: it is necessary to join our efforts in countering terrorism without double standards, based on the recognition that flirting with terrorists in order to achieve opportunistic geopolitical goals will not result in anything good. We can see it once again in the negative outcome of the events of 2011 in Libya, when several NATO countries attacked it in violation of a UN Security Council decision; events that still affect the Central African Republic, Mali, Chad and other African countries south of Sahara.
In general, we see how we should develop relations in a mutually beneficial way in all areas. I firmly believe that Russia and Mozambique will achieve new results in its economic and political dialogue as well as in the humanitarian, cultural and education areas. I thank my colleague and friend for a very useful meeting.
Question: How does Russia regard the ramping up of ISIS activities in eastern Syria, not far from Al-Tanf, which is controlled by US military? Could you also comment on reports from several media outlets about US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield preparing a settlement plan for southern Syria that includes withdrawing the US troops from Al-Tanf? Would you comment on Israeli media reports that Russia may ask Iranian forces to move from the border with Israel?
Sergey Lavrov: We have accumulated a lot of evidence that strange things are going on in Al-Tanf. The area is not especially important for organising counter-terrorism operations from the military point of view. In practice, we can see that military groups, including those that, according to our information, are tied to ISIS and other extremist groups in one way or another, are seen there more often, including near the Rukban refugee camp. We have discussed this with our US colleagues many times and drawn their attention to the fact that this does not comply with our agreements on how to run things in order to de-escalate southern Syria. Our diplomats continue this work; there are also regular contacts between the military.
As for media reports (I have not seen them, but I believe you) that the US is preparing a plan that includes withdrawal of the US troops from Al-Tanf, it is noteworthy that this zone has been artificially created and the military utility of this zone is unclear. This is what we tell our US colleagues during contacts between our military agencies. If they arrive at the same conclusions, we would expect them to follow through on this.
Speaking about southern Syria and the Israeli border, let me note that, according to the initial agreement to establish a de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria, all non-Syrian forces would eventually withdraw from this part of the Syrian Arab Republic. Of course, such withdrawal should be mutual, it should work both ways. This work, which continues and should continue, should result in a situation where only representatives of the Syrian armed forces are on the Syrian side of the Syria-Israel border. I can confirm that this approach is the basis of the agreement on the southern de-escalation zone.
Building of the Russian Embassy in Kingston