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Ladies and gentlemen,
We have held a substantive discussion.
Madagascar is our long-time partner in Africa. Today, we have reaffirmed our mutual desire to step up cooperation in all areas.
We have stated our joint interest in expanding trade, economic and investment ties. Promising avenues, charted by us, include geological prospecting, healthcare, personnel training programmes, tourism, the transport infrastructure and military and technical cooperation. We have agreed to assist business circles in establishing and strengthening direct contacts.
We have exchanged opinions on key contemporary issues on which our positions either coincide or are very close. Our countries consistently advocate the democratisation of interstate contacts that should hinge on international law and respect for the peoples’ aspirations to independently determine their own future. Obviously, we have noted that there is no alternative to the settlement of any conflicts by peaceful, political and diplomatic methods.
We positively assessed the level of cooperation at the UN. Russia is grateful to its Malagasy partners for their unwavering support of our initiatives, primarily the resolution on combating the glorification of Nazism, as well as the projects on promoting transparency and confidence in space, and international information security.
We see eye to eye regarding the settlement of various conflicts in Africa, primarily in countries such as South Sudan and the Central African Republic, and the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa.
We are unanimous in our belief that the Africans themselves should play the decisive role in solving their problems or, as they say, provide African solutions to African problems. The international community should provide necessary support to the African Union and subregional organisations in their efforts to stabilise the remaining conflict areas. Russia reaffirms its commitment, including as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to continue to contribute to strengthening peace and stability in Africa.
In this regard, we have also discussed reforming the UN Security Council. We are supportive of the African Union’s consolidated position on this matter. We believe that under-representation of the developing regions of the world is the main flaw of the UN Security Council. So, we will push for any reform to, first, be based on broad consent and, second, by all means, to address the issue of representation for Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Russia welcomes the integration processes unfolding in Africa and supports the African states’ efforts to boost the effectiveness of regional interaction mechanisms. We see this as an important component in ensuring the dynamic development of all states in that region.
Among the initiatives that are designed to strengthen ties between Russia and Africa, I would like to mention the Russia-Africa Public Forum, which opened today, at the opening of which Mr Minister and I had the pleasure to speak. We confirmed our commitment to promote ties in other areas.
We are pleased to note that the Russia-Africa forum will be held at the parliamentary level in the near future, followed by a Russia-Africa business forum. All of that will serve as important steps for laying the way to a full-blown Russia-Africa summit, as discussed at the meeting of the BRICS member countries with their African partners in Johannesburg in July.
We touched upon a number of other international issues such as, above all, the Middle East and in particular, the situation with the Syria crisis settlement. In this connection, we noted the increasing importance of forming a broad anti-terrorist front in order to effectively combat this universal evil. The corresponding services and law enforcement agencies of Russia and Madagascar are improving and increasing the effectiveness of interaction on anti-terrorism and combating drug trafficking and organised crime.
I would like to thank my colleague for good talks and the invitation to visit Antananarivo.
Question: Today, you will meet with National Security Adviser John Bolton. Prior to his visit to Moscow, President Trump announced US withdrawal from the INF Treaty. How will Trump's decision affect the talks between Moscow and Washington that were scheduled to be held during the meeting of the presidents of Russia and the United States in Helsinki? It is expected that, by mutual agreement, Syria, North Korea, the Iranian nuclear programme and other issues will be discussed during the talks.
Sergey Lavrov: With regard to the US position on the INF Treaty, I have not yet seen President Trump’s decision. I heard about this intention and a rather contradictory reaction, including in the United States itself. Some support this plan, while others believe it is the wrong thing to do and call for not destroying the remaining vehicle for limiting strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons. Still others believe that this statement is not about withdrawing from the treaty, but a proposal to revise it (I think Senator Bob Corker said this), so at this point it won’t be productive to read tea leaves. We will wait for official clarification from our US colleagues. If John Bolton is ready to do so, then we will, of course, listen to what he has to say and then assess the situation. If they plan to do so through other channels, we will also be ready for such contacts and will then determine our position proceeding not from plans, but from clearly stated decisions.
The INF Treaty follows the procedure described in it, which indeed provides for a possibility of withdrawing from it, but this procedure has not been used yet.
Regarding our cooperation with the United States on other matters, in particular, the regional affairs that you mentioned (Syria, the Korean Peninsula, the Iranian nuclear programme), such talks are not formalised. These subjects are on the agenda of our dialogue. As you may be aware, we have a “deconflicting” channel on Syria. We would be willing to pursue more substantive cooperation in looking for ways to resolve the Syrian conflict as efficiently as possible, above all, to start the refugee return process, to begin political talks and to ensure the final elimination of the remaining “terrorist internationals” in Syria. However, the United States is not ready for such comprehensive cooperation.
Recently, fairly productive consultations on the Korean Peninsula between Foreign Deputy Minister Igor Morgulov and Special Representative of the US Department of State for North Korea Stephen Biegun were held in Moscow.
Our position on the Iranian nuclear programme is well known. The United States has officially decided to withdraw from it, and we consider this a big misstep. The other participants in this agreement share this viewpoint. I am talking about the European Union and China. Intensive talks are now underway between those who remain parties to the agreement in order to prevent a serious negative effect from the US decisions on the economic ties of the other countries with Iran.
Question: As a follow-up to the INF Treaty, what does Russia think about US threats to revise the terms of the START Treaty or not to renew it altogether after 2021?
Sergey Lavrov: With regard to the INF Treaty, as I said, commenting now on this situation and any hypothetical consequences is not a very productive thing to do. To reiterate, this decision has not yet been made. We were just told about the intention to do this. I mentioned a rather contradictory reaction in the United States and, of course, you heard about the reaction in the leading European capitals, such as Berlin and Paris. There were only hasty and eager statements in support of the allegedly adopted US decision on withdrawal from the INF Treaty from the NATO spokesperson. She was in a hurry to emphasise loyalty to any decision that might be made in Washington. The UK Secretary of State for Defence also said something along the lines of support for any and all actions by the United States, but he is also known for an approach that lines up strictly with what is said from across the ocean.
The other capitals express alarm. Of course, as we have said more than once (President Putin recently confirmed this at the Valdai forum in Sochi), any action in this area will be met with counteraction, because strategic stability can only be achieved on the basis of parity. Such parity will be maintained in all circumstances. We are responsible for global stability. We hope the United States will not give up its share of responsibility, either.
I presume that such an approach should also be applied to a START-3 Treaty. We have repeatedly, and President Putin has said this, expressed our willingness, as envisaged by the treaty itself, to renew it after 2021 when the first 10 year term expires, but of course, we will be ready to talk with the United States on what needs to be done.
There are matters both with regard to the INF Treaty and the START-3 Treaty that must be discussed non-publicly in accordance with the procedures laid down in each of these treaties, including as part of established special expert intergovernmental mechanisms to discuss any issues that may arise.
We formulated our approaches with regard to the INF Treaty and START-3 quite a long time ago and did so specifically. We are interested in the United States providing us with their responses. In turn, we will respond to the questions that the United States has for us. To do so, we need to use the mechanisms that exist in accordance with these documents.
Colleagues, in closing, I have a pleasant mission. As was mentioned earlier, the Minister has worked for almost 15 years as an ambassador here. He made a truly invaluable contribution to developing our cooperation across all areas, and was always prepared to do his best to overcome challenges and to develop interaction projects that were beneficial for our citizens, peoples and countries. We decided to award the Minister with the Russian Foreign Ministry’s badge of distinction For Contribution to International Cooperation.
Building of the Russian Embassy in Kingston