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Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to express my thanks to our Moroccan friends for extending such a hospitable and warm welcome to our delegation. I would like to express my special gratitude to His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco for receiving us and for the meaningful trust-based conversation covering all fields of our cooperation.
We noted that both countries are committed to fully implementing the agreements reached by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, including the 2002 Declaration on Strategic Partnership and the Statement on the Extended Strategic Partnership that was adopted as part of His Majesty’s visit to the Russian Federation in 2016.
We noted the progress in trade, economic and investment cooperation, as well as we reviewed the outcome of the regular meeting of the Intergovernmental Mixed Russian-Moroccan Commission on Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation that took place in Rabat in October 2018. We agreed on ways of promoting the effective implementation of decisions reached at this event.
We also discussed the performance under instruments signed as part of the visit by Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev to Morocco in October 2018.
We agreed to continue focusing the efforts of our respective agencies on strengthening the strategic partnership between our countries, since it is the will of both Russia and Morocco for the strategic partnership to actually materialise instead of simply remaining on paper.
During the audience with His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco and the talks with my colleague and friend Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Morocco Nasser Bourita, we reviewed topical international matters, with a special focus on regional developments. We share the view on the need to respect international law, sovereignty, territorial integrity of all countries and find solutions to crises and conflicts solely through peaceful political and diplomatic means without foreign interference and respecting the rights of the people to choose their destiny by themselves.
We talked at length on settlement processes in Syria and Libya. We believe that, just as in any other conflict, in both cases solutions must result from an inclusive dialogue bringing together all the political forces of these countries.
We stand for strengthening security in the Middle East and North Africa. We strongly believe that this would be impossible without resolving decades-old conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the one unfolding in Western Sahara. Both conflicts need to be resolved in strict compliance with the agreements set forth in the UN Security Council resolutions, including finding mutually acceptable solutions to various crisis situations with the participation of all parties.
As I have already said, we talked about the Syrian settlement. We made a detailed presentation of Russia’s efforts together with Turkey and Iran as guarantor countries in the Astana process and countries that initiated the holding of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi a year ago. We talked about the ongoing efforts to form the Constitutional Committee which is expected to begin its work in Geneva and at the end of the day serve as an important step toward implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254. What Syria needs is for the international community to step up humanitarian assistance and create conditions for the return of refugees. In this field we also see a lot of potential in terms of carrying out the UN Security Council resolutions. We are interested in Syria restoring its relations with the Arab League and coming back into the fold of the Arab “family.”
All in all, we are quite satisfied with the outcome of these talks. Once again, I would like to thank our Moroccan friends. I hope that my colleague and friend will be able to visit the Russian Federation at a time that would be convenient for both sides. I already transmitted my invitation to this effect.
Question: You visited Algeria yesterday and Morocco today, and tomorrow you will go to Tunisia. You know the region’s potential, but the region itself has been pided. What can Russia do to improve the situation in the Maghreb?
You said that progressive development is a vital indicator of relations between Morocco and Russia. What is your opinion of Morocco’s role in international and regional affairs?
Sergey Lavrov: Speaking about the Maghreb region, we would like all the Maghreb countries to have positive relations with each other, of course, especially in light of the numerous unifying factors. These include the problem of international terrorism and these countries’ security.
We have very good relations with all the Maghreb countries. We would like similar ties to exist between the regional countries as well. You asked whether Russia can help remove the obstacles that are hindering the development of such ties. We would be glad to help in any way and form that is acceptable to our colleagues in Morocco, Algeria and other countries. If there is anything they need, we will be delighted to offer our good services, but only if this is in the interests of both sides and only if we are asked to do so.
As for Morocco’s role in international affairs, we highly respect the Moroccan foreign policy. Thanks to the efforts of His Majesty the King, Morocco has maintained stability in a rather turbulent region. We would like such stability also to rein in the other regional countries. Morocco plays an important role in relations with its African partners. It promotes projects that bring African countries together and are designed to help Africa take a befitting place on the international stage.
I would also like to say that we see eye to eye with the Moroccan delegation at the UN. We spoke about this today. We do not support the initiatives that can infringe on the interests of other countries. We never work against one another. We maintain friendly relations, but we do not ally against anyone. We are friends because this is in the interest of each side and so as to move forward in all spheres on the basis of balanced interests.
Question: An emergency meeting on Venezuela will be held at the UN Security Council tomorrow on the initiative of the US. [US Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo has called on the Security Council members to support the opposition leader in Venezuela in the interests of international security. What are your expectations of this meeting?
Sergey Lavrov: We know the position of the United States and the countries that try to keep in the wake of the US policy. Their policy on Venezuela, just as on a number of other countries, is destructive and I don’t even have to prove this. Everyone knows about their open encouragement of a state coup. I commented on this subject in Algiers yesterday. We consider this behaviour unacceptable and undermining the principles of the UN Charter and the norms of international relations. We will uphold this position at the UN Security Council if it is decided to hold a meeting on Venezuela.
Question: President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish colleague, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, discussed the Adana agreement during their meeting. Do Russia and Turkey plan to sign a final agreement on a security zone in Syria?
Sergey Lavrov: Speaking about Syria and the talks President Putin and President Erdogan held in Moscow on January 23, we have once again reaffirmed our position, and our Turkish colleagues have unconditionally supported it, that the ultimate goal of all sides is to restore the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.
The Adana agreement, which you mentioned, was signed between Turkey and Syria in 1998 to allay Turkish security concerns. The Syrian authorities signed an agreement that stipulates certain commitments. We believe that this agreement remains in force. To the best of my knowledge, the signatory countries think likewise.
As for the current development and discussions on the buffer or security zone, it cannot be a subject of agreement between Russia and Turkey because the Syrian government must take part in such discussions. It is clear to everyone that the Syrian government must ultimately resume control over the entire Syrian territory, including this security zone. I am sure that this would be the best option and a solution to all the regional problems. Foreign interference must be kept to a minimum. This is the underlying principle of our work within the framework of the Astana process. The next Astana meeting will be held in February and will be attended by the three guarantor countries (Russia, Turkey and Iran), delegates from the Syrian government and the opposition, as well as UN and Jordanian observers. I believe that the entire range of subjects will be discussed there, because Astana is the only platform where the Syrian government can talk directly with the opposition. This is what we are trying to ensure. Apart from rooting out terrorism in Syria and tackling humanitarian matters, such as the return of refugees back home and confidence building, we must also move forward on the political track. Thanks to their painstaking work with the Syrian government and the opposition, the guarantor countries of the Astana format have prepared proposals on the format of the Constitutional Committee. We hope that the committee will hold a constituent meeting in the near future.
Question: What can the international community do towards rapprochement between the Palestinian side and a Palestinian-Israeli settlement?
Sergey Lavrov: The main thing is to encourage Palestinians to restore their unity. Disunity and deep and growing contradictions between Ramallah and Gaza are hindering the creation of a Palestinian state within the framework of the two-state solution, under which Palestine and Israel will live side by side in safety and as good neighbours.
We appreciate the efforts taken by our Egyptian colleagues to help rebuild Palestinian unity. But we also see a deep pide between Fatah and Hamas. We strongly hope that the external players who can influence the Palestinian sides will act in the interests of Palestinians rather than use differences between Ramallah and Gaza in their own geopolitical interests in this explosion prone region.
Question: Do you think it expedient to hold a general election in Libya in spring 2019 as planned?
Sergey Lavrov: Today we held an in-depth discussion on the Libyan crisis at a meeting with His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco and also at the talks held by our delegations. We said more than once that arbitrarily setting a date for anything is counterproductive. The Libyan election was first announced after a meeting in Paris in May 2018. It was set for December, but it turned out later that it was an unrealistic decision.
Like on many other topics, together with our Moroccan colleagues, we share the opinion that the main thing is to ensure that all the political forces in Libya come to an agreement on the need to make a decision. Only when they reach an agreement will the election be held, in one form or another. The most important part is to coordinate the rules of the game before launching a political process. This has not been done so far. Russia is working with all the political forces in Libya, encouraging consensus on the rules of the game and on the principles of life in a unitary state where people have lived for a long time without any sustainable institutions responsible for organising life in the country. It is a difficult task. I don’t think that setting a new date for the election should be a priority at the moment.
Question: When will a Russia-Africa summit be held?
Sergey Lavrov: When President Putin took part in the BRICS summit in Johannesburg and an outreach meeting with invited representatives from several African countries, we proposed holding a Russia-Africa summit which is scheduled to be held this autumn. We are discussing this with our African friends. As soon as a decision is taken, the Presidential Executive Office will make a statement to this effect.
Question (retranslated from French): Some Algerian media outlets have reported that you drew a parallel between the problems of Palestine and Western Sahara. What can you say to that?
Sergey Lavrov: There is only one parallel between the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the problems of Western Sahara: no solution has been found for them over the past decades. There is nothing else in common between them. I said in Algiers yesterday that we must accelerate the settlement of both conflicts.
The Palestinian problem must be settled on the basis of the UN Security Council and General Assembly decisions, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative. And a solution to the problems of Western Sahara must be based on the UN Security Council decisions taken with regard to this particular region, not any other situation.
We want to find a solution to both these conflicts through an agreement between the sides involved. I believe that we fully agree on this with our Moroccan colleagues.
Building of the Russian Embassy in Kingston