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Ladies and gentlemen,
Talks with my Colombian colleague Carlos Holmes Trujillo were held in a constructive atmosphere and were substantive and useful. As a former ambassador to Russia, Mr Trujillo is well versed in all nuances of our relations.
Today, we discussed avenues of our future interaction. We welcomed the positive dynamics in our political contacts, including contacts at the top and high levels. We spoke in favour of a further expansion of inter-parliamentary ties and more intensive interaction between agencies and ministries.
We have a sufficient number of promising trade and investment projects that are in the works. I am referring to projects in energy, oil production, the car-making industry, railway engineering, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and high technology. We have agreed to facilitate their practical implementation, including in the context of the upcoming 7th meeting of the Intergovernmental Russian-Colombian Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, scheduled for June 4-5, which Mr Trujillo co-chairs with Justice Minister of Russia Alexander Konovalov.
We have also agreed to facilitate direct ties between business communities, including via the Colombian-Russian Chamber of Commerce.
As regards the legal framework, we are working on numerous documents that will strengthen it and make it possible to raise our interaction to an even higher practical level. The documents are being drafted by emergencies ministries, customs services, law enforcement agencies, and education ministries.
Speaking about education, I would like to note that every year we grant Colombia nearly 90 scholarships. All of them are in demand. Soon we hope to sign an agreement on the mutual recognition of diplomas and academic degrees, which will certainly motivate citizens of both countries to receive an education in Russia or Colombia.
The Intergovernmental Commission has a working group on defence industry cooperation. We have discussed the state of affairs in this area as well, including the servicing of aircraft that were supplied by our country under contracts signed [with Colombia] as well as prospects for new deliveries of military goods from the Russian Federation to Colombia.
We appreciate Mr Trujillo’s decision to attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). Among other things, he will take part in the work of the traditional Latin American section. We hope that the discussion of trade and economic cooperation by Forum participants from Latin America and the Caribbean will facilitate the development of common approaches to regional interaction.
We talked about regional affairs in a political context, as well as about cooperation at international organisations.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Colombia Carlos Holmes Trujillo informed me about the situation in Colombia, primarily in the context of the need to implement the 2016 Final Agreement on Peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a member of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia monitoring the implementation of this Agreement, Russia has a stake in seeing the situation stabilise as soon as possible. This is important for both Colombia itself and for the security and stability of the entire adjacent region. We have confirmed our readiness to help our Colombian colleagues through the UN Security Council and give them a hand in tackling socioeconomic development tasks in the post-conflict period.
Regarding other matters of international affairs, we noted with satisfaction that our countries invariably advocate respect for the primacy of international law and call for strengthening the central role of the UN where we cooperate productively. We are grateful to Colombia for supporting many of our initiatives. We advocate a collective search for answers to contemporary challenges and threats, as well as a respectful attitude towards the cultural and civilisational persity of the world’s peoples.
We once again voiced our interest in expanding our cooperation at the UN and in other multilateral formats, including regional and sub-regional organisations in the Latin American region and the Caribbean basin where Colombia is located. This includes cooperation in the context of Russia’s relations with these organisations and in the context of encouraging contacts between them and the Eurasian Economic Union.
We reaffirmed our mutual desire to step up cooperation in the fight against terrorism, extremism, illegal drug trafficking, organised crime and in maintaining information security.
Certainly, we talked about the situation in Venezuela. The partners reaffirmed their commitment to resolving disagreements in this country solely by political and diplomatic means. This also conforms to the position of the Russian Federation. We called for launching an all-inclusive dialogue between political forces in Venezuela. Of course, we reaffirmed our rejection of any forms of interference in the domestic affairs of this country and other countries, in violation of the UN Charter.
I believe that the talks were very useful and timely. I am grateful to my colleague for his reciprocal invitation to visit Colombia, and I will certainly take advantage of this invitation.
Question: The United States has been threatening to use force since the crisis in Venezuela began to get worse. I would like to ask you, to what extent Russia is prepared to support the Government of Nicolas Maduro?
Sergey Lavrov: I would like to recall that we have repeatedly and emphatically opposed the use of force and any forms of interference in the domestic affairs of Venezuela or any other state. Today, I have reaffirmed this position in my opening remarks. It is impossible to resolve the conflict by such threats. These threats antagonise society and provide the opposition with an illusion that it can illegally gain power with foreign military support. We cannot and will not support this.
Regarding the question to what extent will Russia be prepared to support Venezuela, the answer is contained in the framework of international law. There is the UN Charter. Just like any other country, Venezuela is guided by its principles, and we will therefore call for resolving the crisis precisely on this basis.
Question: Do you agree with those who believe that Russia plays a similar role in Venezuela and Syria?
Sergey Lavrov: Speaking of the commonalities between Venezuela and Syria and Russia’s role, we suggest that the problem be addressed through all-inclusive national dialogue in both cases.
Regarding Syria, Russia played a key role in passing UN Security Council Resolution 2254 based on a clear understanding of the fact that the people of Syria alone should determine their country’s future. That same resolution also calls for launching a dialogue between the Government and all members of the opposition.
I believe that Venezuela also requires a similar approach, and I see this as a congruence.
Building of the Russian Embassy in Kingston