I’m very pleased with the promising talks we had on bilateral issues in the Ethiopian capital, Addis-Ababa, with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom as well as with the talks at the African Union headquarters with the Chairperson of the AU Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Relations between Russia and the African Union are based on decades of friendship, mutual respect and solidarity. Russia supported the liberation of the African countries from their colonial dependence, rendered them practical assistance in building their states and strengthening their sovereignty at a time when this was not popular with many Western politicians. Today these long-standing traditions of friendship and solidarity form the basis of our relations and our very impressive plans.
We completely agree with our African friends that the key issue today is ensuring that the African states have sound economies. Russia and Russian companies, both state-owned and private, see African countries as reliable and highly promising partners in mutually beneficial projects. Cooperative projects, including the peaceful use of nuclear energy, are increasing in number. Russia’s cooperation with Algeria, the RSA and some other African countries envisage such plans. There are also plans in other energy fields, for example in hydroelectric power and the development of the continent’s infrastructure, something Chairperson Dlamini-Zuma was speaking about today. We have very rich traditions in humanitarian activities, in education, science and culture. Today Ms Chairperson expressed an interest in giving higher priority to scientific-technical cooperation between Russia and the African states. We are willing to do this and we will do this.
Russia and the African Union are engaged in a very substantial, trusting and mutually beneficial political dialogue. We proceed from our common approaches in international affairs as regards the need to respect the supremacy of law in international relations, strictly adhere to the standards and principles of the UN Charter, respect the rights of the peoples to determine their own destinies, and to settle disputes peacefully without any unilateral action, especially the unilateral use of force. We completely agree with our African friends that the conflicts that unfortunately persist on the African continent put an obstacle in the way of its social and economic development. That’s why we are interested in an early settlement of all the disputes which unfortunately still exist here. We are convinced that the decisive role in setting the political framework of settlement for all these conflicts should be played by the African Union which should be supported by the world community as represented by the UN. Africans themselves are best equipped to sort out how to promote national dialogue in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and other countries where crisis situations still exist.
A couple of years ago the world community failed to back the African Union’s initiative aimed at settling the situation in Libya. Russia was ready to support this initiative, but our Western colleagues refused to do it. As a result, instead of a peaceful settlement through national dialogue and reconciliation we saw external intervention, a civil war and the current situation in Libya which poses a growing threat of the spread of terrorism to many African countries. No one has the right to repeat that mistake. Henceforth everything the African Union proposes should be considered with respect for the opinion of Africans. The principled conceptual approach of our African friends to the settlement of any disputes through national dialogue in search of national reconciliation is universal and applicable in all these situations, be it Madagascar, South Sudan, Somalia or the situation in Ukraine which we discussed today. We are grateful to our African colleagues for their understanding of the Russian approach to the problem.
I am sure that the Memorandum of Understanding signed today between Russia and the African Union Commission concerning the mechanism of political consultation will enable us to develop more intensively a productive interaction and coordinate our moves in the international arena. I appreciate Ms Dlamini-Zuma for the hospitality accorded our delegation and I invite her to pay a return visit to Russia at a time convenient for her.
Question: From time to time reports from east Ukraine speak of shelling there. Do you think that under these conditions it’s possible to say that the ceasefire is being observed?
The Ukrainian Defence Minister, Valery Geletey, said a few days ago that some NATO countries were ready to supply arms to Ukraine and that his country should think about going nuclear. What is your comment?
Sergey Lavrov: As regards the ceasefire that was stipulated in the protocol signed in Minsk between the Kiev authorities and the representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, it is monitored by an OSCE mission which regularly submits reports. They reflect the incidents that still take place. But in general our assessment and the assessments of our colleagues in other countries, including the European Union, is that the ceasefire is holding and the incidents that are still occurring should gradually stop. Based on the reports of the OSCE observers, one can conclude that a number of incidents, some of them serious enough, have been provoked by the official representatives of the Ukrainian armed forces. We expect that Ukrainian leadership will take measures to stop such incidents. Such measures should be taken above all by the Ukrainian Defence Ministry. The Defence Minister would do well to attend to this rather than air speculations about arms from NATO countries flowing into Ukraine, something the members of the Alliance themselves deny. And of course he should stop threatening that Ukraine will renounce its non-nuclear status. I don’t think anyone would let him do that, including the Western countries which have the decisive influence on Kiev.
Question (addressed to Dlamini-Zuma): Europe is Africa’s main trading partner. Because of the situation in Ukraine some European countries have imposed sanctions against Russia. Don’t you think that cooperation with Russia could affect Africa’s relations with Europe?
Sergey Lavrov (answering after Dlamini-Zuma): I would like to add that the European Union should get used to the fact that Africa has its own voice.