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updated 7:27 AM UTC, Nov 9, 2017

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s address at the Fifth Moscow Conference on International Security, Moscow, April 27, 2016

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Mr Shoigu,

Colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Friends,

The Moscow Conference on International Security has become traditional. This is the fifth such conference and it has brought together a representative body of participants, something that makes it possible to hold an in depth professional discussion on challenges to global and regional security.

Regrettably, the modern world has not received a clean bill of health from politicians and experts, and the news is more and more discouraging from year to year. The same can be said about the growth of the potential for conflict in international relations, the faltering of anti-crisis mechanisms and the destabilising processes that are engulfing regions that only recently were considered entirely safe. In this environment, Russia never tires of calling for a serious discussion oriented towards solving common strategic problems. We hope that the discussions at this venue will be steeped precisely in this spirit.

This conference’s packed agenda embraces different regions – from the Middle East to Asia Pacific. But, as is logical, its focus is international terrorism. The unprecedentedly sweeping terrorist operations are directed against the entire human civilisation and represent a system-wide challenge to the world order based on international law and civilised behaviour.

 

A few months ago, radicals in Syria and Iraq were impermissibly close to overrunning a major Middle East capital city, something that would have enabled them to advance several moves at a go towards the utopian, if no less destructive, goal of creating a world caliphate based on an extremist ideology and medieval forms of public organisation. Russia’s decision to send to Syria, in response to its leaders’ appeal, the Aerospace Forces has been dictated by a clear understanding of the need to prevent this course of developments. Russia is the only power that has demonstrated realism in the Syrian conflict. This is not what I say; this is a remark by the former French Foreign Minister Francois Fillon. Coordinated with the government forces and later with the patriotic opposition squads, the Aerospace Forces’ operations made it possible to push back the terrorists and lay the groundwork for ceasefire agreements, delivery of humanitarian aid to those who need it, and the start of political settlement in Syria.

This has become possible in the context of Russia-US collaboration. Realism has been demonstrated in this matter as has a truly responsible approach. Not only did this help to establish close coordination between the two countries’ militaries but also made it possible for Moscow and Washington to play the role of co-chairs in the effort to settle the Syrian crisis. Other partners from the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) made and continue to make their contribution as well. In effect, this work is an advance towards implementing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to create a broad-based antiterrorist front, which he addressed to the UN General Assembly.

Of course, there are still lots of obstacles ahead of us. In order for us to be able to cope with terrorist aggression – which will certainly require quite a bit of time and effort – it is imperative to learn all our lessons and say no to the actions and policy decisions that have sent the Middle East and North Africa in a downward spiral to overall degradation with still unclear outcomes. This concerns recognising, not only in words, but in real politics, the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world and the right of nations to determine their own destiny, without any foreign-imposed recipes or values. Otherwise, extremists will continue to recruit their supporters peddling violence as the only way to uphold their identity for the peoples who are not at the top of global rankings.

It is imperative to resolutely stop trying to use terrorist groups as a tool in fighting for a place in the new regional balance of power, or for settling scores with a regime that fell out of someone’s grace. It is extremely dangerous to portray Middle Eastern conflicts as sectarian strife, including the Sunni-Shiite conflict. Clearly, the stake on creating mono-confessional societies not only contradicts modern realities, but is also a recipe for making the conflicts last for years and decades. A reliable settlement in any country, be it Syria, Iraq, Libya, or Yemen, can only be achieved on an inclusive basis, with the participation of all major ethnic, religious, and political groups. Based on this premise, we continue to insist on including the Syrian Kurds in the talks about the future of their country in full compliance with the roadmap enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on the Syrian settlement.

The criminal activity of ISIS and other terrorist groups involves the use of toxic agents, including full-featured chemical warfare agents. We know that terrorists now have access to pertinent technical documentation, have at their disposal chemical weapons production facilities, and are hiring foreign specialists.

In this regard, in early March, Russia advanced an initiative to use the Conference on Disarmament to develop the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Chemical Terrorism. Our partners got interested, and a number of them have already suggested expanding the possible scope of the Convention by including measures against biological terrorist threats. We are convinced that if these ideas are carried through, the international community will have an effective tool to counter the terrorist threats associated with the spread of weapons of mass destruction or related materials.

Russia is interested in building a democratic and prosperous Middle East. We presume that our international partners are guided by the same goal. Without a doubt, halting negative dynamics in the area affected by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the return of Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table would be helpful in achieving it. Russia will continue its efforts in this area. We will promote our other ideas with an eye towards defusing the situation in the Middle East and North Africa. In particular, we recently provided an updated version of our Concept of Security in the Gulf Area to the states in question.

The situation in a number of other regions, including Afghanistan, remains unstable. That country is also affected by toxic exposure to ISIS. We believe that interaction between Russia and our Central Asian partners, China, India, and Pakistan within regional organisations, particularly, the CSTO and SCO, where Afghanistan and all its neighbours are represented in various roles, should play a special role in overcoming the challenges and security threats emanating from Afghanistan. I would like to welcome Mr Karzai in this audience, with whom we had a constructive discussion yesterday.

We are deeply concerned with the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and Pyongyang's persistent disregard for the international community’s opinions that are expressed in relevant UN Security Council resolutions. We hope that the North Korean side will refrain from irresponsible actions and become aware of the illusory nature of its attempts to achieve the recognition of its nuclear status. At the same time, we believe that the desire of certain countries to use this situation as a pretext for increasing their military presence in Northeast Asia is dangerous and counterproductive.

We are convinced that creating reliable mechanisms for ensuring equal and indivisible security based on a non-aligned approach and  principles of respect for international law, as well as the refusal to carry out or support any actions aimed at overthrowing governments or undermining the stability of other states will promote trust and stability in the Asia-Pacific Region. The dialogue initiated by Russia as part of the East Asia Summit to create a reliable, comprehensive, and appropriate security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region remains absolutely relevant. Four rounds of this dialogue with the participation of all the countries of the East Asia Summit have already been held. The participants discussed the ideas advanced by ​​Russia, China, India, and Indonesia. The fifth round is scheduled to be held this summer.

It is clear to us that a decisive turn towards improving the situation in these regions and the world in general can be expected only if all key international players joint their efforts. It sounds like an axiom, but the actions that are based on it again and again run into notions, such as exceptionality, the pursuit of global leadership, and attempts to ensure one’s own interests at the expense of the security and interests of others.

As confirmed by a recently held meeting of the Russia-NATO Council at the level of ambassadors, which  was held upon the urgent request of NATO following a long period of inactivity, also initiated by NATO, European security remains at an impasse. Parenthetically, among the practical cooperation projects that the North Atlantic Alliance easily sacrificed to political ambitions and put on hold, there was a joint counter-terrorism project as well.

I fully agree with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker who said that building a robust security architecture in Europe is impossible without Russia. Our other European counterparts also say so. But is what our Western partners are doing now consistent with this goal? What we see on the NATO Eastern flank is the continuous rotation of US troops and the troops of its allies, almost daily military exercises, and the construction of new military infrastructure. Taken together, these steps are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the NATO-Russia Founding Act and alter the military and political landscape in a major way, especially in northeastern Europe, making it an area of heightened tension instead of a peaceful and stable area in the military sense, which is was only recently.

The actions of the United States and its allies in the sphere of the global missile defence system are a major disruptive factor that is fraught with strategic stability risks. Lifting concerns related to Iran's nuclear programme has not led to any adjustments to these plans despite what the US leaders proclaimed in 2009. The emergence of the elements of the US global missile defence system in Northeast Asia, particularly, the Korean Peninsula, would deal a new blow to regional and international stability.

With NATO leadership officially stating the need to “contain” Russia and build up the alliance’s forces near our borders, the suggestions of our Western partners to “significantly upgrade” confidence-building measures, security, and transparency appear strange. Of course, Russia is not against improving confidence in the military sphere, but it must work both ways and take into account the interests of all parties. For this dialogue to be serious and productive, it is imperative to create proper conditions and one of the key ones is the West abandoning its anti-Russian policies, which are carried out, by the way, to the accompaniment of “incantations” that Russia shouldn’t perceive NATO as a threat.

It is necessary to finally turn off “the powerful generator” of tension in European affairs, which is the Ukraine crisis. The only way to go is to honestly implement the Minsk Package of Measures and, above all, force the Kiev authorities to honour their obligations. Our Western partners are becoming increasingly aware of the need to do so, but they are still shy to mention it out loud and in public. I hope that in their private contacts with the Ukrainian leadership, they will pursue this policy much more aggressively.

Ladies and gentlemen,

International relations are at a crossroads: either chaos and anarchy will expand, or we will work as a team to untie conflicts and create a global governance system that is consistent with the realities of the 21st century. To do so, there’s no need to show some attitude, try to teach anyone, or impose one’s own standards on anyone. There’s no need to punish anyone for one’s own mistakes. Instead, honest and open talks must be started to find a balance of interests. The refusal to conduct such a

mutually respectful and candid dialogue, and attempts to block channels of communication is indicative either of the absence of arguments, or an unwillingness to negotiate and look for reasonable compromises.

 Russia firmly advocates equal cooperation, and will continue to fulfill all its obligations and everything else that we have agreed upon. We will act responsibly and take the initiative whenever necessary.

Thank you.

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