June 2, 2022

U.S. seeks to ‘dominate’ the world, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tells reporters in Riyadh

We held a big event today – the fifth round of the strategic dialogue between Russia and the members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. This meeting was timely since we have not met for several years due to coronavirus restrictions. Today, we had a practical conversation that helped us better understand the serious and momentous processes that are now taking place in the world arena. We discussed them in public during our visit to Bahrain on May 31, Algeria on May 10 and Oman on May 11 of this year.

The main conclusion from the assessment of the geopolitical situation is that one group of countries must not be allowed to establish domination in the world. Unfortunately, our Western partners have made this an absolute priority. They are openly announcing the need for a unipolar world order that they call “a rules-based order.” But it is the West that is drafting these rules (and they do not hide this). In their opinion, others do not have this right.

As for this “pole” that, according to the West, should be united in the world, it is unequivocally led by the United States. Any dissent is basically absent, and individual appeals for any “strategic autonomy” in Europe are drowning in the harmonious chorus of those who demand Western unity under US leadership.

We do not mind the West arranging its own affairs in the institutions it created, including NATO and the EU. However, we are against the West violating its global commitments, including those made in the OSCE, in the process of developing these institutions. They read that not a single side can strengthen its security at the expense of the security of others and not a single organisation can claim dominance in the Euro-Atlantic region. It is easy to understand that this is exactly what NATO is doing. The West must not draft its projects and implement its ideas in practice in violation of universal rules, primarily the UN Charter that reads that respect for the sovereign equality of states is the fundamental principle of the United Nations. Our partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council understand perfectly well the implications of the international situation relative to the events staged by the West around Ukraine.

We appreciate their well-balanced position on this issue at both international forums and in practice. They are refusing to join the West’s illegal unilateral sanctions against the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.

We reaffirmed our commitment to the UN Charter, including the use of its provisions as regards the crisis in Ukraine and around it. Our partners in the Arab world and the Gulf Cooperation Council agree with us that the violation of a key provision of the UN Charter triggered the situation in Ukraine. We are referring to the Charter’s provision that requires all UN members states to comply with UN Security Council resolutions.

In February 2015, Resolution 2202 unanimously endorsed the Minsk agreements that required the Kiev regime to start a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk, implement the agreed-upon provisions to grant special status to these regions in eastern Ukraine and to reflect this in the Constitution of Ukraine. Kiev was supposed to hold, on agreement with Donetsk and Lugansk, elections, amnesty, disengagement of the sides, a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons. Kiev was not fulfilling any of these commitments. President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky publicly referred to the people living in eastern Ukraine as a “species.” In September 2021, President Zelensky said that if anyone in Ukraine felt bad that the Russian language, culture and the media were banned, and if anyone in Ukraine felt they were really Russian, they should just leave for the Russian Federation. He added that this would be better for the children of these Russians that were Ukrainian citizens.

A similar ideology was announced in Europe’s history, and we know how that ended. The refusal of the Kiev regime to abide by the UN Security Council resolution, which approved the Minsk agreements, for eight years was the decisive factor behind the current situation. Maybe some people doubted that the West was patronising Ukraine to contain and threaten Russia, but now the majority of unbiased observers have no doubt about this.

Today, we unanimously confirmed our commitment to the UN Charter and the need to implement all of its requirements in full. In this context, we discussed regional issues, including the settlement in Syria. We emphasised the need to carry out UN Security Council Resolution 2254, including the settlement of humanitarian problems and the restoration of the economic infrastructure that is essential for the return of the refugees. We also reviewed the work of the Constitutional Committee that convened its regular session in Geneva (according to first assessments, it had a positive start) and Syria’s position in the Arab world. We confirmed our resolve for the need to have the Syrian Arab Republic rejoin the Arab League. We see that our partners in the Gulf show understanding for this necessity.

Much has been said about the Palestinian-Israeli issue. The peace process in the form of a direct dialogue between Palestine and Israel has stalled and is at a dead-end, which undermines efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue by way of creating the State of Palestine in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative that was launched by Saudi Arabia 20 years ago. We expressed our concern that the two-state solution concept is undergoing a serious test. Russia and our partners in the Gulf strongly disagree with this approach which has explosive potential to worsen the situation in the region.

We discussed the situation in Yemen, where positive developments have been seen recently thanks to the initiatives advanced by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and other GCC countries. We welcomed the establishment of the Presidential Leadership Council and the recent two-month truce that expires the day after tomorrow. We share the hope that it will be renewed for at least another two months. In the meantime, we will try to launch the political process with the help of the UN through the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Yemen.

Libya is facing a pressing task of organising a nationwide dialogue that includes all the country’s political forces. The country is run by two governments, which, to a certain extent, we ascribe to the insufficiently active, constructive and creative role of the UN. Many months of absence of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General appointed with the consent of the UN Security Council is making itself felt. The Security Council mentioned the need to expedite this appointment in a recently adopted resolution. Our counterparts in today’s discussion are supportive of this approach.

We discussed the Persian Gulf and relations between the Arab monarchies and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Russia has long been promoting the Collective Security Concept in this most important region of the world. There are discussions around this concept. Last autumn, the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences hosted panels of experts and political scientists from all coastal Gulf countries and a number of neighbouring states, including Arabs and the Iranians. It was a useful discussion with interesting recommendations which we are now summarising. We want to hold another political science expert event soon to help create proper conditions for taking the dialogue to the country-to-country level.

Much was said about the importance of continuing and stepping up the fight against terrorism, especially extremist ideology. We are generally positive on the efforts to promote dialogue among different civilisations and  religions, including as part of the Group of Strategic Vision established a while ago between Russia and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which recently held a meeting in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan. The celebration of the 1100th anniversary of the Volga Bulgaria adopting Islam also took place on the sidelines of this meeting.

With regard to bilateral practical projects with our GCC colleagues, we highlighted the need to build up economic ties and cultural and investment cooperation. We noted the need to step up the activities of the Working Groups and Business Councils that were created and remained operational until they had to take a short pandemic-related break.

During the meeting with GCC Secretary-General Nayef al-Hajraf, we coordinated our activities on the earliest possible approval on the Joint Action Plan between Russia and the GCC to 2025.

Meetings were held with representatives of the GCC member countries on the sidelines of today’s main meetings. Yesterday, I had in-depth talks with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. We noted a steady growth in trade which grew by 34.2 percent last year. A meeting of the Joint Intergovernmental Russian-Saudi Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation has been scheduled.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia are cooperating quite well and implemented $2.5 billion as part of the joint platform. Similar projects have been created by the RDIF and its foreign partners (UAE, Qatar and Kuwait) and are successfully operating. I also held separate meetings with the foreign ministers from these countries, during which we discussed our commitment to the comprehensive growth of our partnership, including in the new global economic situation in the context of the policy pursued by our Western colleagues.

Such are the results of our brief but busy visit.

Question: The food problem is urgent for the region and the world as a whole. Did you discuss it in Bahrain and today in Saudi Arabia? What about the Western allegations that Russia is to blame for the “impending famine”?

Sergey Lavrov: We must have the same attitude to these Western allegations as to all the other times Russia has been accused of all mortal sins. I spoke about this in detail at a news conference following our visit to Bahrain.

Today, I told our colleagues from the Gulf Cooperation Council what is happening in reality. This matter is understandable enough. President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke about this in public more than once. He discussed this situation during his telephone conversations with the leaders of France, Germany and Turkey in the past few days.

As for the Russian Federation, we have no problems with providing stable grain supplies to world markets. The problem is that there is no free exit from Ukrainian ports because of the minefields laid by the Ukrainian military in international waters. Every day for several weeks now, the Russian navy has announce humanitarian corridors for the free exit of vessels that are stuck in Ukrainian ports because of this mine threat. They cannot leave these ports and deliver their cargo to the ports of destination. Ukrainian grain is also locked in ports due to this policy of the Kiev regime. It needs to be pressed in order to eliminate this mine threat. In addition, there is also a problem with Russian grain exports. Although the West loudly proclaims that grain is not covered by the sanctions, it coyly remains silent about the sanctions on vessels carrying Russian grain. They are not accepted in European ports and are denied insurance. All logistics and financial chains linked with grain supplies to the world markets are under Western sanctions.

Our proposals on ending this deadlock are well known. Following conversation with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, we agreed that our Turkish colleagues would try to help us organise the demining of Ukrainian ports. This is necessary to free the vessels taken hostage in these ports so they can deliver the cargoes needed by developing nations. It is also necessary to agree not to allow any attempts to strengthen the military capacity of Ukraine and damage Russia during this operation. I will not go into details at this point. Military and other experts will discuss them.

UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan visited Russia recently. On the instruction of Antonio Gutierrez and with the consent of President Vladimir Putin, Ms Grynspan met with First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov who explained to her in detail the logistics of resolving this problem. There are no obstacles from us. They are being created by either the Ukrainian authorities or the Western countries that are covering up all the unacceptable and illegal actions of the Kiev regime.

Question: Ukraine insists on obtaining more modern weapons (multiple rocket launcher systems), including from the United States. If this comes to pass, is there a concern that third countries may get involved in this conflict?

Sergey Lavrov: This risk exists. The things that the Kiev regime is demanding from its Western patrons in a pushy manner, as if it’s entitled, are out of the line and go beyond all limits of diplomacy. This is an outright provocation seeking to draw the West into hostilities. Reasonable Western politicians, not all of them, though, are well aware of these risks. Some EU politicians, especially in northern EU countries, are willing to act crazy in order to satisfy their ambitions. Serious EU countries are well aware that such scenarios are unacceptable. Signs of reasonable assessments have recently come from Washington. We have repeatedly conveyed our position on this matter through the channels between Russia and key Western countries. They are well aware of it.

Question: In the run-up to your visit to the Arabian Peninsula, the EU agreed on a new package of sanctions. One of the measures includes a partial embargo on oil purchases from Russia. How will this impact our country and oil prices? Have you discussed this with representatives of oil-producing countries?

Sergey Lavrov: This will have an impact that the European politicians are already talking about. Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said that the sanctions didn’t work because they cut energy purchases from Russia, but global prices for energy are on the rise. As a result, Russia is receiving even more revenue than last year. Let them draw their conclusions. Clearly, they have finally started crunching the numbers and trying to figure out what they are doing and what are the consequences. The analysis provided by the media is quite comprehensive and objective. The package remains the package.

With regard to discussions with our colleagues from the Arabian monarchies, we touched on this topic, but only in the context of confirming the agreements that were reached and confirmed more than once by our leaders regarding cooperation within the OPEC+. The principles of interaction on this basis retain their significance and relevance.

Question: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell once again said that soft power is not enough and the EU needs to transition to military power. We heard that before. Does he really mean to become a military power or is this a play on words?

Sergey Lavrov: It’s a play on words. But there’s no smoke without fire. There is indeed an aggressive Russophobic wing in the European Union, which has, for many years now, imposed its position on everyone else, capitalising on the principle of solidarity and consensus. This wing is becoming more active. Josep Borrell’s statements, for all the impropriety of this bellicose rhetoric coming from the EU’s chief diplomat, reflect a trend that an aggressive minority is imposing on the entire EU. A paramilitary EU is their ideal. Not just a paramilitary EU as a strategically autonomous player, but as an appendage to the North Atlantic Alliance. Based on the facts at hand, one can draw a clear conclusion that this is precisely the goal of those who want to rally the West under Washington’s unquestioned command.

In this context, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s remark to the effect that Germany will become the EU’s main military force has come to our attention. I have seen sensible observers express real bewilderment at these statements coming from the leader of Germany. This makes me wonder, because it is far from the only evidence of a resurgence in Germany of aspirations of dominance. I believe this warrants the attention of Germany’s European partners and should be the subject of a serious discussion about the future of Europe and how it will continue to learn the lessons of its dark history in past centuries.

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