Udenrigsminister Sergey Lavrovs bemærkninger og svar på mediernes spørgsmål på en fælles pressemøde efter samtaler med udenrigsminister Bangladesh Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, Moskva, den 13. april, 2017

Question (to Sergey Lavrov): After yesterday's statement by US President Donald Trump that NATO is not an obsolete organisation, it is clear that American politicians often not only contradict one another or themselves, but also that the US leader sometimes makes deeply contradictory statements. Does Russia fully understand the American position on many important issues? Is it difficult to conduct diplomatic work given these circumstances?

Sergey Lavrov: Diplomacy is not a simple occupation at all. In a situation where the new US Administration is still trying to formulate its approaches to international affairs, there are pauses in dealing with issues that could be resolved more effectively if there were Russia-US interaction. This is an objective process, and we are not trying to rush anyone. The goal of the US Administration is to formulate its positions and form a team, because this process is far from being accomplished at the State Department.

Unfortunately, in addition to natural objective factors, there are subjective circumstances connected with those who want to hamper the work of the Trump Administration, including issues concerning relations with the Russian Federation. They want to prevent the healing of the wounds that have been inflicted on these relations by the Obama Administration, and use the Russian card in the internal political strife. This is regrettable, but we can do nothing about it, except that we ask for facts to be produced when we are accused of something. There’s not a single fact, although under pressure from President Trump’s opponents, the White House is forced to periodically make some statements containing allegations against us. I believe yesterday we were accused at a White House briefing of interfering with elections in Montenegro last year. They brought this up for some reason. They also said that Russia is involved in a disinformation campaign to help President al-Assad avoid being held accountable for the recent chemical attack.

I discussed this yesterday with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The situation in Syria was one of the main topics. It seemed to me we had convincingly enough clarified our reasons for organising a dedicated independent study on the basis of the entities created at the UN and the OPCW. Given the colossal and fairly confrontational response to what happened in Syria, we proposed complementing these entities with professional inspectors in this field who would be invited from Western countries, Russia and the countries of the region. It seemed to me that Secretary Tillerson was receptive to the idea and promised to work it out. We even suggested that Russia, in conjunction with the United States, should put forward such an initiative. He was not ready for this, so we made this proposal in a national capacity, as Russia’s proposal. In parallel with this process (in my opinion, a very logical, objective and necessary one) without any clear consultations, the United States, France and Great Britain yesterday put to vote a draft resolution that formally focused on the need to investigate what happened. However, it was formulated unilaterally and crammed with demands exclusively to the Government of Syria to open access to all its military facilities. There was no indication that it was necessary to investigate the site of the incident in the Idlib province. When asked why they are not giving any attention to the need to visit not only the airfield, which they suspect was the place where chemical weapons were loaded into the planes, but also the site itself, which came under the attack, our American, French and British colleagues said they aren’t sure who controls this area, and sending inspectors there is not safe. These are just excuses. Everyone is perfectly aware that the area that came under Syrian air strikes has been controlled by ISIS for six years now (since 2011), and that this area, according to available information, was used to produce chemical weapons that were later used in Iraq and Syria. If our Western partners refuse to include in the relevant resolution the demand for the supporters of extremists in this area to grant access to inspectors, this means they are afraid of ascertaining the truth.

We want the inspectors to take a transparent, independent and professional look at the airfield, from which, as our Western colleagues claim, the aircraft with chemical weapons took off, and also to go to the site that came under attack. Only an inspection like this can be objective. If they want to take only one-sided steps, that means they know something. By the way, UK online resources, the Financial Times, offer much evidence from British and other foreign experts who are very seriously questioning the scenario offered by our American colleagues which they use to justify their attacks on the Syrian airfield.

We are very concerned by our foreign partners in the UN Security Council trying to escape an honest investigation into this episode. Today, the OPCW Executive Council is meeting in the Hague for an extraordinary session. We submitted our proposal on forming such a delegation on the basis of this organisation with the involvement of additional inspectors, which is necessary, given the colossal and not very constructive public reaction to this story.

Returning to your question, we take a philosophical approach to what is happening. We do not feel any joy about it. I'll reiterate what I said yesterday. The talks with Secretary Tillerson were useful. I believe they helped the US Administration to better understand our position. It is important that they formulate their approaches to the issues on which Russia and the United States can productively cooperate.

Question: Сommenting on the results of Secretary Tillerson’s visit to Moscow, President Trump said that the US Secretary of State had done a tremendous job here, but its results will not be seen in the near future. What do you think and feel about that visit? How long will it take before our relations with Washington are normalised?

Sergey Lavrov: This is the same topic that I touched upon in my answer to the previous question. I already said that I liked how things went yesterday. First of all, the President had a very important conversation with the Secretary of State, which lasted over two hours. We had talks before the meeting in the Kremlin and following the news conference. By the way, we also talked informally for about an hour about opportunities that are opening up.

Probably, the results will not come soon, but at least in the operational plan we agreed to establish a dialogue on a number of important issues, including taking inventory of the issues that were created by the previous administration in our bilateral relations. We also agreed to establish mechanisms on issues related to implementing existing bilateral treaties in the military-political sphere designed to bring together or better understand our positions on various regional crises, especially with regard to the Syrian settlement. Just three years ago, Russia and the United States sought to form an international support group for the Syrian settlement. We will see.

I repeat, such agreements have, in principle, been achieved. Now, we will take practical steps to form dialogue mechanisms. This is important in and of itself. It is always better to talk with each other than to speak into a microphone and tell each other about what you think about the opposite number without looking into his or her eyes. This is not a quick process, but at least if what has been agreed upon at the methodological level will begin to be implemented, it will already be useful.