Outlining a year in Russian foreign policy, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reiterated Moscow’s insistence on an immediate halt to violence in Syria and the start of a national inclusive dialogue.
Read the full transcript of Sergey Lavrov’s speech
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to welcome you all to our traditional review of the past year’s results in international affairs.
It has been a difficult year, and our partners in international affairs all agree that we are witnessing a serious acceleration of international processes. It is becoming more and more obvious that the world has entered a stage where the geopolitical landscape is undergoing profound transformation. This change is accompanied by serious turbulence at both global and regional levels. We see the growth of crisis elements in the global economy. I am sure that you are well aware of all this and that you have been following these events.
Under these conditions, Russia has been working to maintain international stability and step up efforts to find collective solutions to the key challenges the international community is facing today. As President Dmitry Medvedev said in his State of the Nation address to the Federal Assembly on December 22, Russia’s foreign policy has become more modern; it serves the purpose of modernizing Russia, ensuring its security and developing partnerships with other countries in the interests of our people, in order to improve their social and economic conditions, to protect the rights of our citizens abroad and to ensure their well-being in general. We will continue our efforts to further strengthen Russia’s reputation and standing in the world as a key center of power and influence in the emerging new polycentric world order.
Perhaps the most important achievement is the progress we have achieved in integration processes among CIS countries. Member states of the Commonwealth have signed a free trade zone agreement and taken steps to further strengthen their alliance in the CSTO. Also, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have agreed to launch the Common Economic Space on January 1. For the first time in the history of our integration, we have created a supranational institution, the Eurasian Economic Commission, and we are advancing towards establishing the Eurasian Economic Union in 2015. The integration institutions established by our three countries are open to include new members and interact with other political and economic alliances. All these integration processes will help develop wide and effective cooperation between Europe and Asia Pacific in the context of this Eurasian integration.
Naturally, I should also mention the fact that Russia has joined the WTO. This opened a fundamentally new chapter in the process of integrating our country into the global economic system, which should make a substantial contribution to the comprehensive modernization of the Russian economy and create conditions for its intensive growth.
The Russia-EU summit in December demonstrated once again that there can be no alternative to strengthening our strategic partnership and that both parties are willing to develop our diverse interaction in various areas. Of course, the aspect of modernization is quite important; however, I would single out our agreement on the list of steps that need to be taken for us to introduce visa-free travel as the most important achievement. As another step in that direction, we have signed an agreement with Poland that practically introduces visa-free travel for the residents of the Kaliningrad Region and adjoining territories in Poland. As regards the economy, the launch of the first section of Nord Stream has opened a new chapter in energy cooperation between Russia and EU countries.
Our relations with the United States of America have remained one of the key priorities of our foreign policy. The past year was marked by the entry into force of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the US-Russia Agreement on Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation. We have also expanded our collaboration on international issues. The US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission was actively involved in interaction. Nevertheless, there are a number of issues where we have a divergence of opinions – particularly, the issue of missile defense. We hope that the United States will acknowledge and consider our legitimate concerns, which we have conveyed to them as professionally and specifically as possible. We also expect our partners to make their choice in favor of joining our efforts in order to provide a unified response to the common challenges we are facing.
We maintain a similar attitude vis-à-vis Russia’s relations with NATO. I believe that we will be able to promote our partnership to a new level, given that we have managed to address the issue of establishing equal and indivisible security architecture in the Euro-Atlantic region based on mutual appreciation of our respective interests. Our proposal for a European Security Treaty is still on the table.
Growing instability in certain regions of the world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, has highlighted the indisputable truth that principles such as promoting democracy and the rule of law must be observed not only in domestic policies, but also in international relations. We are strongly opposed to any violence against civilians, but we equally strongly disagree with foreign military intervention in favor of either one of the parties to an internal conflict. We also object to irresponsible application of the mandates issued by the UN Security Council with regard to crisis situations. Therefore, we consider it absolutely unacceptable to seek to apply the so-called Libya scenario to other conflicts.
The situation in Syria particularly concerns us today. We insist on a political settlement and back the efforts by the Arab League Observer Mission. We deem it necessary that any violence in Syria wherever it originates is stopped immediately and a national inclusive dialogue starts without delay. The Russian draft resolution submitted to and currently being discussed at the UN Security Council, also backed by China and other BRICS countries, emphasizes this.
Speaking of BRICS, let me note that in the past year mutually beneficial productive multilateral cooperation has intensified within this format on equal terms. As of today, BRICS has become a factor of global significance. The meetings of the BRICS leaders held last year reaffirmed that the organization is getting more and more influential in the spheres of finance and economy and, at the same time, is setting approaches backed by more and more countries to important problems of the world. We do hope that the forthcoming regular summit meeting of BRICS countries in New Delhi will strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation between the forum participants and will promote further consolidation of their positions in the world economy, finance and politics.
We have been strengthening our positions in the Asia Pacific, focusing on developing strategic partnership relations with China and India and intensifying diverse cooperation with Japan, the Republic of Korea, ASEAN and other countries in the Asia Pacific. This included establishing technological and investment alliances and participating in the activities of regional organizations. In 2011, Russia and the United States joined the East Asia Summit. This new mechanism is an interesting and promising format that will help build a transparent, open, comprehensive and balanced architecture for security and cooperation in the region. The APEC summit that will take place in Vladivostok in September will certainly help Russia expand mutually beneficial economic ties with other countries in the region.
I would also mention many countries in Latin America as our important and active partners in the international arena. We have been further developing our relations based on the principles of equality and mutual benefit.
The effective use of soft power in all its forms is another important resource in our work. We intend to cooperate with civil society institutions, the expert community, business circles and mass media. We will actively use the potential of organizations established last year, namely, the Russian Council for International Affairs and the Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Foundation, and other opportunities that we have with civil society in addition to traditional diplomatic instruments. We also expect that the new foundation for supporting and protecting the rights of Russians living abroad will become fully operational this year, as will the International Cooperation Agency.
We believe that there is a broad consensus in Russia regarding foreign policy guidelines as expressed in the Foreign Policy Concept. It primarily implies a pragmatic, open and predictable foreign policy, focused on serving Russia’s national interest, a well-balanced and multidimensional approach to international affairs and the maximum use of the resources available to us in international affairs for ensuring economic growth, addressing social challenges and securing the general well-being of the Russian people.
I believe our partners abroad have every reason to expect continuity in our foreign policy in view of the upcoming presidential election in Russia.
Clearly, problems in international affairs have not receded. This means that Russia will need to act dynamically and proactively this year. We will be doing our best to make our contribution to resolving those problems and to ensure a favorable environment for our country’s progressive development.