18:30 GMT +320 November 2017
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    A handout photo made available by the Russian Foreign Ministry on May 10, 2017 shows US President Donald J. Trump (L) posing with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting at the White House in Washington, DC.

    Fueling of Anti-Russia Stance in US Seeks to Undermine Trump's Position – Lavrov

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    The US president has called for the Department of Justice (DoJ) to terminate the investigation into alleged collusion between his campaign and Russia during the election. Moscow has also commented on the lingering issue.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that the absence of any leaks in the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election clearly demonstrates that there is no evidence for them.

    "It has been almost a year since the United States launched a probe into Trump’s ties with Russia, Russian meddling into the election campaign on the Republicans’ side… But there has not been a single leak about a single fact that would have proved these allegations … The US society in general, especially in foreign affairs, is built on leaks … This means that they just do not have these facts," Lavrov said.

    The minister also noted that the anti-Russian hysteria was a reflection of the internal political struggle in the United States.

    The Russian Foreign Minister also believes that fueling anti-Russia sentiments in the United States aims to undermine the positions of President Donald Trump’s administration.

    "I think they [who are pushing the anti-Russia agenda] are counting on undermining the positions of Trump's administration. Despite the inconsistency of the current administration's actions in the White House, despite all the extravagance, Trump has not abandoned his slogans, his intentions, which he declared both during the election campaign and after being elected as president, intentions to improve relations with Russia, to cooperate with Russia," Lavrov said in the interview to the site of the Valdai Discussion Club as part of the club's 14th Annual Meeting in Russia's southern city of Sochi.

    The 14th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club is being held between Monday and Thursday, and is being attended by over 130 experts from 32 countries.

    During an October 16 press conference, Trump said there was "absolutely no collusion" between his presidential campaign and Moscow. As no evidence has been found, he has called for the probe to come to an end. He also added that he was not going to fire DoJ special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the investigation.

    Donald Trump has over and over again refuted claims of the alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, saying that it was merely an excuse introduced by the Democratic party to justify their political defeat.

    Last month, the president called the accusations that his team had colluded with Moscow "one of the great hoaxes" the Democrats came up with after they did "a rotten job of running."

    US media outlets, as well as officials, such as former Democratic Party's presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, have repeatedly accused Moscow of interfering in the 2016 presidential election, with US congressional investigators launching a probe into the alleged meddling.

    Russia has also denied claims of helping Trump win the vote, insisting it does not meddle in home affairs of other countries. Kremlin officials have suggested the claims intended to deflect public attention from actual election fraud as well as corruption and other domestic problems.

    Anti-Russian Sanctions

    Lavrov stated the anti-Russian sanctions, introduced in 2014 over Crimea and Ukraine, partially thwarted the process of social reforms inside the country.

    "It's difficult for me to tell how other countries will solve their internal problems. We have our own programs for resolving our social issues. They were complicated by the period when the international situation changed, when the illegitimate sanctions came into our relations with Europe and other Western nations. But now, I think, the government has a good plan on how to move forward, [if it is] approved by the president," Lavrov stated.

    The foreign minister added that Russian President Vladimir Putin considered resolving social issues a top priority, and reiterated that a relevant program had been elaborated.

    Lavrov expressed confidence that the EU countries were also concerned with the social agenda, and the acute public reaction to the labor reforms recently introduced by French President Emmanuel Macron showed that the process of social reformation would not move on easily.

    Macron’s cabinet unveiled labor reforms in August. The measures are aimed at stimulating the French economy, simplifying the procedures of hiring and firing workers and allowing some workplace issues to be negotiated directly at the company level. The reforms have been strongly criticized by French trade unions as they consider that it will deprive workers of their rights, because it will be easier for enterprises to fire their employees under the new labor code. The new socioeconomic policy even incited nationwide strikes, with thousands of public sector workers taking to the streets.

    Separatist Sentiment in EU

    The Russian Foreign Minister also spoke about the recent separatist tendencies in the European Union with Catalonia, as well as a number of other regions striving for independence.

    "I hope that this [separatist tendencies] will not lead to turmoil in Europe. We are interested in the stable European Union. And perhaps the solution is to combine the trend toward further integration with the sentiments that are now manifesting in a number of countries in favor of a return to greater sovereignty," Lavrov said.

    Catalonia's independence referendum, which is not recognized by the Spanish authorities, was held on October 1. The official results of the vote showed that 90.18 percent, or more than 2.28 million voters, supported the secession of Catalonia from Spain, with a turnout exceeding 43 percent.    

    Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastsis said Monday that the Catalan government has until Thursday to clarify Catalonia's status as an independent state, since, "the letter that we have received does not correspond to the requirements" requested from Puigdemont.

    UN Security Council Reform

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also commented on the recent decision of the UN General Assembly to reform the United Nations Security Council.

    "Reforming the Security Council is a process that can only be implemented based on consensus, as the UN General Assembly decided when it started this process. This is not a simple task. I think that it is impossible to reach an agreement over the next one or two years, but the process is ongoing, the interests of all countries have been heard and understood," Lavrov said.

    The foreign minister stressed that Russia backs giving a stronger voice to Asian, African and Latin American states in the reformed Security Council.

    "The developing regions of the world, Asia, Africa, Latin America, are clearly underrepresented in the system of the main body of the United Nations. This position is shared by our Chinese partners and most countries of the third world," Lavrov said.

    He underlined the creation of the Office of Counter-Terrorism as the most important UN reforms of our time.

    "One of the most important reforms of recent times, since Antonio Guterres has become Secretary General, is the creation of the post of Under-Secretary-General for counter-terrorism and, appropriately, the creation of Office of Counter-Terrorism," Lavrov said.

    Lavrov stressed the importance of the role of the UN Counter-Terrorism Office in coordinating the work of UN bodies, programs and funds responsible for the fight against terrorism, adding that the reform was in the early stage of its implementation and work was yet to be done to be put it into action.

    The UN Office of Counter-Terrorism was established in June 2017, after which Russian diplomat Vladimir Voronkov was appointed Under-Secretary-General of the office. The UN Counter-Terrorism Office works in close cooperation with the UN Security Council.

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