NEED TO PRESERVE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
On Friday, US President Donald Trump said he would suspend restrictions on Iran for another 120 days to remain in the deal so that the United States and Europe could fix "significant flaws" in it. The US president also called on Brussels to participate in the correction of the agreement, noting that the last chance had come for making the changes. In addition, Trump called Iran the main sponsor of terrorism and announced his intention to legislatively fix tough sanctions for the development and testing of ballistic missiles by Iran.
Lavrov noted during his press conference that recent US statements aimed at undermining the implementation of the multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. The Russian diplomat said that such moves "do not add optimism and stability."
"Unfortunately, our US colleagues and their allies still want to conduct their affairs with the use of dictate and ultimatums, they do not want to listen to the point of view of the other centers of the global politics. Thus, they do not want to recognize the realities of the forming multipolar world," the Russian foreign minister said.
Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s commitment to the Iran nuclear deal, adding that Moscow will not support the US moves to practically include terms unacceptable for Tehran into the deal.
"I really hope that our European partners, which, of course, will be subjected to US attempts to tempt them over to its side, will comply with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action without any exceptions. I would like to remind you that [the JCPOA] was supported by the UN Security Council's resolution and all parties must implement it," Lavrov said.
Signed in 2015, JCPOA has been in effect since January 2016. The agreement between the European Union, Iran and P5+1 countries (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus Germany) stipulates the gradual lifting of the economic and diplomatic sanctions imposed on Iran by the Western countries in exchange for Tehran ending its nuclear program.
In October, US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly threatened to halt the Iran nuclear deal, said his administration had decided not to certify that Iran was in compliance with the accord. The claim caused objections from Tehran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors the implementation of Iran nuclear deal, has repeatedly confirmed Tehran's compliance with the terms set by the multilateral agreement.
WASHINTON LOSING POWER
Russian-US relations have been mentioned in a large portion of questions during Lavrov’s press conference.
The United States resorts to illegitimate measures in a bid to stop its influence on the international arena from shrinking, Lavrov suggested.
There are a lot of examples illustrating the fact that as soon as a US initiative faces a counter-suggestion, Washington feels impatience, and threatens with sanctions, the Russian diplomat continued.
"The actions of [the US] administration demonstrate fear of fair competition in a number of areas, [particularly] energy, gas supplies to Europe when instead of Russian gas, supplies of US liquefied natural gas are imposed, which is significantly more expensive. It is counteraction to Nord Stream 2, being called a politicized project leading to the division of Europe, suffocation of Ukraine," Lavrov said, adding that such calls on the European Union to abandon projects have been openly voiced by Washington despite the cost of gas transit to Germany via Nord Stream 2 being up to two times lower than through Ukraine’s territory.
"Let us also look at the media industry, it is also the limitation of competition. I am talking about the attitude to RT and Sputnik in the United States, in France by the way. Or expulsion of our journalists and closure of our channels in Moldova, in Ukraine, in Latvia, a number of other countries… And finally, the area of sports, the situation around the upcoming Olympics, and decisions in relation to the Russian athletes. There have been facts of using doping by our athletes, but no one ever imposed collective punishment on anyone in similar cases," Lavrov pointed out.
By demonizing Russia, the US leadership significantly contributes to the current poor state of bilateral relations, the diplomat pointed out.
However, Russia "can do nothing but respond to the hostile actions of the United States," Lavrov added.
"But we always try to make it carefully. We do not ‘tit-for-tat.' But we cannot tolerate all these absolutely illegal actions," the minister noted.
Asked whether he regretted that Trump, not Hillary Clinton won the 2016 US presidential election, Lavrov said that "regretting something which had already happened is not what diplomacy does."
"We are working with facts, and the facts are the way we see them today. That is why we are doing the things which are necessary for ensuring Russia’s interests in current circumstances," the diplomat noted.
LAVROV AFRAID OF SYRIA’S DIVISION
The US plans to create a Kurdish border security force in Syria do not contribute to the settlement of the Syrian conflict, Lavrov said.
"You know that this has already caused Turkey's negative reaction, I have said that for us, this causes serious questions, concerning the maintenance of Syria's territorial integrity. There is also the issue of relations between Turkey and the Kurds. This new unilateral ultimatum move does not contribute to the settlement of the situation around Afrin," Lavrov pointed out.
The Russian foreign minister said that his US counterpart Rex Tillerson had repeatedly told him that fighting the IS was the only purpose of US activities in Syria. The current US moves show that Washington does not want to preserve Syria’s territorial integrity, Lavrov suggested.
The US move to help SDF create areas of border security will result in separation of vast territories along the Turkish and Iraqi borders to the east of the Euphrates river, while statements that this area will be controlled by the US-backed groups causes concerns over the possible partition of Syria, the Russian diplomat added.
"It is a very grave issue, causing concerns that the course for the division of Syria has been set," Lavrov continued.
The actions of the United States and the SDF have no foundations based on the UNSC resolutions or agreements reached during the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, the diplomat noted.
"We, just like our Turkish and Iranian colleagues, and, I believe, like many others, are awaiting detailed explanations from the United States," Lavrov stressed.
Just like the administration of former US President Barack Obama, the Trump administration wants to overthrow the current government in Damascus, Lavrov pointed out.
SYRIAN CONGRESS IN SOCHI TO GIVE IMPETUS TO GENEVA PROCESS
The Russian official also expressed hope that the Congress of the Syrian National dialogue in Sochi will stimulate the political settlement as part of the UN-led intra-Syrian talks in Geneva.
The Syrian National Dialogue Congress is expected to take place in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 29-30. The congress should bring together opposition and pro-governmental forces, as well as representatives of all Syrian ethnic and religious groups, in order to share their views on the future of their country and to push forward the process of political settlement, with a specific focus on constitution and elections.
The minister noted that the Sochi Congress on Syria sought to involve forces overlooked by the Geneva process, and eventually make the UN-led process more inclusive.
"And as a result of this congress, we think that the United Nations will only thank us, because we will seriously expand their opportunities, expand the circle of participants, so that the constitutional reform and the subsequent rules for holding elections are indeed those that enjoy the support of the entire Syrian people," Lavrov added.
Speaking about the participation of the Kurds in the Sochi Congress, the minister stressed that their interests should be respected as they were a part of the Syrian nation.
"The Kurds are a part of the Syrian nation and their interests should be taken into account in the work that we are now carrying out, including in the work on preparing the congress," Lavrov stated.
NEED FOR FREEZE OF CONFRONTATION AROUND NORTH KOREA
Speaking about the situation around North Korea, Lavrov mentioned the Russian-Chinese roadmap to settle the crisis.
"As you know, together with China, we have a joint initiative, concerning shifting from confrontation to political settlement of the issue on the Korean peninsula. Firstly, we propose everyone to calm down, freeze any confrontational activities, primarily ones related to military activities, either missile launches, nuclear tests, or the organization of large-scale maneuvers, which the United States together with South Korea and Japan have held, and continue to hold in this region," Lavrov said.
When this moratorium on non-friendly and confrontational moves comes into effect, Moscow and Beijing will actively support direct contacts between the most interested parties, namely Pyongyang and Washington, the Russian official noted.
"And we will be ready to support their bilateral dialogue as part of the Six Party talks with participation of Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea. These are the most important issues addressed by Russia and China in their international agenda," Lavrov added.
Lavrov called the approach as part of which the Ukrainian crisis is being considered in the context of the Russia-West confrontation a mistake.
"Because this would mean that abandoning of the ideology-driven interpretation of the situation as having major importance for the Russia-West relations, would allow our western colleagues to abandon the thoughtless, unbounded support for the line to undermine the Minsk agreements, implemented by Kiev," Lavrov said.
Moscow continues to respect the Ukrainian territorial integrity in post-Crimean referendum borders, the Russian foreign minister continued.
"From a political perspective, I believe that we continue to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine in the borders which formed after the Crimean referendum and Crimea's reunification with the Russian Federation," Lavrov said.
Lavrov also dwelt upon the issue of UN peacekeepers deployment to Donbas. The diplomat called for the composition of his force to be determined by the people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Lavrov also recalled that according to the Russian proposal, such forces should be in charge of ensuring the security of the OSCE observers along the engagement line.
CHANCES FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN SETTLEMENT SHRINKING
Lavrov also expressed hope for a speedy achievement of the deadlocked Israel-Palestine settlement.
"I hope that in the very near future we will be able to hold consultations with our partners within the ‘quartet’, which comprises the United Nations and the European Union apart from the United States, to have some sort of brainstorm on further steps. We cannot leave the situation as it is, let things slide," Lavrov said.
"In particular, we have scheduled bilateral contacts with the United States," Lavrov said.
The diplomat stressed that the fact that the Israel-Palestine issue had not been resolved yet was one of the major factors allowing radicals to recruit new terrorists.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly talked about the risks of the deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian settlement, Lavrov said. The diplomat also noted that Moscow understood the Palestinians’ position after the US announcement to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
"There has been no direct [Palestinian-Israeli] contacts without preconditions. In these circumstances, the chances for this are vanishing," Lavrov noted.
LAVROV’S PLANS AFTER UPCOMING RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
The Russian foreign minister noted that after the March 18 election, the new government will be formed in line with the Russian constitution.
"As for me, I am not used to doing anything but ensuring effective work of our ministry. This is my main goal now," Lavrov said.
Lavrov has been holding the position of the Russian foreign minister since 2004.