29 May 2017
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PRESS RELEASES AND NEWS

15.05.2017

Excerpts from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's interview with Channel One’s Vremya weekly news and analysis programme, Beijing, May 14, 2017

Question: The meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson only lasted forty minutes, compared to the Moscow meeting which was took one hour longer. Nevertheless, it seems that you had enough time to achieve the needed results. Specifically, you said that you talked about Syria at length, and the Americans were people of action. Could you be more specific about the action you were referring to here? Could you share some details about this meeting?

Sergey Lavrov: Firstly, Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow was important because of the mere fact that it provided an opportunity for the first face-to-face meeting at foreign minister level and a meeting took place with President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Since this was the first contact of this kind, we spent quite a lot of time going through all the subjects on the agenda related to bilateral ties and international and regional issues. The visit to Washington was a follow-up to the conversation already started in Moscow. Rex Tillerson and I had a meeting that lasted about two hours, and a little less than an hour in the White House, where we talked at length with US President Donald Trump about Syria (as I have already said at the press conference in Washington), primarily focusing on the groundwork that was laid last year, and further efforts along these lines by the new administration.

You’re probably wondering what this is all about? Both countries, as well as other major players in the Middle East, including Turkey, Iran and Persian Gulf states, should use their influence over various actors in Syria in order to induce them to implement in good faith the UN Security Council Resolution whereby talks should be held, a new constitution drafted and elections prepared. Russia has reached an understanding with the US on this issue. The fact that it is always easier to agree on such things than to actually implement them is another matter, especially given the multitude of actors on the ground in Syria: primarily the Syrians themselves, ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and those who are working with it. It is for this reason that it is so important to ensure that all these forces are separated from one another. We reached an agreement to this effect with Barack Obama’s administration, but it was unable to deliver on its part of the deal.

This time, in our contacts we focused on the initiative put forward by Donald Trump in the early days of his presidency, when he proposed creating security or de-escalation areas free from any military action, the only exception being terrorists, if any, who were to be chased away from these areas so that civilians would feel safe. As you know, building on this agreement, several days ago at the meeting held in Astana, we agreed on a memorandum with Turkey, Iran, the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the armed opposition, establishing zones of this kind in four regions of Syria, with the intention to have the whole Syrian territory covered by this initiative in the future.

Question: On the photo image that, as we have found out, was initially intended for publication, we see you and US President Donald Trump warmly greeting each other. Only two months ago there were reports saying that the relations between Russia and the US were worse than during the Cold War. How did everything change so quickly? What was the President’s attitude during the meeting?

Sergey Lavrov: Neither during his campaign nor after becoming president did Donald Trump say that he wanted to have bad relations with Russia. On the contrary, he said that he wanted to build normal, mutually respectful relations with all countries, including with the Russian Federation, based on well-informed, common interests. Fighting terrorism is one such example. In my opinion, Donald Trump’s position in this respect has always been consistent.

Question: Did you discuss with him the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey?

Sergey Lavrov: No, we did not. We have nothing to do with this issue that falls within his authority.




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