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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit

Bangladesh Beyond
  • Updated on Monday, July 25, 2022
  • 110 Impressed

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit

 

Dhaka July 25 2022 :

 

On 24 July, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited the headquarters of the Arab League and met with the organisation’s Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

During their conversation, Sergey Lavrov and Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed satisfaction with the high level of interaction between Russia and the Arab League in the interests of resolving crises in the Middle East and North Africa and strengthening regional security and stability.

The officials devoted considerable attention to the prospects for expanding trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Arab countries. They also reaffirmed their mutual interest in invigorating Russian-Arab business ties with the aim of expanding trade, promoting industrial co-production arrangements and implementing joint projects in Russia and Arab League countries.

They exchanged opinions on topical aspects of the regional agenda and focused on the search for ways to resolve crises in Libya, Syria and Yemen, as well as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in line with the existing international legal instruments, including the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, which was approved at the 2002 Arab League summit.

Sergey Lavrov addressed permanent representatives of Arab League countries at the Arab League headquarters and informed them, in great detail, about the goals and tasks of the special military operation in Ukraine. He thanked them for their well-thought-out position, formalised in earlier Arab League statements on this issue.

 

 

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions during a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt Sameh Shoukry following talks, Cairo, July 24, 2022.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank our Egyptian friends for their traditional hospitality and wonderful organisation of our work. During the visit to Cairo, our delegation was received by President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Then we had detailed, substantial talks with my colleague, Foreign Minister Egypt Sameh Shoukry.

We have expressed mutual satisfaction with the high level of our relations, friendly Russia-Egypt ties that continue to successfully improve in accordance with the Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Strategic Cooperation signed by the leaders of our countries in 2018 in Sochi. It officially came into force in 2021 after ratification procedures.

We have also confirmed our common stance on the need to boost multilateral interaction in all areas. There are concrete agreements reached by the presidents. Today we exchanged opinions on the process of their implementation, which is successful. We emphasised that the participation of Egypt as a guest country in the 15th St Petersburg Economic Forum (June 15-18, 2022), where President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi delivered a video address to the event participants, was an important event of this year.

We noted the progressive development of our trade and investment relations. In 2021, mutual trade exceeded $4.7 billion, which is 5 percent more than in the previous year. We also have a mutual understanding of projects that will help increase these indices.

The Joint Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation plays a special role. Its next meeting will take place this autumn in Cairo. As part of the preparations for the event, we discussed in detail the steps that our two countries’ relevant agencies need to take to prevent damage to our economic ties and make them readjust to the new conditions created by the illegitimate unilateral sanctions of the United States and their allies.

The major joint projects include the construction of the El Dabaa nuclear power plant (the ceremony to pour the first concrete has recently been held), as well as the creation of a Russian industrial zone near the Suez Canal. The second project will soon be completed after the necessary documents and agreements have been executed.

There are good prospects for industrial cooperation. Work is underway to deliver a large batch of passenger train cars for the Egyptian railways with the participation of our Hungarian partners.

Russia’s large oil and gas companies are developing cooperation with their partners in the Arab Republic of Egypt; Rosneft and Lukoil are already working there. Gazprom Neft and Zarubezhneft Far East have expressed an interest.

We have confirmed the Russian grain exporters’ commitment to fulfil all of their obligations. It was also confirmed by President Vladimir Putin in a recent telephone conversation with President of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. We discussed particulars of interaction in this area and agreed on further contacts between the relevant ministries. We have come to a common understanding of the causes of the grain and food crises that are rooted in the previous years, the pandemic and the printing of fiat banknotes by our Western colleagues. The unprecedented draught in Africa that has lasted the past four years has further exacerbated the situation.

In this environment, the introduction of illegitimate sanctions has curbed operations with Russian grain, including insuring shipments; our vessels were banned from entering foreign ports and foreign vessels stopped visiting the Russian ports. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, after signing the agreements in Istanbul, volunteered to push for lifting the illegitimate restrictions. We hope that he will manage to do so. In any case, we have an understanding of how to work to fulfil the contracts between the Russian Federation and our Egyptian colleagues in full.

We highly value our cultural ties. The Year of Cultural Cooperation between Russia and Egypt is underway and the closing ceremony will take place soon. As part of this initiative, a series of events have been held, including a recent cultural forum.

As regards combatting the coronavirus pandemic: we have been cooperating in this area since the first days [of the pandemic]. The Russian vaccines Sputnik and Sputnik Lite are registered in Egypt. Russia helped vaccinate athletes from Egypt and some other African countries for the Olympic Games. We are currently considering the possibility of a humanitarian project to hold a Sputnik Lite vaccination campaign against the Omicron strain. We offered to deliver monkeypox test systems if our Egyptian colleagues need them.

We have discussed in detail an entire range of international and regional issues. For obvious reasons, we focused on the developments in the Middle East and North Africa. We lay special emphasis on the need to overcome the impasse that emerged in the Middle East settlement, in the Palestine-Israeli relations. We stand for resuming direct contacts between the parties with the help of the quartet of international intermediaries and representatives from the Arab League. All of this must be done on the basis of the principle of the two-state solution, the existing international legal framework, including the UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

We also discussed Libya and we believe that it is necessary to improve the leading role of the UN in the search for a settlement. To this end, it is necessary to appoint a full-fledged Head of the UN Mission in Libya who will have a mandate from the UN Security Council. The main objective is to agree on a legal framework that will allow all political forces to accept the conditions for holding national elections.

We share the opinion that there is no alternative to strengthening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, as well as respecting the right of the people of the Syrian Arab Republic to determine the future of their state. In this context, we shared the efforts taken by Russia within the Astana Three format. We talked about the Russia-Iran-Turkey summit held in Tehran on July 19, as well as about activities related to organising international meetings on Syria in Astana. The latest one took place in June.

We discussed the need to continue encouraging the Syrian parties to work purposefully in order to find compromises within the Constitutional Committee under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General Special Representative. We are interested in Syria returning to the “Arab family.” We hope that the LAS members will consider this issue in the very near future.

Together with President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry, we discussed the developments in Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. Our Egyptian colleagues understand what is going on as well as the context of geopolitics and the West’s line to ensure its dominance in international affairs. Egypt advocates (which we appreciate) an early search for a peaceful settlement, taking into consideration the fundamental and legitimate interests of all participants in this process as part of the construction of a stable architecture of European security on fair principles.

We are taking a lot of joint actions in the United Nations as well. We discussed ways to continue to implement and agree on our steps on key issues on the UN agenda.

We also discussed cooperation between Russia and the League of Arab States. Ministerial meetings have been suspended for a long time due to the pandemic. I am sure that such an opportunity will present itself in the near future.

We discussed Russia’s cooperation with Africa in the context of implementing the agreements of the first Russia-Africa summit held in the autumn of 2019 in Sochi, as well as regarding the preparations for the second high-level meeting scheduled to take place in mid-2023.

We welcome the interest of our Egyptian friends in obtaining the status of a SCO dialogue partner. The corresponding decision is expected to be made in September at the next SCO summit.

We are positive about Egypt’s participation in the BRICS+ format. The summit was held in June 2022 under the Chinese presidency. We discussed the areas in which Egypt can contribute to the work of BRICS and the SCO.

I believe we had useful conversations today. We will adopt specific measures on all the issues we discussed.

Question: I was in Russia in April and in Ukraine in May when the two sides exchanged accusations concerning the food crisis. Now, a grain agreement has been signed under the patronage of Türkiye and with the involvement of the UN. Are there any obstacles to implementing this agreement? Will this agreement become a foundation for an expanded dialogue on the lifting of sanctions on Russian gas and Western sanctions against Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: The food crisis did not start yesterday or in February. It started with the pandemic and the serious mistakes that the Western countries have made in the context of the food and energy situation. I’m talking about the issuance of trillions of unsecured dollars and euros and ill-calculated, hasty and artificial transition to a green economy and much more, including the recent imposition of illegitimate sanctions. We are not asking anyone to lift the restrictions. This issue should be discussed separately. We will now grow our economy as a team with our reliable partners rather than those who once again proved their complete inability to negotiate.

With regard to food, if our Western colleagues take the current situation so close to heart, they must remove the obstacles they have created. The Westerners have been saying for many months now that Russia was “prevaricating” and no restrictions had been imposed on food or fertilisers. True, no sanctions have been imposed on food as such, but they were instantly imposed on the companies that provide insurance for food deliveries and ensure the corresponding payments. In Russia, they are carried out through Rosselkhozbank, which was among the first banks to be put on the sanctions list. Restrictions prohibit Russian ships from entering Western European ports and foreign ships from entering Russian ports in order to take cargo from there, including grain. Judge for yourselves how things really are.

The document signed in Istanbul is the outcome of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ “package initiative” with which he came to Moscow and received our support. The package consisted of two parts. The first is the opening of Ukrainian ports that had been mined by Ukraine, and not by us. The second is the lifting of the blockade on Russian grain supplies caused by the artificial restrictions I listed and which were thought up by the European Union and the United States.

With regard to Ukrainian grain, for more than two months now, the Russian Federation has been encouraging everyone willing to do so to use the humanitarian corridors that we have created in the Black Sea that went from the territorial waters of Ukraine to the Bosphorus Strait. It was understood that this would guarantee the unhindered free passage of ships carrying grain, food and other cargoes with the understanding that the Ukrainian side would clear its territorial waters from mines and let these ships sail. Until now, 70 foreign ships from 16 countries are just about being held hostage there, including a ship which was supposed to bring food specifically to Egypt and which is blocked in Ukrainian ports due to mine danger.

No one has been paying attention to it for many months. Ukraine stated that it would not clear the mines for fear of an “attack.” We guaranteed that we would not let any provocation happen during food shipments and proposed cooperating with our Turkish colleagues in this regard. As a result, a corresponding document was signed in Istanbul a few days ago, but when it came to finishing the work, some of our Western colleagues tried to do everything to resolve only the issue of Ukrainian grain and to postpone issues related to grain supplies from Russia to international markets, the volumes of which are much larger than the Ukrainian carryover, to a “later date.” We sensed that the UN delegation working in Istanbul was tempted to follow this particular path and to put off Russian grain-related matters. This ran counter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ idea. In the end, we insisted that the two issues be resolved as a package.

Problems with the Ukrainian grain will be resolved through the coordination centre in Istanbul. It will be guaranteed that the Ukrainians clear their territorial waters from mines and allow the ships to sail from there. Throughout the itinerary on the high seas, Russia and Türkiye will ensure the ships’ safety with their naval forces. When the ships sail back to Ukrainian ports for new batches of food, they will be inspected to make sure no weapons are brought in. This document is publicly available. You can read it.

On matters related to Russian grain exports, UN Secretary-General Guterres took upon himself the obligation to push for removing unlawful restrictions on logistics and financial chains that had been introduced by the United States and the European Union. Let’s see how things unfold with him delivering on his obligation. Now, it rather depends on the Secretary-General.

With regard to the connection between this agreement and other aspects of the situation in Ukraine, we do not have any biases regarding the resumption of talks on a wider range of issues, but this matter does not depend on us. The Ukrainian authorities, from President Zelensky to his innumerable advisers, keep saying that there will be no talks until Ukraine defeats Russia on the “battlefield.” Their Western curators, London, Washington or Berlin, or many other capitals of the European Union and NATO are actively playing along with them in this regard. It’s up to them to decide, but the longer they demand that Ukraine fight “to the bitter end” (everyone knows whose “end” that will be and what it will be like), the more people will die, and the longer the current situation will persist, which is not good for the Ukrainian people or the Ukrainian state.

Question: What can you share with us regarding preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit?

Sergey Lavrov: There is an understanding that it will take place in mid-2023. An Organising Committee, which was created not long ago by a presidential directive, will soon begin its work, in close contact with our African colleagues.

During this African trip we will visit Addis Ababa. A meeting is scheduled with the leaders of the African Union, during which we will reach an agreement on the key areas of preparatory work. The President of Senegal, Macky Sall, who is now heading the AU, was on a visit to Moscow in early June. During his meeting with President Vladimir Putin, this issue was brought up and a common strategic understanding was reached on the particular areas to address. Several preparatory groups will be created to deal with separate items of the agenda of the future summit (trade, investment, development of natural resources, energy, food, security, cooperation in humanitarian and cultural spheres and education) in addition to a discussion on international issues, which will focus on the importance of efforts to overcome the challenges of resolving conflicts in Africa.

Question: The United States is concerned about Russia’s growing influence on Africa. Literally ahead of your visit here, we have heard such statements from US senators and a candidate for the post of commander of the US forces in Africa. Why does Moscow’s cooperation with Africa cause such a reaction in Washington?

Sergey Lavrov: I cannot comment on situations of that kind where people express concern over one sovereign state communicating with another sovereign state, especially as these countries have a long history of joint work and solidarity on numerous international issues and others.

I believe it’s undignified for any country to engage in such things, especially so for the United States, which portrays itself as the leader of the world and claims a monopoly on the absolute truth. True, it has become a trend in the West. Recently, a lady who serves as the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Annalena Baerbock, came down hard on the President of Türkiye during an interview, over the fact that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, being the head of a NATO member country, had allowed a photo to be taken of himself with Vladimir Putin in Tehran.

On my way here (for talks), they showed me a report that was distributed among the diplomatic corps by the secretariat of the League of Arab States (we are going there this afternoon for a meeting). The document covered a demarche made before the Arab League by a group of Western ambassadors from the United States, France, Germany, Great Britain, as well as a representative from the EU, demanding that our Arab friends, firstly, condemn, and, secondly, declare their rejection of Russia’s actions. It was particularly emphasised that no documents should be signed with us and no photos should be taken. See how obsessed they are with photos. To reiterate, this is not a matter of diplomacy. This is another branch of studying the human body.

 

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