Comments to the media by H.E. Mr. Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations on some issues of international agenda
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V.Churkin: Today Sigrid Kaag last time appeared at the Security Council in this capacity (as the special advisor to the Secretary General). She has done a fantastic job. She gave a very clear pragmatic account of everything that had been done and things which still need to be done. Now she is moving on to Lebanon and we wish her well. We will see her in the Council in her new capacity.
Q: What is your expectations about the second briefing, who will do it?
V.Churkin: My understanding is that Ms. Angela Kane is going to brief the Council. But Russia’s position is that things have really moved to OPCW. All the matters that need to be dealt with are matters which are the responsibility of OPCW and too much discussion in the Security Council may even hurt because we are not experts and we should not be trying to intrude into the territory of other respected international institutions.
Q: Can I ask you, Mr. Ambassador, on Palestinian draft resolution. Have you seen it? What is your position?
V.Churkin: We have not seen the final draft. I’m pretty sure that when Jordan produces a draft Russia is going to be able to support it.
Q: But you think that the time frame is a good idea for negotiations?
V.Churkin: We are prepared to support the draft. If it is going to be something which would be supported by the Palestinians, they need to have this kind of a clause in the resolution, then we will be supporting it. For us it is important to continue to maintain the well-known basis for the settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and if it is reflected in the resolution and the resolution is phrased in a way to further motivate the process and help restart the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, of course we are going to support it.
Q: Between the French and Arab group draft resolution. Is there a common ground?
V.Churkin: They are talking about various possibilities of the language. Our views are very close with the views of France on this situation and, I must say, are quite close to the views of the European Union. If the Palestinians and the Arab group are engaging the French and if in the course of these discussions they produce something which Jordanian delegation will be comfortable with to take it to the Security Council we are going to support it.
Q: You are one of the main partners in the Quartet. Is that what everybody is talking about?
V.Churkin: In fact, Minister Lavrov addressed this issue today, when he was speaking in Khartoum on the margins of Russia-Arab forum. He did admit that Quartet had not been used effectively. This is something, which we have been speaking about for a long time - that Quartet needs to be used more effectively. It was one of the members of quartet, who was reluctant to use Quartet to the fullest. But our idea, which was also reiterated today by Sergey Lavrov, is that it’s not just the four member of the quartet, who should restart working very seriously together, they should also involve the Arab League because the Arab Peace Initiative is one of the fundamental pillars of a future Israel-Palestinian settlement. So for the Quartet to become more relevant it needs to involve the Arab League, it also needs to involve the key players. Egypt, we believe, is particularly important under the current circumstances for trying to move things forward.
Q: So basically you talk about a very similar idea to what France is campaigning for, a new contact Group?
V.Churkin: They have not talked to me about it. I think the political position needs to be clarified in a way which would allow the process to move forward and which would encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to have another look at the situation and to start engaging each other in order to create realistic prospect for a settlement.
Q: Can I ask you about Afghanistan? Is there some council action needed from Russia’s point of view?
V.Churkin: We believe, and it is not just us, there are some countries who believe it is important to have a resolution of the Security Council, which would support a new arrangement between NATO and Afghanistan. But there are curtain requirements, we believe, which need to be met. The first requirement is that before we encourage in any way a new operation we need to be updated on the results of the previous operation. At this point there is no assurance that we’ll receive a substantive report. Not just a short sentence that they have completed their mission, but one containing an analysis of what has been accomplished and what has not. This is the first requirement. Another requirement is that we believe that the Security Council cannot simply produce a text of a resolution and let the process go into the blue. We need reports to the SC. And for some reason NATO countries are reluctant to give us assurance that they are going to report their activities to the SC. Without periodic reports to the SC we believe it’s rather strange to endorse something and than to forget all about it. There is another complicating element: the American operation in Afghanistan on the basis of their bilateral agreement with Afghanistan is not covered by this NATO-Afghanistan arrangement and therefore will not be covered by this possible SC resolution. And the Americans seem to have changed their minds. Originally they announced that after this year they will not engage in combat operations. Now there are reports that they do envisage the possibility of some combat operations. There is a concern if NATO is able to stay within the announced scope of training and supporting the Afghani forces.
So in my view there are too many uncertainties and too many unanswered questions for us to be able to say with certainty that the SC will be able to support this resolution. Frankly NATO people are saying that they do not believe that this is absolutely necessary. This (UNSC resolution) is required by some countries both members and non-members of NATO who theoretically would like to participate. They have their requirements, we have ours.
Q: You hosted several meetings in Moscow with Syrian government and opposition. Are you trying now to convince the Syrian parties to sit together in Moscow or somewhere else…
V.Churkin: Yes, this is what we are talking about with various opposition groups and opposition leaders and with the Syrian government. And it was discussed openly with minister Moallem in Moscow a few days ago. I think what has developed now is two-track approach. One is the initiative of Staffan de Mistura to have local freezes, which we support very much and where the Syrian government is engaged. This is a very good and a very positive gesture from the Syrian government and I hope those discussions are successful. There is the other track in which we also work together with Staffan de Mistura. He believes that various opposition groups need to be involved and we continue this work very actively including on the level of Minister Sergey Lavrov and our special representative for the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov. So on one hand there is an effort to stop fighting on the ground, at least maybe by moving from one place to another in order to limit the destruction, death and tragedy of the Syrian conflict and on the other hand – an effort to restart the political process.
Q: And now Moaz al-Khatib, he came back as the main opposition leader and he was in Moscow two weeks ago. Is he a possible… interlocutor?
V.Churkin: I’m not going to single anybody out. When he acquired a prominent position in this process people (and not just us) were encouraged by where he was coming from and some of the views he expressed. We believe that we need to talk to everybody who makes sense, who is interested in finding a solution to the Syrian crisis. We need to talk to all such people.
Q: How do you see the prospects of the solution?
V.Churkin: To name any dates is premature. Very intensive talks are underway and I think that those discussions which are taking place have shown that this is the right thing to do.