Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia’s remarks and answers to media questions on the occasion of assuming UNSC Presidency by Russia

Vassily Nebenzia: It is a pleasure to see you all on the first day of the Russian Presidency in the UN Security Council. As we are immersing in mid-summer, allow me to briefly update you on what we are planning for the month, week by week.

Obviously, the situation in Palestine will remain in the spotlight. Unfortunately, there are no signs of fighting and wounding abating, nor that a ceasefire is anywhere near. As Russia repeatedly warned, not a single element of the most recent resolution adopted by the Council at the US initiative – 2735 – has been implemented. And it is still unclear what are the final parameters of the proposal and whether the parties agreed to accept it.

The Council will start its deliberations with a briefing and consultations on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, in the context of implementation of the resolution 2720, tomorrow morning with Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag as a briefer.

On July 3, we have a briefing on Haiti followed by consultations. SRSG Maria Salvador will present the report by the Secretary-General.

No meetings are scheduled for July 4, thanks to our US hosts, as it is their national day. Neither for July 5.

We will start next week with a briefing and consultations on MONUSCO (UN Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo) on July 8, with SRSG Bintou Keita as a briefer.

Again, no official meetings so far are planned for July 9-10.

July 11 is quite a busy day in the Security Council schedule. In the morning session, we have consultations on UNFICYP (UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus) with SRSG Colin Stewart and in the afternoon – briefing and consultations on Colombia. We expect SRSG Carlos Ruiz Massieur to present the SG report and representative of ex-FARC to also brief the Council.

In mid-July the Council should adopt resolutions on the mandates of BINUH (UN Integrated Office in Haiti) and UNMHA (UN Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement).

On July 12, we will hold a regular briefing and consultations on UNOWAS (UN Office for Western Africa and the Sahel), with SRSG Leonard Santos Simão presenting the SG report.

The third week of July, starting on July 15, will be focused on our signature events.

On July 16, we will host our first signature event – Open debate on the maintenance of international peace and security: Multilateral cooperation in the interest of a more just, democratic and sustainable world order. We envisage this meeting as a continuation of the discussions we had under the Russian Presidency in April 2023. We feel that there is a high demand in the international community for a strategic discussion on the future security architecture, beyond the horizon of the current crisis. We propose to discuss the parameters of a truly just world order as well as a possible role of the UN in its establishment and maintenance.

Our second signature event is the open debate on the Middle East on July 17. We anticipate Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland to brief the Council. I guess the topic needs no introduction. The focus of the discussion will be, as we envisage, on the continued escalation in Gaza and its disastrous consequences.

Both meetings – on July 16-17 – will be chaired by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We encourage the Ministerial-level participation of other delegations as well.

On July 19, we plan to hold the third signature event – a debate on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security with focus on the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). These three organizations are doing a lot of useful work in the Eurasian region; however, it is not always well covered at the UN. We believe it is necessary to give Council members an opportunity to receive first-hand information on the activities of these regional organizations.

On July 22, we have a briefing and consultations on political and humanitarian aspects of the situation in Syria, with Special Envoy Geir Pedersen and OCHA representative briefing the Council.

On July 23, in the morning there will be a briefing and consultations on Yemen. As usual, we expect Special Envoy Hans Grundberg, OCHA representative and Head of Mission in Hudaydah Major General Michael Beary to brief the Council.

In the afternoon of the same day, we have consultations on the UNRCCA (UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia) with SRSG Kaha Imnadze as a briefer.

On July 24, consultations on Lebanon will take place, to discuss the implementation of the resolution 1701 (on UNIFIL and Blue line). This topic cannot be timelier, as the situation on the ground is really worrisome. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert will present the SG report. Hopefully, we do not have anything that will make us hold a briefing on Lebanon before the scheduled time.

In July, the Council should also consider the issue of CAR sanctions and the respective draft resolution.

As you can see, the program at the moment is not too packed, and we have some slots reserved for urgent requests and meetings that, we are sure, will inevitably follow.

As for the informal wrap-up, the so-called “Toledo formula”, we are planning to do it on the last day of our Presidency on July 31.

That is basically what I wanted to brief you about.

 

Question: The US administration is holding discussions with Israel and Ukraine about the possibility of transferring aging Patriot air defense systems (those currently in Israel) to Ukraine. Will this development be of consequences on the relations between Israel and Moscow?

Vassily Nebenzia: We are discouraging all countries (that have not yet done so) from providing arms for Ukraine. The destiny of the weapons that will be eventually exported to Ukraine (from wherever) is clear. They will be destroyed, as the other weapons that the West and the US are supplying Ukraine with. But I presume that the decision that might be taken on the issue, may, of course, have certain political consequences.

Question: Is Russia abiding by UN sanctions on North Korea? And does Russia believe that North Korea should be allowed to regime nuclear testing?

Vassily Nebenzia: I hope you read my statement on Friday during the briefing on North Korea, and we were absolutely clear saying (not for the first time) that we are not violating the North Korea sanctions regime. And all those allegations that come out are not proved by material evidence – like in this infamous report of the Panel of Experts that stopped to exist. It is not even the report of the Panel of Experts, as it was alleged by my colleagues in the Security Council during the meeting. It was a report of three experts that went there – experts from the UK, Japan and the Republic of Korea. And it is by itself very telling that there was not a single specialist in ballistics among them. They did not make conclusive statements on fragments of the debris that were provided to them, but it was widely reported as if these were DPRK missiles. The publication of these things continued for a long time. Some experts from this panel were engaging in stamping allegations against North Korea and its leadership, using the “highly likely” pretext for it. Newspapers reported some blurred photographs, which they betrayed for the hard evidence. So, when the meeting started, I said that we were absolutely clear what the purpose of the meeting was. The purpose of the meeting was to expose Russia and North Korea to allegedly violating the UN resolutions on DPRK. No, we are not violating them. The treaty was cited extensively. It was signed in Pyongyang. But if you read the treaty which is in the open access on the Internet, you will see that all these accusations that were laid on the table to blame us do not stand any critics in fact. We are not in the situation of nuclear testing at the moment. We have had an imitation of nuclear test in the US recently, as you know, but we have not heard about any nuclear testing in the DPRK recently.

Question: If Russia is abiding by the sanctions, how do you explain the very public gift of a luxury car from your President?

Vassily Nebenzia: Well, this is the most gross violation of the Security Council resolution that you could cite, of course. That is what the Panel of Experts in fact was immersing itself into trying to find how many luxury bags the Korean DPRK was importing, what cars they use to drive, etc. This is, I don't know the details, but this car is with special protection. The leader of DPRK needs protection. So, we provided it for him.

Question: In the preprogram of work we did not see any meetings concerning Ukraine. Is this unspoken agreement still working in the Security Council and will Russia raise concern or reason for maybe another meeting on Ukraine. And, secondly, you mentioned that Foreign Minister Lavrov will be here. We know that in the past few times, the visa is always an issue. So far, have you encountered visa issue and will he be here to meet the correspondence?

Vassily Nebenzia: On the first question, we have a convention in the Council that we do not put meetings on Ukraine into the program. Whenever they appear in the program, it is not adopted. But any country and member of the Security Council has the right to request for a briefing on that or another issue in the course of the Presidency of the month that this time in July. And we have indications that this meeting, on their part, will be requested to which we will reciprocate, you know our policy on that issue. But we are waiting for their first word. Now, the second question was about Sergey Lavrov’s press conference and visa issue. So far, we are not aware of visa issues as of now. We still have time – half a month. Hopefully, we will not have to raise this question and visas will be issued in due time. On the press conference I cannot speak for the Minister, but normally he is open to talking to you and I hope this time it will be the same.

Question: Will Russia ask the UN Security Council to put sanctions on those parties that were involved in the recent attack on a Crimean beach with US-supplied ATACMS missiles? Do you expect there to be an investigation of that attack outside of Russia? And what do you make of the Western reaction to that terrorist attack?

Vassily Nebenzia: I do not expect any investigation outside of Russia. Moreover, we have seen comments by the US State Department and the European Commission. What struck me most was the comment from the European Commission, a representative of which said that the proof and evidence provided by Russia are close to zero or even below. It is, of course, a shameful statement. But the investigation is going on in Russia. Yes, that is true.

Question: The International Telecommunications Union today issued a complaint against Russia on satellite and jamming of satellite communications in five countries (Ukraine, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, and Luxembourg). Can you explain where that is coming from, and if Russia is doing this? And then also Russia, apparently, you maybe you can confirm it, submitted its own complaints to the ITU, but they weren't included in this report. Can you explain either of those things?

Vassily Nebenzia: I cannot comment on the first part of it, as I have not heard of it frankly. I have to investigate myself what was put on the table by the ITU. On our complaint, the US and other satellites are used in the zone of the Ukrainian conflict to provide satellite data to Ukrainians to assist them in targeting, etc. And I think that this is at least known as a violation that is allegedly being addressed to us, but I frankly do not have the answer because I have heard the news.

Question: So, you say you are abiding by the sanctions against DPRK. But would you agree that any military materials or munitions that are transferred to or from North Korea and another country would be a violation of the sanctions of the Council?

Vassily Nebenzia: Perhaps, but that does not happen.

Question: And then would Russia tell other countries to implement those sanctions resolutions? Would you still support them?

Vassily Nebenzia: When they and you talk about sanctions resolutions, you talk only about a part of it. What is forbidden to North Korea, but you omit and they omit other parts of that resolution that call for the political and diplomatic solution to the crisis that call for the humanitarian relief. You know that Russia and China put forward a resolution on humanitarian assistance to North Korea to alleviate the suffering of the North Korean population, not just the leadership as they claim. But it was flatly rejected at a certain time, nobody plans to follow it. So I mean there are a lot of things in these resolutions that are being neglected, while other parts of it are being put to the limelight.

Question: Right now, in Doha there are being held meetings on Afghanistan with Special Envoys and USG DiCarlo. How close is Russia to removing the Taliban from your list of designated terror groups? And are you getting closer to recognizing them?

Vassily Nebenzia: The Taliban is de facto the authorities of Afghanistan. We have been saying consistently that you have to recognize this fact and deal with them as such. Because whether you like it or not, but this movement is running the country now. And you cannot simply ignore that. On how far we are from removing them from the sanctions list on which they are now in Russia, I cannot tell you a definite answer. But I heard some, some talks about it. Generally speaking, it is good that the Taliban was finally invited to Doha this time, because it is impossible to solve the problems of Afghanistan behind the back of the de facto rulers, inviting the representatives of civil society, NGOs, the former government. It is fine, all right. But I mean, you have to deal with those people who actually run the country. But it is difficult to say what will come out of the meeting in Doha. Everybody wishes well to Afghanistan, but the roadmap how to do it, is different from country to country and the devil is in the details. You know that the Moscow format, which comprises most of the major places of Afghanistan, including its neighbors, is useful and recognized. They are offering their ways how to pragmatically continue with the Taliban as Afghan authorities at the moment. There are other views on the other side who prioritize human rights in general and the rights of women and girls in particular. We also are saying that, of course, the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan should be observed and that the government in Afghanistan should be inclusive, inclusive not just by nationalities, but by the political spectrum that exists to represent the country fully. The case today that it is not the fact and we have to accept it for the time being and continue pragmatic dealing with the current Afghan authorities.

Question: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. First, Donald Trump has said that if he is elected, he can solve the Ukraine crisis in one day. What's your reaction to that? And on a broader question, we've all seeing a growing geopolitical divide between Russia China, North Korea, the US and European or Western allies, which of course has ramifications here as well as in many other institutions. Do you see any way of closing this growing divide?

Vassily Nebenzia: The Ukrainian crisis cannot be solved in one day. That's, objective. President Putin recently said where we are in the Ukrainian crisis as of today. It could have been solved, as you are well aware, in April 2022. In Istanbul, we were very close to the agreement. But then Western sponsors of Ukraine interfered, in particular Boris Johnson, who told the Ukrainians to have told the Kiev regime to continue fighting Russia. There was a Bucha provocation that was formally the reason for them to exit the negotiations and the agreement that was 95% ready. Now Zelensky and the regime is running around with their so-called peace plan, which is of course not a peace plan but a joke. They had a conference in Bürgenstock, as you know, which was a failure. It was not being very much commented on, because it was a failure, but it was recognized as so by all serious observes. President Putin speaking recently, as recent as June 14, said that the reality changed, and we are ready anytime not just to interrupt the conflict, but to come to ending it, but the reality should be taken into account. The new reality that emerged during the period between April 22 and July 24. It was rejected by Kiev and by the West. But the problem for them is that the longer this thing continues, the more difficult the situation on the ground for them will be. The reality will be changing for them as well. So, if they don't want to be realistic, let them not be. But to solve the problem on the basis of Zelensky peace formula… we will not even talk about that. We already commented on that. We gave it our assessment, and it's a non-starter. It’s a non-starter, no matter how many conferences they would hold. Zelensky recently said that he is, he will be prepared to talk to Russia through mediators. I don't know what he meant by it. He at a certain point as early as fall of 2022 forbade himself to negotiate with the Russian leadership. If he is expecting the change, I think that he is miscalculating; and besides, his own term has expired and we don't know whether he is legitimate to negotiate with.

Question: And on closing the gap.

Vassily Nebenzia: Yeah, and on closing the gap. These are objective processes that have been happening in the world, which, unfortunately, the US and its European you call them allies, and I will call them minions, refuse to recognize.  Other centers of power are emerging, with China being one of them, and other places – I will not enumerate them all - and they have to recognize this objective fact. But they are trying to retain the dominance that they have enjoyed for the last 500 years, basically, and cling to it. But objective processes go… and go in the other direction, we indeed have other centers of power emerging. We see the appetite of many countries to play a larger role in the world politics, which by the way is reflected even in the composition of the Security Council. You know that we have a Security Council reform in process, which is a separate standalone thing on which we could talk for a long time. However, the major watershed between the positions, despite all the nuances and the composition of the groups, which are not homogeneous, say, take the Uniting for Consensus, it is a gross regional group in fact. But despite all that, this is the fight between the old and the new. And we say that indeed the developing world, the so called developing world - or rather Global South, and in particular Africa – is underrepresented in the Security Council. While, the collective West, I would call it so, is overrepresented there, which does not reflect the current state of world geopolitics. So these processes are happening. They are painful for some of them, but they will continue to shape the geopolitics for the future to come. In the end, (you say the confrontation that exists), the West, and the US in particular have to realize that they have to change, to change not just the rhetoric, but the course towards countries like China, for example. We sit in the Security Council meetings, and every time a US representative speaks, he's trying to pinch China or something or whatever. I'm not talking about ourselves. We are usual suspects, and we are used to it. But he or she attacks China every time they speak, which doesn't really contribute to the positive atmosphere between the great powers. And China doesn't like it. They're trying to limit its not just political capabilities, which is difficult, but the economic ones as well, with the new sanctions, with the new UCMs. So, I mean, that's the signature event that we're planning on the 16th is basically dedicated to this thing. How to see beyond the horizon of the current crisis? What expects us not maybe tomorrow, but in 10-20 years? Where will we arrive and how the system of security, which should be indivisible and should not be at the expense of the others, can be established so that every country felt itself safe and secure?

Question: Thank you so much. I wish you also the best for your presidency. Um, I want to follow up on Michelle's questions about North Korea’s nuclear testing, because frankly, I think you didn't answer it. You said there was no nuclear test. That's right. But that doesn't keep you from having a position of North Korea. If it should be allowed or not to test nuclear weapons.

Vassily Nebenzia: I should not. I don't want to comment on it. Nor to encourage anyone to do.

Question: But don't you think that it might sound to North Korea like an invitation?

Vassily Nebenzia: I don't think so. You think you underestimate the thinking of the DPRK leaders. You know, they sometimes... they simplify it, so to say. I think that they are much more intelligent and shrewd then the West imagines.

Question: I have a question regarding the third signature event, a debate on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub regional organizations. You mentioned that Council members will have the opportunity to receive first-hand information. Does this indicate that we should expect high-ranking officials from these organizations to brief Security Council members?

Vassily Nebenzia: Absolutely. We expect the heads of the Secretariats of the CSTO and the CIS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to brief the Council.

Question: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. My question was regarding Prime Minister Modi's visit to Moscow, the first since 2015. What would be the ideal outcome for Russia after this visit? And what do you expect from this visit?

Vassily Nebenzia: What do you mean by ideal outcome? We have relations of special privilege strategic partnership with India. India is a longtime friend of Russia. We cooperate in so many areas, and I think that will be a substantive conversations on the whole range of issues that our countries cooperate on. I'm not aware of what kind of documents will be the result of that visit, but I'm sure that there will be serious messages coming out of it, and, I presume, in the form of joint documents as well.

Question: Can you just elaborate on, perhaps, any specifics that we can expect will be in the talks? And, perhaps, what you expect will be achieved?

Vassily Nebenzia: I expect Russian-Indian relations to blossom even better.

Question: Hi Ambassador. You said that you hope you won't have to convene any meeting on Lebanon before the regular one on the 24th. What did you mean by that? Can you also give us your reading of what's happening now over there? What is your analysis of the situation and do you still believe that a war, an all-out war could still be prevented and how?

Vassily Nebenzia: I wish this war could be prevented. When I said that I hoped that we are in a regular meeting on Lebanon, it means that I hope that nothing will happen before that would necessitate holding an emergency meeting of the Security Council on that issue. We hear belligerent rhetoric about Lebanon from the Israeli leadership, and also replies from Hezbollah saying that they are ready to resist any attempts to invade Lebanon. And this has been already for some time, and that gives a serious cause of concern. Because that will be not the first, but one of the next spillovers of the crisis that was in fact originated in Gaza. In fact, it originated decades ago, but I mean, the current one that originated in Gaza, but it has spread already to the region. It's Yemen on the Red Sea. And now Lebanon is in a queue. And I sincerely hope that we can avoid that.

Question: Do you imagine a scenario under which a war would not happen? What should be done? What steps should be taken?

Vassily Nebenzia: If the sides demonstrate restraint and understanding of the consequences of that potentially dangerous development, then, I hope, we can avoid it.

Question: Thank you very much. The questions is about the Russian crisis and Putin's regime. Russia has endangered not only the population of the Ukraine, in particular, the temporarily occupied Crimea, but also the inhabitants of its own territories due to the poor quality of armaments. The Russians dropped at least 38 aerial bombs and plenty of missiles on the Belgorod region of Russia, the Washington Post reported. Would you like to discuss in the UN Security Council the issues of the security of the Russian population from its own armed forces?

Vassily Nebenzia:  The Washington Post is the ultimate authority to me. If the Washington Post says, I cannot, you know, counter it. But I mean, this is a regular narrative that we hear recently, we’ve heard it from the United States and European Union, but we’ve heard it from Ukraine and its Western sponsors that it's Russia that bombs itself. It's Russia that bombs itself. It's Russia that bombs its own regions. It is Russia that bombs the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant. So whatever happens in Russia, it's our fault. I cannot comment on this statement of the Washington Post. I know who provides this rhetoric and narrative. We are not on the same page about that issue.

Question: Thank you very much. I wish you best of luck and less before this month. I have two questions, if you don't mind. First of all, according to some new stories, there has started a new dialogue between Syria and Turkey. And I wonder if Russia has played any role in this new dialogue. If yes, what it is if not what's your reaction to that? And the second question is, as you know, it has been 14 years the war continues in Syria. We see like six different foreign armies, and I think eight countries have been bombing Syria over the last 14 years. So I wonder how hopeful you are about Syria. I mean to achieve a peace there

Vassily Nebenzia: On the Syria-Turkey talks, I doubt that anything is happening. I'm not aware of it. But the Syrians said many times that they are prepared or they will be prepared to talk with Turkey if Turkey withdraws its forces out of northern Syria. And that was the condition, but nothing happened that made me think that things changed. You said about the foreign presence in Syria. Yes, indeed. There are many foreign armies there; most of them are deployed there illegally. For example, the US that justifies its presence in Syria by Article 51 of the Charter. I wonder how Article 51 of the Charter works for the US in Syria. There are two armies that were invited by the Syrian government, which are not the armies but the military contingents. These are Russia, and Iran as well. They are present there legally. The Syrian conflict is not ending because the reality on the ground is not changing. The Syrian government is subject to numerous hundreds or thousands, perhaps, of sanctions, unilateral coercive measures, with most of them originating in the West of course. We've heard that the Caesar Act in the US soon will be replaced by another one anti-Assad regime Act which will last till 2050 something. In these circumstances, how do you expect the normalization in Syria when the West is suffocating it? You know that we are being told that UCMs do not affect the Syrian population; it's again against the regime, etc. The objective data shows quite the contrary; the UCM are affecting the ordinary Syrian citizens who are deprived of necessities, who are deprived of medicine, who are deprived of medical equipment. Recently, in mid-June, at the initiative of the group of the Friends of the Charter we held a debate on unilateral sanctions in the General Assembly.  Our Western partners didn't like that, they were saying that by introducing UCMs they are observing the provisions of international law and make sure that they make countries implement it, which of course, a bad explanation. To give you an example (and that relates to Syria as well, similar cases you can find there), when the Belarusian Ambassador spoke on the podium, he gave an example of butterfly people. You know, people with a very bad genetic disease, you cannot touch them. If you touch them, there is a hematoma there and that finally leads to death. So, so they use special plasters, which are produced only by one company in the world, and that company refused to export these plasters to Belarus because it was under sanctions. And it's not just direct UCMs but the secondary measures that the Western business is very mindful of in order to avoid being on the sanctions list themselves. So this is just one example of Belarus, but the same applies to Syria and other sanction countries, and that demonstrates how these measures are affecting ordinary population.

Question: Thanks very much. I wanted to ask you about Afghanistan have you talked to the Taliban and ask them to observe women and girls’ rights, human rights, for example, get letting them go back to school and go to work? And how do you justify holding a debate on international peace and security when you're at war in Ukraine? And have you been invited to the US July 4 party?

Vassily Nebenzia: The first one was on Afghanistan. Yes, we're talking to the Taliban about it. You know that we have the Embassy in Kabul and it never closed. We have our special envoy on Afghanistan, who is a very versed diplomat, he is recognized not just by us but by the international community, Mr. Zamir Kabulov. He knows Afghanistan from north of south and east to west. Yes, we're talking to them, but they have their own ideas about it. Unfortunately, I'm not approving of that, but that's the reality we're facing with the Taliban, the women’s and girls’ policies, which they justify by Islamic norms, which are in fact not Islamic. Many Islamic countries are trying to explain it to them but they wouldn't listen. That's the point. That's the problem. On the debate on multilateralism, you said when you are waging war, etc. We said many times the origin and the genesis of this crisis is much deeper than how the West would like to present it. We do not think that it's us who are to blame for the current state of the crisis. We're approaching a long time, for decades, perhaps, and the last decade in particular. And now we're just really reaping the fruits, the sour fruits, the bitter fruits of what was happening in geopolitics before the crisis started.

Question: but why are you at war if you're going to have a meeting about international peace and security?

Vassily Nebenzia: Look, we said many times that we didn't start that war. The war started long before. The war was encouraged by the West, they were happily watching, what was happening in Donbass since 2014, without any willingness to instruct the Kiev puppets - I cannot call it otherwise - to implement Minsk agreements that, if implemented, could have prevented what is happening now. But what is happening now is fighting against Russia with the hands of poor Ukrainians, using Ukraine as an instrument against Russia, stepping aside and saying ‘No, no, we're not participating in this war. We're not a party to it’. Despite that they provide whatever ammunition, provides satellite data, despite that the instructors are directly involved in targeting of the Ukrainian ammunition on Russia. So you know, it's the way how you look where the whole thing started. We have a totally different opinion, at least from you, on how this thing began.

As for July 4. Yes, we have today the breakfast of the members of the Council, traditional breakfast that we hold on the first day of the presidency. Today was our turn, and everyone was invited. To what it will translate, I don't know. Whether I got an official invitation or it was just an announcement, I don't know.

Question: Will you go?

Vassily Nebenzia: If officially invited, I will.

Question: Going back to Lebanon. Over the weekend, the Arab League rescinded the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist entity. What are your thoughts?

Vassily Nebenzia: I can only comment that in Russia Hezbollah is not designated as a terrorist organization.

Question: Thank you, Ambassador. Any progress on the talks about a release of imprisoned Wall Street journalist Evan Gershkovich?

Vassily Nebenzia: When Foreign Ministry officials are being asked this question, they reply the following, and I will do the same. No, I'm not aware of the details. And that is a delicate subject that is being discussed by the special services of Russia and the US.

Question: The UN Secretary General Special Representative for Cyprus, Mr. Colin Stewart, is expected to brief you within the next few days, amid the UN Secretary General personal envoy ongoing efforts to find common ground between the two sides. So I'd like to ask your opinion on this effort on Cyprus issue.

Vassily Nebenzia: Special Personal Envoy of the Secretary General, former Colombian Foreign Minister María Angela Holguín was traveling to the island. She was talking to the parties only to find that the parties are very far apart from the compromise solution that may be found. That is unfortunate, but that has last already certain time we had an opportunity in 2017 in Grand Montana, which was unfortunately lost. And since then, there has been no visible tangible progress on the Cyprus negotiations. Moreover, we see the toughening of positions of certain players. Now there's a question of extending the mandate of Mrs. Holguín, but that's completely within the prerogative of the Secretary General because she is his personal envoy, not the envoy of the Security Council, nor the SRSG. Let's see. In fact, it is for him to make the decision. As for Colin Stewart’s briefing (that will be the regular briefing by the UNFICYP that he heads), on the developments on the ground, on the issues that they are facing. I do not expect anything extraordinary from this briefing.

Question: I have a follow-up question about the DPRK, especially about the Panel of Experts. It has been more that two months it expired. Do you have any alternative proposals on the issue? Or do you think Security Council doesn't need the Panel any longer?

Vassily Nebenzia: We wish the Panel of Experts did not involve into politics based on encouragement of certain countries, which was the major mistake they made. I was commenting on it in the beginning. When the term of the Panel of Experts was expiring, we offered the way out. But the sanctions regime against the DPRK is an unprecedented thing in the United Nations. It's not time bound. It doesn't have any provisions for reviewing. And this can cannot be tolerated. We need to stop talking about it, because otherwise, we see no incentive for the DPRK to engage in whatever. They know that whatever they do the draconian sanctions regime remains. Instead of trying to find ways within their mandate and expertise how to engage and encourage the talks between the major protagonists, the Panel of Experts enjoyed itself producing reports with laughable things, which are not the core of the problem on the Korean Peninsula.  And they also demonstrated many times their unprofessionalism, as I said, during the visit in Ukraine in particular. So the group of experts, the panel of experts was in fact doomed and it did it itself. It's not because we wanted it so badly to disappear. The Panel of experts is an instrument of the North Korean Sanctions Committee on the Security Council. So the sanctions committee remains and all the issues that were initially discussed in the panel who produced the reports, some of them were fake, to the Sanctions Committee. The Sanction Committee will take over the situation in the DPRK and the implementation of sanctions itself, without the panel of experts.

Question: It is just a quick follow up on what you were talking about sanctions, that they're indefinitely should be lifted on North Korea. Does that mean Russia believes that North Korea should be allowed to pursue its nuclear weapons program and continue developing nuclear weapons?

Vassily Nebenzia: It's not a direct link, but we think that to impose sanctions on a country, which are endless, is simply unfair and discourage. So we have to think, how to modify the Sanctions Committee, the sanctions regime on the DPRK it cannot last forever, like in in any other situation with the sanctions regime on other countries we eventually have an exit strategy sooner or later, but not on North Korea, which is absolutely not understandable to us.

Question: I want to turn to Africa. We all know about the Wagner group for many years because they pillaged resources, they did a little rape on the side, and many of them came from prisoners. Now since the chief conductor (the musician) has now been killed in a plane crash – what's happened to these people in Mali or Central African Republic? Is the Russian government supervising them? Are they behaving? Are they still there?

Vassily Nebenzia: I hear narrative on pillaging resources and raping whoever comes their way from some of my colleagues in the Security Council for some time already. I didn't expect that from you, Evelyn. Let me be frank. Now there is no Wagner group anymore. They were disbanded. And the way this private security companies organized themselves – that's their own business. They are not organized by State and that they are not states entities anymore.

Question: Thank you very much Ambassador. As you also mentioned in the beginning of the meeting, the resolution that was accepted on the 10th for a ceasefire in Gaza. We can see from the unabated attacks of Israel, that it's not being implemented. I just want to ask you what can the United Nations Security Council do to enforce the implementation of this resolution? Thank you.

Vassily Nebenzia: First of all, to demand unequivocally immediate and verifiable ceasefire, because the resolution as it is framed, is worded now, it doesn't provide for it, it says something about ceasefire for the first time, but very indefinitely. And the plan, the so called “Three-point plan” that was presented in the resolution is vague, incomplete, with the lack of details, which we commented on when we spoke on it. That's why we in fact abstain, because we didn't want to sign up under the resolution, as the goals, means and time of implementation are completely unclear. We didn't want to give blanket documents to our colleagues, to pretend, and in fact to sabotage the process, which we see happening. Israel, despite the US reassurances, said immediately after the resolution was adopted in a statement by their representative they will not deal with Hamas, period. So that is one thing.

Now they're blaming Hamas as if Israel had agreed to, which is not the case, in fact. At least de-facto Hamas presents its view how the resolution should be implemented. So you know, this ping pong continues, but nothing happens in reality. Thank you very much.

Thank you very much for coming.

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