Press Conference by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia dedicated to the beginning of the Russian Presidency of UNSC in April 2023
Vassily Nebenzia: It is a pleasure to see you all on the first working day of the Russian Presidency in the UN Security Council. Allow me to briefly update you on what we are planning for the month, week by week.
At 11:30 am today, we adopted the program for the month of April. It was preceded by the regular traditional PR breakfast where we discussed it. No official Council meetings are planned for the first week of our Presidency. Still, at 10:00 am on 5 April we intend to host in our national capacity an Arria-formula meeting entitled “Children and armed conflict: Ukrainian crisis. Evacuating children from conflict zones”. You know that this issue is being discussed in many fora including at the UN and we want to dispel some misgivings and propaganda over that issue that has been waged by certain countries.
We also plan to have three long weekends in April because of religious holidays on 7 April (the Catholic Good Friday), 14 April (Orthodox Good Friday), and 21 April (Eid al-Fitr).
We will resume our official work next week on Monday, 10 April straight away with our first signature event – open debate on threats to international peace and security “Risks stemming from violations of the agreements regulating the export of weapons and military equipment” with USG Izumi Nakamitsu as a briefer. We strongly believe the topic of the discussion is timely and relevant. We do hope the open debate with a broad participation of member states will provide an opportunity to discuss ways to address risks to international peace and security stemming from violations of the agreements and multilateral understandings with regard to regulating the export of weapons and military equipment. We expect participants to consider the negative consequences of non-compliance by Member States with their obligations in arms and ammunition transfers and identify ways to improve mechanisms for controlling exports of weapons and military equipment. Just for your information, we do not intend to focus the discussion on some specific country- or regional context, but rather discuss the issue from an arms control perspective. You may have seen this already from the concept note that we circulated this week.
No meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, 11 April.
On Wednesday, 12 April we will hold a regular briefing followed by consultations on the situation in Mali and the work of MINUSMA (UN Multidimensional Mission in Mali) with SRSG El Ghassim Wane, who will present the SG report.
On 13 April, in the morning session, we will have a briefing followed by consultations on Columbia with SRSG Carlos Ruiz Massieu as a briefer presenting the SG report, as well as the PBC Chair.
We will resume SC activities next week and discuss Yemen on 17 April. We plan to hear the briefings by SRSG Special Envoy Hans Grundberg and OCHA ASG Joyce Msuya. We also expect Head of UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement, RCC Chair Gen. Michael Beary to participate, per established practice, in consultations.
On 18 April, we will have a briefing on the work of UNSMIL (UN Support mission in Libya) and Libya sanctions followed by consultations with SRSG Abdoulaye Bathily (VTC) as a briefer and Chair of the 1970 Sanctions Committee Amb. Kimihiro Ishikane of Japan presenting the periodic report of this subsidiary body.
On 19 April, we will have a briefing followed by consultations on Great Lakes Region. Special Envoy Huang Xia will present the SG report. And in the case of Colombia we will have the PBC Chair as a briefer.
In the afternoon session of the same day, April 19, we will have consultations on the work of MINURSO (UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) with PESG Staffan de Mistura and SRSG Alexander Ivanko as briefers.
No meetings are scheduled for 20 April.
As announced earlier, we expect H.E. Mr.Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, to arrive in New York later in April.
He will be chairing our second signature event on 24 April, which is an open debate on maintenance of international peace and security “Effective multilateralism through the defense of the principles of the UN Charter”. The SG has confirmed his participation as a briefer. We plan to have a comprehensive and strategic forward-looking discussion on the formation of a new multipolar world order based on sovereign equality, equal rights and self-determination, justice and security, friendly relations and cooperation between nations with full respect for the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, where the UN is able to act as a central mechanism for coordinating the interests of member states and their actions to achieve the goals of the UN Charter. We encourage Member States to consider ways how we can build a truly multipolar world while maintaining the global balance of power and ensuring the conditions for humanity's steady advance based on a unifying and constructive agenda.
Minister Lavrov will also chair the open debate on the Middle East on 25 April with Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland (VTC) as a briefer. The meeting will provide us with a good opportunity to discuss a complex dynamics in the region, focusing first on a stagnation of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and escalation of tensions.
On 26 April in the morning, we will hold briefing and consultations on Haiti with SRSG Maria Isabel Salvador, who will present the SG report. As I understand, this will be her first briefing to the Security Council. The UNODC Director-General, Ghada Fathi Waly, is also expected to brief.
This is beyond the SC official program of work, but I would like to mention this for scheduling purposes: on 26 April in the afternoon, we intend to convene a bi-monthly informal interactive dialogue on humanitarian situation in Syria.
Also on Syria, on 27 April we will have a combined discussion on both Syria political and humanitarian files in briefing and consultations. We expect Special Envoy Geir Pedersen and OCHA USG Martin Griffiths to brief the Council and to present the SG report.
In the afternoon session, we will have a briefing on Kosovo with SRSG Caroline Ziadeh briefing the Council and presenting a periodic report on the work of UNMIK (UN Mission in Kosovo).
As for the informal wrap-up, we are thinking of 28 April. We will confirm the date at a later stage. I think this will also be the date when we have an opportunity to meet again beside from regular stakeouts that I pledge I will try to adhere to.
Q: I have two questions. The first one is what is your comment to those who suggest that Russia should not be President of the Security Council because of the war in Ukraine? And the second one is we're seeing the succession of several European leaders to China to visit President Xi. Do you think it can be useful to find a path through the negotiation table? Do you think can play a key role even here at the UN to facilitate a negotiation and a solution to the conflict? Thank you so much.
A: On the first question, we hear these comments. Of course, some countries are pretending they can decide on their own whom they want or do not want in the chair of the Security Council. As long as the current world order with the UN and the Security Council stands, there will be no change in the rules of procedure. And the order of the Presidency is well defined. It's not for them to change. I also heard comments that Russia should be an honest broker in the Presidency of the Security Council. I think that nobody could reproach us for not being one when in the Presidency (which can easily be checked) unlike some countries who come up with such claims, while not always being honest brokers themselves. I'm not even talking about the comment of the American PR whose Presidency of the Security Council was – and I recognize it when this is the case – professional. But some of their predecessors didn't do likewise. They played with the rules of procedure of the Security Council and basically trampled on the Council's rules.
I also hear comments, heard comments from an outstanding and chief European diplomat, Joseph Barrel, who recently distinguished himself with comments and statements that made him a truly international star invoking the 1 April Fool's Day. On that I will not comment much. I will only ask a rhetorical question. Who's talking?
I did not answer your second question. I will come to it.
Q: A quick follow-up if I can. You said you're going to follow the rules of procedure. You're well aware of the provisional rules of procedure of the Security Council better than me. Rule 20 says that during the consideration of a particular question with which the member he [President] represents is directly connected, he shall indicate his decision to the Council to recuse himself. Basically, if that particular issue is something that you're directly involved in, and it's up to you, as the President to decide that. So if the issue of Ukraine comes up this month, there's the provision for you then to hand the Presidency for that subject over to Switzerland.
A: No. Why not? If you put the question this way, then I think the countries that are on the Security Council should also withdraw from that discussion, and namely three members of the P5 who are directly involved in the situation, which you are alluding to.
Secondly, I would like to remind that in 2003, both UK and US were Presidents of the Security Council in September and October consecutively. Nobody raised the question of their legitimacy to hold the Presidency, and nobody put on the table the question that they withdraw from discussing the issue that was perhaps the most topical and hot then.
Now, coming back to what I was asked about China. I wish it could be the case, but I have strong doubts that the European leaders, with their position on the Ukrainian crisis, could come to anything sensible and meaningful when they visit China. We more or less know their rhetoric and narrative. We know what they will say and what they will demand from President Xi. I think that the balanced Chinese position on the issue will not allow them to go from Beijing with what they consider, in their view, tangible.
Q: Regarding your Arria meeting on Wednesday, you've already said to us that this isn't intended to be a defense of President Putin's ICC arrest warrant. Can you tell us who will be briefing on Wednesday? And then regarding the Ukraine grain deal, you said in an interview with TASS on Friday that you expect concrete results by May 18. And if that doesn't happen, the UN will have to acknowledge a few things about Western sanctions, but you didn't say that Russia would withdraw from the deal. So if May 18 comes around and Russia doesn't get what it wants, will the deal continue?
A: It's not me who decides. As you understand, we've been saying consistently that the deal is not working. The second part of the deal, which concerns the Russian export of food and fertilizers is not working 100%. Despite all the efforts the Secretary-General and Rebecca Grynspan are undertaking, which we recognize, we are where we are. And I cannot predict what happens in 60 days, where we said we expect a breakthrough. As I said, it's not my prerogative to give you even heads-up on that, but let's see what happens on the 18 May and what progress we can achieve by that date.
On Arria meeting, you will learn the name of the briefers very shortly today in the second part of the day because it's being coordinated with Moscow and we’ll come with the final list shortly.
Q: And have you received any pushback from any of your colleagues on the Security Council regarding your Arria?
A: Not really. Look, Arria-formula meetings are meetings that provide for the participation of all Council members. If we see somebody is missing, of course, we will do likewise when they have their own Arria meeting on whatever topic. We participate in every Arria that our colleagues, especially those who are not in agreement with us on many issues, conduct. And we never miss any unless they make the first move.
Q: One question and then a follow-up. There's a great deal of concern about the arrest of American Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich. And we'd like to hear from you about what you think in terms of responding to the US. And many journalist organizations request to release him. And then the second question is just since your Foreign Minister will be coming at the 24-25, the end of April, do you expect any kind of possible meeting with US Secretary of State Blinken, as they both did a pull-aside in early March in India?
A: I think that depends on two factors. First, where Secretary Blinken will be at that time, and on his ability and willingness to meet with our Foreign Minister. We never, ever (and we stated it at numerous times), run away from whatever meetings with those people who want these meetings. If Secretary Blinken would like to have a meeting, of course the space will be provided. If he doesn't, then it's irrelevant.
Q: Foreign Minister Lavrov would want one if it's possible, wouldn’t he?
A: Well, if such a meeting is requested, I presume that Minister Lavrov will be ready to meet Secretary Blinken. But for that, we need at least one condition. A willingness to meet.
On Gershkovich. I'm not an investigative body. Believe it or not, but we have the division of powers in Russia. He was arrested on charges of espionage. The investigation is going on. We hear statements coming from the West. Today, Secretary Blinken talked to Minister Lavrov on that issue. But that will be decided not by Minister Lavrov or Secretary Blinken, but by the investigation and the evidence that the investigation could provide for the court. That's all I can say on this.
On the same topic, I would like to say that yesterday there was an assassination of a Russian blogger and journalist whose nickname is Tatarsky, his real name is Fomin. The suspect was apprehended and she basically pleaded guilty. We heard no reaction to that crime from the international community, the UN or journalist organizations. We still consider it to be selective to a large extent when assessing what happened to journalists here and there.
Q: We've all covered that story.
A: I appreciate it. But not a single word from those organizations that should have commented on it. And they would have commented on it if had not been a Russian journalist.
Q: A couple of follow-ups to what you've said on Evan Gershkovich. Russian authorities said that they caught him red handed. Can you show the world the evidence that Evan was providing information to a government rather than publishing it in articles in the Wall Street Journal, as any journalist would do? And apparently he has not been granted consular access and a visit with his lawyers. Why is the Russian government refusing to do that? Secondly, a follow-up on what you just said about the assassination of the Russian blogger. You said that the suspect was apprehended and she pleaded guilty. Did she appear in court?
A: No. Perhaps legally, that's not the correct phrase. You plead guilty in the court, of course. She basically confirmed that it was her who brought the explosive device to the cafe, where the public and the victim were.
Q: And did she know that it was an explosive device?
A: That the authorities that do the investigation have to find out.
Q: And just a third follow-up on your Presidency. The US Ambassador told us this morning that she expects the Russian Presidency to be professional, but she also said that the US expects Russia to be spreading disinformation about Ukraine. Could you respond to that?
A: I would agree with the first part of that statement. I think Linda [Thomas-Greenfield] was correct, and I hope that was not a question, but a statement, that she expects us to act professionally as Presidency of the Security Council, which she had a chance to make sure of when we were Presidents last time, and that was her first Presidency with us as chairs of the Security Council. So I will not disappoint you on that. On the second part, that we will use the Presidency to spread disinformation about Ukraine, this statement is in vein with the Western narrative that Russia does nothing but spreads disinformation about Ukraine. In fact, we think it is just the opposite. And among the disinformation that the Western media and Western official are spreading is the situation of Ukrainian children who were allegedly kidnapped from Ukraine and brought to Russia against their will. And this is just one aspect, but the Arria-formula meeting, which I hope you will follow, is intended to dispel this narrative and the so-called Russian disinformation of the issue. There are many others, of course, but I will not stop here to cite all of them.
On Gershkovich, you said, "could you provide evidence?" No, I can't, because I'm not an investigative body and I do not have information on the details and the essence of accusations as to consular access. Well, I think that according to consular and diplomatic traditions, it will be provided, but at what stage and when, I also have no idea. That is for the authorities in Moscow to decide.
Q: Russian lawmakers said recently that BRICS nations are in the process of creating a new payment established on a strategy that does not defend the dollar or the euro. And I was wondering if you could confirm that, if you have talked about this with your BRICS colleagues here at the UN. And it was interesting because this news just came days before South Africa sent senior officials to Russia to, “recalibrate the global order”. Can you talk about this recalibration of global order that we hear from Russia so often these days?
A: We've been talking about the need to delink us from the dependence on dollar and other foreign Western currencies long time. And that is not just an issue for Russia, but for many other countries. You know what happens after the EU, US and some other countries introduced what they call health sanctions against Russia. It didn't help them much, but it tells us that they are not reliable. Their financial system is not something that we can rely upon knowing that at any time they can switch off or rather swift off the international payment system, that dollar transactions are not reliable anymore. They sanctioned the dollar itself because now the dollar cannot travel to Russia officially. So we have to find ways how to move to a new system of exchanges with countries that are friendly to us. This trend did not start in February 2022. We were saying that we need to ‘dedollarize’ the world economy before it. We want to involve more currencies in trade with Russia. We do it successfully with China and with other countries. We need to come off that narcotic needle that the dollar represents.
South African senior officials are coming to Moscow to discuss the new configuration of the world order. That dialogue has been going for a long time already, now it intensified with the current events. And BRICS, which South Africa is a member of, is an active participant in these discussions. And of course, BRICS countries like China, South Africa, Brazil, India are elements of this new polycentric world order that is emerging. So I see nothing criminal or suspicious in South Africans traveling to Moscow to discuss this issue. We discuss these issues with the BRICS countries and within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and in other formats regularly.
Q: Two quick questions. Now actually many media outlets already started suspected that Russia is going to abuse the presidency of the Security Council. Any response? And we know that a large portion of the Council members, they are in one way or another against the Russian Federation. In this way, how would you expect to work with them to maintain peace and stability with what I called Mission Impossible, which is to show the solidarity and the unity of the Council.
A: There were many articles on that issue before our Presidency. At a certain point, you remember there was a debate within the Western media and among some Western leaders trying to question our membership in the Security Council and our status as the permanent member. I already answered partly that question, saying that as long as the current world order stays that is based on the UN charter, which says unequivocally how the UN is organized, including the Security Council, nothing will change, it will still be the same. I think that these articles and these opinions are a gesture of despair rather than something serious and tangible, which can affect our work in the Security Council.
On our role in the Security Council, even after our Presidency in February 2022, when the events started, member states thanked us for the professional Presidency that we demonstrated. We do not abuse the prerogatives of the Presidency. One thing is the national position. Another thing is the role of the Presidency of the Security Council, which we value, cherish and always trying to maintain.
I remember my first Presidency in the Council, which came on 1 July 2018, which coincided with the last veto of the US in the Security Council. That was Nikki Haley, who was PR at that time. We were in the Consultations Room and there was a procedural issue. At that time the US wanted to make an amendment to a resolution on Palestine that was under discussion – to its own resolution, as if an amendment. To that I told them, “Look, I do not want to go into the UK book on the proceedings of the Security Council…”, I'm sure many of you are aware of what it is – a very useful reference, “…on the first day of my Presidency. I hate to think about it. So let's behave professionally”. And so we did. That simply testifies that we do not abuse the work of the Security Council. Whoever says it is biased, to say the least.
You said that many of our colleagues in the Security Council will be working against Russia. I do not think that will be the case. Today's PRs’ breakfast demonstrated that they are all ready to come along. And besides, the Security Council is not composed only of the P3 and a few other countries that might have such thoughts, which they never betrayed anyway. At least today. Let's wait until the final press conference after the Presidency and see whether you were right or wrong.
Q: I totally understand your point about the role of the UN and the monthly Presidency [of the Security Council] that you attach to the credibility of the UN and its values. But can you understand that normal citizens feel offended that a country can chair the Security Council when its leader is under arrest warrant by the ICC, which is the judicial organ of the UN. That's my first question. My second question is, you have a lot of issues this month that you're going to review – MINUSMA, UNSMIL, MINURSO… Are there any one where you think there will be any breakthrough? And if so, which one?
A: All files on the Security Council are important to us, but I do not want to make too optimistic statements. I do not expect any breakthroughs on these files. But hopefully, we will be trying to achieve progress on them gradually.
On credibility and normal citizens... What normal citizens? There are citizens who take the situation not as they do in Western Europe. And even in Western Europe, even here in the US, there are various opinions on the issue and they are not as straightforward as you mentioned.
Now, you said that the International Criminal Court is a part of the UN, but the International Criminal Court is not the part of the UN. That's point 1, and I want to make it very clear.
Secondly, I commented on the decision on the International Criminal Court. Besides being stupid, let's put things straight, that is also an illegitimate decision, which means zero, nothing to us. And I think that those that encouraged that decision, perhaps they already regret they did. As I said, what they did doesn't make us closer to a resolution of the current crisis that we are living in. So on the credibility, that's a debatable question at least.
Q: Turkish President recently said that President Putin may visit Turkey on April 27 for the inauguration of Turkey's first nuclear power reactor, which was built by Russian nuclear energy company Rosatom. Has President Putin received an invitation? If so, does he plan to travel to Turkey?
A: That is a question that should be addressed to the Presidential Administration. I don't know about my President's plans to travel. Well, President Putin respects President Erdogan and vice versa, as you are very well aware, so I do not exclude it. But I cannot comment on behalf of the President.
Q: Have you heard anything regarding this visit?
A: Not yet.
Q: I am sure you know the history. You know very well that Russia is on the UN Security Council as well as in the UN as a whole, illegally. Doesn't Russia want to start the process of legalizing its membership in the UN, as all the other newly formed countries did after the former Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union ceased to exist?
A: You know pretty well that the story is not what our Ukrainian colleagues from the Mission are trying to tell us. The story is different. And the seat of the Russian Federation in the Security Council is fully legitimate. We received it after we were recognized as continuators of the Soviet Union with all the legal name and obligations that come after it. There was an agreement for that by all former members of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine. You might have noticed that this issue that was sort of hot at a certain point somehow subsided recently. Nobody is actively raising it because they understand that this is a dead-end road.
Q: We just found out from the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General that A.Guterres plans, when your Foreign Minister Lavrov comes here, to sit down with him. So my question is what A.Guterres should say or propose or come with something new so we get closer to peace. And then I have another question very quick. Many people, including me in the last months, had nightmares sometimes about a nuclear war. Did you have any nightmare lately about that?
A: On the first question, I find it a little bit strange that you are addressing to me a question on what Antonio Guterres has to say to Minister Lavrov. Perhaps you could have asked Stefan [Dujarric] or SG himself, what he's going to come forward with. As far as I know, SG was saying all the time, that he would welcome any initiatives that would lead to peace. Secondly, he is ready to facilitate if asked to. So I don't think that he has a particular plan to offer to Minister Lavrov. If that is not the case, let's see when they meet. I'd be happy if he could come with something tangible and realistic, but I have not heard of any plans by the Secretary-General being discussed or prepared within the Secretariat or within his Office.
On the nuclear war, I sleep well because I know that at least us, we are not asking for the nuclear war, we are not threatening with nuclear war. All this narrative that Russia is threatening the world with the nukes is a part of the propaganda as well. We've been saying long time consistently that it is not in our military doctrine which provides for very few specific cases when the nuclear weapons can be engaged. And that is definitely not the situation which is in our nuclear doctrine.
Q: Ambassador, would you allow me just a very quick follow-up on A.Guterres for your answer? Do you think that in last months, A.Guterres has been fully, and I would say also in an assertive way, following his mission as a Secretary-General of the United Nations or should he have done more for Russia to try and find a way to peace.
A: The question whether he followed his duties as the Secretary-General of the United Nations is a little bit provocative, because whatever I answer it would be used against me, as they say when a person is arrested. Well, the Secretary-General is instrumental in promoting the Black Sea Initiative, which we recognize. At the same time, the Black Sea Initiative is clearly one-sided, which is not because of him, but because of our Western colleagues, who claim that Russian food and fertilizer exports are not under sanctions while doing their utmost to basically block them. This is not in the interests of i.a. Western countries, but in particular of developing countries, who are mostly in need of those fertilizers which might matter for their future harvests.
That is perhaps the main mission where the Secretary-General engaged on Ukraine. Apart from that situation in Mariupol, which happened already some time ago, where he was also engaged, that's basically it. I cannot provide you with any information on what he could do. Again, he offered his good offices when they are required, and that's where we stand at the moment.
Q: I normally ask you about Palestine, but this time I ask you two different questions, one on sports and one on Syria. On sports, the FIFA debated the participation of Russian soccer teams around the world, and they put conditions on Russia to participate under a neutral flag. 40 members of FIFA said, “we want to boycott Russian teams”, and they lift it up to Paris to invite Russia for the Olympic in 2024. However, the same standard did not apply to Indonesia. When Indonesia said, “I don't want to receive Israel”, immediately, it was canceled, and they pulled out the Games for under 20. So is there more hypocrisy than that? I want you to address this. And the second on Syria. Israel, almost on daily basis, bombs some areas in Syria. 15 Syrians or their friends killed in Kufar Sousa. They bombed Aleppo airport and it went out of service. Same thing with Damascus Airport. And almost on every day, there is some kind of Israeli raids in Syria. However, Russia is at least, we say, in control of the space. They have the radar, they have the capacity. What do you tell the Israeli? You have good friendship with Israel. You have good relations. Why don't you tell them, “stop bombing Syria”?.
A: We tell them to stop bombing Syria, we say in the Security Council, of course, that what they are doing is inadmissible. They're claiming that they are bombing the Iranian presence in Syria like the US does, by the way. I recall the recent briefing of a Deputy Spokesperson of the SG who was unable to answer about the US presence in Syria. How should I put it diplomatically? I'd better refrain from commenting. I think you heard it all. Unfortunately, this is a standing Israeli practice. It does not just concern Syria alone, but Lebanon as well, and other states which Israel considers to be its immediate danger. As I said, that's inadmissible. That's not only us who speak about it, but perhaps, we speak most vocally.
On sports. You asked about hypocrisy. Well, there is lot of hypocrisy in this world and a lot of double standards. But I was struck by a comment made by the chair of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, recently. He said a few things on the Paris Olympics. First, no Russian teams are allowed to participate whatever they are. Team sports are prohibited. Secondly, athletes who are not associated with but who support the Russian military operation are banned from participating. It is a witch hunt. Besides, I have a question how they will single out those athletes that do or do not support the military operation? We have a sports club called CSCA, which is the central sports club of the army. And indeed when it was established long ago, it was the army club in the Soviet times. Today it's a commercial enterprise just bearing the same name. Is it the criteria? What are the criteria? Frankly, that looks miserable. I don’t think FIFA will make a condition on wearing or not wearing the insignia, the emblems or whatever. I think they simply exclude. At least UEFA excluded us from international competitions. On FIFA and the future World Cup, they excluded us from this one. What will happen to the next one I don't know, but I don't think they condition it on a neutral status. I haven't heard about it at least.
Q: I have first a quick follow up on the Russian fertilizers. You said that you hope that there will be a breakthrough. Could you please elaborate? What does a breakthrough for you mean? And then my question is one about Western Sahara, whether you met with Mr. de Mistura, if you could shed more lights on that. And my last question is in Syria. As you know, the Secretary-General suggested establishing a mechanism for the forcefully disappeared in Syria and there was a meeting last week, I think in the General Assembly, and your country opposed such a mechanism. But a lot of families of people who forcefully disappeared, whether their loved one were disappeared in the regime prisons or the opposition, are saying that they are not getting information, their life is put on hold and they are asking for such a mechanism. And the UN is saying that this is a humanitarian mechanism, not a political one. So what do you say to these families who cannot even have paper issued about their inheritance or register their children all over Syria and all the different places?
A: On fertilizers, implementation of the second part of the deal will be a breakthrough. This part has not been implemented since the beginning, since 22 July. For more than eight months now, nothing has been happening despite all the efforts. So that will be the breakthrough.
Staffan de Mistura is briefing the Council later in April and I know that he's thinking about something which he does not betray. Let's hear him out at the Council, and SRSG Ivanko of MINURSO. I cannot provide you with anything of a breakthrough here because we don't know what the plan of the Personal Envoy is and what the reaction of the Council will be.
On the mechanisms on the forcibly disappear. You said that it is strictly humanitarian. Nothing is strictly humanitarian about Syria. It's as political as this IIIM on Syria is. I think that the same will happen to this mechanism as well. It will be another instrument and element for political pressure on Syria. You cannot create a mechanism on something that happens in the country without the consent of the country concerned. That's the principle that works everywhere with the exception of a few countries, Syria included.
Q: In your national capacity, can you either confirm or deny recent reports that Russia is considering a trade with North Korea in which North Korea would send arms to Russia in exchange for food? And in your capacity as President of the Security Council this month, how would you evaluate such an exchange under existing Security Council resolutions?
A: What an exchange is my question. I mean, there are reports in the press which were never verified. At present, this is not something that we can discuss as a done deal. We have a Sanctions Committee on North Korea and a Panel of Experts that is to investigate these things. So far, these are allegations. So I don't know what to comment on.
Q: A couple of follow-ups on the Black Sea Grain Initiative. You're saying nothing is happening despite efforts. So what is your benchmark to say that the MoU is working for you? It certainly can't be 100% of your pre-war food and fertilizer exports, because even Ukraine isn't achieving that with their end of the deal. So just give us a tangible, concrete number because it's really very unclear what you expect. And then also just a second follow-up on Secretary Blinken. You said he has to ask Lavrov for a meeting or request a meeting. Does that mean Minister Lavrov would have no interest in meeting with Mr. Blinken on his own initiative?
A: I didn't say that Secretary Blinken has to ask Minister Lavrov about a meeting. I said that if there is a willingness to meet and we know about it, I'm sure that Minister Lavrov will never reject such a meeting.
Q: But what about willingness from your side? Why couldn't you initiate it?
A: I will invoke and refer to one situation. During the recent High-Level Week. There was supposed to be a regular meeting of the P5 with the Secretary-General, a traditional meeting that happens every GA. And at that time, I think the US was the coordinator. And I must tell you that in the P5 one country was strongly for that meeting. I'm sure you can easily guess this one. The US initially said that they might consider it but then withdrew. Also, there was one country that was against that meeting. We were not insisting, because it's a tradition, not an obligation, and the meeting didn't take place. Then we heard numerous comments from the US officials that it was beyond their dignity to meet with Russian officials. So in these circumstances, do you expect us to beg Secretary Blinken for a meeting? If he asks for a meeting, for whatever reason, I will not speak for Minister Lavrov, but knowing him a little bit, I'm sure that he will not refuse such a meeting. But otherwise, what's the point?
You asked about the benchmarks for the Black Sea Initiative to work. I said earlier that not a single grain has been exported according to the Russia-UN MoU, which is the second part of the deal. We had fertilizers that were arrested in some European ports, Baltics, and I think Belgium and the Netherlands, at least one of them. It is the fertilizers that we offered to deliver free of charge to the developing countries who need them. Out of the total number, which amounts to nearly 300,000 tonnes of fertilizers, only 30,000 tonnes were exported or rather evacuated from one of those ports. They still are on the way to the country that requested these fertilizers to be delivered. These are mere facts which say how the grain deal, or rather the Black Sea Initiative is working, or rather not working.
Q: What is the name of the Arria meeting again? And why is it going to be an Arria instead of a meeting in the Council?
A: Because it will be easier to explain the issue there.
Q: Or maybe because you would not be able to get that UNSC meeting?
A: If we wanted to, we could easily do this.
Q: I mean because one of your briefers is wanted by the ICC.
A: You asked for its name. The name is “Children and armed conflict: Ukrainian crisis. Evacuating children from conflict zones”.
Q: So where is the misinformation and the disinformation you referred to about this abduction case?
A: Listen to the Arria meeting.
Q: My question is you mentioned earlier in regards to question about counsel being provided to Mr. Evan Gershkovich at some stage according to diplomatic tradition. To clarify, does that mean the Russian regime will grant him the lawyer?
A: I said consular consulate. I was asked about the consular access.
Q: Okay, then my question is will he be allowed to have access to legal counsel and attorney at some point?
A: Like every person who is under an investigation. Of course he will. That's the legal procedure which neither you nor I can change.
Q: Do you have any reaction to the Trump indictment? And also he said he could resolve the crisis, the conflict in 24 hours.
A: He is quick to resolve anything.
Q: How do you feel about Western journalism? You rely on us to disseminate your information. To quote you in our article, how do you feel about Western journalists?
A: Do you mean Gershkovich?
Q: Yes. What do you think of that? Do you think it's going to be a tit for tat?
A: I think nothing because I do not know too much. I know what accusations have been put forward, and that’s it. That’s what I know.