Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Press Briefing by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy on 30 November 2021

Dmitry Polyanskiy: Thank you for coming so early to the United Nations. This was a difficult month for diplomacy, for us. The situation in many regions of the world, including Europe and our immediate neighborhood, was very preoccupying.

As you know, I have a tradition to pick a quote and a tweet of the month which illustrate what trends there are in the world and what challenges we face. For the tweet of the month I picked a tweet published on 22 November by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Mr Kuleba: “We see a surge in Russian disinformation, including false accusations of Ukraine plotting a military attack in the Donbass. Let me state it officially: Ukraine does not plan a military offensive in the Donbass. We are devoted to seeking political and diplomatic solutions to the conflict”. It is a very nice tweet, I like it, especially the part about Ukraine which is devoted to seeking political and diplomatic solutions. And the continuation: “Ukraine keeps working hard to revive the Normandy format with Germany and France as mediators. We call on Russia to engage constructively in these peace efforts instead of undermining them”.

Well, two comments on Ukraine’s “peaceful intentions”. I also picked today's tweet by freelance photographer and correspondent from the UK Dean O'Brien. I know that some of you had the opportunity to meet him during one of our events. The tweet was posted four hours ago. Dean O'Brien says:“Ukrainian forces, using mortars, opened fire on apartment buildings in the village of Nikolaevka, Lugansk People's Republic. As a result, a residential apartment building was significantly damaged”. He gives an exact address of the site. There are tweets like this by him every day. He and his friends are there witnessing the situation on the ground.

One more illustration of “peaceful intentions” of Ukraine came two days ago when a person who was claiming to be your colleague, journalist, Mr Yuri Butusov, filmed himself shooting a 152 mm howitzer at the positions of the Donbass fighters. Some of you might know that this kind of weapons is prohibited by the Minsk agreements. So, a person who claims to be a journalist and who is openly posing for social media while firing a mortar at the positions of the Lugansk fighters and damaging residential buildings is the best illustration of how the situation is being perceived in Ukraine and what kind of thoughts are there. I hope you don't fire mortars in your spare time. I really appeal to you to use pens and words which sometimes are harder and more dangerous weapons than mortars.

Another statement that I picked belongs to Poland's Prime Minister Mr Mateusz Morawiecki who urged NATO to “connect the dots” and “wake up” to Russian attempts to destabilize the region. He cited the buildup of the Russian forces near Ukraine, the soaring gas prices and the crisis on the Poland's border with Belarus. It's all very illustrative of what was happening during last months. We saw a real surge in warmongering activities and accusations against Russia of making a buildup on the border with Ukraine; being offensive and provocative; triggering energy crisis (though we explained in detail how energy prices are formed); working together with Belarus to promote the migrant crisis. All these accusations were a part of the agenda of our Western colleagues. I assume that this statement of Mr Morawiecki was made especially on the eve of the two-day summit of certain NATO defense ministers which is about to start in Riga. It's quite understandable because there is a number of countries – some of them are very close neighbors of ours – for whom alleged Russian threat and destabilizing activity serve as a justification. Otherwise, there was absolutely no justification of what they do, declare, and say.

This trend was very clear this month. Almost every Western politician commented on an alleged Russian buildup on the border with Ukraine. Some of them cited very remote regions, far from the Ukrainian border, assuming that Russia had no right to maneuver and deploy its forces on its territory. At the same time, nobody paid attention to a very provocative maneuvering that is taking place now in the Black Sea with American ships coming there. The Black Sea, as you know, is quite far from the United States. It is not the Gulf of Mexico. It's much farther. So a lot of such things have formed this month’s agenda.

Also I would like to highlight another remarkable event. The Foreign Ministry of Russia published the exchange of letters between Russian Foreign Minister Mr Lavrov and his counterparts from Germany and France. It's quite an unusual move, and we had warned in advance our colleagues. We did it specifically because otherwise it was impossible to answer to all the allegations saying Russia was not interested in holding a Normandy format meeting at the level of foreign ministers. So if you have time to analyze these documents, you will see that Russia was not only in favor, Russia was proposing concrete things to be discussed and to be agreed upon during this meeting. We had some problems with a proposed date, 11 November. It happens in diplomatic life when we have to look for an alternative date, it's not a big problem.

We were very much sad that our French and German colleagues showed themselves as a biased party during these deliberations on the eve of this Normandy summit meeting. For those who read the Minsk Agreements, for those who are familiar with the situation, it's absolutely clear that the core of the Minsk Agreements is a direct dialogue between Ukraine and the authorities of Donetsk and Lugansk. If you deny it, if you claim that Russia is a party to the Minsk Agreements, that Russia has not fulfilled or implemented some of its obligations under the Minsk Agreements, then you absolutely distort the sense of these agreements, which is very dangerous. Unfortunately, we see our Western partners, in particular France and Germany, to follow more and more down this devastating path, which could lead us to some very dangerous developments given the fact that Ukraine every day cites alleged reports on Russian military activity, on our plans to attack Donbass and so on and so forth. But, as I quoted to you, the real shelling, the real damage is being produced on a daily basis by the Ukrainian forces.

I will stop here. There were some other highlights of the month such as the refugee crisis, but I'm sure you will raise them in your questions if you want to receive some additional information from me.

Q: You have a draft resolution on climate change and security on your table, a vote is expected this week. It would be the first one if it's adopted. What is your position on this draft?

A: I think that you you're better informed than myself because I was not aware of the fact that the voting will take place this week. But thank you for the tip. Yes, we know that there is a desire of some of our colleagues to promote some kind of a draft resolution on climate change.

If you if you take some efforts, you will find my statement in the Security Council, I think it happened during the High Level Week – at a HL event on climate. So I had to define our climate policy and say whether it is linked to the Security Council in our understanding. Our logic is very simple. Security Council is a specific instrument. It's not like a knife of a surgeon. It's rather like an axe. And if you use an axe, you should really understand that the consequences can be a little bit unpredicted.

There are a lot of situations that happen in the world and in the United Nations that are not reflected in the Security Council. UN is much bigger than the Security Council, and there are other bodies and fora that are doing very important things. The fact that these things and processes are not discussed in the Security Council does not make them less important for everybody.

In other words, importance or non-importance of a resolution or a topic shouldn't be judged by whether it is or is not discussed at the UN Security Council. Climate change is a clear example of this situation. Of course it's important. Of course it affects everybody.

Recently you saw all countries engage at the Glasgow conference. Its outcome might be disappointing for some and encouraging for others. But still, it reflects the preoccupation of the international community with what's happening, and it also contains a certain plan of action.

What’s important about this conference is that it unites parties from all over the world. It's inclusive, it brings together all countries, delegations, NGOs. That's how the climate change we think should be tackled – by each and every UN member, each and every nation of the world.

If we try to limit it to the Security Council, which with all due respect has only 15 members, this will not be an inclusive dialogue. It will be a little bit distorted and fit artificially into the standards and methods of work of the Security Council.

It's very difficult to take a resolution imposing something on somebody as some countries might want. There is still no basis for such a thing. The problem of climate change is still being discussed; there are different views on it, and we haven't yet come to the stage when we really can take common and very bold decisions that some people expect from us. When I say us, I mean the humanity as a whole, and not the members of the Security Council.

So bringing climate topics to the Security Council and trying to enact such a mechanism as Chapter 7 might be very dangerous. Instead of helping to fight climate change, it might trigger more divisions and controversies in efforts to combat the climate change.

We understand that some of our colleagues want to raise this topic to show that Security Council is engaged and aware. But of course, we are engaged, and of course we are aware. Apart from being members of the Security Council, we are members of the United Nations and we all in our capacity as member states participate in all these things. That's why we don't think such initiatives will add value. We have dialogue with the penholders, the countries who are behind this. We hope we will be able to convince them that this initiative is very harmful and not timely.

We still have time. It is assumed, as you say, that there will be a voting this week, but it's not yet predefined. As far as I know, our experts are still in contact and they continue negotiations at this very minute.

Q: My question concerns the GA and specifically the Credentials Committee of the General Assembly, which meets on 1 December, in just a few days’ time. Russia is a member of that committee. So in your national position, does Russia believe representation needs to change to those that are actually in power in Naypyidaw and Kabul?

A: It is a very philosophical question, I would say. It’s sort of difficult to answer yes or no in this regard. Russia, of course, prefers to interact with those who represent their countries and governments. We were very clear about it when speaking about Myanmar, for example. Taliban is a little bit different story. We are engaged; everybody is. But you know that there is still no recognition in sight.

But let's look at look at this from the point of view of ambassadors that are in question. Whom do they represent when they sit and vote in the GA hall? For example, when Myanmar changed its position on certain resolutions, which we were promoting and which Myanmar traditionally supported, we were not sad. We just understood that this was very political and this did not represent the position of Myanmar as a country.

On the one hand, it's quite deplorable. On the other hand, it diminishes the significance of the work which is done by the delegation at the United Nations. Everybody understands this. However they are still our colleagues. We do not run from them. We do not avoid handshaking. We understand that from the personal point of view, this is a very tragic situation and we don't want to over-exaggerate it.

I am sure that the Credentials Committee will find a way forward. As you know this body is a very specific one, and it proposes some kind of solution, but it still should be agreed upon at the General Assembly. So it's only a basis for a GA decision. They will have deliberations. We are not the only member of the Credentials Committee, so I do not want to rush and be a spoiler in these discussions. Of course, I am aware of certain approaches, but we will be able to speak about them only once the meeting has taken place.

Q:  There have been a couple of major hotspots in the world today.

A:  To put it mildly.

Q: Right. I'll pick three. Starting out – Ethiopia. Is Russia concerned that the country could end up dividing, basically falling apart? Is there anything you think the Security Council could do? Is Russia involved? Since we're in that region, Sudan is another hotspot. Problems between the military-controlled government, the prime minister coming back, protesters not happy. What, if anything, can the Security Council do? And I guess I could ask the third thing on Somalia since we're staying in the region.

A: You're very much focused on the region since you suggest we're staying in this region. Though of course, there are more disturbing situations elsewhere. But if you insist, I will briefly comment on these three.

They're quite different. If we speak about Somalia, unfortunately, it's a really chronical crisis. This country is trying to get together and be reborn as an integral state. We all recognize Somalia, but we also understand that there are incredible challenges ahead of this country. We try to support the Somali authorities in their efforts. We try to be engaged in formulating the best possible peacekeeping formula for the UN, and we rely very much on the expertise of our colleagues from the African Union. This is the principle we are guided by: “African solutions to the African problems”. I think that the AU is very deeply involved in this situation. We also are very much worried by the terrorist activity, which never ceases in this country. A lot of terrorist groups are active and very much in control of certain regions of Somalia. But I don't think that the international community is split on Somalia. We more or less see it through the same optics.

I also think that also see through the same optics the situation in Ethiopia, which is quite recent and which is really extremely worrying. Ethiopia is a big country, very populous. It's very strategic from many points of view. It used to be an exemplary situation for a lot of neighbors and the best reflection of this was a Nobel Prize awarded to Mr Abiy Ahmed, who is now being criticized by our Western colleagues. It's a very complex situation, it has a lot of layers, ethnic layers. It's not as simple as “these guys are good and the others are bad”.

When the crisis started, we always said and we continue to repeat that the first thing should be a ceasefire followed by negotiations. That's the universal formula for solving any problem, any conflict. And it is applicable to almost all the conflicts in the world. And at some point there are still negotiations. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world there are actors who believe that they should have an upper hand first and then they would have a better negotiating solution. But they still understand that they will most likely have to conduct negotiations.

The situation in Ethiopia is very dynamic and contradictory. There are very conflicting reports. Some people say that Addis Ababa is being surrounded. Others say that the TPLF is being pushed away from Addis Ababa. And Mr Ahmed is there on the ground commanding the Ethiopian troops. It's very difficult to get a clear picture of what's happening.

From the very beginning, we warned our Western colleagues that they shouldn't interfere in this conflict and that they shouldn't try to do anything in a non-transparent way: be it with the Tigrayan rebels or with the Ethiopian government. We warned that everything should be very transparent. Unfortunately, there were situations when at least our Ethiopian friends claimed that there was a direct involvement of international powers, of foreign actors in the conflict. I can't say whether it's justified or not, but I know that this is very sensitive for them.

There was a number of expulsions. A number of people were declared persona non grata. The Ethiopians assert that they conducted malicious activities against their country and they provided certain evidence to that effect. Other parties claim that it was not the case. Again, it's very difficult to make a judgment.

As far as Security Council is concerned, we need to keep the situation on the radar, keep it in the focus of our activities, which we do. We regularly discuss Ethiopia. We regularly call and make efforts to provide the suffering population with humanitarian aid. This remains the focus of Security Council activities. We try to find this balance, this point where the parties should engage or will be willing to engage in negotiating solutions. That's the most favorable option -- to sit down, put aside the arms, and to start negotiating. However, the situation on the ground doesn't seem very favorable for such a scenario so far. But we continue our efforts multilaterally and bilaterally as well. We believe that the Ethiopians are wise people and they will sort out their differences, hopefully sooner rather than later.

The same applies to Sudan. I mean, the fact that they are very wise people. This is a country with a very ancient history. It faced a lot of difficult situations. Right now it's not living through the easiest situation. As you know, when the military took -- retook, I would say -- power several weeks ago, there was an outcry from our Western colleagues claiming that this was a military coup. And we were discussing with you at the stakeout whether it had been a coup or not.

It turned out that we were right. The military component of the power which took more functions because of the very dire economic situation and protests in this country, still managed to re-engage with the Prime Minister. They achieved an agreement which is not very much praised by some of our partners, by some NGOs. But still, this is a new arrangement which seems to be favored by the majority of the Sudanese. And we hope that this country will continue to implement this agreement.

Transition is still on the table. It is happening. They modified the parameters a little bit. But they didn't do it out of the blue. They did it because the situation was very dire and the country faced enormous economic problems. There were protests. There were demonstrations because of inefficient policies, as believed by some parts of the population. Drastic actions were in sight to solve the situation, so we are more confident about what's happening in Sudan.

As for the Western colleagues, I wouldn't say that they were happy about this arrangement, but I haven't  recently heard any sharp criticism of this arrangement. I think it's a wait-and-see policy. We all want to see what will come out of it. If they find a certain point of balance in the arrangement between the military and civilian authorities. And if they are able to move forward smoothly along this path, then I believe that this will be a kind of scenario that we all should wholeheartedly support.

Q: President Putin is expected to visit India and meet with Prime Minister Modi. What kind of partnership is Russia looking for to establish with India, considering India's proximity to the United States? Thank you.

A: I wouldn't say that India is characterized by kind of proximity to the United States. And I don't think Indians themselves agree with you on this one because they always tell us -- and we believe them -- that they want to be independent and not to rely on any superpower. They want to have the freedom of maneuvering, which we respect.

India is an extremely important country. Everybody wants to have relations with it. You said that we wanted to establish a partnership. That's not true because we already have a partnership. We want to strengthen this partnership, of course. Our relations date back to the early years of the Indian independence, and we have always been supportive of this country. We still have a lot of friends there. A lot of Indians speak Russian. Indian movies are very popular among the Russian youth. They know the stars of Bollywood. This is a very intimate proximity at the level of people-to-people contacts.

At the political level I wouldn't overestimate the picture of India drifting away from contacts with Russia, as some are trying to portray it. India is participating in certain US-led initiatives, which we find very questionable, such as QUAD. At the same time, India always says that they don't want to participate in anything that is anti-China. At the same time, India is a member of BRICS, which is a very important group for the whole world. It has existed for many years already and has proven its usefulness and its influence in the world. As part of BRICS India interacts with China, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa. We believe that this cooperation deserves to be reinforced. We consider important both bilateral and multilateral relations with India.

Frankly, we don't see a lot of things to worry about. India is a big country. It has to have a diversified foreign policy, and nobody expects India to align with any pole. We are engaged in a very intensive dialogue which we value very much, and I know that our Indian partners are also of high opinion of this dialogue. We have regular consultations, and we are very eager to continue with this. I believe the whole world will benefit from this.

Q: Many Arab countries have showed interest in helping to rebuild Syria after normalizing their relationship with this country. What will the Russian presence in this country look like in the future since the war is almost over and terrorism is defeated?

My other question. Last Saturday, two protesters in Niger were killed and 17 injured in a clash with a French military convoy. We know that France is your colleague in the Security Council as a permanent member and they're very active in the peacekeeping operations in Africa. Do you have any comment, although we didn't hear any official comment about this?

A: I'll start from your second question. Frankly speaking, it's the first time I hear about it, and it sounds like very sad and preoccupying news, but I don't know the details. It's very difficult to comment on what happened. The whole Sahel region is very unstable. A lot of things are happening there. Countries have different positions, and there are protests in different places, not only in Niger, but I haven't heard about this particular one.

As for Russia and Syria, we hope that the situation will change for the better quite soon. We see that the Syrian government restores control over the bigger part of its territory. There are certain enclaves, certain regions which are still not under Syrian control, but the trend is very positive, and it's very different from the time when, for example, I arrived in New York. I remember we were discussing situations when terrorists were on the outskirts of Damascus and were shelling the capital, and we had enormous divisions with our Western partners who tried to portray the forces that they supported (and to some extent continue to support right now) as opposition which was a very difficult and absolutely non-convincing exercise.

I think now our cooperation on Syria has taken different forms and you know that we adopted a resolution to extend the cross-border mechanism for half a year and did it unanimously, which is really a very, very rare case. We are engaged on this issue bilaterally with the American partners. We have certain understanding on this with European partners. Resolution 2585 that I mentioned is also about early recovery projects. It's about increasing cross-line deliveries of humanitarian aid.

And I know that on the part of the UN, there are ongoing efforts to live up to the expectations set by this resolution. We expect the report of Secretary-General, which will have a decisive character for the future of the cross-border mechanism. There are some optimistic developments. I wouldn't say that the whole picture is rosy, but it's much less black than it used to be several months ago.

As a friend of Syria, Russia plans to assist, to be there. If we are not invited, if we are not wanted, we will not impose ourselves on any country, including Syria. But I know that the Syrian government also values the cooperation with Russia, and still keeps us in this country. I am absolutely sure that at some point, better sooner than later, we will start working more on Syria’s economic agenda, economic cooperation and rebuilding the country.

I'm absolutely sure that we will see quite soon the turning point in the situation with the refugees, with people living outside Syria. A lot of them expressed willingness to come back. This is a complicated process that can't be done with just a magic wand. It implies a lot of things that should be done. But I know the Syrian authorities are very eager to do these things and already now there are quite good conditions for people to return. And people are returning, maybe not in the quantities that some would want, but in some considerable quantities.

I hope that this process continues and we see restoration of Syria quite soon, restoration of its position in the world, in the Arab world and in the Arab League, which is also very important. I am very much encouraged by the fact that a lot of Arab neighbors of Syria also start to re-engage with this country. This is indispensable and we would very much welcome and support this process.

Q: My question first is about Iran and the negotiations that are going on right now. I don't know if the last time you demurred because it's coming out of Vienna, but can you tell us the Russian position on it on the latest demands of Iran? And if you don't want to talk about that or even if you do, could you tell us if there's any lifeblood in the Middle East Quartet since a Security Council meeting is coming up shortly? Thank you.

A: There's definitely lifeblood in the Middle East Quartet. I can tell you this, because we invested heavily in it and my colleague and friend Vladimir Safronkov is now part of this team, a very efficient diplomat, we all respect him and know him. And I know they meet even in person. There was recently a meeting in Oslo, the first in-person meeting in the recent years.

The Quartet is the only mechanism which really can bring the Middle East peace process back on track. And I will speak about it in several minutes when we have a briefing on the Middle East.

Q: Can you say, are there ongoing meetings? There was one a few weeks ago in the Quartet.

A: There are ongoing contacts and I know that the representatives in the Quartet meet quite regularly online, either bilaterally or multilaterally. I think it's once every two weeks. I may be mistaken, but the frequency is like this. They really touchbase on what's happening and try to define the way forward. I can't say that the Quartet is inactive. It is active, it is working. We hope that at some point we will also come to a ministerial meeting of the Quartet.

We had such proposal and we feel that this is something that is overdue, but not all our partners are ready for such a move right now. But we don't see any alternative for the fair solution of the Middle East problem without the enactment, without big role of the Quartet, of international intermediaries.

On Iran. It's happening live in Vienna. And of course, I would be very cautious to comment, and I will not conceal the fact that I don't have the last minute information. I read that JCPOA members re-engaged. There was no direct contact between Iran and the United States. But I don't think it was expected at this stage. The most important thing is to re-engage and to understand where we are. We hope that we are not very far from the restoration of the normal functioning of the JCPOA. I would like to remind you in this context that the whole issue right now was triggered by the previous administration of the United States, its withdrawal from JCPOA. That's when the whole situation got out of hand.

Right now we are trying, first and foremost, to re-engage the United States there. Of course, there are things that Iran has done, and a lot of people criticize this country saying that it has deviated from its commitments. But none of the steps that Iran has taken is irreversible. Everything can be reversed. Iran says that it is ready to re-engage, but of course, it has certain quite understandable demands vis-a-vis the United States. And again, I have to reiterate that we need a non-distorted picture of what has happened. So it's mostly about the US  re-engagement with the JCPOA that we're speaking about in Vienna.

Q: Iran is saying specifically that it would talk only about removal of sanctions rather than about the situation where it is now, as far as enrichment and as far as the type of the centrifuges, as far as inspection and so on. Does Russia support that? And the second question there is quite a lot of rumbling in the US Congress on the Nord Stream. Is Russia worried about it?

A: There's a lot of rumbling in the US Congress about everywhere. So if we worried about everything going on at the Congress, we would lose our nerve, you know. That's why I don't think we need to be over exaggerating things that are happening. We have been facing sanctions for almost everything, for being Russia. So another set of sanctions, should it worry us very much? I don't know.

Q: But there's no change to that deal in your view. Or is there any problem?

A: Do you mean the Nord Stream? It is something that is between Russia and Germany, so I don't know how the U. Congress is involved in it. It is sort of difficult for me to see a link. They can rumble about anything they want. You know what we think of these extraterritorial sanctions and of how illegal they are. And it's not only us who don't really understand how they are imposed. Of course, this is illegal and this is something absolutely contrary to the international law. But well, the United States doesn't always care about the international law.

As for Iran, the picture that you portray is a little bit simplified. I would say this is more nuanced than this. Of course, Iran is worried about the unjustified sanctions that the United States has imposed on this country after it withdrew from JCPOA. We all remember what the fuss was about a year ago, when there was all this ballet about “snapback” or “no snapback”, and everybody was trying to understand the rationale of the Trump Administration. Now the Biden Administration says: “yes, we are ready to be back, but…”. But the Iranians are also saying “yes, we're also ready to reverse what we have done, but…”. It is our task as diplomats to make these two "buts" meet and we will try to do everything we can.

My colleagues in Vienna are very skillful on this. By the way, we will have Head of our diplomatic representation in Vienna, Mr. Ulyanov, here with us, I think, starting from tomorrow. He will be here until Saturday, so I might ask if he wants to give an interview or a comment on what's happening because, of course, he's much better placed to comment on the details of what's happening or what has happened than I am.

So if you are interested, please contact Theodore and we will try to arrange a special meeting with him, of course, provided he is interested and he has free time.

Q: I just wanted to follow up. Earlier this year, Russia placed a hold on several panels of experts in the Security Council, have you lifted any of those holds? Where do they stand? And if you haven't, why? Thank you.

A: This is the information that I really can't disclose because everything that's about panels of experts is very sensitive and we do not make this information public. I can tell you that we are engaged with the UN, with our partners to find a solution to this. Russia made this move because we really were very much worried about the fact that the panels of experts were not unbiased and impartial as they are supposed to be. We tried to correct this. We have every right to do so, and we are very much looking forward to a new composition of the panel, which would really meet the requirements that I quoted.

Q: My question is how much Russia is helping in the peace process with the extension of the Abraham Accord of Syria and Lebanon.

A: Extension of the Abraham Accord on Syria and Lebanon? I haven't heard about it, frankly. Abraham Accord is not about Russia, it's about Abraham first and foremost and about the United States.

Q: Are you helping Syria and Lebanon in this process behind the scenes?

A: I think you should pose this question to our American colleagues. They are the masterminds behind the Abraham Accords. We have nothing to do with it. We know that some countries have normalized or about to normalize their ties with Israel. We do not oppose this trend, we just say that the best way to approach it is not to forget about the Palestinian problem, and we all witnessed to what it might lead in May this year, when there was a flare-up of tensions in the Middle East, that's it. But I frankly haven't heard about anything that is linked to the Abraham Accords, Lebanon, Syria or whoever. And I am really the worst person to comment on these issues.

Q: Is Russia interested in rebuilding Beirut port?

A: Of course we are interested and I think we're assisting. We provided some satellite data to our Lebanese friends. Everybody is very much worried about this country and everybody's willing to help through the UN or bilaterally. We are trying to do our best. We have traditionally very good relations with Lebanon and it's a tradition we want to keep. So we are very much sympathetic with and supportive of this country.

Q: The US is forcing 27 Russian diplomats to leave the country by the end of January. Is there a threat that a similar step might be taken against diplomats working in the Russian Mission to the UN? What is a possible resolve of this deadlock?

A: As I see you refer to the interview of my colleague, Ambassador Antonov. I think it was very extensive and detailed. He explained our reasoning and preoccupations in this regard. He explained how this scheme works and why we really regard this move as an expulsion of diplomats. So I will not go into the details here. As for this threat, every Russian diplomat who is working in the United States faces certain threats. It is unpredictable. We all remember situations when a lot of my colleagues from the Mission were asked to leave. Nobody is safe, including myself, because you never know what will come to the mind of our American friends.

Of course, this situation is not normal. We cited repeatedly that it has to be changed, that we have to remove all these obstacles and come back to normal functioning of our diplomatic missions. It is a complex issue, and it is not only about diplomats. As you know, we have diplomatic property which still remains alienated from us and which we don't have access to. It's an issue not only for the Russian Mission to the UN in New York, but also for the Embassy and for some other facilities. Totally, six diplomatic facilities, if I'm not mistaken. This complex issue should be sorted out before we can speak about some kind of renaissance of relations between Russia and the US.

This is absolutely clear, and I think the Presidents of our countries also couldn't avoid this issue when they were meeting in Geneva. The situation is very worrying and I'm very sympathetic with my colleagues in Washington. They face more difficulties than we do. Speaking about our situation, the status of a mission to the United Nations helps us a lot. But there are certain measures that affect us as well and we enumerated the problems that we face. We still encounter very problematic and nervous situations when we want to bring somebody here to the United Nations, which should be done automatically as part of US obligations as the host country. There are a lot of issues, but it's a topic for maybe another press conference.

Q: I'll have a follow-up on Afghanistan. The Taliban have made some promises to the international community, but what we are seeing on the ground does not really reflect any of the commitments they made. Russia thinks that the Taliban are keeping their promises. And do you think the Taliban should have a representative at the UN?

A: I think I already answered this question. As for the representative, it's not yet about recognition. It's about engagement with the Taliban. And we are engaged. We have our embassy there, working and functioning. Our ambassador has to contact the Taliban authorities, but that doesn't mean recognition.

You're absolutely right that there is information that there are a lot of moves from Taliban, which wouldn't be very much welcomed by the international community. There are certain expectations that we have. But the information is very conflicting. I know that it is very diverse throughout Afghanistan and certain regions. For example, there are girls' schools reopening, in certain regions they are closed. From some regions we hardly receive any information so it's very difficult to have a clear picture of what's happening. We think that we should engage with Taliban. We think that the situation in Afghanistan is very important for the whole world, for us, especially, because it borders Central Asia and this is a very important region for our country.
We are interested in stability and prosperity of Afghanistan, we are ready to help. We also have certain expectations towards Talibs and we made them quite clear. There are no doubts about it. We wait and we hope, that they will be able to impress the international community in such a way that we will start certain moves towards their better representation or recognition. But again, we are re-engaged with them and that's where we are at now.

Thank you very much.