Following the CIS Foreign Minister’s Council meeting in Dushanbe on May 13, 2022, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov replied to a number of questions on a wide spectrum of issue, where he categorically said, the Americans should bear the main burden of the country’s reconstruction costs since in the twenty years they did nothing save ensuring their military presence in the region, yet failed to achieve even that goal in the end.
During the meeting CIS countries decided to further detail two important areas of our cooperation: notarial activities and tourism, and determined the CIS base institutions in these areas: the former will be established in the Republic of Belarus and the latter in Uzbekistan.
The approval of a list of advanced projects in fundamental research became an important step in our scientific cooperation.
As for international issues, at the restricted meeting the foreign ministers exchanged views on key foreign policy challenges. They paid special attention to the situation in and around Afghanistan in the context of its impact on stability and security in Central Asia. Additional tasks were set for implementing the decisions by the heads of state on intensifying the efforts to counter the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking.
The CIS foreign ministers reviewed the situation in Central Asia, including the attempts of our Western colleagues (the US, the EU and NATO) to increase their influence in the region by damaging relations within the CSTO, CIS, SCO and the EAEU.
They talked about the situation in the South Caucasus. Russia’s colleagues from Azerbaijan and Armenia noted Russia’s important proactive role in reaching the relevant accords in November 2020 and subsequent agreements by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan in 2021. These agreements determined trilateral cooperation to unblock economic and transport connections, prepare for the delimitation and demarcation of the borders and normalize relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The CIS foreign ministers could not avoid talking about the negative consequences of the patently unacceptable actions by the West as regards Ukraine in connection with our special military operation. According to Lavrov, they described the situation in detail. In cooperation with Russia’s Belarusian, Kazakhstani and other colleagues, it condemned the unilateral actions aimed at destroying existing economic, trade, logistics and transport connections. Russia unanimously emphasized that it is unacceptable to adopt unilateral sanctions in circumvention of the UN Security Council.
Here are answers of the Russian Foreign Minister on several questions:
Question: Will Russia expand trade and economic ties with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and other CIS countries outside the EAEU to minimise the effects of sanctions?
Sergey Lavrov: Tajikistan has long-standing ties with the EAEU. It has appointed a special representative to deal with these issues and look at the obvious advantages of cooperation with, not to mention membership in the EAEU.
Uzbekistan has been acting in the same vein in the past couple of years. It has developed contacts with the EAEU at the initiative of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Uzbekistan had declared its intention to apply for observer status in the EAEU. Under the agreement between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the two countries established a bilateral working group to review practical aspects of this intention. The group consults Tashkent on the issues that it would like to clear up in the context of its deepening ties with the EAEU. This is tangible progress.
Question: What is the importance of cooperation between the CIS member countries, especially in the current circumstances linked with the Ukrainian crisis and the West’s economic war against Russia?
Sergey Lavrov: The CIS countries unanimously confirmed their commitment to cooperation in this format. All of them want the CIS to grow more influential. This will be facilitated by today’s decision to consider in practical terms the CIS’s request to the Collective Security Treaty Organization to grant it observer status at the CSTO.
As for economic development, the unanimous view is that considerable progress has been made in this area. We are implementing our agreements on coordinating all activities in the CIS’s free trade area with the ongoing integration processes in the EAEU. Sanctions are designed to destroy these ties. The West does not make a secret of this. When the Americans gather Central Asian countries at academic forums, they are telling them bluntly not to dare continue cooperation with Russia because Russia is a destroyed country, and bets should be placed on the United States. They are saying the same as regards China. They claim that China will not dare disrupt Western sanctions. This position of our Western colleagues is extremely conceited, impudent and uncouth.
We told our Central Asian colleagues and other CIS countries that the EU is also actively pushing its Central Asian strategy without any consultations with the region’s countries. Brussels is trying to impose on them its unilaterally developed objectives in the EU-Central Asia format. Yet another event in this format is scheduled for next week. We are hearing what goals the EU is publicly declaring before this event. Our Central Asian partners understand very well what goals these are. Today, all member countries have reaffirmed their commitments within the CIS, CSTO, EAEU and the SCO.
Question: Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN Dmitry Polyansky said that Russia’s approach to Ukraine’s accession to the EU was now similar to its approach to Ukraine’s NATO membership. Would you please clarify this approach? Has it really changed as drastically as this? What exactly is our country’s perspective on Ukraine’s likely accession to the EU?
Sergey Lavrov: Issues relating to the negotiations on Ukraine are not resolved in New York. They are considered at the meetings of the delegations authorised by Russia and Ukraine to do the job.
Indeed, our Ukrainian colleagues say in public they are ready to have a non-aligned and nuclear-weapon-free status, although last January, speaking at the Munich Conference, their President Vladimir Zelensky noted that his country’s decision to forgo nuclear weapons had been a mistake. Now, nonetheless, they are ready to accept a neutral non-aligned status provided they are given guarantees outside NATO and other military-political blocs. At the same time, they are emphasizing, as much as possible, their aspiration to join the European Union.
Recently, Dmitry Kuleba said the EU had to say “yes” or “no” “not later than today”. This was his response to President Emmanuel Macron’s well-known initiative to create, at the current stage, some kind of “external circle” around the EU and call it a European political community. For a start, Ukraine could be invited to join it. Kiev has turned down this initiative. Most importantly, this is an aspect of relations between Kiev and the EU. There are serious doubts about the inoffensive nature of this hope of Kiev, considering the EU’s transformation from a constructive economic platform as it was conceived into an aggressive belligerent player that announces it has ambitions far beyond Europe.
The other day, speaking in her trademark aggressive style, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU had to play an active role in ensuring security in the Indo-Pacific. That is, they are following the same path that is being trodden by NATO, thereby reinforcing the trend of merging with the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization to act in a supplementary role.
Question: How do you assess the decision by the Lithuanian government to recall its ambassador to Russia and close the Consulate General in St Petersburg, along with Latvia’s plans to demolish a monument to Soviet soldiers in Riga – is this another bout of Russophobic hysteria or preparation for something more serious?
Sergey Lavrov: I have a hard time believing our Lithuanian colleagues of having some kind of long-term strategy. They act as a constant “irritant”, the most aggressively Russophobic part of NATO and the EU. What they are doing with monuments and other issues regulated by existing intergovernmental agreements in force cannot be reasonably explained, apart from their Russophobia and total disregard for all their obligations.
We have a weekly TV program called International Review. Given what we are observing in the actions of the West, I would call it (as a variant) International No Clue. Harsh but fair. It clearly captures the actions of the West and its motives.
Question: The situation in Panjshir province is shifting in favor of the anti-government forces. If Pakistan steps in, would it mean that it is trying to play the key role in the region’s security? Will the Commonwealth nations, which are also CSTO members, respond to that?
Sergey Lavrov: I am not going to speculate on other people’s guesswork. I can only reaffirm that we have been doing a lot in practical terms since the Taliban took over after the US and its allies fled at breakneck speed. You saw the ugly images of that happening. Obviously, Afghanistan needs to be rebuilt. We must not let the situation collapse and destabilize again. It would be hard on the Afghan people who had been suffering under NATO’s presence for twenty years. NATO did not invest a farthing in an infrastructure capable of creating jobs, in developing the economy, transport and international ties.
At present, the international community should focus more on humanitarian mobilization and other assistance to Afghanistan and the Afghan people. The Americans should bear the main burden of the country’s reconstruction costs since in the twenty years they did nothing save ensuring their military presence in the region, yet failed to achieve even that goal in the end.
Regarding the situation in the Panjshir Valley and the positions of external actors. We have always advocated for the current situation in Afghanistan to be settled through inclusive national dialogue aimed at reconciling all ethnic, religious and political forces in that country.
We talked to the Taliban, including at the March 30 meeting arranged by our Chinese friends. The Taliban claim their delegation has Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras. However, this is only the ethnic and religious part of the equation.
There is no political inclusivity. All those ethnic representatives engaged by the Taliban in governing the country are all Taliban politically. This process must be broadened, and we are sending such a signal.
Our Chinese colleagues proceed from the same positions. We cooperate with them on Afghanistan settlement efforts in different formats. We are persuading the other participants in the process, including Pakistan, to take the same stance. We expect our allies in Tajikistan with serious influence in Afghanistan, primarily the country’s north, will also keep helping us achieve our common goals, which all countries of the region have an interest in.
Please follow Blitz on Google News channel