Sochi, Russia

17 May 2013

Secretary-General's press encounter with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov [Full Transcript]

SG: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Lavrov. It is a great and real pleasure for me to meet you in such a beautiful city, Sochi, where you are going to host Winter Olympic Games next year. I hope all the preparations will go smoothly so that the Winter Olympic Games next year will be a great success, giving hope and excitement to people around the world.

The Foreign Minister and I just had a very fruitful meeting. The Foreign Minister has been kind enough to review [our talks] more in detail so I will try to be brief.

The crisis in Syria is first and foremost on our minds. I am deeply concerned about the ongoing violence and the terrible impact on millions of civilians.

The United Nations is working to end the violence as soon as possible and transition to a new future where the Syrian people have peace, freedom, dignity and justice. We agreed that a negotiated political solution is the only way to end that crisis.

I thanked the Foreign Minister for working with US Secretary of State Kerry on finding a way forward. Now our challenge is to build on the momentum that Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry have helped to generate and I am very much grateful for their leadership, and I’m also very happy to be here at such crucial timing to discuss and prepare for this international conference.

I myself have been working hard with other leaders and the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, to seize this moment and pave the way for a breakthrough. In that regard, it is my sincere hope that we can convene an international conference on Syria as soon as possible to help parties come to the negotiating table.

The Foreign Minister and I also discussed how the crisis in Syria is affecting the wider region, the countries like Lebanon and Jordan. And we exchanged views on how to achieve progress in the Middle East Peace Process. I appreciate Russia’s calls for re-engagement with the Quartet. We must join forces to create an environment conducive for the resumption of negotiations and establish a credible political horizon for achieving a two-State solution where Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace and security, side by side.  

We also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and particularly the necessity of the continuing involvement of the international community to help the Afghan people after the foreign troops will be withdrawn in 2014

We dealt with a number of other important issues, including the importance of climate change. I have emphasized the importance of agreeing on a global, legally binding treaty by the end of 2015. In that regard, I have asked the Foreign Minister to convey my wish to President Putin, which I will do this afternoon myself, to participate in the summit meeting which I am going to hold next year to raise the political awareness and direction for this climate change process. Again, I expressed my sincere appreciation for Russia’s engagement.

            I welcome Russia’s participation in the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review. I also welcome President Putin’s statements emphasizing the critical role of civil society and media in helping to build a democratic society. Both must have the space and encouragement they need to effectively provide their important contributions to help build a free and stable society.
            The Russian Federation is an important member of the United Nations, not only through permanent membership status on the Security Council, but also in terms of supporting the key areas of UN work around the world, including peacekeeping operations.

            Now we are in a final push to reach the Millennium Development Goals. At the same time, we are shaping the post-2015 development agenda. Russia has an important role to play in achieving success now and launching a global vision for the future for humanity.

I am grateful for Russia’s many valuable contributions to the United Nations and trust that they will continue to be enhanced: in terms of its participation in UN peacekeeping operations, providing necessary critical assets, global humanitarian relief, resources, expertise and above all political will in addressing – and actually solving – the many complex challenges facing our world.

            We will continue our discussions over a working lunch to discuss regional situations including the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the Iranian nuclear issue and many other issues.

Thank you very much again for your warm hospitality, Mr. Foreign Minister
Question: With regard to the Syrian conference, media now speculate given dates from either 10 to 13 June or 14 to 15 June. Can you confirm that the conference is likely to be scheduled before the G8 summit, between 10 and 17 June?

SG: As you remember Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry have suggested some time before the end of May and early June. Now this date, mutually convenient dates for the participants are now being actively discussed. I have discussed with Foreign Minister Lavrov in the course of our meeting. We have a certain window of time available but I’m not in a position at this time to definitively tell you what would be our date. But you should know we are working very hard and we will try to fix a date as soon as possible. We should not lose this momentum generated by Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry. There is high expectation that this meeting should be held as soon as possible.

Question: [On Syria] What made you change the mandate of the commission investigating a specific request, the request to investigate use of chemical weapons?

SG: It seems to be the case that there are some misunderstandings about the mandate given by the General Assembly as well as Security Council of the United Nations. I have a mandate to conduct an investigation whenever there are allegations and wherever there are allegations. I have received requests from three Member States. The first came from the Syrian Government, as is well known. Then immediately after that I have received a request from both the United Kingdom and French Governments. That is why I have decided to conduct investigations. I have not changed my position. I have been taking a consistent position as far as this is concerned.

It is regrettable that this investigation team has not been able to visit and enter Syria to have an onsite investigation and assessment of the situation. Nothing can replace in terms of effectiveness this onsite investigation. Mr. Sellström has been gathering information from various sources, including certain government sources, but it is important that he would be able to conduct onsite investigations. Our team is ready at any time; within 24 to 48 hours notice they can immediate conduct an investigation. I again urge Syrian authorities to be flexible and allow our teams to have onsite investigations.

Will the UN take any further steps to have DPRK back to negotiating table?

I am extremely concerned about the ongoing tension on the Korean peninsula caused by the very negative rhetoric coming from DPRK. It is both parties, South and North Koreans, who should sit down together for a dialogue, but of course the United Nations is ready to facilitate such a dialogue.

I would also hope that countries like neighbouring countries and members of the Six-Party [process] like Russia should play a crucially important role in creating a politically favourable atmosphere so that two parties can sit down together. First, lower down the tensions and resolve all the pending issues whatever they may be through dialogue in a peaceful manner. The United Nations will spare no efforts in that regard. I appreciate the Russian Government’s very principled but measured responses during the time of this tension. I am going to discuss this matter more deeply with the Foreign Minister soon. Thank you very much.

This question was raised by the Chinese news media so I would like to particularly recognize the role the Chinese Government has been playing to facilitate dialogue and to promote peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. I expect that China will continue to play such a role.