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Wednesday, 13 November 2013 20:21

Egypt Remains Russia’s Leading Partner

ileadCAIRO, Egypt, November 13, 2013 (Al-Ahram) -- Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Egypt's state-run al-Ahram daily that Russia wanted Egypt to remain a stable state with an effective political system. Russia and Egypt are committed to further strengthening of partnership and mutually advantageous cooperation. Lavrov said: "Egypt was and remains Russia’s leading partner."

Interview excerpts:

 

Question: How does Russia view the current development of the situation in Egypt, after the events of 30 June and 3 July 2013?

Sergey Lavrov: The events in Egypt and other Middle East and North African countries have certainly been caused by the high level of public expectation for the better, in the areas of enforcement of rights and liberties of nationals, increase of their economic welfare and social protection.

From the very beginning of these events in your country, two and a half years ago, Russia demonstrated its solidarity with the friendly Egyptian people, supporting them in their drive for the renewal of their society and state, advancementalong the path of democratic reform, creation of more effective social and economic systems, and the implementation of extensive transformations in general. Our principled approach has not changed.

 

We fully believe that these tasks should be implemented by peaceful, evolutional means, avoiding any violent methods, on the basis of a nation-wide dialogue with participation of the influential public forces in the country. In our opinion, the task of this process is to ensure adoption and implementation of a constitution on the basis of nation-wide support, and the formation and launching of effectively acting civil authorities. The attainment of stability on such foundations would create the necessary prerequisites for the implementation of escalated reforms and programmes of economic stabilisation.

 

We are convinced that despite the multifacetedness of the problems faced by Egypt, the Egyptian people are able to find effective solutions independently, taking into consideration each and all the political, ethnic and religious groups.

 

Question: When will the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs withdraw its recommendations to Russian nationals banning travel to Egypt?

Sergey Lavrov: The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot ban its nationals from entering any country, including Egypt. In accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, Russian nationals have the right to freely go abroad, which may be restricted only on the basis of clearly stated provisions of law.

At the same time, the relevant federal law contains a provision obliging the Government of the Russian Federation to take measures to make any recommendations available to Russian nationalsabout the undesirability of entering any country with an ongoing emergency or other condition which may complicate their protection in its territory. Such recommendations were published by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the authorities of the Arab Republic of Egypt decided to introduce a state of emergency this August.

 

Egypt has been one of the preferred travel destinations of Russian nationals for many years. We are actively interacting with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, and other Egyptianstate bodies, to create a more favourable atmosphere for such travels. We are grateful for the comprehensive measures undertaken by the authorities of your country, which are conceived to ensure proper conditions for tourist stays. I sincerely hope that our cooperation in this area will further develop successfully.

 

Question: Today many people in Egypt state their willingness to return to the “golden times” of Soviet-Egyptian friendship of the 50’s-60’s, to raise portraits of Putin on Cairo squares and ask when the President of Russia will visit Egypt. What do both countries have to do to restore their relationship to the level of those years in the military, economic and other areas?

Sergey Lavrov: Egypt was and is our leading, time-proven partner in the Middle East. This year our countries have celebrated 70 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between them. Weighty material foundations of our bilateral cooperation have been developed over this long period. These are not only the joint construction sites of the 50’s-60’s, but also modern projects in the areas of energy and agriculture, tourism and engineering. Volumes of mutual trade between Russia and Egypt have significantly grown in the last few years, despite the global financial and economic crisis.

 

Humanitarian ties are developing actively. Thousands of Russians are permanently resident in Egypt and successfully do business in your country. Hundreds of Russian nationals come to study in various Egyptian higher education establishments, while young Egyptians master different professions in our country. This is the foundation, on which we should build relations that are even more advanced. Russia and Egypt are sincerely committed to the course of strengthening our partnership and mutual cooperation. Practical steps in this direction will become the subject matter of my negotiations in Cairo.

 

Question: How do you assess the never-ending attempts of some Western and Arab circles to support the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist religious forces under the pretence of defending human rights?

Sergey Lavrov: Russia sticks strictlyto the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign countries, respect for the right of the people to choose the ways of their development and forms of state structure, freely and independently, in all their mutual relations with other countries. We will not deliver sermons to our western partners or impose any procedure on them for the solution of the issues falling within their domestic competence.

 

I am convinced that the Egyptian people, having thousands of years of wisdom and civilisational heritage, are able to make an adequate decision on the role and the place of one or another organisation, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in their community, without external help.

 

Question: The Russian Defence Minister is going to Egypt, together with you, for the first time in the last 40 years. How do you view such a step? What can we expect in this connection?

Sergey Lavrov: The visit of the heads of the defence services to a friendly country is always an important event in any bilateral relationship. It is clear that issues of cooperation in the military and technical areas are also discussed within the framework of such visits. The visit of the Russian defence minister Sergey Shoigu to Cairo will not be an exception to this rule. A joint visit of the heads of the defence and foreign ministries to Cairo is a new phenomenon in Russian-Egyptian relations. This is confirmed by the priority significance, which the Russian government attaches to the tasks of development and strengthening of Russian-Egyptian ties.

 

Question: How do you assess the never-ending attempts of some Western and Arab circles to support the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist religious forces under the pretence of defending human rights?

Sergey Lavrov: Russia sticks strictly to the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign countries, respect for the right of the people to choose the ways of their development and forms of state structure, freely and independently, in all their mutual relations with other countries. We will not deliver sermons to our western partners or impose any procedure on them for the solution of the issues falling within their domestic competence.

I am convinced that the Egyptian people, having thousands of years of wisdom and civilisational heritage, are able to make an adequate decision on the role and the place of one or another organisation, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in their community without external help.

 

Question: What help can Russia provide Egypt within its fight against international terrorism in the Sinai?

Sergey Lavrov: I think that this issue will be touched upon during our forthcoming negotiations in Cairo. I propose to wait for them to be completed. I would only like to confirm our principled approach – we believe that terrorism is a global evil.

You are all well aware that terrorist attacks, whose victims are primarily civilians, continue. The terrorist groups concentrating around Al-Qaeda and its regional branches were given a lease of life in the Arab East. They attempt to implement their own goals by taking advantage of the chaos and degradation in state structures. Their potential is being reinforced through their linkswith criminal transborder groups, and they are fed by drug trafficking, arms smuggling and human trafficking.

 

The threat of distribution of extremist ideology has grown significantly. Jihadist groups have expanded with unprecedented activity to recruit and prepare militants – not only in crisis areas, but also in European countries, where participants of conflicts return to the intention to use their accumulated military experience and allure new advocates of radicalism and violence under their banner. Thus the foundations for the extension of hostility and conflict spots are being laid, the risks of deepening intercivilisational, intercultural and interreligious splits are being escalated.

In these conditions, the principled and consistent approach to condemn and fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations acquires a special meaning. We are ready for interaction with our Egyptian partners for these purposes, and we are open to truly effective and systemic work.

 

Question: Russia pronounced a clear "No" to the attempts of western and some Arab circles to interfere in Syrian domestic affairs. How are things going with the Syrian problem and the convention of the international conference Geneva-2?

Sergey Lavrov: Our position is principled. We believe that we need to follow international law, which is based on the UN Charter, strictly. Interference in the affairs of a sovereign state – be that Syria or any other country – is unacceptable.

The crisis in Syria has no military solution. It can only be settled by using political and diplomatic means through a direct dialogue between the authorities and a constructively thinking opposition. With this in mind, Russia actively participated in the development of the key document for this settlement – the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012, the implementation of which should contribute to the achievement of agreement by the Syrian parties regarding the future of their country.

 

The Russian party together with its American partners and the team of the Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi,are conducting active work to prepare for the international conference Geneva-2, which would be the start of an inclusive nation-wide Syrian dialogue. Everybody shares the opinion that this forum should be held as soon as possible. Each day of delay means deaths and sufferings of many people. Therefore, it is important to bring the confronting Syrian parties to the negotiation table in Geneva without any delay.

 

As we understand it, the government of Egypt also support the opinion that this conference should be convened as soon as possible, and expresses its readiness to assist in the political settlement of this conflict. We welcome such an active position.

For these efforts to succeed, we need to follow the provisions of the Geneva Communiqué closely. It does not contain any ambiguities or understatements, and we insistently appeal for the implementation of its ideas without derogations or free interpretations. Yet more so because support for this document is recorded in UN Security Council resolution 2118.

 

In our opinion, the task of members of the international community, including Russia, who consistently draw the line at unlocking it by political and diplomatic means, since the very beginning of this crisis in March 2011, consists in the creation of favourable external conditions for a Syria-wide dialogue. The establishing of control over chemical weapons, for the purpose of their further elimination on the basis of the decision of the OPCW Executive Council and UNSC resolution 2118, which were adopted for the sake of development of the Russian-American framework agreements of the 14 September, has become an important step in this direction. This is a vivid example of a reasonable choice in favour of diplomacy bringing specific positive results.

 

Question: Who, in your opinion, is directly responsible for the disruption of the Conference on the creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East (WMDFZ)?

Sergey Lavrov: Russia, along with the United States, the United Kingdom and the UN Secretary-General, who are in charge of the convention of the Conference on the creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, perceives its responsibilities very seriously. Co-founders have carried out significant work to prepare for the Conference. Unfortunately, it has not been held yet, because not all the countries of the region have confirmed their readiness to participate.

For this to happen, we need to substantially developa multilateral format of consultations with the participation of the countries of the region. A direct talk between all the interested participants, political will and the ability to agree are the key items, which will help us find outcomes to the issues related to the convention of the Conference.

 

In any case, the Conference is only the initial stage on the way to create a WMDFZ in the region. We continue to provide all possible assistance to ensure the successful convention of the Conference and further efforts directed at the creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. However, the achievement of these goals primarily depends on the countries of the region.

 

Question: How to you assess the refusal of Israel to accede to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?

Sergey Lavrov: If you mean the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the position of Russia is well known.

Its essence is: we view the NPT as the cornerstone of a regime of non-proliferation and international security. Risks and threats to this global regime must be removed, particularly on the basis of the NPT. We have always spoken and continue to speak in favour of the universalisation of the Treaty and faster accession to it of all countries, including Egypt. (This interview was originally published by Al-Alhram)


 
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