Excerpts from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s and answers to media questions at a joint press conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Bolivia Fernando Huanacuni Mamani
Question: In a conversation yesterday with your Chinese colleague, Wang Yi, you again noted that it would be unacceptable to use force to resolve the crisis on the Korean Peninsula and stressed Moscow's readiness to strengthen coordination with Beijing in the settlement process. Does this coordination imply certain economic steps, or is it just about diplomatic steps?
Sergey Lavrov: With regard to using our influence on Pyongyang in order to make it comply with the well-known UN Security Council resolutions, we are deeply convinced that the economic pressure has practically run its course. We cannot support the ideas that some of our partners continue to nurture, which literally seek to strangle North Korea economically with all the negative, tragic humanitarian ramifications for the people of the DPRK.
We operate on the premise that all of the UN Security Council resolutions without exception, which have already introduced serious economic measures, contain the Security Council’s obligations to continue supporting the process of returning to political talks and seeking a peaceful diplomatic settlement on the Korean Peninsula. All economic measures of influence imposed by the Security Council for several years have been implemented by the UN member states, and the UN Security Council's call and commitment to the parties concerned to pay attention to the political track has, in fact, been ignored. Russia and China believe that this is wrong, and even harmful and dangerous.
So, we have come up with a joint initiative that includes the well-known "double freeze" principle: North Korea will not test nuclear weapons and missiles, and the United States and the Republic of Korea will not conduct large-scale exercises in this region. I am aware of the US response to this "double freeze" principle. They believe that legal cannot be exchanged for illegal. However, this is not about getting stuck in being right or thinking about certain falsely understood issues of prestige, but about the future of this region and hundreds of thousands of people who, according to experts, may be affected in case of hostilities, which Washington or Pyongyang never stop threatening. Recently, this rhetoric has somewhat subsided.
Perhaps we should at least hope that the hotheads calm down a little. In conjunction with the People's Republic of China, we will push for compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions, which talk about the need to return to the political process. The UNSC economic measures have never been taken in isolation fr om the recognition of the need for a peaceful settlement. Our joint proposals with China are included in the joint statement of July 4, which deals exclusively with political and diplomatic steps.
Question: What can you say about Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s statement that Tehran may walk away fr om the nuclear programme agreement if Washington continues to put Iran under pressure? What is Moscow’s attitude to Iran’s decision to increase its missile programme budget?
Sergey Lavrov: The missile programme budget is basically Iran’s business. It is not prohibited from having this programme. There are no legal bans in UN Security Council resolutions on this issue.
As for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s statement that Tehran may quit the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was concluded to resolve the situation around Iran’s nuclear programme, I hope this won’t take place. I also hope the United States will not violate its JCPOA commitments, either.
As is known, in line with the periodic reviews mandated by US law, the United States has certified that Iran is meeting its commitments under the JCPOA. However, in parallel Washington has imposed new unilateral sanctions on Iran. It explained that these sanctions do not concern Iran’s nuclear programme or the JCPOA but reflect US discontent with Tehran’s actions in other areas, including human rights and its conduct in the region. There may be only one response to this. Unilateral sanctions are unacceptable in principle and irresponsible if they are used to change in one’s favour a well-calibrated balance (as is the case with the Iran nuclear deal) because they may upset this balance. One shouldn't resort to such provocations because the matter deals not even with national interests of a country but with an enormous region wh ere we are interested in ensuring a nuclear-free status.
Now I would like to make the second point in this context. We have suggested reaching an honest deal more than once – if a package of economic measures of influence on any country be it the DPRK or Iran is being agreed upon in the UN Security Council and a resolution is adopted, all parties should assume commitments to lim it themselves to this negotiated package of sanctions and not to come up with unilateral restrictions so as to make up for what has not become part of the collective package. The Americans are vehemently opposed although it is hard to reject this principle. It will remain an urgent imperative. We will continue upholding it in all subsequent discussions and have already made corresponding statements at the UN Security Council consultations. This is a position of principle shared by many of our partners.