Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the UAE Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi, March 9, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
We held a lengthy and trustworthy conversation with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. We also had talks with my friend and colleague Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the UAE. They were very useful.
We praised relations between Russia and the United Arab Emirates, the special character of which is fixed in the Declaration on Strategic Partnership of June 1, 2018. We agreed to continue filling all areas of our relations with mutually beneficial projects in accordance with the declaration and the agreements signed during President of Russia Vladimir Putin’s visit to the UAE in October 2019.
We continue contacts at the highest level; our leaders stay in contact. I am sure that all our cooperation will return to its usual format with the overcoming of the pandemic.
We noted a considerable increase in trade. During the past year, it went up almost 80 percent to reach a historical high of $3.27 billion. We emphasised the importance of maintaining this positive dynamic. One of the ways to this goal is the active role of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation, which will hold its regular session this year.
We supported using the potential of the Russia-UAE Business Council. We have a common understanding of the promising projects we can carry out in such areas as hydrocarbon production, petrochemicals, automobile and aircraft manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, banking, hydrogen technology, peaceful space exploration, agriculture and military-technical cooperation. We have many plans in all these areas and hope they will be consistently implemented.
We noted the benefits of participation by Russian delegations in UAE-hosted events. Recently, international arms and food exhibitions were held here. We agreed to cooperate in organising the international and universal exposition, EXPO, in Dubai in the autumn of 2021, including the Day of Russia within this framework.
In December, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. These relations officially began just days after the UAE declared independence. We agreed with the Crown Prince and the Foreign Minister to befittingly celebrate these important landmarks.
We have a common understanding on the need to continue building up cooperation between the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the UAE’s Mubadala Investment Company. We welcomed our close bilateral coordination in the global hydrocarbon market, including under the OPEC+ agreements. We mentioned the prospects for space cooperation. In December 2020, a Russian Soyuz carrier rocket put into orbit yet another Emirati remote sensing Earth observation satellite.
We assessed our efforts in countering the coronavirus infection positively. Last January, the Russian Sputnik V vaccine was officially registered in the UAE for use in “case of emergency.” We hope that soon Sputnik V will also be approved for regular vaccinations of the people.
We discussed in detail a number of regional issues: developments in the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria, Libya and Yemen. In these cases, Russia and the UAE promote a peaceful political settlement based on the UN Charter and relevant UN resolutions. We advocate an inclusive dialogue for overcoming all crises.
We spoke about the Arab-Israeli settlement. We reaffirm our position and welcome the normalisation of Israel’s relations with several Arab states, including the UAE, on the understanding that a fair settlement of the Palestinian problem must not be relegated to the background. We will be willing to continue facilitating direct dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
We also discussed developments in the Persian Gulf. We reaffirmed our desire to encourage the region’s countries and the Gulf states to start promoting trust and transparency in military construction and normalisation of relations between Iran and regional countries in general with the participation of international organisations (the UN Security Council, the Arab League and the European Union).
We agreed to maintain a dialogue on all of these issues. I am grateful to our Emirati friends for the hospitality accorded to our delegation.
Question (translated from Arabic): Trade between Russia and the UAE is up despite the pandemic. Do you have any idea why?
Sergey Lavrov: I would say this is rather a philosophical question. When you focus on interaction and the implementation of mutually beneficial projects, no disease can stop you from making it happen. We have those kind of relations with the UAE. Today, this approach was fully reiterated during our talks with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Our relations go beyond strategic partnership. Every year, they grow closer and encompass all areas, without exception, of interaction between our states and peoples. The tourism industry is also essential for promoting people-to-people contact which strengthens our friendship. I’m sure this state of affairs will continue into the future.
Question: Thanks to Russia’s initiative, the well-known Iran nuclear deal was negotiated as a result of a reciprocal effort. As of today, it is stalled because of Washington's tough stance on the Iranian nuclear programme. Can we expect Russia to take new steps to have all the parties return to the negotiating table based on Russia’s security concept for the Gulf region?
Sergey Lavrov: There are several aspects to this, which we discussed in detail today. First, the previous US Administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and thus destroyed it. For more than a year, Iran has faithfully fulfilled its obligations, including voluntary ones, despite the fact that the promised resumption of normal trade was undermined by the United States. The Americans stopped delivering on their promises under the JCPOA and told others to do the same under the threat of sanctions. Nonetheless, Iran has been complying faultlessly for over a year, and then said it would drop out of its voluntary commitments if the United States failed to fulfill its commitments. Everyone is aware of where we are now.
We welcome the Biden administration’s decision to return to the JCPOA. It has not yet been implemented, because the United States, as I understand it, is still in the process of figuring out how to go about it. There are those who advocate loudly the need to revive the JCPOA in an updated form. They are talking about the need to discuss Iran's missile programme and its regional policy with regard to the neighbouring countries and the Middle East and North Africa in general.
We are convinced that we should now focus on restoring the JCPOA in full and not overburden it with other considerations and concerns however important they might be. To resolve this immediate task, we believe we should work out the concurrent steps that the Iranians and the United States will need to take. If we keep discussing who should be the first to resume compliance, we will never arrive at anything.
The Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf, which Russia has been promoting for many years now, is another side of the problem. We have repeatedly discussed this concept at our meetings with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers, including here in the UAE, and have updated the concept in accordance with the changes that have taken place in the world and the region since then. Several years ago, we presented an updated version and held a scientific conference with scientists from all the countries involved, which was very productive.
In October, when Russia chaired the UN Security Council, we held a special open meeting, which made it possible to generate very interesting ideas that we will use in the future.
Returning to the issues arising from renewing the JCPOA, including the conditions for Iran (missiles and regional policy), we are convinced that if the Conference on Security in the Gulf that we are proposing is held based on the principles of respect for each other's interests, equality, and the need to achieve mutually acceptable compromises, then it could be used to discuss the problems and concerns of the parties.
I hope that this overall pragmatic approach will help bring in like-minded people and, ultimately, create proper conditions for the countries of the region to get together, build trust and proceed to cooperation.