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Press Conference by Russian Foreign Minister on Middle East Situation

11 May 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The ministerial meeting of the Security Council on the Middle East that took place today was critical in reaffirming a common position on the peace process after the Gaza crisis and Israeli elections, Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, said today at a Headquarters press conference.

“The outcome reflects our common interest in seeing that talks resume as soon as possible,” Mr. Lavrov said, following the adjournment of the meeting, which produced a presidential statement urging the parties to reach a just and lasting peace and reiterating the Council’s commitment to the “irreversibility of the bilateral negotiations built upon previous agreements and obligations” (document S/PRST/2009/14).  (For details, see Press Release SC/9655.)

It specifically called on all States and organizations to support “the Palestinian Government that is committed” to the Arab Peace Initiative and the principles of the diplomatic Quartet of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russian Federation, he said.

In addition, participants at the meeting supported the Russian Federation’s proposal to convene an international conference on the peace process in Moscow during the current year, Mr. Lavrov added.

Responding to questions about the Council meeting, which was organized by his country, Mr. Lavrov stressed the cooperation his delegation had received from other stakeholders in assembling the event.

“With our United States colleagues and with our colleagues from the European Union, who are also in the Quartet with us, and also with our colleagues from the League of Arab States, and of course with Palestinians, we have been cooperating very closely in terms of preparations for this meeting,” he said, adding that Israeli colleagues were also kept abreast of all developments.

He said that the Council made a step forward in its common position through a strong mention of the Arab Peace Initiative in the presidential statement, which was agreed by all Council members.  He projected that the Initiative will now be a cornerstone of future Quartet efforts.

He also underlined the strong commitment to previous agreements contained in the statement.  “Resumption of talks should not go back to square one, because of the gains we already have.  Particularly, they should be based on the international legal basis that is contained in Security Council resolutions.”

“Whatever runs counter to the obligations needs to be ended,” he stressed, in particular both terrorist acts and continued settlement activity.

Asked if it was significant that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not represent the United States at the meeting, he replied that Ambassador Susan Rice, who instead represented the country, was a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, and he was assured during his recent visit to Washington, D.C., of the importance the United States Administration attached to the meeting.

As for whether arrangements for the Moscow conference on the peace process would be linked to President Obama’s visit to the Russian Federation from 6 to 8 July, he said that he would not make the linkage.  Mr. Obama’s discussions with his Government would include that subject and other international matters, but would also cover all other issues on the United States-Russian Federation bilateral agenda.

The timetable for the conference would be settled after the Israeli Government was fully formed, and would be determined in talks with the members of the Quartet, he said.

On the size of the conference, he pointed to the example of previous Middle East meetings in his expectation of wide participation, including members of the Quartet, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and other countries that are providing support for the peace process.

Regarding the timing of today’s Council meeting, he said that there had been no need to wait until the Israeli and United States policies and strategies had fully gelled.  On the contrary, he hoped that the presidential statement would “play a role in assisting those who have not yet formulated their approaches”.

The sooner peace talks resume, the better, Mr. Lavrov said.  Before the Moscow conference, there must be direct contacts between the two parties, he stressed.

In regard to contacts with Hamas, he said the Russian Federation had never ceased its contacts with the group, and reaffirmed that there could be no resolution of the Middle East problem if the divisions within the Palestinian community continued, adding that Council members must talk to all members of the Palestinian community to reach a solution to the problem.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.