Russia This Week is a weekly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest Russia-related news and analysis from media in Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.
Photo Of The Week
On April 7, Orthodox Christians held the Holy Fire ceremony in Jerusalem. A special flight carried a capsule containing the Holy Fire that descended in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem to Russia and landed at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. (Source: Tass.com, April 7, 2018)
In The News:
Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov: I Hope That The U.S. Would Not Abandon The Possibility Of Organizing The Summit Talks
During a phone call with his Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed a meeting between the two presidents in Washington DC.
Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov said: "During a telephone conversation between our presidents, Trump suggested that the first meeting could be held in Washington… If everything goes well, I hope that the American side would not abandon its proposal to discuss the possibility of organizing the summit talks."
He then cautioned: "After the conversation, which was constructive and business-like and touched upon many issues, there was another breakdown in our bilateral relations, 60 diplomats were expelled, our consulate was closed and Russia had to furnish a tit-for-tat response to that… Since March 20, the day when the telephone conversation took place, there haven’t been specific discussions on a possible meeting… In the wake of the recent developments, it would be difficult to discuss a summit."
However, he stated that Russia believes such a meeting "would be rather important and beneficial for both countries, as well as for the entire global community."
(Tass.com, April 2, 2018)
Russian Intellectual Lukyanov: Trump's Invitation Mean Nothing, He Does Not Treat Public Statements Seriously
Russian intellectual Fyodor Lukyanov also poured cold water on the idea in his Telegram channel: "We'll risk pointing out that all that [Trump's suggestion to Putin to convene a meeting] means absolutely nothing. It's about time to get used to a Trump peculiarity – he couldn't care less about how his flip-flopping is being perceived by others.
"He is truly indifferent over whether they consider him consistent or not. He does not treat public statements seriously – they exist for him in a separate media expanse where a press event lives until the next press event appears. This does not mean that Trump lacks goals or a long-term perspective; they simply have nothing to do with his current statements. It should be understood and approached correctly.
"As for the meeting - it's just impossible to imagine such one given the current atmosphere [of bilateral relations]. Moreover, such a meeting is unnecessary. Regarding the efficacy of negotiations with Trump – take the example of the G20 summit in Hamburg in July, 2017 – it's zero. Regarding agreements to meet take for example the Danang "meeting" experience at the APEC summit, when they [Putin and Trump] had a friendly 30-second-long chat during photo-session. Any further questions?"
The above cartoon was published by Lukyanov in his Telegram channel, T.me/ru_global.
Russian Deputy FM Grushko: The Situation Is Alarming
At a meeting, entitled The Future of Diplomacy and Political Communications, held at the discussion club Valdai, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko said:
"In our relations with the United States there is a great problem: we do not understand what our partners’ intensions are and what they would like to achieve. Successful talks are possible only when we have a clear understanding of our partners’ intentions. Then we can start a discussion on how to reconcile these goals and intentions… We’ve been described as adversaries. The U.S. openly says that it will seek guaranteed supremacy in military and economic terms. The situation is alarming and it cannot be otherwise."
He then added: "This situation is absolutely abnormal. Economic inter-dependence is a major factor for balance between states… By and large the ball is in the court of our Western partners. The same applies not only to the United States… I’m deeply certain that the ultimate interest is to recognize the realities and to recognize that Europe without Russia is not Europe."
(Tass.com, April 3, 2018)
Russian Analyst Suslov: There Is No Hope That Trump Will Promote A Less Confrontational Policy Towards Russia
Dmitry Suslov, Program Director of the Valdai Discussion Club and Deputy Director at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, National Research University Higher School of Economics, writing in the Russian newspaper Kommersant saw no grounds for optimism:
"There are absolutely no bases to hope that Donald Trump, once having fortified his internal positions, will start pursuing a less confrontational policy towards Russia, which he was talking about during his elections campaign...
"First of all, Russia and particularly its President is still highly 'toxic' in the U.S. in political terms. The Russiagate is far from over, and it will continue while the struggle between the old and new elites in Washington goes on. The new elites should win this confrontation, but it will take years.
"Secondly, after a year in his presidential term, Donald Trump has realized that Russia would hardly be a useful companion or even a passive observer to the restoration of American greatness – and it will fight with all means to strengthen the international balance of forces and counter the revival of American global military hegemony."
(Kommersant.ru, April 3, 3018)
U.S. New Sanctions – Russian MFA: America’s Decline In Real Time
Washington announced a new round of sanctions against Russia, and they were reviewed by the Russian media outlet RT as follows:
"The US Treasury announced more anti-Russian sanctions, with 24 high-profile businessmen and politicians, as well as 14 companies being added to the existing blacklist. According to Washington, Moscow is to be punished for 'a range of malign activity around the globe,' including its reunification with Crimea, involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, support of President Bashar Assad in Syria, as well as 'attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities.'
"Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, the head of the National Guard Service (Rosgvardiya) Viktor Zolotov and Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Konstantin Kosachev were among those sanctioned by the US. Restrictions were introduced against aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska and his companies Basic Element, En+ Group, Rusal and Russian Machines. Russian defense corporation, Rosoboronexport, was also added to the blacklist.
"Placing individuals and companies on the sanctions list means the U.S. government can freeze all their property within its jurisdiction. Any U.S. persons are prohibited from doing any business with them."
(Rt.com, April 6, 2018)
The following is the Russian MFA's reaction to the new round of U.S. sanctions against Russia:
"On April 6, the number of attempts to pressure Russia through sanctions topped fifty. Despite the failure of previous rounds of sanctions to achieve anything, Washington continues to threaten Russians with visa denials and to scare Russian business by freezing property and financial assets, forgetting that the seizure of private property and other people’s money constitutes theft.
"Having failed to achieve the desired effect from the previous sanctions, Washington politicians are pursuing absurd policies. They are lashing out at our companies that have maintained business ties with the United States for a long time and on which thousands of jobs depend there. In other words, they are hurting average Americans, their own voters, and destroying economic cooperation to their own detriment.
"It seems that we are witnessing America’s decline in real time. The United States is increasingly turning its back on what it used to characterise as fundamental 'American values.' Also, the seizure of Russian diplomatic property by force is not only a crude violation of international norms. It also shows that property rights, which Americans once considered sacred, are now meaningless in that country.
"By endlessly turning to sanctions, particularly to remove competitors from foreign markets by administrative methods, Washington has actually become an opponent of the market economy and free and honest competition. Obstacles to the broadcasting of the Russian television channel RT speak to a desire to eliminate a source of alternative information and restrict freedom of speech. Finally, there are the practices of medieval torture in the early 21st century and keeping prisoners in the legal vacuum at the Guantanamo Bay military base and CIA secret prisons, which testifies to Washington’s attitude to human rights.
"American democracy is obviously in decline. The U.S. simply hopes to maintain its global hegemony by all means, in particular, by exerting pressure on countries that pursue independent policies and express opinions that are at odds with those of Washington’s NATO allies.
"As we have noted repeatedly, no pressure will divert Russia from its course. It merely reveals the inability of the US to achieve its goals and helps to rally Russian society.
"Needless to say, this latest anti-Russian move will not go unanswered. However, above all we wish to advise Washington to disabuse itself of the illusion that it is possible to speak to us in the language of sanctions."
(Kremlin.ru, April 6, 2018)
The Skripal Case
Sergey Skripal (Source: Liga.net)
Russian FM Lavrov: 'We Do Not Want To Play Children’s Games, But So Far This Is Exactly What Our Partners Have Been Doing'
Question: "There is increasing talk of a new Cold War. The term is being used to describe relations between Russia and the West. How dangerous is this escalation? How far is Moscow prepared to go in its “diplomatic war” with Great Britain?"
Sergey Lavrov: "Indeed, there is a lot of talk of a new Cold War. Many say that the situation is worse than it was during the first Cold War because then there were some kind of rules and appearances were kept up. Now, as I see it, our Western partners, and I am referring mostly to Great Britain, the US and some countries which blindly follow them, have cast aside all the proprieties and are resorting to open lies and disinformation. Our response to this is, I think, is fairly calm and level-headed. We insist that any charges, any claims have to be backed up by facts. When there are no facts, our recourse is the steps you mentioned. They take it out on the diplomats who by definition are to maintain relations, defuse complicated situations and look for ways to overcome difficulties. The opportunities for such dialogues are shrinking as diplomats are expelled under specious pretexts. It does not depend on us how far we will go. The principle of reciprocity in diplomacy has not been suspended. This principle will be consistently followed. So, like we said as children, the one who started it has to stop first. We do not want to play children’s games, but so far this is exactly what our partners have been doing."
Question: "The Western media, citing a source close to the Skripal poisoning investigation, say that the attack was so sophisticated that it is likely (the word 'likely' again) to have been authorized at the highest level in Russia. What is your reaction?"
Sergey Lavrov: "As for the 'Skripal case' and the reference to a source close to the investigation, let me repeat that Russia had nothing to do with the poisoning of the Skripals. But we are very interested (perhaps even more interested than anyone) in the truth being established and the truth about the fate of Russian citizens being made known. I think it is outrageous that to this day our numerous requests for access to these Russian citizens are being turned down or ignored. This despite the fact that our British colleagues have apprised us, in a note to the Russian Embassy, that Yulia Skripal has recovered from her coma, feels much better and is making a speedy recovery. Nevertheless, the situation on access to the Russian citizen has not changed. I hope that Sergey Skripal will follow the same course because the signs are that he was affected by the incident in the same way as his daughter. We are glad that the police officer who found the Skripals unconscious has recovered and is back to normal.
"I mentioned the condition of Yulia Skripal and the police officer, and that Sergey Skripal is still alive and, thank God, nothing untoward has happened to him. I hope nothing will. Against this background, how can one take seriously the words of a source you said is close to the investigation about the attack being sophisticated? As I understand it, sophisticated attacks usually lead to a lethal outcome instantly, especially since we are talking about a military substance whose chemical composition our British colleagues have described without facts or without any opportunity for us or anyone else to verify the substance. If it was a chemical warfare agent which was, on top of that, used in a sophisticated way, you can imagine what might have happened to the people targeted by such an attack. And then [came] these words to the effect that 'it is highly likely that Russia did it because there is no other credible explanation.'
"There are explanations, and we have tried to obtain them from our British colleagues from the start, from the first day. We proposed urgently invoking the procedures envisaged under the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. A country that has suspicions with regard to any other state has a right and even an obligation to refer to that state which has to provide an exhaustive answer within ten days. If the country which has raised a query deems the answers to be insufficient, it has the right to call an extraordinary session of the OPCW Executive Council and take a number of steps as stipulated under the convention.
"However, as you know, the law is not written for everyone. Apparently, for our British colleagues, this is not binding. They made up their minds and, without turning to the Convention, right away publicly presented us with a verdict through the mouth of the British Prime Minister Theresa May using the words 'highly likely' and demanding that Russia answer the question as to whether it was an order from President Putin or a case of Russia losing control of its chemical arsenal. Our colleagues, including the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, recently interviewed on this topic, say that there are many unanswered questions being addressed to Russia on whether it was an order 'from the top' or a loss of control (somebody took the poison and used it in Britain). This is thoughless, unworthy and unacceptable in any sphere of activity, especially in diplomacy and especially when human lives are at stake.
"President Putin personally commented on the situation with the claims that 'the order came from the very top.' Only an absolutely biased person who initiated this hideous and crazy provocation can insist, as do the British colleagues, that Russia had a motive. What motive? Ahead of the presidential elections in Russia or the FIFA World Cup? That’s if one takes a cynical view of the problem.
"We could not have had any motive. A man had been released and pardoned in exchange for Russian representatives several years ago now. If we had anything against him he would probably not have been subject to an exchange. There are other explanations in addition to those put forward by our Western colleagues who say that only the Russian extension can be the final answer. This has been suggested by experts who note that it may well have been in the interests of the British secret services notorious for their actions with license to kill, and of the British Government, which has obviously found itself in an embarrassing situation having failed to deliver to their voters on the promises concerning the terms of Brexit. There may be a whole range of reasons which are not to be swept aside. Serious experts do not simply push things under the rug. They and the heads of a number of governments ask these questions publicly. I don’t think these questions can be dodged at this stage because they are too obvious as is the fact that our British colleagues have gone just a bit too far.
"We will insist on all the facts being cleared up and on the establishment of the truth. As I already said, a special session of the OPCW Executive Council will be held the day after tomorrow, on April 4, at our initiative. In full conformity with the Chemical Weapons Convention we conveyed the strictly specific questions addressed to the OPCW Technical Secretariat and to our British and French colleagues because reports have suddenly appeared (the French President Macron spoke about it) that France has actively joined the investigation. It is important for us to know on what grounds this happened. There are many questions. If our British colleagues fail to answer them, this would mean only one thing: all this is fiction, or to put it more bluntly, a gross provocation."
(Mid.ru, April 2, 2018)
Presidential Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov: London Will Have To Offer Its Apologies To Russia
Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said: "London somehow will have to offer its apologies to the Russian side, but obviously it is going to be a long story and the idiocy of it has gone too far …The British Foreign Secretary, who accused President Putin, and the British Prime Minister will have to look in the eyes of their EU colleagues after telling them what they told… The situation was iniquitous for us from the very beginning. And now there emerge evidence that these mad accusations the British side voiced just a few hours after the incident are based on nothing. These are telling official evidence from experts."
(Tass.com, April 3, 2018)
Putin: 'We Do Not Expect Anything Other Than For Common Sense To Ultimately Prevail'
During the tripartite meeting in Ankara, Putin was asked a question in reference to Peskov's statement:
Question: "Your representatives, Mr President, said yesterday that Britain will now have to apologise. What kind of apologies do we expect? Simply, 'Sorry, we made a mistake' or some official document, full restoration of cooperation? Thank you."
Vladimir Putin: "We do not expect anything other than for common sense to ultimately prevail and for international relations not to be damaged the way we have seen recently. This goes not only for this case, the attempt on Skripal’s life. This has to do with other aspects of international relations as well. We should stay within the framework of healthy political processes based on fundamental norms of international law, and then the situation in the world will become more stable and predictable."
(Kremlin.ru, April 4, 2018)
Russian Deputy FM: There Is No Trust In Great Britain
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov: "There is no trust in Great Britain, it is impossible to trust London, given its continuous misconduct and the unacceptable rhetoric against Russia, which is beyond the pale... Our proposal [made at the special meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] was that the organization’s Executive Council should agree on creation of an independent panel of experts empowered to look into all circumstances of the case… Only thorough examination of all facts and circumstances with our representatives taking part will ensure truly unbiased probe into truth. This is the gist of our proposal, no more, no less."
(Tass.com, April 3, 2018)
On the sidelines of the above mentioned Valdai International Discussion Club’s session, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko commented on Russia-NATO relations.
Grushko said: "By dealing a blow to the office responsible for providing correct information about what is happening in the Alliance, NATO is rather punishing itself than us. After all, if they don’t want dialogue, there won’t be dialogue, because as everyone knows it takes two to tango. In this case, the Alliance will damage its own security…
"This is at odds with the numerous statements that the NATO secretary general and other officials have been making, claiming that NATO is interested in maintaining political dialogue and calling another meeting of the Russia-NATO Council… How is it possible to call a meeting under the current circumstances?"
(Tass.com, April 3, 2018)
Russia In Syria
The Russian MFA denounced reports about a chemical attack on the town of Douma, controlled by Jaish Al-Islam. The Russian MFA said that the reports were an example of a "continuous series of fake news about the use of chlorine and other chemical agents by the government forces." The MFA also warned of "dire consequences" in the event of any Western military interference.
(Rt.com, April 8, 2018; Read the full article))
Tripartite Ankara Summit - Iranian President Rouhani: Americans And Israelis Were Unsuccessfully Trying To Get In Our Way
On April 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held a joint news conference in Ankara, following the second trilateral meeting of the heads of states, guarantors of the Astana process for facilitating the Syrian peace settlement:
Turkish President Erdogan: 'The Struggle Against YPG, Against These Terrorist Groups Is No Obstacle In The Fight Against DAISH, On The Contrary, It Adds To The Struggle'
President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "Friends, President Putin, President Rouhani, ladies and gentlemen, I cordially greet all those present here.
"In the presence of all our friends, I once again welcome my dear friend Mr Putin and Mr Rouhani to our country.
"Today, we welcome our guests here at the summit, which is the expression of our efforts towards establishing security, peace and calm in Syria.
"Last November, Mr. Putin welcomed us to Sochi during the first summit to resolve the Syrian conflict. Today, we held talks and identified some steps that, we believe, will show us the way to the future of our region.
"Turkey is strictly complying with its commitments regarding the de-escalation zones. Having recently established the 8th observation post in Idlib, we, I believe, have thus demonstrated our determination.
"We hope that the entire world will pay attention to one point with regard to Syria. We believe that ensuring the territorial security and territorial integrity of Syria depends on whether we treat all terrorist organizations on an equal footing.
"However, terrorist organizations that pose a threat not only to Syria, but also to Turkey and other neighboring countries in the region, must be eliminated from the game.
"As a result of the Euphrates Shield military operation, Turkey eliminated about 3,000 terrorists and thus demonstrated that it is doing more than others to fight the terrorist organization DAISH.
"However, Turkey is also a country that has sacrificed much during the attacks by DAISH.
"A military operation codenamed the Olive Branch was equally important. During this operation, we fought against the so-called people's self-defense forces, YPG, which represented threats to Syria’s territorial integrity. We have liberated about 4,000 square kilometers from the terrorists. Thus, we are not only ensuring the security of this region but are building infrastructure in liberated areas and are returning these territories to their actual residents, the people of Syria.
"Everyone is aware that over 3.5 million Syrian refugees are residing in Turkey. After liberating Jarabulus and Al-Bab, 160,000 Syrian refugees returned to the liberated territories.
"Once we are done demining Afrin, we will also help rebuild the infrastructure. We expect hundreds of thousands of Syrians to return to their homes. Alongside our Russian and Iranian friends, we will work together to build the infrastructure.
"As for, above all, the Manbij region, we would like to repeat that we will continue our operations until we liberate these territories from the YPG, the so-called people's self-defence forces.
"The struggle against YPG, against these terrorist groups is no obstacle in the fight against DAISH, on the contrary, it adds to the struggle. These terrorist organizations, like DAISH, like the YPG and the so-called Democratic Union constantly complement one another and impede the establishment of peace and stability in the region. Attention should be paid to this.
"First a terrorist organization like DAISH is formed, then what looks like a fight against that organization continues. The YPG and the 'Democratic Union' seem to start fighting this terrorist organization. But the thing is that the path is opened for DAISH precisely by the circles that want chaos to continue there. Allegedly the fight against DAISH continues, but then a second terrorist organization is formed. We have special relations with the Syrian people, so what happens in Syria has special significance for us.
"In the course of continuing Turkish operations in Syria we do everything we can to minimize civilian casualties. If one compares the fighting and liberation of cities from terrorist organizations with other operations, that is, when other forces are waging this kind of struggle, it can readily be seen that we do everything we can, we make every effort to minimize civilian losses. After these operations Syrian citizens in the liberated territories live in calm, stability and peace. On the territories controlled by terrorist groups, chaos and bloodshed continue, this is obvious. As guarantor countries we must ensure Syria’s territorial integrity and stop the bloodshed. The guarantor states have agreed on that for the sake of Syria’s new future.
"As a result of this crisis and these clashes, the people of Syria and the countries in the region are the losers. And we all know who the winners are.
"Ahead lies an arduous path, but we also see some success. We cannot leave the region to several terrorist organizations, neither Syria, nor the region as a whole. As guarantor states, we will continue our resolute work in accordance with our common principles. We will not give in to provocations and fall into traps. The international community should also pay attention to this.
"Once again I urge the international community to make every effort to ensure justice and a political resolution to the issues.
"In conclusion I would like to once again welcome our guests to our country. I believe that our consultations and the measures and steps taken will benefit the oppressed people of Syria and the whole region.
"Again, I would like to thank my dear friend Mr. Putin and my dear brother Mr. Rouhani.
"I give the floor to President Rouhani. You are welcome."
Iranian President Rouhani: '[The U.S.] Would Like To Use The Terrorist Groups Of DAISH And Jabhat Al-Nusra As An Instrument Of Controlling This Region'
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani: "In the name of God, the Most Merciful!
"First, I must thank Mr. Erdogan, the Turkish President, the Turkish Government and the Turkish people for receiving us and for the hospitality accorded to me and the other guests from Iran and Russia. Today and yesterday you received both Russians and Iranians.
"In the last few years our region has been facing the very serious crisis that is called terrorism. Regrettably, these terrorists are supported by some Western countries. Certain states are funding them and equipping them with new weapons. These are the same terrorists that produced and sold Syrian oil, and destroyed Syrian museums and, unfortunately, freely sold the artifacts they found in these museums. It is highly regrettably but some super powers, including the United States, would like to use the terrorist groups of DAISH and Jabhat al-Nusra as an instrument of controlling this region.
"Such large nations as the Iraqis and the Syrians have neutralized this conspiracy with the assistance of friendly countries. DAISH no longer exists as a force. There are leftover parts of it but they are no longer a force, not a big force. Now after several years of fighting the terrorists the region’s nations have more hope than before.
"Meetings that determined how to resolve this crisis, led to a ceasefire and reduced tensions in four zones started in Astana 15 months ago in the course of the struggle against terrorists. The Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey played a very important role in the adoption of these decisions.
"In addition to regular talks at the expert and ministerial levels, the first summit of the guarantor states took place in the Russian city of Sochi.
"I can mention some very important results of this summit – the holding of the National Dialogue Congress between Syrian representatives of the most diverse groups, including representatives of the Syrian state and the opposition. This was the most important measure that we must promote and continue.
"Other very important events have taken place since then. Some are positive, while others are, regrettably, very bad. But I am very glad that as a result of this, today the hopes of the Syrian people are greater than yesterday. They hope that peace will be established in their country and they will be able to return to their homes that will soon become safe.
"I am very happy that today the heads of these three states held a second summit in Ankara. We discussed very useful issues and were very open in talking with each other. We talked about the future of Syria. The brightest moment today is that the leaders of the three states agreed to grant humanitarian and medical aid to the Syrian people. Today we have agreed as never before and are ready to help the Syrian people. I very much hope that these agreements will be carried out. I hope that we will still be able to help the Syrian people that are suffering today and need medicines and food.
"In the opinion of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Syrian issue does not have a military solution. We must resolve the Syrian crisis only by political process. All of us should help to end the war in Syria. We should continue the peace processes. We should do what we can for the refugees to return home.
"The current humanitarian situation in Syria is terrible – I can express this in one word. We should all help so that the Syrian people feel at least a little safe to return home.
"Let me emphasize once again that all of us should respect, as the most important principles, the territorial integrity, sovereignty, unity and independence of the Syrian Arab Republic. This is what the Syrian people want. It is necessary to fight terrorism and eliminate the remaining elements in Syria. What we must do today is help build the future of Syria. Not a single country has the right to make decisions on the future and destiny of Syria.
"The destiny of Syria is in the hands of the Syrian people alone. It is the Syrian people that must ultimately choose a constitution and vote for their destiny at a democratic presidential election. The Three, in which we are the guarantors of the Astana process, will do all we can. I think the best holiday of our region will be the announcement of the end of the war. This will be the day when terrorists leave Syria and it will be open for a homecoming and be ready to hold free and democratic elections at which the Syrian people will be able to choose their destiny.
"And once again I would like to thank Mr. Erdogan for hosting this summit and also Mr. Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, for his participation in this summit and for coming to terms in it. I am grateful for the agreements and hope that we will do everything to help the Syrian people and to establish peace and security in this region. God grant.
Russian President Putin: 'The Main ISIS Forces Have Been Defeated, And The Combat Capability Of The Other Terrorist Groups Has Been Seriously Undermined'
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "I am grateful to Mr. Rouhani for his wonderful speech and am now giving the floor to Mr. Putin."
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: "President Erdogan, President Rouhani, ladies and gentlemen,
"Our trilateral talks were held in a business-like and constructive spirit. We had an in-depth discussion on the main aspects of the Syrian situation, exchanged opinions on the further steps that must be taken to bring about a lasting normalization of the situation, and reached vital agreements that were incorporated in the Joint Statement on the results of our meeting.
"I would like to point out that the Joint Statement emphasizes the firm resolve of Russia, Iran and Turkey to help strengthen the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, as my colleagues have said.
"This position of principle is much needed today, considering the growing number of attempts to deepen ethnic and religious differences in Syrian society in order to break up the country and to preserve the conflict potential of the Middle East for years to come.
"We have agreed to expand the entire range of our trilateral cooperation in Syria, primarily within the framework of the Astana process, which has proved its effectiveness more than once.
"Thanks to close coordination between Russia, Iran and Turkey as the guarantor states of the Astana process, the level of violence in Syria has radically diminished. The main ISIS forces have been defeated, and the combat capability of the other terrorist groups has been seriously undermined. Refugees and internally displaced persons are returning to their homes, and the reconstruction of social and economic infrastructure is underway.
"We intend to keep the focus of the Astana process on the political settlement of the Syrian crisis, or more precisely, promote an inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
We believe that the results of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which has no alternative so far, are crucial for our purpose.
"We discussed with our Iranian and Turkish colleagues steps on implementing the decisions of the Sochi forum as soon as possible. This includes forming the Constitutional Committee under the aegis of the UN in Geneva, within which the Syrians can independently determine the main parameters of state structure for a new Syria.
"Humanitarian issues were a major part of our discussion. The participants stated that politicization of this issue is unacceptable and that it is necessary to strictly comply with the UN Security Council Resolution 2401 that is aimed at alleviating the suffering of civilians in all of Syria.
"We informed our colleagues about Russia’s efforts in this regard, in particular, the unprecedented operation in Eastern Ghouta on saving thousands of civilian lives and removing militants that refuse to lay down their arms. Humanitarian aid is regularly delivered to the area of hostilities. Some of it is paid for by the donations of Russian citizens. Thus, 77 tons of food and basic necessities were sent to Syria in February at the expense of religious groups.
"Russia, Iran and Turkey will more closely coordinate their steps on resolving the humanitarian issues in Syria. This subject has already been discussed here. These three countries made a practical contribution to these efforts by establishing a working group in Astana on March 15. The group will deal with the liberation of hostages, the transfer of the dead and a search for the missing. Today President Erdogan proposed additional initiatives in the humanitarian area.
"We also agreed to consolidate our efforts on the post-conflict recovery of Syria, primarily, the construction of social and infrastructure facilities. Russian companies are already taking an active part in this. Indicatively, they have begun some projects in areas that were only recently run by militants.
"We consider our common strategic goal the complete rout of the terrorists that have not stopped their attempts to destabilize the situation on the ground and are still trying to derail efforts to promote the peace process.
"They will not stop at anything. We have irrefutable proof that they were preparing to use toxic agents. In this context, we agreed to step up trilateral coordination in all aspects of anti-terrorist activity and increase information exchange.
"In conclusion, I would like to thank all of my colleagues, President Erdogan and President Rouhani for these substantive and constructive talks. I am sure that necessary practical measures will be adopted following the summit and they will facilitate further productive work in the interests of lasting peace and stability in Syria.
"As you know, ladies and gentlemen, along with the Russian delegation, I am in Turkey for the second day. On the first day we held bilateral talks as part of the official visit. The official visit was a great success. I would like to thank President Erdogan for organizing our time during these two days.
"Thank you very much for your attention."
Erdogan: The EU Has Promised Funds, But The Money Has Not Come
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "Thank you, Mr. Putin, for your remarks.
"Yes, everybody knows that we laid the foundation of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant in Mersin yesterday. We took part in the ceremony together. The cost of the project will be around $21 billion. Inshallah, construction will be completed by 2023, the centenary of our Republic. Future workers have already started contributing to the project by continuing to study in Russia. They will be returning gradually and will work on this project.
"We held a trilateral summit, and we all want peace and calm to prevail in Syria as soon as possible and to see a new and prosperous Syria. To date, together with non-governmental organizations we have invested $30 billion and these refugees live in camps, in containers. Now 160,000 refugees have returned to northern Syria, to these regions, Jerabulus, Al-Bab (2,000 square kilometres have been liberated). We have built social infrastructure there and refugees have returned.
"As of now the European Union has promised some funds, but I can tell you frankly, unfortunately – they had promised at least 3 billion euros – the money has not come. If we get this money – or even if we don’t get it – all the same we will continue investing in the region. We think it is our duty to do this work.
"And now as a result of the military operation in Afrin, Russia and Iran were the first to express solidarity. The relevant agencies, our ministers, chiefs of the general staff and intelligence chiefs were involved in this work and making efforts. I believe that we have laid the foundations of a peace infrastructure here. The first meeting took place in Sochi, the second was held here in Ankara and the third, Inshallah, we will hold in Teheran. No exact date has been fixed, but we will be working together towards the Teheran summit.
"Now media from Iran, Russia and Turkey can ask two questions each."
Putin: 'No One Is Doing Anything Practical Except Iran, Turkey And Russia'
Question: "The need for the peace process, the political process has been mentioned many times. I would like to ask a question about the economic process. Early this year Russia signed a road map for building energy infrastructure. I would like to know if any steps have been taken and whether they have been taken by all the parties."
Vladimir Putin: "Once again, and louder please."
Question: "I said that a road map on energy matters in Syria was signed early in the year. I would like to know if all the participants are taking steps on the issue. Thank you."
Vladimir Putin: "Honestly, I still do not understand what you have asked. Are you asking about economic recovery?"
Vladimir Putin: "To be sure, this is the key issue. In addition to a political settlement, people must be able to live in normal conditions. Nothing can be done without massive capital investments, including from outside. So, we call on all the countries to get more actively involved in deed and not only in word.
"Everybody is talking about the need to join the humanitarian relief effort for starters, but no one is doing anything practical except Iran, Turkey and Russia. We see minor supplies from the United Nations, but this is clearly not enough. And definitely there needs to be joint work to restore Syria’s economy, restore the infrastructure.
"We very much hope that after the end of the political processes work to restore the Syrian economy will gain in scope."
Rouhani: '[The U.S. And Israel] Create A Lot Of Problems For Us'
Question (retranslated): "President Erdogan, I am from Iran.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran, Russia and Turkey had two rounds of summits in Sochi and Ankara, they are addressing the Syria issue by political means. I would like to ask you the following question. These three powers are offering help to establish peace; however, the West keeps coming between you. Which conclusion have you drawn from the fact that they get in the way of your efforts to achieve a settlement and establish peace in Syria. What decisions did you take and what conclusions did you reach?"
Hassan Rouhani: "What we have seen so far is that the Americans, the Israelis were unsuccessfully trying to get in our way. I can say that in the past years they wanted the Damascus government to fall. They wanted it. They wanted to help terrorists so that they could govern the region, and they wanted to make it so that the threat would linger on till the present, as this would be in the interests of the U.S. and Israel.
"They create a lot of problems for us. And not only for us but also for the Syrian people. But so far, they have not achieved any major success. Since the start of events in Syria, Iran has had only one position: terrorism must be countered and governments fighting terrorism should be helped. We must support the legitimate governments of these regions. Moreover, the geographical configuration of our region should not change, and the opinions of each people regarding the future of their countries should be taken into account.
"This is exactly what we have agreed on today. The adversaries of our region planned to ruin Syria but they are failing, and we will not let this happen. I think they will not be able to spread terrorism throughout the whole region. We will shortly see security restored in the region with the help of the three nations – Russia, Iran and Turkey. With the help of these three powers, our region is becoming more secure."
Erdogan: The Astana Process Is Not An Alternative To The Geneva Process, It Is Complementary
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "Yes, undoubtedly, Syria’s territorial integrity is of great importance for us. There are certain circles that have divided this territory among themselves, but this will not do for us. We are not taking it seriously. The people of Syria have paid a huge price for that, but terrorism may not be used as a weapon against our country, we will never consent to that.
"There is no other country that can be compared to us – we have over 900 km of common border with Syria. This is why all those attacks were staged against our country. And they did not stop at that. There were over 100 rocket attacks.
"But how long can we tolerate this? Ultimately, as you all know, we launched an operation against the terrorists. First there was Jarabulus, and then, as is known, Operation Olive Branch. We have concluded this operation, and now Jarabulus and Al-Bab are liberated territory of 2,000 square kilometers where 160,000 refugees have returned. We have restored the infrastructure there. Those who lived in the refugee camps have returned home. The situation in Afrin will be similar. Those refugees, residents of Afrin proper, who live as refugees in our country, Inshallah, they will come back after the infrastructure is restored.
"But I want everyone to know one more thing. We are carrying out the rebuilding process, all the three guarantor states. The process was launched, as you know, in Sochi. We – Turkey, Iran and Russia – will move forward together confidently. We have never said that the Astana process is an alternative to the Geneva process. No. It was complementary.
"If someone claims that the Astana process is meant as an alternative, that is wrong. What matters for us is achieving results. We will take steps because we are obliged, we recognize our responsibility, we must achieve results to spare people’s lives.
"We all know, we witnessed children die in Eastern Ghouta, children are killed there cruelly and ruthlessly. We cannot tolerate this. We are all parents. I am President of the Republic of Turkey. Such things are intolerable. We must be human, in my opinion.
"Thank you very much."
Rouhani: 'The Current U.S. Administration Says One Thing Today And Another Tomorrow. It Is Impossible To Rely On Their Decisions, Words Or Statements'
Question: "I would like to thank the three presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey.
"Before this summit some of the Americans said they would leave Syria soon. Indeed, the decision of the Americans may affect the events in Syria and the region as a whole. What do you think about these events? We would be very glad to hear your opinion on a response to these decisions. Thank you."
Hassan Rouhani: "The Americans, the current U.S. administration says one thing today and another tomorrow. It is impossible to rely on their decisions, words or statements. Every day there is a new person and every day there are new words. At first, they said they would leave Syria and then they said they would like to receive more money and demanded that other countries pay them to stay longer. We understand they want to milk some states in order to stay longer in the country. This is how this problem looks from the outside."
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "My dear brother Rouhani does not mention the amount – seven trillion dollars. Can you imagine? It is necessary to return this money to the region. If this money is raised – the process will obviously be facilitated.
"Let us turn to the Turkish press. Go ahead pleased."
Question: "A question for Mr. Rouhani. Turkey has been receiving refugees for a long time. The European Union made promises but did not keep them. What do you think about its failure to fulfill its promises?
"Mr Erdogan, Mr. Putin said that Turkey has some new proposals. What are they?"
Vladimir Putin: "If some parties in international life fulfill or fail to fulfill their promises, you should address this question to them. We are trying to fulfill all that we promise. If we do not fulfill something we explain why we do not get it right, and when we will eventually fulfill what we agreed on.
"Turkey is really shouldering a heavy burden in connection with the flow of refugees from Syria. But I must say that this is truly a unique situation. There is also a problem with refugees from Palestine and many countries are also carrying a heavy burden. Russia is carrying it because of refugees from Ukraine. It is necessary to settle conflicts and then there will be no refugees.
"We met today in the trilateral format to resolve the Syrian problem and these issues. I hope that ultimately our efforts will produce positive results.
"As for the proposals of President Erdogan, he suggested stepping up humanitarian efforts, in particular, pooling our efforts to help the people who need this aid, to use our medical services, our combat medics where we are already working together – both in the de-escalation zones and the country as a whole. We need to discuss all this in practical terms. I think this proposal is very timely and proper. The President of Iran, Mr. Rouhani, supports it as well. We will address this issue and will definitely work to this end."
Hassan Rouhani: "Supporting refugees and migrants from Syria is the most important obligation and not just for Muslims as an Islamic religious obligation.
"I would like to thank all countries that hosted refugees and Syrian migrants, especially the Turkish people and the Turkish Government that are going through hard times because of refugees. Indeed, in Iran we know well how difficult it is to receive refugees. For almost 39 years over three million Afghan refugees have lived in our country and we understand the refugee situation perfectly well. This year over 400 Afghan children are studying in Iranian schools for free, and we have more than 20,000 Afghan students in our universities. So we know fairly well that these are difficult times. During the Iraq-Kuwait War we also received Iraqi and Kuwaiti refugees. We understand full well what hosting refugees means. The European countries should help. If they make promises, they should fulfill them and keep their word.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "As for the proposals made by Mr. Putin and Mr. Rouhani, I can also supplement them.
"We can provide assistance – both the Russian Armed Forces and our Armed Forces – to the wounded arriving from Eastern Ghouta after the construction of a mobile hospital. We can also provide food relief. Maybe bread and other flour products for refugees are already being made in this region. We are granting them this opportunity.
"However, I would like to emphasize one more point that I suggested to both Mr. Putin and Mr. Rouhani. I unveiled this same proposal earlier to the international community.
"It is about the construction of housing in the safe area both in the north of Syria and on our territory. This means we will be able to ensure the construction, and the refugees will able to leave refugee camps and live under normal decent conditions in those safe areas, to improve their living conditions in housing in an area of 500 square kilometers, which matches local architecture. We can offer such an opportunity. By taking this step, we will be able to restore normal life for those refugees. Some countries made certain promises on this issue. But the point is that this step has not been taken yet. If we could undertake and implement it, this step will be good and significant; it will give an impetus to the people of Syria. And we will able to do good for Syria’s people."
Erdogan: 'We Must Take Out Terrorists Wherever We Find Them'
Question: "Mr. President, each time you express your resolve, and we should expect new operations against terrorist organizations. Did you manage to hold consultations on those operations with Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Putin during the summit?"
Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "Friends, the fight against terrorists, against terrorist organizations does not follow plans or schedules. We must take out terrorists wherever we find them. If terrorists are destroyed, stability and calm are ensured, which means we should not wait for some plan or schedule. But if there is terror, terrorists, the state is bound to do exactly that, the state should counter this activity. Turkey continues its fight both inside the country and abroad. Yes, the state is waging this fight. And this fight will continue until terrorism is no more.
"Thank you for your attention."
(Kremlin.ru, April 4, 2018)
Joint Statement By Putin, Rouhani, And Turkey
"President of the Islamic Republic of Iran H.E. Hassan Rouhani, President of the Russian Federation H.E. Vladimir Putin and President of the Republic of Turkey H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gathered in Ankara on 4 April 2018 for a tripartite meeting.
"Took note of the developments regarding Syria since their last meeting on 22 November 2017 in Sochi;
"Expressed their satisfaction with the outcomes of the first year of the Astana meetings held since January 2017, underlined that the Astana format had been the only effective international initiative that had helped reduce violence across Syria and had contributed to peace and stability in Syria, giving impetus to the Geneva process in order to find a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict;
"Reaffirmed their determination to continue their active cooperation on Syria for the achievement of lasting ceasefire between the conflicting parties and advancement of the political process envisaged by the UN Security Council Resolution 2254;
"Emphasized their strong and continued commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity, territorial integrity and non-sectarian character of Syria. They highlighted that none of the actions, no matter by whom they were undertaken, should undermine these principles, confirmed by relevant UN resolutions and by the will of the representatives of all segments of the Syrian society. They rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground under the pretext of combating terrorism and expressed their determination to stand against separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries;
"Expressed their conviction that the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which was convened in Sochi on 30 January 2018, constituted an important milestone in paving the way for the political process, reiterated their commitment to follow up on the results of the Congress, reflecting the will of representatives of all segments of the Syrian society, in particular the agreement to form a Constitutional Committee, supported by the UN Secretary-General and the international community. They reaffirmed their support to facilitate the beginning of the Committee’s work in Geneva as soon as possible with the assistance of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria and in coordination with three guarantor states;
"Called upon the representatives of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the opposition committed to the sovereignty, independence, unity, territorial integrity and non-sectarian character of Syria as well as the international community to support the results of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress;
"Expressed their conviction that there could be no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that the conflict could be ended only through a negotiated political process;
"Reiterated the necessity to assist the Syrians in restoring the unity of their country and in achieving a political solution of the ongoing conflict through an inclusive, free, fair and transparent Syrian-led and Syrian-owned process based on the free will of the Syrian people and leading to a constitution enjoying the support of the Syrian people, and free and fair elections with the participation of all eligible Syrians under appropriate UN supervision;
"Reaffirmed their determination to continue their cooperation in order to ultimately eliminate DAESH/ISIL, Nusra Front and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaeda or DAESH/ISIL as designated by the UN Security Council in Syria and underscored the success of their collective efforts in the fight against international terrorism;
"Underlined that, in the fight against terrorism, separating the above-mentioned terrorist groups from the armed opposition groups that had joined and would join the ceasefire regime bore utmost importance with respect to preventing civilian casualties;
"Welcomed the UN Security Council Resolution 2401 in response to the grave humanitarian situation all across Syria, including in Eastern Ghouta, Yarmouk, Foua and Kefraya, Idlib Governorate, Northern Hama Governorate, Rukhban and Raqqa; strongly urged the conflicting parties to comply with the provisions of the said Resolution, including by refraining from ceasefire violations;
"Underscored their joint determination to speed up their efforts to ensure calm on the ground and protect civilians in the de-escalation areas as well as to facilitate rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to these areas and emphasized that the creation of de-escalation areas was temporary as provided for by the Memorandum of 4 May 2017;
"Called upon the international community, particularly the UN and its humanitarian agencies, to increase its assistance to Syria by sending additional humanitarian aid, facilitating humanitarian mine action, restoring basic infrastructure assets, including social and economic facilities, and preserving historical heritage;
"Welcomed the convening of the first meeting of the Working Group on the release of detainees/abductees and handover of the bodies as well as the identification of missing persons in Astana on 15 March 2018 with the participation of three guarantors as well as the UN and ICRC, and emphasized the importance of the effective functioning of the Working Group which would help build confidence between the conflicting parties;
"Decided to hold their next meeting in the Islamic Republic of Iran upon the invitation of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran H.E. Hassan Rouhani.
"The Presidents of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation expressed their sincere gratitude to the President of the Republic of Turkey H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for hosting this Tripartite Summit in Ankara."
(Kremlin.ru, April 4, 2018)
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