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Ok, thanks for explaining that. We're going to come back to APEC a little bit later if we may, but you touched on another big subject in headlines, the horrendous events that have been unfolding in Syria over the last 18 months now. Russia' position has been steadfast all the way along the line. Here you've said there should be no foreign intervention and it should be the Syrian people who do the deciding and it should be done through diplomacy. However, that's a great idea, but day in day out innocent lives are being lost on both sides. Is it time for something more than talking? Should Russia be reassessing its position maybe now? |
How come Russia is the only one who’s expected to revise its stance? Don’t you think our counterparts in negotiations ought to revise theirs as well? Because if we look back at the events in the past few years, we’ll see that quite a few of our counterparts’ initiatives have not played out the way they were intended to.
Take the examples of the numerous countries ridden by escalating internal conflict. The US and its allies went into Afghanistan, and now they’re all thinking about how to get out of there. If there’s anything on the table, it’s the issue of assisting them in withdrawing their troops and hardware from Afghanistan through our transit routes.
Now, are you sure that the situation there will be stable for decades to come? So far, no one is confident about it.
And look at what’s going on in Arab countries. There have been notable developments in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, etc. Would you say that order and prosperity have been totally ensured for these nations? And what’s going on in Iraq?
In Libya, there are armed clashes still raging among the country’s various tribes. I won’t even mention the way the country had its regime changed: this is a separate topic. What concerns us, and I want to emphasize this once again, is the current hostilities in Syria. But at the same time, we are just as concerned about the possible consequences of certain decisions, should they be taken.
In our opinion, the most important task today is, ending the violence. We must urge all the warring parties, including the government and the so-called rebels, the armed opposition, to sit down at the negotiating table and decide on a future that would guarantee security for all stakeholders in Syria. Only then should they get down to any practical measures regarding the country’s future governance system. We realize that this country needs a change, but this doesn’t mean that change should come with bloodshed.
OK, well, given the facts regarding Syria that you see on the table now, what is the next step? What do you realistically think is going to happen next?
We told our partners we would like to sit down together at the negotiating table in Geneva. And when we did, together we charted a roadmap for further action that would help bring peace to Syria and channel developments down a more constructive path. We received almost unanimous support and shared the talks’ results with the Syrian government. But then the rebels actually refused to recognize those decisions; and many of the negotiating parties have also quietly backed down.
I believe that the first thing to do is to stop shipping arms into the warzone, which is still going on. We should stop trying to impose unacceptable solutions on either side, because it is a dead-end. That’s what we should do. It is that simple.
Luckily, we generally enjoy friendly relations with the Arab world, but we would like to stay away from Islamic sectarian conflict, or interfere in a showdown involving the Sunnis, the Shia, the Alawis and so on. We treat everyone with equal respect. We also get on well with Saudi Arabia and other countries; I have cultivated a warm personal relationship with the custodian of two Islamic shrines. The only underlying motive behind our stance is the desire to create a favorable environment for the situation to develop positively in years to come.
What are your thoughts about the United Nations and the way the United Nations has reacted particularly in Syria. There's been criticism that it's failed to deliver a unified front if you like and has become more of a figurehead organization. Do you share that view?
Quite the contrary, I would say. My take on the issue is the absolute opposite of what you have just said. If the United Nations and the Security Council had indeed turned into a mere rubberstamping tool for any one of the member states, it would have ceased to exist, just like the League of Nations did. But the reality is that the Security Council and the UN are meant to be a tool for compromise. Seeking to achieve it is a long and complex process, but only hard work can yield us fruit.
Understood. Mr. President, another question I'd like to ask you - a number of Western and Arab nations have been covertly ... with supporting the FSA, the Free Syrian Army - indeed, some of them are doing it openly now. Of course the catch here is that the FSA is suspected of hiring known Al-Qaeda fighters amongst their ranks. So the twist in this tale is that a lot of those countries are actually sponsoring terrorism, if you like, in Syria, countries that have suffered from terrible terrorism themselves. Is that a fair assessment?
You know, when someone aspires to attain an end they see as optimal, any means will do. As a rule, they will try and do that by hook or by crook – and hardly ever think of the consequences. That was the case during the war in Afghanistan, when the Soviet Union invaded in 1979. At that time, our present partners supported a rebel movement there and basically gave rise to Al Qaeda, which later backfired on the United States itself.
Today some want to use militants from Al Qaeda or some other organizations with equally radical views to accomplish their goals in Syria. This policy is dangerous and very short-sighted. In that case, one should unlock Guantanamo, arm all of its inmates and bring them to Syria to do the fighting – it's practically the same kind of people. But what we should bear in mind is that one day these people will get back at their former captors. On the other hand, these same people should bear in mind that they will eventually end up in a new prison, very much like the one off the Cuban shore.
I would like to emphasize that this policy is very short-sighted and is fraught with dire consequences.
I'd like to broaden that a little bit now, a little bit wider from Syria. You touched upon Syria. Syria is in the middle of a civil war, we're seeing conflicts in Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia. Ok, things are a bit calmer in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, you mentioned it just now. But standing back from it overall, all the troubles that we've seen in the Middle East, all the turmoil there - has it been at all for the good or for the bad, where does it put that region now?
You know, we can discuss this into the small hours and still run out of time. For me, it’s a clear that these events have a historic logic. The leaders of these countries have obviously overlooked the need for change and missed ongoing trends at home and abroad, so they failed to produce the reforms which would have saved the day. All these events simply logically stem from this background. Whether this is a blessing or a curse with many negative implications, is now too early to say. In any case, the lack of a civilized approach, the high level of violence has so far stood in the way of any sustainable political structures which would help solve economic and social problems in societies hit by those events. This is what causes a lot of concern for the future. Because the people in these countries, who have had enough of their previous regimes, clearly expect the new governments to begin with tackling their social and economic problems in a competent way. But with no political stability, these problems cannot be solved.
Let's turn now to the United States, the upcoming election there, which we are all looking forward to very much. Of course now the re-set button with Russia was firmly pushed by Barack Obama over the last 4 years, but its saw its ups and downs, and there's still that missile defense shield that's a headache for Russia in the East of Europe. If Obama does win a second term, what's going to define the next chapter of Russia and America's relations and is it chapter you can do business with?
I believe that over the last four years Presidents Obama and Medvedev have made a lot of progress in strengthening Russia-US relations. We have signed the new START treaty. Backed by the US, Russia has become a full-fledged member of the World Trade Organization. There have been more reasons to be optimistic about our bilateral relations: our strengthened cooperation in combating terrorism and organized crime, in the non-proliferation of weapons of mass-destruction and others. In other words, we have accumulated quite a lot of positive experience.