Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at the joint news conference with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzia

November 2, 2016

Question: Recently the US Defence Department announced that a military operation may take place in Raqqa in the near future. How does this correspond with the positions of Russia and Syria? Did the US invite Russia to take part in this operation? If so, what will your response be?

How will the change of the US Administration in the coming days affect the Syrian settlement?

Sergey Lavrov: It is futile to try to answer the last question. Let’s leave speculations aside and determine our position on the basis of real facts that will soon become public knowledge. We will know who won the election in the United States and what position will take shape on Syria and all other pressing international issues.

At one time, when we still had good prospects for coordinating efforts with the US in combating terrorists and strengthening the ceasefire regime for those who disassociated themselves from terrorists, Raqqa was also mentioned as a potential target of our joint actions. Later on, the Americans did not raise this issue. Yes, they are planning (at any rate, this was announced) an offensive on this Syrian ISIS capital. But today, if I’m correct, I saw a report somewhere that said they have changed their plans and have delayed the offensive for an indefinite time. This is all I know.

I will add that we still have channels of communication on the Syrian issue, including East Aleppo. I hope we will achieve some results and that our American partners will not withdraw their consent, as they have already done with the September 9 agreements.

Question: Can you comment on the apprehensions concerning Russian-US relations? In a recent interview you said that these unsound relations due to the developments in Ukraine have led to a vacuum of trust between Moscow and Washington.

Sergey Lavrov: I don’t remember saying that the crisis in Ukraine revealed problems in our relations. Problems were piling up for a long time, long before the start of the events in Ukraine which triggered the unconstitutional coup d’etat backed by the US, the EU and NATO.

Problems emerged when the US suddenly realised that we do not snap a salute each time we discuss some international problem with them. They saw that Russian President Vladimir Putin is restoring the independence of our foreign policy, strictly in line with international law. However, this is an independent course that implies consideration of one’s partners’ interests in international talks. It does not mean one has to follow a leader who is absolutely convinced in his exceptionalism.

President Putin said the other day that the United States is a great power, but this does not mean that all others should play by rules invented by Washington. If you remember, two or three months ago President Barack Obama said exactly this: rules in the world must be established by the US. An arrogant but probably an honest statement. If our American partners think like this, apparently they will have to go through some periods of the fairly painful realisation that nobody will be able to do anything single-handedly in this world, and that for this reason it will be necessary to come to terms in any event. The sooner this happens, the better.