Wherever US used force bypassing UN, countries suffered – Lavrov to RT
RT:President Putin has met President Obama. It was a much-anticipated meeting. Do you know if they agreed to work as part of one coalition?
Sergey Lavrov: Well they did not discuss coalitions in the classical sense of the word. What they did discuss was the possibility for the United States and Russia to cooperate closely on the most burning issues of the day – Syria first of all. And there we all agreed that our common goal is to defeat ISIL, not to allow ISIL to establish a Caliphate, which they are planning across a huge territory. They have already established themselves in large parts of Syria and Iraq, where they have introduced their inhumane rules and laws. And both Russia and the US are absolutely determined not to allow them to succeed.
We presented our view. And President Putin explained that we believe that we have to be pragmatic, and reasonable, and rational. And if this is the case than all those who detest ISIL, who fight ISIL must coordinate.
We understand fully that there is an American led coalition of some sixty countries, which was established and organized not exactly in line with international law, because the coalition announced its right to strike ISIL on the territories of Iraq and Syria.
They received the consent of the Iraqi government, they never talked to the government of Syria and they never came to the Security Council. We believe that had they done so, had they come to the Security Council, had they engaged not only Iraqi government but also the Syrian leadership, we could have a much more efficient group of countries, much more efficient basis for promoting our common goal and not allowing terrorists to succeed in this key region of the world.
At the same time we have a strong relationship with both governments of Iraq and Syria. We have been supplying them for some time with necessary weapons and equipment to increase their ability to fight terrorists. Both the governments of Iraq and Syria receive this assistance from us. We send our military specialists to help use this equipment.
And we believe that all those who fight on the ground against the terrorist groups, ISIL and others, must be coordinated. Not necessarily under a single command. This is not realistic, and President Putin made this very clear to President Obama when they met; but coordinating the actual action on the ground and the actual action from the air, because the coalition only engages in air strikes. And those who are functional and active on the ground against ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra and alike, they are the armies of Syria and Iraq, the Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq. And we would welcome the patriotic Syrian opposition who is on the ground to join this coordinated effort.
As a first step, we cooperated with the Iraqis, Syrians, and Iranians and we established what we call an 'Information Center' in Baghdad, which will be used to exchange information available to the countries – to the Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians and Russians which might, and I think must, help to be more efficient in fighting terrorists on the ground. And we suggested the United States and the coalition led by the United States to calibrate their efforts and to make sure that whatever air strikes they contemplate against terrorist targets on the ground will be coordinated with the efforts of the ground forces.
And I believe that President Obama heard what President Putin had to say. It was a very constructive discussion. We did not agree on any specific steps. But what they did agree was to continue our cooperation, discussions between the foreign ministries, between the ministries of defense, in order to identify specific ways and means, which will make our common goal more achievable.
RT: When we hear US officials’ statements, it sounds like they are okay with Russia doing the fighting, but not Russia helping Assad do the fighting. Do you think it is possible to effectively fight ISIS without helping the Assad government?
SL: Actually this was one of the key topics of the discussion. The Americans are very concerned that Russia helping Assad fight ISIL would mean strengthening the regime, which they believe does not have any future. And we explained our position. We don't have any attachments to anyone in the region. But we do have a very strong feeling that we cannot allow the state of Syria to fail. Because the alternative, if we look at this now, is an ISIL caliphate and we would say goodbye to the Syria we know now. Syria which has been home for Muslims, both Shia and Sunni, home for Christians, for Jews, for Armenians; Syria which has always been a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional cradle of this dialogue of civilizations, a cradle of coexistence of civilizations.
So our position is that priority number one at this stage is not allowing the terrorists to ruin the Middle East as we know it, to ruin an area, which gave birth to three great religions. And at the same time to make sure that whatever political reforms are necessary must be promoted. But promoted in a way which would not repeat the mistakes of Iraq, the mistakes of Libya, when outside intervention with the purpose of 'democratization' of these countries turned out to be an invitation for chaos, an invitation of huge dangers risking the disappearance of these countries, and splitting these countries into three, four, and five smaller enclaves.
The Americans confirmed that it was absolutely their position that the territorial integrity, unity, and sovereignty of Syria, Iraq and all other countries in the region, is their priority. And on this basis we can cooperate.
In other words, fighting terrorism at the same time as promoting political reform, not imposing from the outside but encouraging the Syrians themselves – the government and all the groups of the opposition – to start the political process, to start discussing what the future of their country should be. And when they reach mutual consent, as required by the Geneva Communique of three years ago – in June 2012 we adopted the Geneva Communique which called for a political process in Syria, a political transition to be based on mutual consent between the government and the opposition – then I believe we will achieve the goal and will make sure that the people themselves determine their future.
RT:A good part of President Putin's speech was about how it was a mistake to try to undermine the credibility of the UN. Who do you think undermines that credibility and why?
SL: Whenever people act bypassing the United Nations, whenever they try to use force, not asking the Security Council to consider a special situation and to issue a necessary mandate, people undermine the UN authority. And this is something which happened in Iraq, happened in Libya, it happened in Yugoslavia before, and in all these cases, these countries did not benefit. Yugoslavia collapsed. Iraq is in crisis and there is a danger that Iraq might also split.
And we do everything to support the current Iraqi government – the efforts to promote national dialogue, to rectify the mistakes made during the American invasion 12 years ago when they just dismantled all the structures of the state based on the Sunnis, based on the Baath party.
Now the Americans themselves try to play this situation back. They are trying now to bring back the Sunnis into government structures, whom they themselves 12 years ago ejected from state institutions. And we also believe that these mistakes must not be forgotten. We don't want just to remind every day that ‘you were wrong on that occasion’. But we want our partners to draw lessons from past mistakes, for these mistakes not to be repeated.
In Syria, we are convinced it is only a dialogue led by the Syrians themselves; dialogue based on all Syrian groups, the government and all opposition structures, which can help resolve this situation, which can make sure that all those who live in Syria – Sunnis, Alowites, Druzes, Armenians, Christians of course, that they must reach a deal on how their state should continue to exist. A deal that would guarantee security for all these ethnic and religious groups. And as soon as this deal is reached, then the issue of who is going to be in the government, who is going to be president, how the elections should be organized – this would be secondary. The main thing is to guarantee for all those who live in Syria that they are treated as equals and that they are safe and secure.