Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

01/17/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/17/2020 12:32

Foreign Ministry’s answers to media questions for a news conference on Russia’s diplomatic performance in 2019

(When quoting, reference to the ministry's site is required)

Question: There is a persistent threat of terrorism. Radicals continue staging bloody raids around the world. What is Russia doing in this connection?

Answer: Terrorist activity indeed presents a serious, if not the main threat to international peace and security. Following its military defeat in Syria and Iraq, ISIS has morphed into a ramified underground terrorist network and is moving its operations to other regions. This terrorist organisation has not abandoned its plans to recreate the caliphate and is trying to spread its influence into Central and South Asia, build up its presence in the Asian Pacific region and promote interaction with Islamist groups in North and West Africa.

We are especially worried about the problem of foreign terrorist fighters, who often leave the areas of armed conflicts not to save their lives but to stage terrorist attacks around the world. In light of their commitment to radical ideas, combat experience and connection to the terrorist 'international', they pose a serious risk to security because they are planning acts of violence and recruiting new members. Their destructive actions could promote a serious aggravation even in the regions that are free from terrorism.

We believe that systematic efforts must be taken at the bilateral level and on international platforms, primarily the UN, to prevent and combat the threat of terrorism based on the solid international legal framework. We would like to point out that the UN must play the central, guiding and coordinating role in the international efforts in this sphere based on the UN Charter, the norms and principles of international law, UN Security Council resolutions and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, as well as universal antiterrorism conventions and protocols.

For our part, we have been traditionally focusing on in-depth discussions of a wide range of counterterrorism topics at the UN, including with a view to boosting international efforts in this sphere. For example, in September 2019 two events were held at the initiative of Russia's presidency of the UN Security Council - ministerial debates on counterterrorism cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organisations, including the CSTO, the CIS and the SCO, as well as a meeting on promoting cooperation with African countries in the name of regional peace and stability.

We believe it is important to enhance the effectiveness of practical operations and make more active use of the potential and instruments at the disposal of the ad hoc agencies of the UN Security Council, including the Counter-Terrorism Committee, the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da'esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and the 1988 (Taliban) Committee, as well as the 1540 Committee when it comes to preventing terrorists from getting hold of weapons of mass destruction.

It goes without saying that a key role in the revamped UN counterterrorism system is played to the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT). In 2019, we continued to contribute to the UNOCT's efforts aimed at providing relevant technical assistance through projects and activities with a particular focus on Central Asian countries, including when it comes to the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia. We also helped to prepare a new UNOCT project, to be implemented jointly with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to cut short arms deliveries to terrorists. We hope this project will be launched soon, again with a particular focus on Central Asia.

We are extremely concerned about the possible proliferation of terrorism from the Middle East to Central Asia via Afghanistan, where ISIS is increasing its control over an ever larger territory. I would like to point out in this connection that in May 2019 the UN Security Council adopted sanctions against the Islamic State's Afghan branch, ISIS Wilayat Khorasan, at the Russian-US initiative. We hope to be able to continue this cooperation with a view to adding other regional ISIS 'branches' to the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da'esh) and Al-Qaida sanctions list. We also hope to be able to carry on a committed and substantive discussion on this subject, as well as on the other potential joint Russian-US counterterrorism actions within the framework of the relevant bilateral dialogue.

Question: What about Russia's efforts to ensure international information security and fight cybercrime?

Asnwer: In 2019, we vigorously promoted Russian approaches to ensuring international information security at international platforms.

In June, the UN Open-ended Working Group on international information security was established at Russia's initiative, the most important mechanism on these issues at the UN.

During the 74th session of the UN General Assembly a resolution on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security was adopted by a majority vote, essentially a compromise and a non-confrontational text welcoming the launch of the UN Open-ended Working Group. But the voting results showed that the vast majority of countries share Russia's logic.

Breakthrough results have also been achieved in ​​promoting our initiatives at the UN to combat cybercrime. The UN General Assembly largely approved the Russia-sponsored resolution on countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes. It calls for the creation of an ad hoc open-ended intergovernmental committee to develop a comprehensive universal convention on this matter.

A number of major related regional events have been organised at Russia's request including the Central American forum on cybercrime and international information security in Guatemala on May 28-29, and an international forum on the use of ICT for peaceful purposes in Havana on July 8-10.

A joint statement was adopted by the Presidents of Russia and Turkmenistan on cooperation in the field of international information security, and a corresponding bilateral intergovernmental agreement was signed.

Russia held a range of other bilateral negotiations and consultations on this matter and participated in various international forums and conferences.

Question:The situation in Syria, Russia's contribution to the defeat of terrorism in that country and efforts to achieve an inter-Syrian settlement through the Astana format - how would you evaluate the Constitutional Committee's work? What are the prospects for rebuilding Syria? What is Russia doing in this area?

Asnwer: Syria noticeably stabilised in 2019. That was achieved thanks to the conclusion and implementation of the Russian-Turkish agreements on Idlib and northeastern Syria - the memorandums of September 17, 2018 and October 22, 2019. That actually curbed the bloodshed on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, and also moved the country closer to establishing a long-term security based on the restoration of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. In Idlib, we are taking steps to neutralise terrorist activity and prevent a surge in tension. It is obvious, however, that we cannot turn a blind eye to the aggressive attacks by terrorists, as those cannot remain unpunished indefinitely.

On the political track, Russia has continued to work on promoting an inclusive political process consisting of and led by Syrians with the support of the UN, as provided for in UNSC Resolution 2254. An important achievement of the Astana format was the formation and launch of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva last October in accordance with the decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. That gave the Syrians their first opportunity during the years of the crisis to engage in a direct dialogue on their country's future without outside interference. At the end of 2019, members of the Committee encountered some difficulties while working to reach agreement on an agenda for their future work. We consider this natural, especially at the start of negotiations.

A strengthening of comprehensive international assistance to Syria with humanitarian aid provided to all without politicisation, discrimination or preconditions would be of great help in creating a stable political process. We are also confident that there is no alternative to mobilising assistance for a voluntary, dignified and safe return of Syrian refugees and IDPs to their homes.

Our position in support of humanitarian assistance under international humanitarian law and our opposition to politicising the humanitarian dossier was reflected in the discussions at the UN Security Council on extending UN operations delivering humanitarian aid across the Syrian border to civilians. The adoption of Resolution 2504 marked a transition towards resolving humanitarian aid issues in coordination with the Syrian Government, with unconditional respect for the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

To be continued...