Question: Considering the situation within the OSCE, does Moscow believe in the need to maintain its mission to this organisation? Could the question of suspending our membership arise?
Sergey Lavrov: Let me tell you right away that the situation within the OSCE has been quite challenging. Created as a platform for promoting equitable dialogue and cooperation, this organisation has been going through a deep crisis these past few years.
The West views the OSCE as a tool for promoting its own collective interests, and has turned it into a stage for waging its propaganda battles. In 2022, Poland with its openly anti-Russia positioning was the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. We believe that there was only one area where the Poles succeeded, which was to reduce the OSCE’s performance to nothing on their watch.
This has not come as a surprise for us. After all, the Western countries, since most of them are OSCE and NATO members at the same time, have a long track record of intentionally trampling upon the principles on which this Vienna-based organisation hinges, including the spirit and the letter of the fundamental documents on European security adopted by the OSCE, together with those adopted at the highest level. This includes NATO’s expansion and its drive to bring its military infrastructure closer to the Russian border, which is a grave violation of the commitment to refrain from reinforcing one’s security at the expense of others. We are now reaping the fruits of this selfish, short-sighted policy of our former partners. Our trust in them has suffered a major blow. One of the lessons is that if and when we ever start working together again, we will have to build new foundations because the past approaches are no longer working.
Question: In your opinion, is there a political force or politician in Ukraine with whom Moscow could be ready to negotiate? Is there a chance that someone suiting this profile emerges in the foreseeable future?
Sergey Lavrov: Everyone knows that the current line-up of Ukrainian politicians is unable to negotiate. Most of them are outright Russophobes.
Let me remind you that Vladimir Zelensky came forward with the initiative to sit down at the negotiating table shortly after the special military operation started. We decided not to decline the offer and agreed to meet with his representatives.
There were several rounds of talks showing that mutually acceptable agreements can be reached. However, the negotiating process which started in February revealed Vladimir Zelensky’s total lack of independence in adopting important decisions. Already in April, he abruptly stopped the talks and toughened his position at the instructions of the Anglo-Saxons, who were interested in keeping hostilities going.
It is obvious that Kiev is not ready for dialogue. Vladimir Zelensky churns out all kinds of ideas and peace formulas, with the illusion of succeeding, with the Western assistance, in achieving the withdrawal of our troops from the Russian territories in Donbass, Crimea, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, making Russia pay reparations, voluntarily surrender to international tribunals, etc.
Of course, we will not discuss conditions of this kind with anyone. Whether there are any politicians in their right mind left on the territories controlled by the Kiev regime is hard to tell, especially considering the widespread practice of suppressing any dissent and extrajudicial reprisals with them. Can a reasonable political figure emerge later in Kiev? Only time will tell.
Question: What do you think about the situation with the JCPOA? Are we beyond the point of no return in the efforts to revive this document? If so, could this pave the way to a new cycle of escalation in the region and in the international arena in general?
Sergey Lavrov: Russian diplomacy has never been prone to defeatism. It is the West that keeps saying that all is lost. Once again, they are trying to scare the world with the Iranian threat. To be honest, they prefer to forget that the JCPOA was perfectly operational until the United States suddenly decided to withdraw from the nuclear deal in violation of its own obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2231. For the record, it happened back in May 2018.
From a technical standpoint, talks to revive this historic agreement reached a stage when the main approaches have been defined and the time has come to take responsible decisions. We are ready for this. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has emphasised on numerous occasions that the shortest and the most effective solution would be for all the stakeholders to strictly abide by their obligations. This must be the foundation.
The model we suggested was straightforward and clear: the United States and Iran move to meet each other halfway at the same time by gradually returning to compliance with the JCPOA. All details were worked out. This is a realistic scenario as long as there is political will to carry it out.
The fact that with the finishing line in sight, the United States and Europeans ran out of gas and focused on efforts to destabilise the internal political situation in Iran is another story. In November, they pushed an anti-Iranian resolution through the IAEA Board of Governors. Not only Russia and China, but a host of other countries refused to support it. In addition to this, the West made a lot of noise in the UN Security Council in connection with the alleged Iranian drone deliveries to Russia. They switched into their usual highly likely mode and were unable to produce any evidence. If fact, they did not even try.
Meanwhile, it is a fact of life that there is no reasonable alternative to the JCPOA. We believe speculation about the infamous Plan B and other unacceptable options to be irresponsible. Turning to them would lead to escalation, an arms race, and an open conflict with irreversible consequences.
Seeking to normalise the situation around Iran in the long term, Russia put forward a Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf. Last year, we submitted it to the Gulf capitals. The countries in the region will have the final say. It is up to them to overcome the differences and build a resilient architecture for maintaining trust and mitigating security risks.
Question: Does Russia expect Armenia and Azerbaijan to sign a peace treaty in the coming months? Will it include provisions setting forth the status of Nagorno Karabakh?
Sergey Lavrov: This is a question for the negotiating parties, Baku and Yerevan. It is up to them to define the pace of these contacts and the contents of the future peace treaty. Russia maintains strategic partnerships and allied relations with both Azerbaijan and Armenia and does everything to facilitate this process the way and to the extent which suit the interests of our friends in Azerbaijan and Armenia.