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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Let’s start work, but before we move on to the main subject on the agenda – staff numbers in the presidential agencies — I want to first say a few words on another matter.
As you know, the [UN] Security Council held a vote a few days ago on the resolution on Syria. The resolution was drafted by European members of NATO. The resolution did not pass because it was opposed by the BRICS countries and Lebanon, and two of the Security Council permanent members, Russia and the People’s Republic of China, decided to exercise their right of veto.
The results of the vote were not a surprise. We warned our partners, including at the highest level. I spoke about this personally. We made it clear that we oppose imposing sanctions in the form of an ultimatum. We fully support the demands that the Syrian leadership not use violence against its citizens, but we must consider the situation in its totality.
We are to be just as firm in demanding that all members of the Syrian opposition clearly disassociate themselves from extremists, because often events unfold under the opposition banner but then start veering towards extremism. Our position is that we cannot take one side or the other, but that any Security Council resolution must be comprehensive and apply to all involved.
”Russia will continue to oppose any attempts to use the Security Council to legitimise all manner of unilateral sanctions aimed at bringing about regime change. The UN was not established for this purpose, and in any case, it is ultimately up to each people to decide their country’s fate, whether in the Middle East, Europe, or America.“
But the resolution’s authors did not take our concerns into account, and perhaps most worryingly, they rejected too the simple proposal that the resolution include a clause stating that there shall be no outside military intervention in the conflict. I think that you know what this means.
This means only one thing: our partners in the Security Council and in these procedures do not exclude a repeat of the Libya scenario, although in private conversations on the telephone and during personal meetings with me they have repeatedly reassured me that, ‘Of course we understand that Syria is not Libya’. But the draft that was proposed was a text ultimately opening the way to use force again.
Russia and its partners cannot sanction this kind of action, even though we are gravely concerned about the situation in Syria. But after seeing the way [UN Security Council] resolution 1973 on Libya was interpreted – I am referring to NATO’s arbitrary interpretation – it was absolutely clear that we could not approve the proposed text.
The Security Council members, especially the permanent members, who bear the chief responsibility for the future of peace in our world, have an eminently clear duty to prevent the adoption of documents that, using simple pseudo-legal tricks, can be twisted to open the way for countries to pursue their goals through military force.
Of course Russia wants an end to the bloodshed in Syria no less than any other country. We are using our channels to engage the Syrian leadership actively, calling on them to undertake the adequate changes. If the Syrian leadership proves incapable of carrying out these changes it will have to go, however, this decision is not for NATO or any individual European country to make, but belongs to the Syrian people and Syrian leadership, who have to realise their responsibility for their country’s future.
Russia and China have proposed to the Security Council their own draft resolution pursuing precisely these goals and setting out a viable settlement approach. This is a constructive, firm, and also reasonable document. It can serve as the basis for reaching a genuinely collective position that we can take in our dealings with the Syrian leadership and President Assad, and with the opposition.
At the same time, I want to reiterate the point that Russia will continue to oppose any attempts to use the Security Council to legitimise all manner of unilateral sanctions aimed at bringing about regime change. I remind you that the UN was not established for this purpose, and in any case, it is ultimately up to each people to decide their country’s fate, whether in the Middle East, Europe, or America. The Russian Federation will unswervingly respect the UN Charter’s provisions.
That is what I wanted to say on this matter, given that the Syria issue has been the subject of so much attention.
Now, let’s begin our work.