My dear Bruno,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The talks that we have held were very rich in content. We carried out a 360-degree review of the strategic relations between Russia and Cuba, primarily in the context of the agreements of principle that were reached during Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez’s visit to Moscow in November 2018.
As Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla has said, we had a meeting in May 2019 in Moscow. These regular contacts reflect our commitment to further stepping up our relations in all areas without exception.
I would like to begin my remarks by saying that in two days Cuba will celebrate the National Revolutionary Day to mark the 66th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks. This was a critical event in the history of the Cuban revolution that paved the way to freedom, independence and justice for the people of Cuba. We wholeheartedly congratulate our friends on this marvellous occasion.
We would like to reaffirm Russia’s commitment to bolstering solidarity in the face of the unacceptable and crass actions undertaken by the United States against Cuba. Members of the international community in their majority reject the trade and economic embargo and the threats of new, additional sanctions. We have deep respect for the resilience of the Cuban people, who withstand all these attacks and hardships caused by the illegal economic coercion. Not only do the people withstand this coercion with dignity, but also manage to achieve new heights in the economy, healthcare, culture, humanitarian affairs and education. We have confirmed that we will always be with the people of Cuba as they stand up for justice and international law as enshrined in the UN Charter and numerous UN General Assembly resolutions supported by about 190 countries of the world with just a few exceptions.
We discussed ways to keep up high and top-level political dialogue, agreeing to prepare next year a schedule of events with a focus on two major anniversaries: 75 years since Victory in the Great Patriotic War and 60 years since the establishment of our diplomatic relations. I strongly believe that this will be a packed, spectacular programme that the people of Russia and Cuba will enjoy and support.
Before that, however, in November 2019, there will be another remarkable date, the 500th anniversary of Havana. We plan to hold the Days of St Petersburg as part of these celebrations. In October, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev is expected to visit Havana. A high-profile delegation, including Russia’s parliamentary leadership, intends to attend Havana’s 500th anniversary celebrations at the invitation of their Cuban comrades.
We have established close and multifaceted dialogue on trade, economic and investment matters under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, which is co-chaired by deputy prime ministers Yury Borisov and Ricardo Cabrisas, who is currently once again on a working visit to the Russian Federation. We reviewed in broad strokes the objectives that require an additional political impetus in trade, the economy and investment. Ricardo Cabrisas will discuss these matters in detail with his partners in the Russian Federation.
We discussed regional developments and the situation in Venezuela and around it. We share the opinion that any problems, be they connected with Venezuela or any other country in the region or the world, for that matter, should be addressed absolutely peacefully, by political and diplomatic methods based on the UN Charter and the principles of respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs and non-use of force or threat of force. It is from these positions that we as external players are contributing, just as our Cuban friends do, to the creation of conditions that would enable all the Venezuelans to coordinate methods for settling the current problem. We are for the all-round development of contacts that can stimulate a direct dialogue between the Government and the opposition. I would like to point out that we stand for contacts that can facilitate a dialogue, not contacts that are designed to enforce or precondition a certain outcome of this dialogue.
We are providing close support to each other at the UN and other multilateral platforms. We are grateful to our Cuban friends for traditionally voting in support of Russian resolutions and for co-authoring many important UNGA resolutions, including on combating the glorification of Nazism, on no first placement of weapons in outer space, on international cybersecurity and cybercrime, as well as many other resolutions. Our coordination is truly exemplary.
I would like to thank my friend and all our Cuban colleagues for the close cooperation, the team spirit and mutual assistance. I have again invited Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parilla to make a return visit to the Russian Federation.
Question: Could you comment in greater detail on your country’s criteria regarding the new US restrictions against Cuba in relation to Title III of the Helms-Burton Act?
Sergey Lavrov: The criteria have not changed. All sections of this bill, including Title III, are illegitimate and contrary to international law. As I have said, the resolution condemning the trade embargo against Cuba, which is put to a vote at the UN General Assembly every year, usually receives around 190 votes. The United States and several countries that cannot be described as independent usually vote against. The results of this voting cast a bright light on the position of the international community.
Question (for Bruno Rodríguez Parilla): US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has recently called Russia and Cuba as “undesired foreign presence” in Venezuela. Can you comment on this, please?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Bruno Rodríguez Parilla): As for describing Cuba and Russia as an undesirable foreign presence in Latin America, we have heard this before. Before Secretary of State Pompeo said this, US National Security Adviser John Bolton noted that Iran and Hezbollah were interfering and undermining stability in Latin America. The depth and scale of this “analysis” is another matter altogether. I hope that this audience consists of competent people who see the point.
It is ridiculous that a US official should say that countries in the Eastern Hemisphere cannot have partners in the Western Hemisphere and vice versa. Take a look at a map of the world to see where the United States has its military bases. A look at the map will also show that your home country, Great Britain, has bases far away from its national territory. In other words, there is no ground for a serious discussion.
Question: President Putin on his visit to Latin America some years ago said that there could not be a vacuum in the Americas, if Washington was not going to engage with the countries in the Americas, then Russia would. Is that part of Russia’s objective with Cuba? Is it to fill the space that the collapse in ties left behind after President Obama?
Note: the quote cited by BBC correspondent Will Grant is misleading. As it turned out, the British journalist was referring to a news conference following talks between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez on April 2, 2010, and has misrepresented the meaning of his question as well as the answer he received.
We regret the manipulation by the British journalist.
Sergey Lavrov: It seems to me that this is not a truthful quote of President of Russia Vladimir Putin whereby during one of the preceding visits to Latin America he allegedly said that if there is any vacuum, we have the right to fill it. He never said anything of the kind. I cannot remember the exact quote, but Vladimir Putin has stressed on numerous occasions that Russia wants to develop mutually respectful, beneficial and equal relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. If any of these countries, just as in any other region, is interested in equal cooperation along these lines, we are ready.
I think that the United States has a somewhat different tradition. After all, the US revived the 200-year-old Monroe Doctrine without any scruples and went as far as to claim that it is still relevant. In fact, the United States prefers to determine on its own whether there is a void that has to be filled. For example, they claim, as they have done in the past, that there is a democratic void in Grenada and in Panama. An order is issued to the US military, which then fills the democratic void using its “democratic means.” Therefore I would like to ask our Western colleagues who are interested in supporting the official position of their governments whereby Russia is to blame for everything, to be more careful with the facts. If you quote national leaders, no matter what you think about them, please try to be accurate. Thank you.
Question: How does Russia respond to the destructive actions by Donald Trump’s administration regarding Washington’s bilateral relations with Havana in view of the positive trends under Barack Obama? What decisions could be taken at the international and regional level in order to counter Washington’s aggressive actions in this sphere?
Sergey Lavrov: There is no option other than demand compliance with the international law. We are aware of the fact that the United States is quite flippant, to put it mildly, when it comes to requests of this kind, considering itself to be above the law. But I do not see any other option. We will stand up for the right of the Cuban people to choose their future and destiny, and how they want to develop their country. This is the right of every nation. We strongly oppose any attempts to impose one’s customs or values on anybody, since they do not always reflect the values of other civilizations or peoples. These are colonial and neo-colonial methods that should have long been delegated to the dustbin of history, as the saying goes. Unfortunately, the colonial mentality relapsed and proved to be quite tenacious, including in the United States. I do hope that come what way the United States understands that in the long run its interest consists of finding partners rather than countries that will remember the bullying they endured from the US, or damaging relations with everyone by issuing ultimatums, demanding an upfront payment or blocking someone’s assets in its banks.
My answer is extremely simple. First, the international law has to be respected, and we must demand that the US acts accordingly. Unfortunately, its allies, be it Great Britain or EU members, are too reticent about reminding the US to do so or of the existence of international law, embodied in the UN Charter, WTO rules and instruments of the Bretton Woods institutions. It is the United States with its Western partners that were among the main architects of this system of international organisations. The Soviet Union contributed proactively to the creation of the United Nations, while it was the US-led Western world that was the architect of all the structures relating to the global economy and trade. It would be short-sighted and unprofessional to violate so easily all the tenets that were devised and used for global economic governance.
As for Russia’s position regarding the Republic of Cuba, we are committed to supporting Cuba, the people of Cuba and its leadership in every possible way. This includes political and moral support, and expanding defence cooperation with Cuba, as well as efforts to promote trade and economic projects that will place the country’s economy on a stable footing and ensure its resilience in the face of various external attacks. I do hope that we will succeed in these efforts. Today we discussed this at length. This is what the ongoing efforts of our respective economic agencies are all about.