Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during talks with UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, Moscow, February 23, 2022

We are glad to welcome you and your team on the occasion of your visit to the Russian Federation. We regard your regular visits as highly useful. All of us are interested in an early settlement of the Syrian crisis on the basis of the UN Security Council Resolution. We regard your regular contacts with all parties concerned in the Syrian crisis, the visits to Damascus and the capitals of countries which can really help achieve progress as highly useful and valuable.

The importance of our cooperation is confirmed by the fact that we are meeting today. We will work to achieve practical advances in the context of the Syrian settlement. We will not relax our focus on this problem, despite the fact that certain forces in the world are trying to foment confrontation on practically any issue related to the Russian Federation.

To our great regret, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, whose envoy you are, has proved amenable to the West’s pressure and he made a number of statements on the developments in eastern Ukraine the other day, which are at odds with his status and powers under the UN Charter. We intentionally looked up the statistics, past files and dossiers and found that there was not a single conflict, where a Secretary-General, be it Mr Guterres or his predecessors, took the liberty of making similar pronouncements with regard to any other country. We have instructed Russian Permanent Representative to the UN in New York Vasily Nebenzya to communicate to Antonio Guterres our assessment of his statements. Taking this opportunity and considering the fact that you have been appointed to this position by him personally, I would like to ask you to communicate our assessments to him, if such an opportunity or occasion presents itself. I am saying this because in any conflict, including in relation to the Syrian settlement, it is the UN Secretariat’s duty to observe impartiality and always favour a direct dialogue between parties to conflict, as you do in the case of the Syrian crisis. As for the situation in Ukraine, the Secretary-General has never raised his voice in favour of the need to implement the Minsk Package of Measures and UN Security Council Resolution 2202, which directly require that all the problems be addressed through coordination between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. No one in the West has ever mentioned this and, regrettably the Secretary-General has followed this lamentable example.

And now let us talk about the Syrian crisis. We value your endeavour to establish maximal inter-Syrian contacts as well as contacts with all political, ethnic and religious forces in the Syrian Arab Republic, and to work with outside players, who must help you to achieve the implementation of Resolution 2254 and other decisions adopted by the UN Security Council.

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga

23 February 2022