13 октября / 2015

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a reception on the occasion of the Islamic New Year, Moscow, October 13, 2015

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, friends, we are pleased to welcome you all on the eve of the Islamic New Year. As is customary on this day, we gather together with the ambassadors of the member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), representatives of the federal bodies of the Russian Federation and major Russian religions, public figures and scholars, and all those who make a noticeable contribution to promoting relations between Russia and Muslim countries.

Unfortunately, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa continued to deteriorate in the outgoing year. The terrorists and extremists, including, above all, the Islamic State group (ISIS), captured vast territories and committed monstrous crimes. Having established a foothold in Syria and Iraq, ISIS set its sights on establishing its dominance in the Islamic world and beyond.

We resolutely reject any attempts to portray lawless extremists as part of a religious battle, no matter if that battle is between Islam and other religions, or within Islam itself. We operate on the premise that ISIS and similar terrorist groups defile Islam, insult its deep moral principles and create risks, primarily for the Arab countries, which they openly refer to as the targets of their expansion.

Russia is well aware of the fact that in confronting terrorists it’s important to act pre-emptively and destroy them in the territories that they control without waiting for them to come to your door. Hence, President Putin’s decision to respond to the request by the Syrian government and to begin, with the approval of our Parliament, the Russian Aerospace Forces’ air strikes on positions of ISIS and other extremist groups in Syria.

Of course, we are willing to join our anti-terrorist efforts with other countries based on the norms and principles of international law. We submitted a draft resolution on coordinating the actions of all those who oppose ISIS and other terrorist organisations to the UN Security Council. We believe that Muslim countries can and must become the key players in such a broad-based coalition.

We hope that progress in opposing terrorists will help us move forward in addressing a number of pressing issues, including the migration crisis currently affecting many countries in Europe. When faced with any problem, it is imperative to deal with its root causes. We will continue to help restore Libya's state structures, to support the new Iraqi government in its efforts to achieve national harmony and to provide assistance to reaching a political settlement in Syria. We advocate the elaboration of a comprehensive strategy for political stability and socioeconomic reconstruction in the Middle East. Russia is interested in democracy and prosperity in that region. We never seek to benefit from chaos or destabilisation.

In this regard, I’d like to reiterate our strong commitment to an early resumption of the political process to achieve a Palestinian settlement. We’ve been waiting for too long. This dead-end situation allows the extremists to continue to recruit supporters.

We consider it important to provide assistance and the necessary support to all countries that fight international terrorism, including in sub-Saharan Africa. We are willing and will continue to assist in promoting the Afghan National Security Forces’ combat capabilities. The military and political situation in that country has deteriorated dramatically. We will help to improve the effectiveness of the Afghan National Security Forces, to contribute to promoting the national reconciliation process, being fully aware of the fact that ISIS supporters in Afghanistan do not hide their plans for expansion into the Central Asian states, with which Russia maintains close friendships and alliances.

Restoring trust and mutual understanding between the two main denominations of Islam – Sunni and Shia – will be instrumental in strengthening the unity and solidarity of the Islamic nations. We hope that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation will come up with corresponding initiatives.

We are committed to promoting multifaceted ties between Russia and the OIC based on recognition of the diversity of cultures and civilisations, and the commitment to international law and the peaceful resolution of all disputes. The intensive and mutually beneficial dialogue between the Russian Foreign Ministry and the General Secretariat of the OIC across a broad agenda, including assistance in resolving regional conflicts, fighting extremism and terrorism, and human rights, helps us better understand each other, and identify new areas of cooperation.

We welcome the interest shown by Muslims residing abroad to the life of their fellow Muslims in the multi-ethnic and multi-faith Russia. I’m referring to the presence of a high-ranking delegation of the OIC member states at the grand opening of a new Cathedral Mosque in Moscow, and the active participation of well-known Islamic theologians and scholars in a conference, “The Islamic religion against extremism,” which was held by the Russia – Islamic World strategic vision group, which recently resumed its work.

We are convinced that cooperation between Russia and the OIC member states will continue to contribute to the economic growth and mutual cultural enrichment of our respective peoples, and promote the principles of law and justice in international relations. We appreciate the contribution of the OIC member state embassies in Moscow to these efforts.

Once again, a heartfelt Happy New Year. I wish good health, success and all the best to you and your loved ones, and peace and prosperity to your countries.