Question: Can you comment on the move to pressure Iran with tougher sanctions, which the US spoke about yesterday. Has Washington been in regular contact with Moscow on the Iran issue? Does Moscow consider this contact to be a mechanism for resolving or easing the current situation?
Sergey Lavrov: We have been in contact with Washington over Iran and other regional issues, as well as the situation in the Persian Gulf, including in the UN Security Council. Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev is in Israel to attend a tripartite meeting with his counterparts from the US and Israel, which is being held at the initiative of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mr Patrushev’s interlocutors are obviously concentrated on Iran as a country creating problems for the entire region, ascribing all the negative processes taking place there to Iran and its policy. They have declared Iran a primary source of spreading terror around the world. While at the same time, the Americans forget that only one Shiite organisation is included on their list of terrorist organisations, which has about 15 in total, while all the rest refer to Iran as an enemy in their policy-making documents. So, when the US ranks countries in terms of the threat of terrorism, I would recommend that it first look at its own laws.
Question: Is Moscow satisfied with the evidence provided by the US to the UN Security Council to support the Americans’ claim that Iran is allegedly responsible for an attack on oil tankers?
Sergey Lavrov: As for our position, we are strongly against blaming anyone, whoever it is, without presenting proof. We are in favour of the most thorough investigation into any accusation regarding the attacks on the tankers in May and this month. The blurry photos provided by the Americans, as well as their blurry videos are not unassailable evidence [of Iran’s guilt] not only for Europe or Russia but also in the US. Experts who do not work for the Executive Office of the US President offer rather frank and critical assessments of what has been produced as evidence.
It would be appropriate to remind you that yesterday the UN Security Council discussed the situation in the Persian Gulf and approved a statement which did not support the US’ persistent attempts to link Iran to these incidents. Even so, after a failed attempt to push the matter through, the US representative tried to secure the wording that it was quite clear that a “country” was behind the incident. This attempt also failed because nobody has ever been provided proof that a country rather than an independent group was responsible for the incident.
We are very concerned about what is happening. The new, purely personal, sanctions that were imposed yesterday by the Trump administration against Iran’s leadership are worrying and are sending a signal that the situation is developing along a very negative scenario. This reminds me of 2003, when then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared at the UN Security Council holding the notorious vial in his hand while the US was hectically imposing sanctions – one after another – against Saddam Hussein and Iraq as a whole. We all remember what this led to. A month later, in May 2003, the US announced a victory for democracy in Iraq. You can see how this democracy has manifested itself over the 16 years that have elapsed since that time.
I would conclude my answer by reminding you of Russia’s proposal, made long ago, to establish a dialogue between the littoral countries in the Persian Gulf, primarily, the Arab monarchies and the Islamic Republic of Iran, who should be receiving assistance from their neighbours, the League of Arab States, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, and the European Union as a sort of positive external supplement. It is time to stop expecting relations between the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf and Iran to be settled in any way other than through dialogue, confidence-building measures and transparency.