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Opening Address to a Moscow Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the Multilateral Steering Group of the Middle East Peace Process

February 1, 2000, The President Hotel, Moscow

Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,

I am happy to welcome the participants in the Moscow meeting of the Multilateral Steering Group of the Middle East peace process. Gathered in this room is a representative forum, which attests to our common commitment to giving a tangible impetus to the Middle East peace process.

Arab-Israeli settlement is entering a very important stage. There is a real prospect of putting an end to half a century of armed confrontation in that region. There is a considerable chance to pave the way towards a system of relations based on mutual trust, respect and equality.

The suffering the Middle East peoples have endured entitles them to security, stability and prosperity. It is our task to help them to achieve a just and lasting peace.

The path ahead is not easy. Disruptions and delays are possible. But I would like to stress the main point: the parties to the Middle East conflict are becoming increasingly conscious that further mutually debilitating confrontation leads nowhere.

It is also important that the positive steps in the world peace process have been achieved through constructive cooperation of the whole international community.

The substantial role in this process of the European Union, the United States, Egypt, Jordan, Canada, Norway and other states and international organisations is well known. Let me stress that Russia as a co-sponsor is working intensively both with the parties directly involved in the negotiations and with those who are actively contributing to a settlement.

The establishment of a durable and just peace in the Middle East on the basis of international law and the UN Security Council resolutions is high on the Russian list of foreign policy priorities.

This country has a long-standing tradition of historical, spiritual, trade and economic ties with the Middle East region. We therefore are genuinely interested in the establishment of harmony between states, and ethnic and religious communities in that land. And we are not in the business of contesting spheres of influence. We are not going to be anyone’s rivals there. Our aim is a peace which meets the interests of the whole international community, above all the states and peoples of the Middle East.

The Moscow forum is called upon to put back on track full-scale negotiations on the problems of the whole region. We are talking about resuming joint efforts aimed at post-confrontational development of the Middle East. I am confident that a stable future for the region can be assured through a collective security and cooperation system with effective international safeguards. Russia will continue to make a very tangible contribution to this process.

At the turn of the 21st century, international relations are undergoing a profound transformation. That process is inherently multi-faceted and contradictory.

On the one hand, we see a qualitative positive shift in the global international dimension.

First, the threat of a full-scale nuclear conflict has been eliminated.

Second, an end has been put to the Cold War.

Third, globalisation is gathering momentum opening up great vistas for cooperation in many areas.

At the same time, there is still the burden of a range of outstanding problems. In some areas the pressure of these problems is growing. Some of them have been inherited from the past, but new-generation risks and challenges, which only emerged in the last decade, are becoming more acute.

Crises erode stability in many parts of the planet. They are fuelled by ethnic strife and aggressive separatism. The widening gap between the groups of rich and poor countries is fraught with serious conflicts. There is a growing danger of the spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. International terrorism and organised crime are becoming more pressing problems.

We declare categorically: the world community must find effective answers to these challenges. I firmly believe that the Russian proposal to develop a Peace Strategy for the 21st Century is capable of mobilising collective efforts to that end.

Conflicts and humanitarian disasters, of course, call for an adequate and sometimes very resolute response from the international community. But I would like to stress that it is inadmissible to flout such basic principles of international law as sovereignty and territorial integrity of states under the slogan of “humanitarian intervention”.

Russia, like other countries, is thinking about ways to create agreed mechanisms of governing world processes that would blend national and international efforts. For all the diversity of the individual tasks facing world politics today, that principle, as we see it, can provide a universal basis of security and stability at the global and regional levels.

In this context, the Russian Federation is a staunch adherent of a stronger role and authority of the UN as a unique mechanism of settling international relations. I discussed it with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan the other day. I hope that the Summit and the Millennium Assembly – the key forums of 2000 – will help to work out common approaches to the biggest challenges of our time.

Our meeting today is a good example of joint efforts among states. I think we would do the right thing if we use it for the broader aim of strengthening international stability and security in general.

This applies to disarmament, a sphere that affects the interests of the whole world community. Unfortunately, the positive trends in the disarmament field, which were growing for decades, have recently begun to slow down. There is a real danger of a collapse of the ABM Treaty, which is the cornerstone of all the agreements and understandings on nuclear arms reduction.

Our position on the issue is simple and clear: to form a new system of international security and to set new limits on the military capabilities of states that would be substantially lower and non-threatening while remaining sufficient for defence purposes.

Russia has consistently supported a stable and indivisible Europe. The prerequisites for that exist. They include the European Security Charter adopted at the OSCE summit in Istanbul last November. It contains the basic parameters of long-term European interaction, including on such acute problems as counteracting international terrorism, armed extremism, organised crime and drug trafficking.

Russia is a reliable and constructive partner in the building of the Greater Europe. Our policy will remain honest, open and transparent. And we expect the same from our European partners. We are confident that this approach will help to address any problems and misunderstandings that may arise in a timely manner.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasise that the main features of the Russian foreign policy are continuity and consistency. As before, we are committed to broad cooperation in the search for civilised solutions to the problems facing the world community.

I would like to wish success and fruitful work to this forum.

February 1, 2000, The President Hotel, Moscow