Remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at Reception on Occasion of Islamic New Year, Moscow, November 28, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Excellencies and Dear Friends,

I am glad to welcome our guests from the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the federal bodies of authority of the Russian Federation and major religious confessions and public organizations operating in our country.

We are gathered here once again on the occasion of the start of the New Year according to the Islamic calendar gathered at a complicated moment, as right before our eyes profound changes are occurring in the international arena and the number of regions grows where were witnessing turbulence and a clash of different interests. These circumstances bring forth the added responsibility of all states, including Russia and the OIC member countries for preventing the danger of a schism of civilizations.

Over many decades within the scope of the fight against terrorism, which, as you know, knows no border, nationality or religion, we have created an association that is today known as the Alliance of Civilizations. The UN-led dialogue is under way between organizations representing the Islamic world and its specialized agencies such as UNESCO. I am very pleased that the dialogue between Russia and the OIC is developing successfully. There function stable channels for communication through government structures, religious leaders, and our public institutions.

Of course, answers to global challenges facing the modern world and most acutely manifest in the Middle East and North Africa need to be sought on a firm basis of international law. We are already used to the phrase rule of law. I am sure that the rule of law must be secured not only within the limits of one state, but also in the international arena.

Russia is sympathetic to the desire of Arab and other peoples to improve their quality of life, the need for democratic reforms, and greater involvement in the life of their societies. However, achieving these goals should not be done by force. Violence cannot be a method in the hands of either governments or opposition or the international community. We see the tendency to use, in the current situation, the internal processes in countries of the region for regime change. We are against this. We are opposed to the attitude whereby UN Security Council resolutions aimed at saving lives and protecting civilians are perversely interpreted in practice, and certain members of the international community take sides in a civil war. We are opposed to this practice spreading and becoming the norm.

We need to return to the solid foundation of the UN Charter, to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. On the other hand, states must respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, promote and assure the observance of these rights. Trying to drive a wedge into this or that society, to dictate from the outside how individual nations should build their lives, and to decide who should lead this or that country is absolutely unacceptable.

We appreciate the wisdom of the peoples of the Islamic world, representing a great civilization that has always been distinguished by dignity and responsibility. I am confident that by common efforts we will eliminate the danger of a schism of civilizations and prevent the development of international relations along the confrontation path, the main tool of which is isolation, not inclusion and where the dividing, rather than unifying incentives and approaches are used.

Together with our friends from the Islamic world, we are engaged in tackling many problems. While seeking to calm down todays difficult and alarming situation in the Middle East and North Africa, it is important not to forget about a number of long-frozen serious problems, and above all the Palestinian problem. We believe that by securing an Arab-Israeli settlement on the overarching principles it is possible to significantly reduce the chances of those trying to use the unsettledness of the question to foment extremist sentiments both within the region and beyond.

We are interested in further deepening the Russian-Arab collaboration. This is not the first year that Russia has been an observer in the OIC. The representation of our country is working at the headquarters of the Organization in Jeddah. We have regular and close contacts with its Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. We aim to further develop these relationships.

Our cooperation with this association is inherently complemented by interaction with other organizations of the Islamic world the League of Arab States (LAS), with which a strategic dialogue is established, as well as the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG). A month ago Abu Dhabi hosted the first ministerial meeting of the Russia-CCASG Strategic Dialogue.

Today is a holiday, and I would not want to overload our agenda with politics. But Im sure, marking the New Year in the Islamic calendar, we cannot forget about the problems and difficulties faced by the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa. By the Muslim and Orthodox tradition, today we will think and pray about the people who are now hard pressed. At the same time, as professionals in practical matters, we will work strenuously to ensure that the unifying, rather than confrontational approaches prevail.

I wish to extend my heartiest greetings to all those present on the New Year. In a month we will celebrate Christmas and New Year holidays according to the Orthodox calendar. Im sure that our cooperation in the coming year will only strengthen.