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Keynote address of the Ambassador of Russia to Australia Alexey Pavlovsky at the symposium, dedicated to the 90th birthday of Yevgeny Primakov

Dear Colleagues,

Let me welcome all those gathered today within the walls of one of the leading universities of Australia and in fact, one of the 25 best in the world. I appreciate your readiness to host such event and allowing me to share my thoughts with you. I think you are the right audience to talk to if Russia and its foreign policy are to be better understood in Australia.

Our symposium is dedicated to the 90th birthday of Y.Primakov. Yevgeny Maksimovich was indeed an outstanding statesman. His long carrier included being journalist, scholar and politician in Soviet epoch, and then head of foreign intelligence service, foreign minister and Prime Minister of the new Russia. His life and activities spanned over many critical moments of my country's modem history. But his talent of a statesman, incredible perseverance and determination, and what they call political wisdom shined most in the 90-s - which was a challenging period for Russia both internally and internationally.

It was at that time, about two decades ago, that Yevgeny Primakov proposed a comprehensive interpretation of the processes that were unfolding in the world after the bi-polar system ceased to exist and formulated the multipolarity concept, reflecting the new reality in the making. He made this conclusion at a time when it seemed that history, according to Francis Fukuyama, «has come to an end», and that from now on there would be but one global decision-making center. It took Primakov's vision and scientific approach to discern trends and transformations, which were still latent at the moment. World developments have proven he was right in his analysis.

It is obvious today that efforts to establish a unipolar model have failed. The transformation of the world order has become irreversible. New major players wielding a sustainable economic base seek to increase their influence on regional and global developments; they are fully entitled to claim a greater role in the decision-making process. There is a growing demand for more just and inclusive system. The overwhelming majority of members of the international community reject arrogant neocolonial policies that are employed all over again to empower certain countries to impose their will on others.

All that is greatly disturbing to those who for centuries have been accustomed to setting the patterns of global development by employing exclusive advantages. While the majority of states aspire to a more just system of international relations and genuine rather than declarative respect for the UN Charter principles, these demands come up against the policies designed to preserve an order allowing a narrow group of countries and transnational corporations to reap from the fruits of globalization.

The West’s unwillingness to accept today's realities, when after centuries of economic, political and military domination it is losing the prerogative of being the only one to shape the global agenda, gave rise to the concept of a “rules-based order.” These “rules” are being invented and selectively combined depending on the fleeting needs of the people behind it, and the West persistently introduces this language into everyday usage. The purpose of this concept is to replace the universally agreed international legal instruments and mechanisms with narrow formats, where alternative, non-consensual methods for resolving various international problems are developed in circumvention of a legitimate multilateral framework. In other words, the expectation is to usurp the decision-making process on key issues.

Meanwhile, there have been quite a few occasions over the past few years, when solidary and based on international law actions by the international centres helped ease tensions. Among these are the Russian-US agreements on the chemical demilitarisation of Syria and the coordination of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran's nuclear program by Russia, the United States, Europe and China, as well as efforts to promote positive dynamics around the Korean Peninsula

A good example of fruitful international cooperation in resolving acute problems is Syria. When back in 2015 Russia at the request of the Syrian Government decided to undertake a military operation a terrorist quasi-state had all but conquered the country. By now we have defeated the terrorist international, and prevented the uncontrolled infiltration of hundreds and perhaps, thousands of armed cut-throats into Russia and neighboring countries with whom we have a visa- free regime, our borders are transparent. It was also, of course, a contribution to fighting terrorism worldwide.

Being aware of the heated public debate here on whether or not a dozen of captured terrorists and their families should be admitted back to Australia, I hope our policy on Syria will be acknowledged, at least in this expert audience.

In conjunction with our Astana format partners and with the support of the UN, we managed to launch an intra-Syrian political process and to establish close working contacts with Turkey, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries of the Middle East, as well as the United States (despite sometimes it acting as a spoiler to joint settlement efforts).

What is essential, in Syria, Russia and its partners managed to do a lot while adhering to and following norms of international law, rather than by violating the principle of sovereignty of states. We believe the Syrian settlement can become a model for resolving regional crises where diplomatic mechanisms will be used in the vast majority of cases, with the use of force being an extreme and forced exception.

I am convinced that these approaches can be used to resolve other existing problems in the world, including in Asia, such as the situation on the Korean Peninsula, which has long been in a clinch. In this regard, notably, as soon as the United States decided to have a direct conversation with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, without preliminary formalities and conventions, abandoning the usual, sometimes very rude, even insulting, rhetoric, the hope for a peaceful settlement immediately appeared. Of course, there are still many unresolved problems and a long way to go. But there is a movement in the right direction.

The most complicated conflicts, such as the Palestinian-lsraeli and Afghani or the situation around the Iran nuclear deal, can and must be resolved on the principles of cooperation, respect, recognition of all the parties' interests and rejection of any blinkers or philosophy of blocs.

In this context this was Russia's logic this July, when it presented the concept of providing collective security in the Persian Gulf area. We suggest that the accumulated prejudices and mutual pretences must be pushed aside, and a security and cooperation organization be created in the region almost from scratch. In addition to Western countries, Russia, China, the US, the EU, India and other interested countries could join as observers.

Dear Colleagues,

Talking about the formation of the multipolar world means talking first and foremost of Asia.

The new centers of power emerging there are starting to see the benefits in closer cooperation based on pragmatic needs and for the benefit of their peoples and countries. This is how the RIC association (Russia, India and China) started (by the way technically it was Primakov's idea). BRICS also emerged naturally. The SCO was also created in response to demands of the time when, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was necessary to provide some understanding of border security in Central Asia, Russia and China. Subsequently, the SCO expanded to other forms of cooperation. But again, it was a response to demands of the time. This is also how ASEAN was formed by the countries that realized their mutual interest was in working together and promoting economic and security cooperation.

I believe, we should distinguish between natural processes that integrate countries based on coinciding interests, and artificial ones which try to force countries into some kind of cooperation in the interest of one geopolitically driven power.

Such is an artificially imposed construct of the Indo-Pacific region which is clearly promoted within the far-reaching context of containing China. This concept, in my view undermines the ASEAN-centricity of the formats that have been created in that region. So, we prefer to talk about Asia-Pacific Region (APR).

As a significant Eurasian power with vast Far Eastern territories that boast significant potential, Russia has a stake in the successful future of the Asia-Pacific region, and in promoting sustainable and comprehensive growth throughout its entire area. We believe that effective economic integration based on the principles of openness, mutual benefit and the universal rules of the World Trade Organization is the primary means of achieving this goal.

We support the idea of forming an Asia-Pacific free trade area. We believe this is in our practical interest and represents an opportunity to strengthen our positions in the rapidly growing APR markets. I want to note that over the past five years, the share of APEC economies in Russia's foreign trade has increased from 23 to 31 per cent. And we have no intention of stopping there.

Of course, the large-scale project to create the APEC free trade area should be carried out with due account of the experience gained from implementing key integration formats in the Asia-Pacific region and Eurasia, including the Eurasian Economic Union, in which Russia cooperates with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Our union is based on equality, pragmatism, respect of each other’s interests, and we are eager to build relations with all countries and associations that are interested in doing so.

Free trade agreements were concluded between the Union and Vietnam. We have just signed a similar agreement with Singapore. An interim free trade agreement was signed with Iran. Talks are being held with Israel and Egypt, a first round of negotiations with India is taking place soon. The EAEU has concluded an agreement on trade and economic cooperation with China. The program on cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the ASEAN in 2019- 2020 has been launched.

All these agreements are important for forming a greater Eurasian partnership with potential of participation of the EAEU, the CIS, the SCO, the ASEAN nations as well as a number of other countries. One of the main pillars of the Greater Eurasia should be convergence of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

This is a flexible modern project open to other participants. The combination of economic potentials will not only boost our citizens' prosperity, but also help us lay the foundations of equal and indivisible security in Asia and the Euro-Atlantic in keeping with the 21st-century realities.

Colleagues,

Because of correctly understanding the essence of the current epoch in international relations Primakov was able to make an exceptional contribution to the creation of the conceptual foundation of Russia's current foreign policy, consolidation of its international positions. His famous "U-turn over the Atlantic" in March 1999 when he cancelled his US visit upon receiving in the flight to Washington the news of NATO bombings of Serbia became a turning point in Russian diplomacy and a symbol of the country's return to national-oriented politics. We all remember Mr Primakov's foreign policy principles - self-sufficiency, independence, multi- vector approach, openness and predictability. All of these are reflected in the current version of the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation.

It is worth recalling that, while consistently defending national interests, Yevgeny Primakov was never an advocate of isolationism or confrontation. He always supported intergovernmental cooperation to address the pressing problems of our time effectively. He always promoted the idea that existing differences between individual world centres - and they probably will never be fully resolved - should not prevent them from combining efforts to thwart the common challenges. This kind of philosophy of joint constructive work is especially relevant today, when the situation in the world remains tense and the challenges and threats are not subsiding.

Some argue that polycentric world order leads to more chaos and confrontation because the “centers of power” will fail to come to terms among themselves and take responsible decisions. But, firstly, why not try? What if it works? For this, all that is necessary is to start talks on the understanding that the parties should seek a balance of interests. Attempts to invent ones’ own “rules” and impose them on all others as the absolute truth should be stopped. All parties should strictly comply with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, starting with the respect for the sovereign equality of states regardless of their size, system of government or development model. No doubt, life does not stand still. While taking good care of the post-WWII system of international relations that relies on the United Nations, it is also necessary to cautiously though gradually adjust it to the realities of the current geopolitical landscape. This is completely relevant for the UN Security Council, where, judging by today’s standards, the West is unfairly overrepresented. We are confident that reforming the Security Council shall take into account interests of the Asian, the African and the Latin American nations whilst any such design must rest upon the principle of the broadest consensus among the UN member states. The same approach should apply to refining the world trade system, with special attention paid to harmonizing the integration projects in various regions.

We should use to the fullest the potential of the G20, an ambitious, all-encompassing global governance body that represents the interests of all key players and takes unanimous decisions. Other associations are playing a growing role as well, alliances projecting the spirit of a true and democratic multipolarity, based on voluntary participation, consensus, values of equality and sound pragmatism, and refraining from confrontation and bloc approaches. These include BRICS and the SCO, which our country is an active member of and which Russia will chair in 2020.

What is being proposed by Russia? First of all, it is necessary to recognize the obvious: the emergence of a polycentric world architecture is an irreversible process, no matter how hard anyone tries to hold it back artificially. Most countries don't want to be held hostage to someone else's geopolitical calculations and are determined to conduct nationally-oriented domestic and foreign policies. It is our common interest to ensure that multipolarity is not based on a stark balance of power like it was at the earlier stages of human history (for example, in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century), but rather bears a just, democratic and unifying nature. Rather takes into account the approaches and concerns of all those taking part in the international relations without exception, and ensures a stable and secure future.

To conclude, I would like to stress this. Russia, as one of the guardians of the existing world order, pursues a positive agenda. We stand for strict compliance with international law and enhancing mutual confidence and respect. We are building interstate relations and communication on fair and democratic foundations with an emphasis on the UN Charter. Our country is focused on stepping up security and stability, on fighting international terrorism and other threats and challenges. We act for the sake of establishing - including in Asia - a system of equal and indivisible security resting on far-ranging and collective work. Russia's continuous efforts to achieve this are very much guided by Yevgeny Primakov's legacy.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your attention.