Top Russian diplomat, new head of int’l Red Cross discuss humanitarian issues

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met on Friday in Moscow with Mirjana Spoljaric, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to discuss humanitarian issues.

Opening the meeting, Lavrov said Russia appreciates the committee's contribution to overcoming humanitarian crises all over the world, providing assistance to victims of armed conflicts, as well as the organization's assistance in upholding international humanitarian law.

Lavrov praised Russia's cooperation with the ICRC, saying it has been dynamically developing in recent years.

"We have been cooperating fruitfully on the humanitarian agenda for a long time in Syria, Afghanistan, and Karabakh, and we participate in the voluntary financing of your programs," he said.

The diplomat noted that the last year "made significant amendments" in the Russian cooperation with the ICRC, emphasizing that "a balanced responsible line that the committee seeks to pursue in all regions of the world is also important in the context of events in and around Ukraine."

"We believe that the readiness of the Red Cross to act impartially on Ukrainian issues, using its unique humanitarian mandate, will be of key importance for maintaining an atmosphere of constructive cooperation," he said.

The minister urged all other partners of the Red Cross, particularly major donors, to strictly follow the line of impartiality as well.

Lavrov said he plans to discuss with Spoljaric the most pressing issues related to the protection of civilians and detained military personnel, reiterating Russia's adherence to the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war.

Lavrov also said he would like "to draw attention to the blatant violation of international humanitarian law" by Ukraine in Donbas since 2014.

"Donbas has been subjected to daily bombardments, civilian infrastructure has been destroyed, civilians have been killed, and few people have paid attention to this," he noted.

Lavrov added that he had no doubts about the ICRC's awareness of the situation as the organization has been working in the region all these years.

"We expect the committee to continue and intensify efforts to solve the problem of visiting and ensuring the rights of captured Russians, many of whom are subjected to torture and other inhumane methods of influence by the Ukrainian regime," he said, pointing out that the Ukrainians themselves publish videos, showing "atrocities against Russians, including the infamous video of the shooting of unarmed war prisoners."

The minister said Moscow actively supports the ICRC efforts to ensure access to the servicemen who were captured and promised to do everything that depends on the Russian part to guarantee such access to captured Ukrainian soldiers.

For her part, Spoljaric said it is very crucial for her that the channel of communication between the ICRC and Russia remains "open and constructive."

"I also reassure you that I will uphold the principles of neutrality and independence and that I will respect confidentiality wherever it is necessary to uphold these principles," she said.

The international official added that she looks forward to discussing with Lavrov critical humanitarian needs and issues that concern both sides.

"As the ICRC president, I hear you, your commitment to upholding IHL (international humanitarian law) and I will myself advocate that all states adhere to their obligations under the Geneva Convention," she said.

Source: Anadolu Agency