The need for building partnership of civilizations
- From your point of view, how can the Russian experience helping the world in creating a sustainable dialog between civilizations?
- It is well known that there are more than 20 million Muslims living in Russia, and it is important to note that they are not migrants, but live in these territories from the time immemorial. Scientifically speaking it is the autochthonous population of our country. In certain regions Muslims constitute the majority of the population, namely in Republics of Volga region and Northern Caucasus. In general, historical interaction and mutual influence of the followers of Christianity and Islam in Russia is one of the most important staples of our state. We greatly value cultural diversity and interreligious harmony that exists in Russia. Of course, for a long history of our state there were different periods, but now we managed to achieve a stable and strong union between the representatives of all traditional religions in Russia. I believe that this experience is now in demand in the world as never before. I think that regions that suffer from different religions or ethnic conflicts need to pay special attention to the experience of the multinational Russian Republic of Tatarstan, where half of the population are Muslims, and another half are Orthodox Christians. They live in complete harmony and peace, moreover Tatarstan is one of the most dynamically developing constituent entities of the Russian Federation
- Although the common history between Russians and Muslims is an example of coexistence and multidisciplinary cooperation, some in the Arab and Muslim world focus on periods of conflict between Russia and Muslim countries; What actions are needed to revive the values of coexistence?
I would not make such conclusions. Russia has never had conflicts with Muslim countries based on a religious factor. It goes without saying that as a world power we found ourselves involved in various conflicts, but we never opposed Muslim forces. I will not dwell on the relations between Christians and Muslims inside our country, as I have already mentioned it above. There have never been religious wars in Russia and will never be .I can say it for sure even despite the fact that we have a very mixed population of diverse nations and religions. We do not need to revive anything, because values of coexistence are already existing in our country.
Our President has repeatedly noted that Russia is the most loyal allies of the Muslim world and we prove this by our actions. We support efforts to establish stability in the Islamic world, because we rightfully consider our country to be a part of this world. It is for this reason that Russia has become an observer in the OIC. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that our country is the only member of the UN Security Council, which has joined OIC.
- The Russian President Vladimir Putin has his own point of view on the relations between Russia and Islamic world, Is this view based on a specific cultural vision or Russia’s geopolitical interests in its conflict with the West?
Relations with the Muslim world are one of the most important directions of Russian foreign policy and it can not depend on any external factors, including development of relations between Russia and the West.
Both Russia and the Muslim states have much more in common than is widely assumed. We face common challenges but as well we have great prospects for joint solution of these problems. Both Russia and the Muslim world can be called separate poles in modern world politics and the future of not only the Middle East but the entire Eurasian space largely depends on the adding together these two poles.
- What are the most required factors to establish a firm partnership among civilizations?
The most important thing to establish a firm partnership between individuals as well as between countries is to have goodwill and the commitment to talk with each other on an equal footing. Willingness to listen and what is more to hear each other. The very word “Partnership” implies the presence of several parties who, despite their status of authority and size, should act as equal participants of the dialogue. It is important to understand that the partnership of civilizations has no alternative.
- In regarding with the Group activities, how do you think that journalists could help to build partnership of civilizations?
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the media in the modern world. We learn online about all the events that are happening in the world. And in many respects the attitude of viewers and readers to the event is formed under the influence of the press. Today there is much talk about information wars, the so-called fake news, which is becoming a pretext even for military operations. In these circumstances, it is very important to coordinate the activities of the journalistic community in order to convey truthful and honest information based on facts to the inhabitants of the whole world. And I am sure that the joint work of the journalistic community of Russia and the states of the Muslim world is really productive and useful for effectively countering the policy of violence and promoting the true freedom of speech and press.
- The Group holds forums for journalists from Muslim countries and cooperate with institutions in the Islamic world to clarify the terms of Islamic finance. What is the group’s plan for the future?
Yes, indeed, the Group of strategic vision “Russia-Islamic World” is implementing a number of projects aimed at strengthening confidence and building up interaction between the Russian Federation and Muslim states in the field of economy, culture, science and education. In particular, much attention is paid to the issues of Islamic banking and the perspectives for its work in Russia. Moreover we publish books, make films, not only in Russian, but also in English and Arabic. At the same time, we are open to cooperation and invite our partheners from all Muslim countries to work together.
Syria’s role in partnership between Russia and Islamic World
- Syria is the most threatened country by the negative effects of any conflict between the Russians and Muslims, yet it is the richest place for a unique tolerance between Muslims and Christians. What measures will enhance Syria’s role in dialogue among civilizations and how can Russia help?
Syria is actually a country with very deep traditions of good-neighborliness of representatives of different religions. It is the cradle of Middle Eastern civilization and therefore is an invaluable asset of all mankind. This is how we should treat the rich cultural heritage of this country. But unfortunately now Syria is facing serious challenges and the most important thing at the moment is to do everything to establish a strong and long-term peace and stability. I am sure that in this case the great experience of your multinational country in matters of interethnic and interreligious interaction will also prove useful. Well, of course, this experience is important also for the world as a whole, which lately is increasingly faces conflicts on national grounds.
- Many observers believe that the Muslim world is witnessing sectarian conflicts, that may affect its role in any partnership among civilizations. Also, Russian officials have expressed concern about a confrontation within the Muslim world. Do you have any specific proposals on how to easy the tensions between Muslim countries? What role can Syria do in this regard?
The number of conflicts in the Muslim world has really increased. If we try to discover the nature of these protests we will see that they are encouraged by external forces from abroad, above all, by the Western powers. As for Russian civilization it was formed on the basis of the union of many nationalities around Russian people. Therefore the greatness of Russian culture is universally recognized. Names of Tolstoy, Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Mendeleev are widely known.
We support dialogue, suggest solving problems through negotiations. The very greatness of Russian culture is based in particular on the fact that by law we have 4 main traditional religions (Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism). The Commonwealth of Orthodoxy and Islam has always been one of the main staples of the Russian state. As for Syria, this country has same traditions of peaceful coexistence of different nations and religions. The ability to negotiate is a fundamental element while dealing with problems. If the Syrians show an example in reaching these kind of agreements (Muslims with Christians, Shiites with Sunnis, etc.), this will have a healing effect on the entire region.
“How to create a new form or balance for a new Syria”
- You asked this question a year ago, this “New Syria, how will it be?
There is a well known principle “Divide and conquer,” the essence of which boils down to easy controlling a region where there is no unity, every part quarrels with one another and chaos reigns. Therefore, in order to achieve real stability it is important to preserve unity and territorial integrity of the country. I think that the interests of Syrians themselves lie not in conflict but in cooperation to build a unified sovereign state, where the rights of all national and religious minorities are respected. To a large extent, a stable Syria also corresponds to the interests of its neighbors, whom I am sure do not need extra threats on their borders. In any case, I am convinced that it’s only up to Syrians to determine the future structure of their country.
- Is there a conflict between the “Geneva process” and the “Astana process”?
No, there is no conflict between these formats and nor can there be. The Astana process was originally proposed in order to push forward negotiations in Geneva. Geneva and Astana complement each other. In the current situation, we don’t have to fear different formats; we need to use all available opportunities to achieve the progress on the Syrian issue.
- Are we close in any way to the end of Syrian crisis?
The positive dynamics in this matter is obvious. I would not like to make predictions, but we all hope that soon the long-awaited peace will reign on the tormented Syrian land.
- There is a disagreement between US President Donald Trump on the one hand, and the Pentagon on the other, on the withdrawal of US troops from eastern Syria. What are the future scenarios for this, and how will they affect the political solution in Syria?
American troops were not invited to Syria, in fact they stay in this country illegally, while Russian presence is based on the request of the Syrian government. There is mounting evidence that Americans are helping extremist elements (train them, supply weapons, etc.).
The tripartite agreements between Russia, Turkey and Iran in Astana and Sochi have paved the way for a political settlement. Unfortunately, some Western powers in fact undermine the process of political regulation. If the US withdrew its troops and joined the efforts for a political solution to the Syrian conflict, then peace would definitely prevail on the land of Syria.
- Do you think that what is happening between Russia, Iran and Turkey, in the Astana negotiations is just a sharing of spheres of influence on Syrian soil, or temporary understandings, in order to strengthen its influence on the political settlement of the Syrian crisis?
I cannot agree with this point of view. The union of Russia, Turkey and Iran is based on shared interests, which lie in establishing stability in the region. At the same time, I want to draw your attention to the fact that both Turkey and Iran directly border on Syria, while the Russian borders are also in immediate proximity. This is our common space and our common region, which we are responsible for. Our positions do not coincide on all issues, but it is important that we have similar priorities and this is what makes the work carried out by Russia, Turkey and Iran rather successful.