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Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov press conference, Geneva, 6 March 2009

Transcript of Remarks and Response to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Press Conference Following Talks with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Geneva, March 6, 2009

Esteemed colleagues,

First of all I would like to thank the United States Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton for this meeting. I will share practically everything that's just been said by the Secretary. In addition I can say that we have already managed to achieve one concrete practical result. We reached agreement about how "reset" ought to sound in both English and Russian. Now there are no different interpretations. And I am certain that this is a contribution to interaction between our people, a contribution to the advancement of English in Russia and Russian in the United States of America.

As Secretary Clinton said, we very thoroughly examined practically all of the issues on our agenda, starting with bilateral relations and, of course, including our cooperation in the international arena. And all this was done, first of all, in the context of the preparations for the first encounter between the Russian and US Presidents, which is planned to take place on the sidelines of the G20 summit in London at the very beginning of April. We exchanged views regarding our visions of the near-term priorities in our relations.

I am convinced that the Secretary of State will share my opinion that these priorities coincide for the most part. Of course, each side highlighted its emphases and nuances and it would be an exaggeration to say that we agreed on everything, but we agreed that on all questions, including those on which we have differences, we will work in the spirit of partnership, honestly and openly. What matters most is that we found just this readiness in work. We have a common understanding that today our bilateral relations are acquiring an additional chance which cannot be lost. Herein lie the interests of our peoples, the interests of the United States, the interests of the Russian Federation and we are fully aware of the responsibility of our two countries for the state of affairs in the world.

As I've said, we devoted much attention to the preparation of the meeting between our presidents in London. We substantively discussed so called sore points in our relations and looked at how work could be organized to clear the logjams left over from previous years and how to make certain a constructive component, goal-oriented partner-like collaboration, dominates our relations.

We paid special attention to the problem of the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction in general, of strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms. I am certain that it is within our power to reach a common denominator and maybe even come out with a plus for our strategic relationship on both START and missile defense. I note the readiness of our US partners for dialogue on the basis of mutual consideration of interests.

We looked at the situation with nuclear weapons nonproliferation, including as it applies to Iran and to the issue of the Korean peninsula. I am certain that in the near future we will try to come to some kind of agreement, some results that would enable us to bring a political-diplomatic resolution of these issues closer, within the framework of the existing negotiation formats.

We noted the special significance of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and agreed to cooperate in the framework of the process of the preparations for the next review conference to be held in 2010. We also recalled that some time ago at the initiative of Russia and the United States the UN Security Council had adopted an important resolution aimed at preventing nuclear weapons or materials that can be used for their production from falling into non-state actor hands. And we agreed that our joint initiative would remain a subject of our special attention and that we might propose additional steps to reinforce the regime created by the Security Council in this area. We have many common initiatives which remain valid on the fight against the threat of nuclear terrorism. And here too there are concrete accords on how jointly to seek greater consolidation of the international community.

We told in detail about the initiative of President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev in the field of Euro-Atlantic security. The partners heard us and I look forward to concrete pragmatic expert consultations with the United States and, of course, with all other countries in the Euro-Atlantic area. We've got quite a few tasks concerning Middle East settlement where both our countries are members of the Quartet of international mediators. We consider it our common goal to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and we are interested in strengthening practical cooperation toward this end. I am certain that there will appear new spheres of cooperation for us. We agreed that we will promote the success of the upcoming Conference on Fighting the Terrorist and Narcotic Threats Emanating from Afghanistan to be held in Moscow on March 27 under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and that we will cooperate in ensuring the success of another conference on this problem, which at the United States' initiative will take place in Europe at the end of March.

We have a common interest - to take our bilateral economic relations to a new level. They are already measured by impressive figures, but, of course, the results are still far from the potential our states possess. I think that in London our presidents will make a strategic choice in favor of fostering constructive relations between Russia and the United States. There was an exchange of messages last month toward this end. And we are convinced that this meets the basic interests of our countries, of our peoples and the interests of the world community. We agreed upon a schedule of upcoming work. It will be implemented and I look forward to further contacts with Hilary Clinton. I am very pleased with today's talks.

Question: Do you assess that conversation you had over dinner as the beginning of closer personal contacts?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: I make bold to assert that ours are excellent personal relations and I hope that Hilary will agree with me.

Question: Have you already pressed the "reset" button presented to you? If not, then when will you press it? And what will the Russian-US relations look like which you strive toward after pressing the button?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: I agree that the load that measures our agenda is enormous but I don't think Hilary or I wish to get rid of something from that load. In addition to the problems to be tackled, in addition to the joint initiatives to be put forward, we talked a lot today about strictly practical projects which are aimed at securing the interests of our citizens, at facilitating the conditions of contacts between them, at realizing different ideas in the cultural sphere, in environmental protection and many other things. I don't think we'll make our job easier by neglecting any of the issues discussed today. So that ours is a heavy agenda, but I assure you it doesn't need to be compared to the stone Sisyphus had to roll up a hill. At least we will cope with this stone for sure.

As to whether I pressed the button - yes, together with Hilary, we did manage to press that button. As you saw, it's a big, red button. And I hope that Russia and the United States and all other countries will never press the other button that was previously associated with the start of a destructive war. We will press the reset button for constructive cooperation.

Question: Could you comment on arms supplies to Iran?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Regarding questions of military-technical cooperation with Iran, these questions, like questions of our analogous cooperation with any other country of the world, are tackled solely in the legal field in accordance with Russian export control legislation, and it is one of the strictest in the world; and, of course, in accordance with the existing international obligations. We supply our partners with non-destabilizing, defensive types of weapons. And, by the way, we want our partners to behave with equal restraint in their military supplies to the countries which have already, including not so long ago, used those weapons very close to our border. In our military-technical cooperation with Iran, I repeat, we do not violate anything. But at the same time we fully and seriously consider the concerns that both our US and Israeli partners voice to us. I am convinced that the way towards removing these concerns lies in the intensification of efforts to realize the proposals that were submitted by Group 5+1 to resolve the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program. Apart from major significant economic stimuli, these proposals also envisage starting an equal dialogue with the participation of Iran, with the participation of all countries of the region on the question of ensuring reliable and lasting security, when all the countries here, including, of course, Israel, would live side by side in peace and security. This is a very complicated theme, it has a lot of nuances, but we have a clear understanding that these questions have to be tackled and we will engage.

Question: Do you think it's possible to reach new SOA accords before December 5, 2009?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: I fully subscribe to this statement. We will do everything to ensure that the accord is reached. The present Treaty is outdated; at least, the limits there have long since been fulfilled, and to stay within this Treaty would mean that both Russia and the United States can, essentially, increase, not reduce their strategic offensive arms. This will be a very bad signal to all others, especially ahead of the next Review Conference of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Question: Will Russia recognize the declared independence of Kosovo?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Kosovo is certainly one of the problems on which we have differences with the United States, and fairly serious differences, although Russia has never tried to draw any conclusions from these differences that would have an adverse impact upon our relationships in other areas. We consider the unilateral proclamation of Kosovo's independence illegal. On this theme there are Serbia's requests to the International Court of Justice. Russia will present its opinion for consideration in the legal procedure. It seems to me that all those who do not recognize Kosovo understand the dangers inherent in such processes, processes which involve no logic from the viewpoint of the security of the Albanian population of Kosovo. This population, after the Security Council resolution was adopted in 1999, was not subjected to any dangers. On the contrary, minorities suffered in Kosovo. There were no threats for the Kosovo Albanians in the last eight to nine years. Against this background to declare recognition of Kosovo's independence was wrong, we believe. I very much hope that this situation will not entail a new outbreak of violence in the Balkans, will not entail attempts at a further fragmentation of this space. We are not interested in this. We want to strengthen security in the Balkans with due regard for the interests of all the peoples living there and, of course, on the basis of international law. By the way, President Medvedev's initiative to consider a new Treaty on Euro-Atlantic Security envisages that considering the criteria for conflict settlement in the region must be a part of these discussions. It seems to me that uniform standards would be fully appropriate here.

Question: When is it possible to expect a resumption of direct talks between the US and Iran? How can the United States' statement about starting direct talks be associated with the toughening of the US sanctions against Iran?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Just a couple of words. We very much appreciate that the Administration of President Barack Obama, in carrying out a comprehensive review of its Iranian policy, is prepared to listen to other countries, including Russia, and to our opinion on how we consider it necessary to act in this direction. We have expressed our view and I am certain that this conversation will continue.

Source: Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, www.russianembassy.org.

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