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Clinton / Lavrov press conference, 7 May 2009
Remarks With Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov After
Their Meeting Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State Benjamin
Franklin Room Washington, DC, 7 May 2009.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. Welcome to the Benjamin
Franklin Room here in the State Department. Foreign Minister Lavrov
and I have just concluded another very constructive meeting. It
built on the discussions we started several months ago in Geneva
and obviously was very much part of the work that both of our
presidents assigned to their respective governments coming out of
the London summit.
We had serious and open exchanges about areas of common concerns
and are looking forward to Moscow in July when President Obama and
President Medvedev will meet. We're making progress on our agendas
and there are a number of important issues for the United States
and Russia to discuss. In fact, our negotiators met agains this
week to discuss a replacement for the START treaty in order to meet
our shared commitment to the responsible management of our nuclear
arsenals. Our negotiators are hard at work. We're also proceeding
with other initiatives to help store - or to stop the spread of
nuclear weapons and to safeguard fissile materials. The foreign
minister and I discussed how we can, through our own efforts
together, set a standard and an example to improve the security of
nuclear facilities and prevent the proliferation of nuclear
materiel around the world.
We exchanged views on a range of important issues, from
Afghanistan, North Korea, the Middle East, Iran, so many other
areas where we have common interests and common concerns, even on
areas where our views may diverge. We both want to achieve
stability and security in Georgia. We are both committed to the
NATO-Russia Council to open up another important channel of
dialogue. And we are very focused on making sure that the United
States and Russia have a very vigorous ongoing dialogue among our
two governments. Now Russia has just assumed the presidency of the
United Nations Security Council and will be leading some important
efforts there. We look forward to working with you on piracy and
Our bilateral agenda is expanding to include the financial crisis,
our changing climate, and the Arctic. These are areas where we
think it is in our interest to cooperate and it is in the interest
of the world that the United States and Russia do so.
I'm very grateful to Foreign Minister Lavrov for coming here today
to the State Department. I will be accompanying him to the White
House after lunch for him to spend some time with the President.
And we're very committed and looking forward to our ongoing
So again, Minister Lavrov, welcome.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) First of all, I
would like to thank Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the warm
reception for a very productive round of talks devoted primarily to
fulfilling the instructions of the two presidents, President
Medvedev and President Obama, embodied in their joint statements,
adopted at the meeting on April 1st in London.
And today, we have, in great detail, assessed progress in
fulfilling those instructions. In the context of preparing for the
summit in Moscow in July later this year, we have agreed that very,
very soon, we will announce the concrete date of this forthcoming
meeting in accordance with the tasks set for us by the presidents.
We have attached great importance in our negotiations to strategic
stability, including the preparation of a new arrangement that will
replace START I, which will expire in early December later this
Also, we have spent some time discussing our challenges in missile
defense, where the two presidents have expressed their wish for us
to find a foundation for our joint collaborative efforts. We have
reaffirmed this interest in our - at our - today's meeting, of
course. And this has been mentioned by the Secretary of State
We have a lot to do in the field of nuclear nonproliferation. This
is a field which is one of the most successful areas of our
cooperation. And today, we have outlined some preliminary steps
which will enable us to strengthen security around the world, which
will allow us to lower the risks of nuclear proliferation around
the world. Russia and the United States, as the two largest nuclear
powers, are able to get at the helm of this business and engage
others in collaboration. In the context of our agenda, we have
looked at prospects of preparing the conditions for progress on the
Iranian nuclear program. We also need to resume our negotiations on
the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula.
As far as regional issues are concerned, the Middle East is one of
the priorities, and we are grateful to our American colleagues for
their support for the forthcoming special meeting of the UN
Security Council on the Middle East, which will take place on May
Afghanistan is one of the priorities for the Obama Administration.
We realize the importance of this line of work in American foreign
policy, since success or failure on this track will have
repercussions for strengthening security in this key region of the
world. And of course, Russia will continue to support action of
ISAF. It will actively support the growing interest with a regional
factor in the settlement process, which is demonstrated now by the
We have discussed the outcomes of the exchanges that took place
yesterday in Washington with the leaders of Afghanistan and
Pakistan, and we believe it is a very important step in our joint
efforts. We welcome the initiative of the United States President
in this regard.
Among the President's instructions, there were issues of
Euro-Atlantic security, including in the context of President
Medvedev's initiative, which he put forward last year. And we have
agreed to continue dialogue on this issue at appropriate fora,
including the OSCE and the NATO-Russia Council. And we hope that in
the nearest - in the very near future, any obstacles in the
resumption of the work of the NATO-Russia Council - and such
obstacles are absolutely artificial - we hope that they will be
removed very soon, and we hope that this very important structure
will resume its work based on the principles which were agreed upon
before it was founded.
We have a lot of work to do in the field of economic cooperation.
We want more investment both ways. We want more interaction in the
high tech field. And today, we have looked at ways to support the
business communities in the two countries, including creating the
necessary intergovernmental mechanisms for such support.
On the whole, our negotiations have been very constructive, and
this is characteristic of our two presidents. The style is
characteristic of our two presidents. And it is important, in order
to implement the positive agenda of the U.S.-Russian relations, we
need to normalize this relationship, we need to get rid of any
negative heritage from the past. And we need to raise our
relationship to a new level. I absolutely agree with the Secretary
of State in that we are not turning a blind eye to the difficulties
that exist. Of course, they're natural for relations between any
But what is fundamentally important is that we openly and
sincerely discuss those differences, and we seek to find solutions
that would take into account the interests of all parties concerned
that would allow us to reach compromise. This is the practical
implementation of the equitable efforts that our presidents have
agreed upon, and I am looking forward to the forthcoming months
with optimism, in the course of which we will prepare for the
Moscow summit. I hope that our efforts will be successful. Thank
MODERATOR: We'll go with four questions. First question is
from Sue Pleming with Reuters.
QUESTION: You both symbolically hit the reset button in
Geneva, but the results so far appear to be mixed. Secretary
Clinton, are you concerned over Russia's role in Georgia, and also
its sphere of influence?
And Foreign Minister Lavrov, could NATO's exercises in Georgia and
U.S. support for ultimate NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine
poison arms control talks such as those involving START?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that because we
have such a comprehensive agenda, we are moving on many issues
simultaneously. And we judge each issue on its merits. They are
part of our ongoing relationship, which, as Minister Lavrov said,
is very productive and constructive.
We have expressed on several occasions our concerns about Georgia.
We have had the opportunity to discuss the conditions on the ground
there and the need for stability. And I believe that Minister
Lavrov as well as the Russian Government recognize that stability
and a peaceful resolution to the tensions in Georgia is in
But it is, I think, old thinking to say that we have a
disagreement in one area, therefore we shouldn't work in something
else that is of overwhelming importance. That's just not the way we
think. If you look at what we're doing on START and
nonproliferation, that has to do with the future safety of the
world, and the United States and Russia bear a special
responsibility. So we are working very hard together. Where we
disagree, which all great countries disagree - people in families
disagree - is to see how we can lower the tensions, look for, as
Minister Lavrov said, compromise, find practical solutions. So we
discuss all of these issues.
But at the end of the day, we have a responsibility to fulfill the
directives that our presidents gave when they set forth their
statement, which represented a comprehensive approach to many
issues that we can work well together on.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) I can only add
that the task of further reductions of strategic offensive weapons
is too important, both for Russia and the United States and for the
entire world, in fact, to make it hostage of any particular regime
anywhere around the globe.
As far as the situation in the Caucasus, especially in the South
Caucasus, we have discussed it today. True, we do have obvious
differences. We do not conceal those. But we agree on one thing: We
need to do our best in order to achieve stability there. This is
what the Secretary of State has just said.
And we also agree that we need to contribute in every possible way
to preventing any new outbreaks of ethnic tension. We need to
facilitate the establishment of procedures to ensure the observance
of human rights. And of course, international organizations,
including the UN, can play their role. The UN has worked in Georgia
and Abkhazia for quite a while. And of course, the OSCE has a role
to play. It should not be disregarded. And the negotiations that
will take place in Vienna in order to find mutually acceptable
arrangements will make it possible to resume the presence of the
OSCE. In South Ossetia, of course, we need to find parameters that
would be acceptable for all those who will be performing their
missions, who will be receiving relevant missions in their
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) TV Channel Russia. My question
is to both the minister and the Secretary of State. Over the past
year, we have piled up a lot of sensitive issues in the
U.S.-Russian relations. We have - you have mentioned some of them,
such as the deployment of elements of missile defense in Eastern
Europe, economic issues, regional policy issues. How would you
characterize the priorities? How would you prioritize these issues?
And do you have scenarios to resolve all these issues?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that is why Minister Lavrov and I
are working so hard together to create a mechanism and a framework
for us to address as many of these important issues as possible.
There are many priorities. I think, as you can tell from listening
to the two of us, our leadership in the area of arms control and
nonproliferation is of such profound global concern that that is at
the top of the list.
But there are so many other important matters that we are dealing
with. And one of the areas that we discussed today is how we're
going to suggest to our presidents for their summit a way forward.
Because I couldn't agree more with what Sergey said; we want to
normalize the relationship and raise it to a new level.
And we are involved both bilaterally and through groups like
P-5+1, the Quartet, and, of course, the larger multilateral groups
like OSCE or the United Nations. And we're going to work in each of
those fora to try to see how much leadership and cooperation we can
Speaking just for myself, the number of challenges facing the
world right now needs the best thinking from people all over the
world. And I have a great deal of respect and regard for my
counterpart in Russia and for the Russian people and for the kind
of contribution that we can make together if we keep working with
each other, and we think forward, not backward. And that's what
we're trying to do.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Since this
question was addressed to both of us, I would like to add a couple
of words. I fully agree with what has just been said by the
Secretary of State. We should now, within the framework of
resetting our relationship, create new mechanisms that would
function in a mode that will enable us to progress on all tracks,
be it political dialogue or military cooperation or regional
conflicts or the situation in the world in general. We need to be
able to agree to address tasks on which we agree, and we need to
lower the number of issues on which we disagree. This is what we're
Now, as far as missile is concerned, I would like to correct you a
little bit. You have said that the deployment that has started. No,
this deployment has not started there yet. And as we know, the
strategic review which is now pursued by the Obama Administration
is still underway and it covers the issue of missile defense. Our
American partners have reaffirmed to us that within the framework
of this review, they are looking at proposals that Russia has put
forward. These include the well-known proposal that President Putin
put forward in July of 2007, and those are - there are additional
initiatives that we have also given to our American colleagues
recently, in particular, in the course of my previous meeting with
Hillary. We have an interest in achieving agreements that would be
a common denominator both for Russia and the United States and our
shared European partners.
QUESTION: Minister Lavrov, Secretary Clinton assured the
U.S. Congress earlier this month that the United States has
successfully laid the groundwork with its P-5+1 allies for - quote,
unquote - "crippling" international sanctions against Iran in the
event that Tehran fails to suspend its pursuit of a nuclear weapons
capability. Is that true? Because the last time that you were heard
from on this subject was when you, speaking for the Russian
Government, stated on April 11 - quote - "It would be unrealistic
to expect us to raise pressure on Iran." So which is it, sir?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have to slightly correct my
reporter, Sergey, since you slightly corrected your reporter. See,
we are very mutually reinforcing.
We are in the process of laying the groundwork for making the case
for tougher sanctions. We have not laid the groundwork. And I think
that the case that we're making to our partners in the P-5+1 is to
reach out to Iran, which we agreed to do, and have made a proposal
to the Iranians. But we are very watchful as to how Iran responds,
and we will continue to consult with and hope that we can make
progress based on the kind of proposals that we're interested in
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) I would like to
add that as far as the Iranian nuclear program is concerned, there
are many aspects there, which is equally true of the sanctions
which apply to Iran. It is not that simple. There are collective
decisions adopted in the United Nations Security Council, and those
oblige all countries in the world to behave in a particular way and
to fulfill certain requirements.
But there are also unilateral sanctions that the United States or
the European Union have imposed in addition to the United Nations
Security Council with regard to Iran. We do not think that this
does not fully help to live up to the challenge. We keep telling
our partners that unilateral sanctions are not in line with our
collective actions. But those decisions are made by the United
States or the European Union.
As far as they are concerned, we are going to adhere to the
agreements reached within the format of P-5+1. Those arrangements
quite recently were supplemented significantly and were developed
significantly at the meeting of the representatives of the six
countries in London, and those proposals have been conveyed to the
Iranian side. We have heard from Iran something to the effect that
Iran does not oppose these proposals. Iran has its own proposals
which we are ready to discuss. And currently, we can see the taking
shape of preconditions that will make it possible to prepare for
real negotiations based on the proposals that we have on the table.
I have never said that we are against any pressure on Iran. I have
just said that we did not see the meaning, the sense in any harsh
sanctions against Iran. But as far as pressure is concerned, if we
understand by pressure, the efforts aimed at convincing Iran to
return to the negotiations table - we are applying such efforts in
an active and robust manner.
Ria Novosti, please.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Mr. Lavrov, to sum up the
results achieved in the recent period since the pushing of the
famous button, what, in concrete terms, has been achieved in our
(In English) As far as I remember, your husband has succeeded in
dealing with North Korea by sending Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang
where she joined the company of Kim Jong-il at a reception party
nine years ago. Is it possible that you will also go to Pyongyang
to try to find a solution on the spot of the current crisis? Thank
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that's what Sergey was doing in
North Korea. He was advancing my trip. (Laughter.) No, I have no
plans of going to North Korea. We will be sending our Special
Envoy, Ambassador Bosworth, out to the region to discuss our next
steps. I agree with Minister Lavrov's perspective after his recent
visit that we have to try to get the North Koreans back into the
Six-Party Talk framework and continue the denuclearization of the
Korean Peninsula. We may have to show some patience before that is
achieved. But we agree on the goal that we are aiming for.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Coming back to
your first question, in our introductory remarks, we gave our
assessment of what has been achieved.
Just to sum up very briefly, in an unprecedentedly short period of
time, we have been able to prepare two key documents that have been
approved by Presidents Medvedev and Obama at their first meeting in
London. Those are not just statements containing kind and nice
words addressed to each other. Those are substantive documents that
chart the course of our further joint efforts for our relationship
to reach a qualitatively new level in the interest of our people,
in the interest of international stability.
And the fact that the documents were adopted is something which I
consider a great result of the efforts that we have undertaken, and
this is not it. It is one thing to set a task. It is a totally
different thing to fulfill this task. Therefore, a lot of efforts
will still need to be made. Therefore, we have a schedule of expert
meetings and other meetings that we have agreed upon today, and
will require that our people adhere to this schedule.
But the outcome - the main outcome of the first summit meeting
between President Obama and President Medvedev is that they have
registered the level of trust for each other. They have registered
the level of effort on both sides towards consensus. And for us,
this is a directive which we are fulfilling. Thank you.
Source: US Department of State, www.state.gov.
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