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Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov on missile defence and on Iran, March 21, 2007

Transcript of Replies to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov During Question Hour in State Duma of the Russian Federation, Moscow, March 21, 2007

Question: The discussion of a resolution on Iran is beginning in the United Nations Security Council today. Reports have appeared recently that Russia supposedly has formally linked the suspension of work at Bushehr to how Iran will respond to the appropriate UN actions, in particular, on an enrichment suspension program. How real is such a link? What proposals come from the Council's nonpermanent members? To what extent is a continuation of the work on the draft of a future resolution possible there?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: There is no link between the work on a resolution which is directed at settling the nuclear issue and the implementation of the project for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. I have read, in particular, in The New York Times the remarks of some anonymous European officials alleging we had told them about such a link. This is an unscrupulous trick, which shows once again for whom, probably from among those who one way or another were close at a stage to these negotiations or heard of them, it pays to try and present Russia in such a light. These are attempts with unsuitable means. What is being done at Bushehr, we have repeatedly stressed, is done in full conformity with the international obligations of the Russian Federation, under the full control of the IAEA and not only does not pose any threat from the viewpoint of WMD proliferation, in this case of nuclear weapons, but on the contrary is a model of how the nonproliferation regime operates and how all the IAEA statutory documents on nonproliferation work. So, I repeat, that it's not the first time that we have encountered attempts to unscrupulously interpret the position of Russia, either wishing to cause us to quarrel with somebody, in this case with Iran, or pursuing other narrowly selfish interests of theirs. Of the need to remove all these innuendoes and end all attempts to wrongly interpret and deliberately distort the positions of each other the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, spoke in Munich, when he invited everybody to engage in collective, truly honest and open, not underhand work.

As to the work in the UN Security Council on a resolution, we at the stage of the discussion of the draft of the Six removed the toughest proposals, including a ban on foreign trips of Iranian officials, a ban on credits to Iran and transferred all these bans into a form which prohibit neither. We did it because we had previously agreed to pressure Iran gradually, commensurately with the real situation. We are not going to support excessive sanctions.

Indeed, South Africa and Indonesia have proposed amendments which, among other things, emphasize the global character of the task of nonproliferation. We hold that these amendments merit the closest examination. We will treat them constructively…

Question: Can you concretely explain the reason why the meeting with the President of Ukraine and his arrival in Russia fell through? Has everything been done by our authorities not to turn Ukraine into a mere territory for the realization of the US military doctrine?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: I think that to do everything that you have said about in order that Ukraine may not become somebody's "prey" in dishonest efforts to acquire this "prey" is, first and foremost, the task of the Ukrainian people and leadership. We shall respect the Ukrainian people's choice. We see how the Ukrainian people treat many plans that do not fit into the notion of common indivisible security for all. This concerns the NATO enlargement and the plans to deploy elements of missile defense in Europe. I consider that the leadership of any country must heed the opinion of its people, the people who have brought this leadership to power.

As to the visit of President Yushchenko to Russia, it did not fell through, simply somebody had decided that the date of the visit which at its time was proposed by the Ukrainian side had already been accepted. Such was not the case. Yesterday a telephone conversation between the two presidents took place. They agreed on how to act that the visit would be prepared and that the date would be acceptable to both sides…

Question: We have been observing activity on our borders recently. This concerns deployment of missile defense systems in the Caucasus and the resolution of the US House of Representatives on the admission of a number of small countries into NATO, including Georgia. What are the proposed actions of Russia to ensure security on the southern borders?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We will proceed from the interests of our citizens, whether in South Ossetia or in Abkhazia or anywhere else and, of course, will proceed from the lawful interests of the Russian Federation as a state in the sphere of security. We have concrete proposals which we are advancing in negotiations to settle these conflicts. We have concrete proposals on how to ensure security in the region. And the actions you have mentioned, involving deployment of elements of missile defense in Europe, attempts to also encompass the Caucasus with this system, even Ukraine was mentioned, and other countries that directly border on the Russian Federation - these ideas all run counter to the security approaches that Russia is promoting. This is why we emphasize the necessity of tackling such things collectively, not on the basis of the old scheme, when the American colleagues have thought up something for themselves and then are beginning to realize this, assuming that via the policy of accomplished facts all the rest will put up with it later on. It is the old approach. This was how they used to act in previous times, during the Cold War, when they would threaten everybody with the Soviet menace and rally others around this on a unified disciplined position. Now we share the threats, the Soviet Union is no more and it is not understandable why, in order to combat risks of potential missile launches from, say, Iran, as American strategists are saying, it is necessary to deploy MD elements exactly as they propose. Our military, our specialists have a different vision and would like to have a professional discussion in order to both listen to the Americans' arguments and, of course, present their own to convince them that it is possible to neutralize the hypothetical, so far, threats by other, more effective methods; furthermore, by methods which would not create a real threat for the Russian Federation. I count on these proposals being heeded, particularly given the current voices being heard in Europe in favor of just this approach. Especially as, I repeat it, the American decision was made in forms which are generally disrespectful towards both the European Union and other NATO members…

Regarding Bushehr I shall confirm that there is no link in this regard with the work on a resolution. Unfortunately, our Iranian colleagues are telling untruth when they say problems of a financial character have arisen on the Russian side. Although financial problems do exist, they are due to a violation by the Iranian side of the agreed schedule of payments. Consultations of experts are now under way. The first round has just ended, they will soon be resumed. I hope that all these financial and related organizational aspects will soon be settled. I repeat it, there is no link here at all.

Source: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, http://www.russianembassy.org.

© 2007 The Acronym Institute.