25 Dec 2009

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: Russia, US are shaping a common future at START talks, but bilateral relations are still not easy

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Interfax that the work on the follow-up for the START I a striking illustration of the complexity and importance of the task of returning Russian-U.S. relations to "a norm that would take into account our common responsibility for the future of peace” and announced Russia’s diplomatic agenda for 2010.

The Russian-US talks on a new treaty to replace START I are conducted very emotionally and there is plenty of work at them, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said."We have everything here - plenty of work, strong emotions in the negotiating teams and naturally a sense of satisfaction stemming fr om the understanding that we are jointly shaping our common future that meets the interests of the rest of the world," he said.
He said that talks on the new START treaty serve as a striking illustration of the complexity and importance of the task of returning Russian-U.S. relations to "a norm that would take into account our common responsibility for the future of peace."
After months of intensive talks in Geneva the delegations of Russia and the Untied States have almost completed work on the new treaty. Now the negotiators have taken a break for the Christmas and New Year holidays and intend to resume work in mid-January to finalize certain technical details.
Speaking about Russian-U.S. bilateral relations, Lavrov said that they Washington have not become easier since Barack Obama came into office, but the quality and amount of work has changed.
"Saying that it has become easier for us to work in this area since President Barack Obama‘s democratic administration came to power in the U.S. would mean seriously simplifying the situation. The amount of work has increased and its quality has changed," Lavrov said.
Russia and the U.S. are now busy "clearing up the backlog of work that was amassed under the former administration and caused a deep crisis in our relations," the minister said.
"In fact, we are at the beginning of a process aimed at bringing our relations back to normal, which would also reflect our shared responsibility for the fate of the world," he said.
Recent changes in Russian-U.S. relations have "noticeably altered the atmosphere in Euro-Atlantic politics, where demand for confrontational approaches has dropped, let alone provocations similar to the Georgian authorities‘ criminal decision to use force in the internationally recognized conflict zone in August last year," Lavrov said.
"Realizing the consequences of the Caucasus crisis has helped draw the right conclusions from what happened. This has largely been aided by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini‘s report ordered by the European Union," the minister said.
"Those who wanted to hear some ‘independent confirmation’ of these long known facts have received such an opportunity," he added.
Commenting on Russia’s initiative to conclude a new European security treaty, Lavrov said that it gave the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) a big wake-up call.
"Without the initiative reflecting our analysis of the situation in European affairs, there would have been no shakeup in the OSCE that suddenly came out of hibernation that threatened to fully remove the all-European organization from the needs of real life," he said.
Russia succeeded in "launching a solid mental process both on intergovernmental formats and on various political floors," he said.
"After the draft treaty was handed over to partners the work is entering a new level. We expect a constructive reaction," Lavrov said.
"The voices saying that "everything is alright and nothing needs to be changed" cannot persuade us. Everyone understands that the problems of ‘stiff‘ security inherited from old times exist and they should be resolved once and for all," he said.
In comments on the upcoming presidential election in Ukraine Lavrov said he hopes that there will be opportunities to improve relations between Moscow and Kyiv after the presidential elections in Ukraine on January 17.
"I would like to stress our interest in significantly improving Russian-Ukrainian relations. I hope that new prospects for this will open up after the presidential election in Ukraine," he said.
Lavrov also announced Russia’s diplomatic agenda for 2010, in which a key priority will be efforts to ensure that Russia‘s foreign policy matches the goal of modernizing the country‘s economy as much as possible.
"The pivot of the Foreign Ministry‘s work in 2010 will be the fulfillment of the tasks set by President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev to create the closest possible links between all of our foreign policy activities and the need to modernize the country‘s economy and to ensure its technological breakthrough," Lavrov said.
Diplomatic measures to assist the effective functioning of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan will play quite an important role, including from the point of view of efforts to deepen integration processes within the CIS, the minister said.
"Maximum attention will be paid to steps intended to further strengthen allied relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia and to maintain security and stability in Transcaucasis," he said.
"Russia, as a member of the Minsk Group, will continue playing its proactive role of a mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process. We will vigorously work to create conditions for the resumption of the settlement process in Transdniestria as well," Lavrov said.
Other major issues that require attention include "the need to overcome setbacks in the Middle East process, to agree on collective approaches to stabilization efforts in Afghanistan, to look for ways out of the complex situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program on a multilateral basis, as well as to restart the six-party talks on the nuclear problem of the Korean peninsula," the minister said.
Russia also favors "the establishment of a Russia-EU modernization union," he said.
"Work also continues to normalize relations within the Russia-NATO Council, wh ere we will resolutely push for the practical application of the principles of the Russia-NATO Council‘s Rome Declaration, which orders all of its signatories to work on the basis of equality, respect for each other‘s interests and recognition of the indivisible security principle," Lavrov said.