28 May 2012

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul: U.S. values cooperation with Russia on Iran on both diplomatic and pressure paths

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has given an interview to Interfax‘ corrspondent Olga Golovanova in which he speaks about Russian-U.S. cooperation on the most pressing issues on the international agenda, including Syria and Iran, as well as upcoming Russian-U.S. summit in Mexico.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, how could you assess preparations for a U.S.-Russian summit in Mexico? What topics is the American side going to discuss with President Putin this time?

Answer: This is a very important meeting to us, because obviously it‘s the first time that President Obama and President Putin will meet as presidents. They‘ve met before, but this will be the first time for that meeting. There are a lot of very critical issues that we are working, and that makes the timing important too. And, without question for us, the top two issues that will be discussed - there‘ll be many others but the top two from our perspective is Iran and Syria. And on Iran, P5+1 negotiations have been ongoing, they just met in Iraq yesterday, they‘ll be coming here for the next round, and that issue for us is one of the most critical security issues in the world. We appreciate the cooperation we have with Russia, but we still have to keep working that issue. And Syria - we both support the Kofi Annan plan, but the violence has not stopped there, and we are going to be looking to try to find some new ways of cooperation to send some new signals about how to bring peace to Syria.

Q.: Do you agree with observers‘ opinion that Russia‘s position on Libya was much weaker compared to its current position on Syria? Many observers explain this in terms of Vladimir Putin‘s return to the Kremlin.

A.: Well, no, I don‘t agree with that, because I want to remind you that Prime Minister Putin was always a very active decision-maker in terms of foreign policy, and when we had some very serious negotiations about Libya here, when Vice President Biden visited, we met with both President Medvedev and the prime minister on that very subject. I think the difference is not tough or weak, the difference is that there is a different expectation from us too, by the way, of how the situation in Libya would end. It did not end the way that we thought it would end. We had different objectives, and it didn‘t work out because of Mr. Gaddafi, it wasn‘t because of us. And, as a result of that experience, Russia has taken a different approach to the situation in Syria. So it did not start that way but it was the result that neither of us controlled in Libya that has shaped the way that we talk about Syria today.

Q.: Russia is concerned about the exterritorial nature of the U.S. sanctions against Iran. Are you really going to take into account Russia‘s concerns and could new U.S. economic and oil sanctions against Iran somehow affect Russian companies or banks?

A.: First of all, we greatly appreciate the level of cooperation we‘ve had with Russia on the diplomatic path and on the pressure path. And it is important that the UN Security Council resolution #1929 was a great achievement of multilateral cooperation. And we should never forget how important that was because that‘s the base for all further kinds of activities.
Second, you are right, we had disagreements about other sanctions that have come after that. And I, as an ambassador, can tell you that I worked on those issues every day in terms of how they can affect Russian economic interests. And we are sensitive to that. We don‘t always control what we can and what we can‘t do. And, please, do not forget that the U.S. Congress also plays a role in this debate. And it is an important debate in my country. But we take into consideration.
Third, right now - I don‘t know about future sanctions, I can‘t predict that, I literally do not know - but what is most important right now is the effort in the P5+1. We believe that the conditions are ripe because of sanctions - it is our position - because the sanctions have proven effective they have created the permissive conditions, the good conditions to have an effective set of negotiations within the framework of P5+1. But the next set of meetings that will happen here will be vitally critical for the process, the ones that will happen here in a month‘s time. These are going to be a very difficult set of negotiations. That‘s my prediction.