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Secretary of State Clinton Remarks with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov
March 19, 2010

Remarks With Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Secretary of State Clinton in Moscow


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State


Moscow, Russia
March 18, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Sergey. Thank you for hosting me and my delegation today in Moscow and thanks to the Russian Government for hosting the Quartet meeting that we will be attending.
Since our first meeting in Geneva, a little more than a year ago, Minister Lavrov and I, along with our respective governments under the leadership of both President Medvedev and President Obama, have worked toward a new beginning in the relationship between the United States and Russia. We believe that this reset of the relationship has led to much greater cooperation, coordination, and a constructive ongoing consultation on numerous issues that are important to our bilateral relationship and to the global issues that we both are facing.
I think it’s critical that Minister Lavrov is hosting the Middle East Quartet. When we begin our meetings with Quartet members this evening, we’ll have the chance to explore in depth the way forward in the Middle East, but these talks are yet another reminder that the United States and Russia, together, face global challenges, and that there are many people not only in Russia and the United States, but, literally, throughout the world who depend upon the ability of the U.S. and Russia to work together.
We discussed the upcoming nuclear security summit. Fifty heads of state, including President Medvedev, will be in Washington. And it especially is important for the United States and Russia, who bear the responsibility, to continue the way forward on nonproliferation and to work as partners in the global effort to secure fissile materials and counter the threat of nuclear terrorism. So this is another initiative that both President Obama, who suggested it, and President Medvedev, who embraced it, can see the cooperation between us. We are making substantial progress on the new START treaty; that’s the word from our negotiators in Geneva. And the results from the latest negotiating rounds lead us to believe we will be reaching a final agreement soon.
We discussed at length Iran’s nuclear program, which remains an issue of grave concern for the international community. We are still committed, as we have been, to a diplomatic solution, but there must be a solution. Iran is not living up to its international obligations and, therefore, we’re working together with our other partners in the P-5+1 to bring together a very clear international consensus in the Security Council that gives Iran the message it needs to hear that its behavior does have consequences and that its pursuit of nuclear weapons poses a direct threat both to regional and global security.
I thanked Sergey for the cooperation between the United States and Russia with respect to Afghanistan. The transit agreement that our two presidents announced has resulted in troops and material now moving across Russia in support of coalition operations in Afghanistan. As of this week, 111 flights have ferried more than 15,000 soldiers. And we have also increased our cooperation and launched a joint exercise to share financial intelligence related to the flow of narcotics into Russia, an issue that is very important to the Russian people, and that we have pledged to work with the Russian Government to address.
We are also looking for ways to increase our cooperation on disaster response. The devastating earthquake in Haiti was a clear indication of why we need to be working more closely together. Russian emergency relief teams were among the very first on the ground in Haiti after that disaster. This is a particular concern of Minister Lavrov’s, and I believe it’s another area where we should deepen and broaden our working together.
The Bilateral Commission that our two presidents established is working well, and we’re pleased by the results of the efforts of the working groups. This goes far beyond traditional foreign issues. We are exploring new opportunities for collaboration in the fields of energy efficiency and nanotechnology. A United States delegation made up of executives from the information technology companies recently visited Russia to explore joint private sector-led initiatives in education, e-government, and other fields. We’re increasing partnerships between Russian and American universities. And there are growing interactions between American and Russian people, including an upcoming sports exchange for young people using basketball as the means of communications.
Now, there are differences in our relationship. We know that. We’ve raised them and we have had very frank conversations about them. But they are raised within the context of an overall approach that looks for ways to narrow the areas of difference and disagreement, that looks to enhance the cooperation and partnership between our two countries that we are building.
So let me conclude by saying that we have made real strides in the relationship over the past year, but we still have a lot to do. And many of the challenges facing the world today can only be addressed through greater cooperation between Russia and the United States. That’s the commitment of our two presidents. That’s the commitment that Sergey and I have made over and over again. And we look forward to continuing to work together in the months ahead.
MODERATOR: (In Russian.)
QUESTION: (In Russian.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have a saying in the United States – “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” And that means that we are beginning our discussions about where and when our two presidents will sign the START agreement. But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. First, our negotiators have to sign on the dotted line, so to speak, that they have completed the negotiations. And we’re looking forward to getting that word soon and then we will move on to setting a time and a place for this very important event.
MODERATOR: (In Russian.)
QUESTION: Good evening. Bob Burns from Associated Press. Madam Secretary, the first part of my question is premised on an assumption that you have not spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu today. Would that be correct?
SECRETARY CLINTON: And what’s the second part of your question? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It depends on what your answer is.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are engaged in ongoing conversations between our two governments. And when there is something to announce, Bob, you’ll be the first to hear.
QUESTION: I was going to follow up by saying that it’s now been about a week, nearly a week since you spoke to him and expressed your unhappiness with what happened when Vice President Biden was there. And you’re now here to speak to your Quartet colleagues this evening and tomorrow, and I’m wondering if you could tell us what you are able to tell your partners about what Israel needs to do and what the U.S. next steps will be, including George Mitchell’s plans. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, certainly, we intend to have a very broad-ranging discussion with our Quartet partners. Our goals remain the same. It is to re-launch negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians on a path that will lead to a two-state solution. Nothing has happened that in any way affects our commitment to pursuing that. Senator Mitchell arrived here in Moscow just a few hours ago to join the Quartet meeting. And as we have seen not only over this past year, but over years past, there are some challenges along the way. We meet them as they come.
And we continue to move forward because we believe it is in the best interests of both the Palestinian and the Israeli people for the Palestinians to have a state of their own that fulfills their aspirations, and for the Israelis to have the security that they deserve to have within their own state. It is also within the regional and global best interests to pursue this, and that’s what we intend to do.
MODERATOR: (In Russian.)
QUESTION: (In Russian.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are very committed to working with Russia, other countries, and international organizations like the United Nations to stop the flow of illicit drugs from Afghanistan, along with the criminal activity that accompanies it, particularly the narco-traffickers and the drug cartels. We have made that commitment of cooperation to Russia and we intend to work closely with them. And as Sergey said, we have some new mechanisms that we are developing and new ways of cooperating between our two countries that we hope will even add to our efforts and limit the amount of illicit drugs that gets out of Afghanistan and gets into any country, including Russia.
MODERATOR: (In Russian.)
QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, just to make sure I understood correctly, so you have spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu?
SECRETARY CLINTON: When I have something to report, I will report it to you too, Mary Beth.
QUESTION: Okay. On Iran, Minister Lavrov, clearly, Russia has a certain amount of influence with the Chinese. And I’m wondering what message you’re giving the Chinese about how urgent it is to have a new round of sanctions on Iran. And a second question: What type of sanctions do you think are appropriate? Would you consider economic sanctions, for example, on, you know, insurance and banking and so on?
And Secretary Clinton, in a related question, the Russians announced today that they will start up the Bushehr – their nuclear reactor, Bushehr, this summer. Are you concerned about the signal that sends? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: With respect to your question to me, that is something that we will be discussing not only with Russia, but with our other partners. But we have consistently said that Iran is entitled to civil nuclear power. It is a nuclear weapons program that it is not entitled to. And if it reassures the world, or if its behavior is changed because of international sanctions, then they can pursue peaceful, civil nuclear power. In the absence of those reassurances, we think it would be premature to go forward with any project at this time, because we want to send an unequivocal message to the Iranians.
MODERATOR: (In Russian.)