Thursday, July 21, 2011

Russia – US: systemic relations: Voice of Russia

Russia – US: systemic relations

Jul 16, 2011 13:49 Moscow Time
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Sergei Lavrov and Barack Obama. Photo: RIA Novosti
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has paid an official visit to the United States this past week. In three days, he met US President Barack Obama, held talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, signed a bilateral agreement on child adoptions, and chatted with US politicians and Russian Americans. At the start of his visit, he granted an extensive interview to the Voice of Russia at this station’s recently opened studio in Washington. In the interview, he formulated Russia’s foreign policy priorities, from Russia’s stance on the Libyan crisis to cooperation between the Arctic countries.

The signing of a bilateral agreement on adoptions, a rapprochement between the two countries’ positions on easing the visa regime and an agreement to continue the dialogue on building an ABM system for Europe are the main practical results of Sergei Lavrov’s visit to the US capital. The agreement on child adoptions was drafted and signed in just one year, as against the four years that it took Moscow and Rome to sing a similar agreement. Drafting the Russian-US agreement on adoptions was prompted by another scandal involving a US couple waiving their rights of adoption of a Russian boy. This wore Russia’s patience thin, and Moscow insisted on an ad hoc agreement to be signed between the two countries. That was also the reason why Sergei Lavrov pointed out a special importance of the agreement during the signing ceremony at the US State Department.

"The agreement signed, Sergei Lavrov says, provides reliable guarantees that foster parents are psychologically and mentally stable, that they have been checked by relevant US Government-authorized agencies, and that the foster parents ensure Russian diplomats’ access, whenever necessary, to the children that they have adopted."

According to the Russian Foreign Minister, Russia will bend every effort to see to it that the agreement will come into force at an early date.

When meeting the US President, Sergei Lavrov focused on the situation in South Sudan, Iran’s nuclear programme, and the role of the international community in preventing violence in Syria and Yemen. Barack Obama voiced support for Russia’s mediation efforts in a political settlement of the Libya crisis despite the fact that Washington and Moscow differ on a number of points in Libya. The two countries specifically differ on the way the UN Security Council resolution 1973 on imposing the no-fly zone over Libya is being implemented. Moscow feels that NATO overstepped the mandate when it began to deliver strikes at ground-based targets, said Sergei Lavrov in his interview with the Voice of Russia.

"Russia would like to specify the limits of the use of force, Sergei Lavrov says. Unfortunately, our partners in the talks rejected the Russian proposals for this item of the resolution, and submitted the original draft to voting. Russia did support the objectives of the resolution, but not the means currently being used to attain them. We chose not to use the right of veto, along with China, Germany, India and Brazil. Lamentably, our apprehensions proved well-grounded, for the UN resolution is pushed far beyond its intended scope of action, - the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, that is."

Barack Obama and Sergei Lavrov clearly took up the hottest issue of Russian-American relations, - cooperation in the field of antimissile defences in Europe. So far, there’s been little progress to that end, Lavrov says, and elaborates.

But however important, the ABM issue cannot be seen as the one that determines Russia-US relations after the “reset”. Now we are enjoying a far better developed cooperation with the United States that’s based on good personal relations between the two Presidents, the Russian Foreign Minister said. To make his point, Sergei Lavrov cited as an example the performance of the presidential commission that coordinates 20 working groups in all areas of cooperation. All of these have obtained important results. It was partly thanks to the “reset” that the START-3 treaty was signed at long last.

But the hopes to sign an agreement on an easier visa regime between the two countries were dashed. Some technicalities were still to be agreed, said Sergei Lavrov, but offered assurances that the agreement would take effect before the end of this year. Nor was he able to agree the date of President’s Obama’s visit to Moscow over the differences on the ABM system that the US is currently deploying in Europe. A visit by the US President to Moscow would make sense if the two countries’ leaders could for example sign a joint declaration on ABM.

But the effort to reach a compromise continues to be made, and a major change in the two countries’ relations so far is that these relations have become structured and systemic in character, Sergei Lavrov said in conclusion.

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