Clinton in Russia, on Iran, Israel and nuclear arms limitation

19.03.10

Clinton in Russia, on Iran, Israel and nuclear arms limitation

Источник: Sofia Echo Media

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton is in Russia for talks on a wide range of international issues, including how to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

On March 18 2010, she urged Russia to delay starting up the nuclear plant that it built for Iran at the port city of Bushehr, the Voice of America said.

Russia says the nuclear reactor it is building for Iran will be ready to start operations by the middle of this year.

Moscow has been helping Iran build the Bushehr facility since 1995, but work has been delayed several times.

Reporters asked Clinton about the Bushehr facility during an appearance with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

«(But) we have consistently said that Iran is entitled to civil nuclear power. It is a nuclear weapons programme that it is not entitled to," Clinton said.

«And if it reassures the world, or if its behaviour has 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," she said.

The US and other Western powers say that Iran is pursuing nuclear technology in order to produce nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear operations are for peaceful purposes.

Lavrov insisted the Bushehr facility eventually will open.

«The project will be finished. All of the technical issues related to Bushehr are reaching their final stages and this plant will open and produce electricity," Lavrov said.

Russia has denied previous delays at Bushehr were related to ongoing concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme.

Moscow says the plant will come under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and that Iran must return all used fuel rods to Moscow.

Earlier this month, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev said his country is ready to consider new sanctions against Iran, if Tehran refuses to stop enriching uranium.

On another matter, both Clinton and Lavrov indicated negotiators are close to finalising a new treaty to cut the nuclear arsenals of the their two countries, amid signs that the Obama administration policy of resetting bilateral relations with Russia is gaining traction.

Lavrov praised US and Russian arms negotiators in Geneva, saying that they had reached the culminating stage of the final stretch toward a new bilateral nuclear arms agreement.

While neither official provided details about remaining differences, both agreed about the example they set for the world as nuclear powers.

«And it especially is important for the United States and Russia who bear the responsibility to continue the way forward on non-proliferation, and to work as partners in the global effort to secure fissile materials and counter the threat of nuclear terrorism," Clinton said.

Clinton said progress in Geneva leads both sides to believe agreement will be reached soon.

But when asked about a recent Ukrainian proposal to have the treaty signed in Kyiv, she indicated that it was too soon to talk about success.

Clinton thanked Lavrov for Russian cooperation with respect to Afghanistan, noting that a transit agreement between the presidents of both countries has resulted in 111 flights as of this week that have ferried more than 15 000 soldiers over Russian territory to Afghanistan.

Ways to control illegal drugs coming out of Afghanistan were also discussed. Clinton said commissions set up by presidents Obama and Medvedev are exploring energy efficiency, nanotechnology and bilateral cooperation is expanding in the fields of information technology, education, e-government, people to people exchanges and other fields.

Clinton was scheduled to meet Medvedev on March 19. She will also join Lavrov in talks with the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers. In addition to Russia and the U.S., the group includes the European Union and the United Nations.

The situation in the Middle East was the focus of discussions between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Medvedev in Moscow on March 18, a day ahead of the Quarttet meeting, the UN News Service said.

The gathering of the Quartet comes amid rising tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Ban and Medvedev also discussed nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; climate change; peacekeeping operations; and co-operation between Russia and the UN.

Ban signed a joint declaration with the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to enhance co-operation between the two groups.

Ban «said that he saw potential for enhanced cooperation with the CSTO in a number of areas of common interest, including counter-terrorism, drug trafficking and conflict prevention," his spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.

After meeting Lavrov, in talks covering Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and Somalia, among other topics, Ban emphasised the need for direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

«Proximity talks are not an end in themselves», Ban said conference. «They should lead eventually to direct negotiations. There is no alternative to direct negotiations through dialogue.»

The Quartet meeting, Ban said in an address at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, «comes at a critical moment,» given «worrying developments» such as Israel’s announcement to build housing units in East Jerusalem.

«We need to see an end to provocations from any quarter,» Ban said. «Meaningful dialogue must begin on all the core issues of this conflict — including Jerusalem.»

Ban reiterated his call for a two-State solution to the problem, calling it «the only route to peace and security for both peoples.»

Also in his speech, he underlined the need for Russian leadership in world affairs, including nuclear proliferation and rising poverty.

«Together, we can, and must, build a stronger UN for a better world," Ban said. «On this, I know we have Russia’s support.»

From the Russian capital, Ban was scheduled to travel to Israel and hopes to see the situation on the ground in Gaza more than a year after the end of Operation Cast Lead, the three-week Israeli military offensive against rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.

Ban condemned the March 18 rocket attack from Gaza which killed a civilian in Israel, and emphasised that all acts of violence are «totally unacceptable.»

The rocket reportedly struck the Netiv Ha’assera kibbutz in southern Israel, killing a foreign agricultural worker.

«All such acts of terror and violence against civilians are totally unacceptable and contrary to international law," Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.

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