Al-Watan Al-Arabi Interview with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov (Excerpts)

February 21, 2007

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran

[Unofficial translation from Russian.]

. . .

Question: It is believed that the adoption of the resolution 1737 of the UN Security Council on the imposition of sanctions against Iran is the beginning of military preparations for an armed confrontation with Teheran. Is Russia putting forward a new initiative designed to persuade Iran to cease its nuclear program and uranium enrichment in order to avoid confrontation?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We presume that the nuclear problem of Iran has to be tackled solely by politico-diplomatic methods. This is our principled stand. That was the exact purpose of the trip on January 27-29 of Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Igor Ivanov to Teheran.

We hold that, complicated as the situation is, it is not hopeless. In this context a pause is needed in Iran's nuclear enrichment work in return for the freezing of the application of UN Security Council resolution 1737 (this is one of the resolution's demands). IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei pointed out the need for these measures as he spoke on the fringes of the economic forum in Davos. That step would make it possible not only to suspend implementation of the resolution, but also to begin full-scale talks by the Six with Teheran to work out a package solution of the problem with regard for the interests of Iran.

Our chief objective is to ensure the immutability of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, that all the existing questions about the Iranian nuclear program are settled on a professional basis with participation by the IAEA, and that Iran can equally with all other countries participate in peaceful nuclear energy development in accordance with the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and with the IAEA rules.

We feel that, adopted on December 23, 2006, UN Security Council resolution 1737 on the Iranian nuclear program has found an optimal variant of actions directed toward persuading Iran to comply with the Security Council and IAEA demands and getting the Iranians to start talks. We are doing everything for the talks to begin as soon as possible that will open the way for movement towards such a settlement.

Question: There is no doubt that the Gulf states experience concerns over the development of the Iranian nuclear program, as well as fears on account of the possible consequences of a new American war. In what way could Moscow reassure the Gulf states, especially in the light of its allied relations with Teheran?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: I would like to stress that the Russian side has for a long time now on a permanent basis been conducting work within the UN, IAEA and other international organizations and at different levels with the representatives of the United States and other world powers and with the representatives of Iran and practically all the Gulf states on the Iranian nuclear program. The efforts being made are directed towards the search of a politico-diplomatic solution to this problem.

Under the present conditions, there can be no reasonable alternative to the proposed path of a negotiated solution of the problem. Russia is against the use of any force-based methods. The correctness of this approach is borne out by our numerous contacts on this problem in the last few months, including those with the representatives of the political leaderships of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, who quite definitely spoke in favor of finding peaceful ways to solve the existing problems connected with the Iranian nuclear program.

Based on the experience in dealing with this kind of crisis situations, it has to be noted that work in this sector must be conducted collectively, correctly assessing the steps and initiatives being undertaken. Iran is a full-fledged, sovereign Gulf state and not only great powers, but also, of course, the Gulf states should be engaged in dialogue with it. We also presume that Teheran, like the Arab Gulf countries, is interested in peace, security and stability in the Gulf zone.

I shall repeat it, we have no allied relations with a single state of the region, including Iran. At the same time we are ready to facilitate creating here and in the Middle East as a whole a system of collective security with possible guarantees from extraregional powers. But the primary responsibility for this rests with the countries of the region.

Question: The US decision to impose sanctions against the Russian companies accused of arms supplies to Iran and Syria appears to be a kind of "signal" to Russia with the aim of making it give up the arms contracts, especially the supply to Iran and Syria of up to date missile equipment. Will Russia continue implementing the deals? How does Russia intend to react to such a "warning" on the part of the United States?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We are reacting calmly. This is not the first case of unjustified attempts by the United States to extend its domestic legislation to foreign companies and force them to operate according to the American rules. We regard that decision as an internal problem of the US authorities and treat it with regret. As a result of its politicized actions the American state denies itself and US companies cooperation with our advanced enterprises. In business parlance this is called "lost opportunities." It is for the United States to choose with whom it wants or does not want to cooperate. Whereas Russian companies will always act proceeding from Russian interests and within the Russian laws and the international obligations of our country, and so - fully in accordance with the requirements currently in effect in Russia with respect to export control. On this basis Russia will continue to fulfill the agreements on the supply of military equipment to other states, including Syria and Iran.

. . .

Question: One of the reasons for the crisis in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories is the increasing confrontation between the United States and Iran. What is the position of Moscow with regard to this confrontation?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Confrontation between the US and Iran has a long-standing history. As is known, after the seizure by a group of Iranian students of the US embassy in Teheran in 1979 diplomatic relations were broken off between the two countries.

Individual attempts have since been made at the unofficial level to forge a dialogue, but each time they suffered fiasco. Recently the political struggle has intensified, particularly in connection with the position of Teheran on pushing ahead with its nuclear program and with the insufficiently transparent approaches of the Iranian side to cooperation with the IAEA. The stumbling block is the differences on Middle East settlement and on the Iraq and Lebanon problems.

Russia was always supportive of the forging of a direct dialogue between Washington and Teheran. We also support this idea now, when it is being put forward by the representatives of influential political circles in the US. It is up to the Iranian and American leaderships to decide, of course. We are convinced that the establishment of American-Iranian contacts and restoration of bilateral relations would meet the interests of both sides and help mitigate, and subsequently, perhaps, also defuse the situation in the region and in a number of international sectors, primarily, in the sphere of nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

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