Financial Times Interview with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov (Excerpts)

March 25, 2009

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran

. . .

Question: If we can ask about Iran...

Foreign Minister Lavrov: The last one.

Question: It's very high on the international agenda. The Americans look like they want to make a new effort to try and reach agreement on Iran's nuclear programme. What do you think should now be done that might ease the situation, lead to a settlement, and avoid possible violent actions which have been discussed?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Well, I certainly believe that there is no violent solution to this problem. I certainly believe that it was a very welcome step by President Obama when he addressed his message to the Iranian leaders and the Iranian people. It was a very respectful message. It was a very forthcoming message. And it said one very important thing among others, namely that the United States was ready to discuss a very broad agenda with Iran.

We have been suggesting to the Bush administration for several years that an approach of full involvement in negotiations with Iran would certainly make a difference, and we were trying to persuade the United States to join fully the negotiations proposed to Iran by three plus three, or five plus one, whatever you call it; UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States. And if the new administration in Washington can agree to join fully this proposed process, I think it would be a very important quality change. I certainly hope that parallel with this full participation in the process the United States would also promote bilateral dialogue with Iran.

But the main thing is that these proposals which three plus three moved forward some time ago, and also together with the proposed prestigious building conditions for negotiations, when we did this, we were fighting very, very hard to make sure that it's not just about nuclear programme, but it also contains these positive incentives, including economy, high tech, Iran joining WTO, removing all barriers to Iran's full integration in economic system. But also, ensuring that Iran would have dignified, equal place at the table when regional issues are discussed.

We managed only to agree in very a generic way to say that Iran would be invited to original dialogue. But I think when we speak about a political solution, when we speak about a comprehensive solution, we should also think of very important role which Iran, together with other countries in the region, can play to help resolve the problems of Afghanistan, the problems of Iraq; basically, almost any aspect of the Middle East agenda. And I think to engage, not to isolate Iran, would be very important.

And on the nuclear programme itself, our overriding concern is to make sure that IAEA can continue to work professionally, can continue to monitor what Iran has produced and has been doing, and IAEA doesn't have any difficulty with this. And we also believe Iran must fully cooperate with the additional requests of the Agency. We'll encourage Iran once again to implement the additional protocol. We will encourage Iran to engage in dialogue with the Agency on what is called the Alleged Studies. And when we've engaged in negotiations, and when we are satisfied with the Agency assessment that Iranian nuclear programme is entirely peaceful in nature, that's our overriding goal.

Then as the three plus three agreed, our position would be that Iran should have absolutely the same rights as any other non-nuclear member of NPT. So I believe it's a fair deal, and with the Americans hopefully fully engaged in the process, we can move the conditions building for negotiations.

Question: And this is now achievable?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Well, I wouldn't be overly optimistic, because we inherited quite an agenda with mutual grievances and suspicions, but I believe an honest dialogue, openness to discuss all issues, is a very important quality change.

Question: Do you see any changes in Russia's approach to Iran?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Well, we have... all I described to you is exactly the Russian approach; as far as I understand the approach of many hands who participate in these negotiations. And we want a settlement as soon as possible, and we want a settlement to be satisfactory to everyone. Iran is our historic neighbour, historic partner. We have been cooperating bilaterally and on issues which are of crucial importance for stability in Central Asia and the Middle East, one example being very close cooperation between Moscow and Tehran, and certainly the internal conflict in Tajikistan in the middle of the 1990s. So I believe that we all should concentrate on the diplomatic efforts, and all should engage fully. Then we have much better chances than we used to have in the past.

Question: Thank you very much.

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Thank you.

. . .