Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, Comments on Iran Nuclear Talks and Missile Defense (Excerpts)

May 7, 2009

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile

Related Country: 

  • Iran

. . .

Question: David Kramer from the German Marshall Fund. Mr. Minister, I'd like to ask you about Iran, and specifically, is it your understanding that the Obama administration will still go ahead with development of missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic absent a change in Iran's position and absent a removal of the Iranian threat? And also what is the latest on the transfer of S-300s from Russia to Iran? The Iranian deputy foreign minister in April said that that deal was still on track. Thank you.

Foreign Minister Lavrov: May I clarify your question? Is it about Iran or missile defense?

Question: It's about both because they are related.

Foreign Minister Lavrov: They are two different questions.

Question: President Obama has said that missile defense is dependent on development of Iranian threat or the removal of it.

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Well, I can only speak for the Russian Federation, not for the United States. And we have been presenting geometrical ballistic and all sorts of other data to our American colleagues when the idea to have missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic first appeared, explaining to them that this would have nothing to do with an Iranian potential threat but would have very immediate effect on the Russian strategic arsenals in the European part of the Russian Federation. So for us to take the position that 'lets resolve the Iranian nuclear issue and the missile defense in Europe would not take place' - I mean, it's a misnomer. We know that these missile defense bases are directly related to the Russian security. As for the Iranian nuclear issue, we continue to address it on its merits in the context of the group called 'five plus one' or 'three plus three', which recently developed further its own proposals to Iran which were delivered to Iran by Javier Solana's people and which Iran said it would consider. And if accepted, we would be really getting close at starting negotiations with Iran.

We don't have any confirmation of the Iranian nuclear program having a military dimension, but we want to be 100 percent sure that this is indeed the case, that this program is entirely peaceful, and that's why we strongly support IAEA continued effort in Iran and we strongly urge Iran together with other countries to cooperate fully with the IAEA and to take extra steps so that all of the issues which the IAEA wants to clarify are clarified as soon as possible.

As for the potential missile risks from the southern direction, as it were, President Putin in 2007, meeting with President Bush at Kennebunkport, as I referred to in my introductory remarks, proposed a collective project which would begin with a collective analysis of threats, collective meaning Russia, U.S., and the Europeans working together, and which could be using the existing radar facilities in Russia and in Azerbaijan, as it were, to monitor the situation in that region. Then whenever there are some dangerous developments, it would always be possible to take collective measures not to allow these developments to materialize.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we developed this proposal further in greater detail with some technical things added and transmitted this to our American colleagues for consideration, and I hope they will consider it in a constructive way. At least we discussed this today with Secretary Clinton, and she confirmed that the strategic review of the missile defense project continues, and that in the context of this review, the proposal submitted by Russia would be taken into account. So as soon as this review is over, we would be ready to resume our dialogue with the United States on this one.

As for S-300, yes, we touched upon this again in our discussions today. Whatever we sell to Iran or to any other country is not covered by any prohibitions, internationally or nationally, in the Russian Federation, and we have one of the strictest export control legislations. And whatever we sell to Iran, in particular, is only of defensive nature.

In spite of this, we always listen to concerns expressed to us regarding one or another aspect of power - military and technical cooperation - with one or another country. But as I said, and I want to emphasize it, whatever we do in the area of military technical cooperation with Iran is absolutely legal and, which is also very important, the weapons we sell to Iran have never been used against any one country.