Senior U.S. and Russian officials say the two powers will continue
cooperation on ending the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs
despite their bitter disagreement over Russian intervention in Georgia.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov met in New York Wednesday for their first face-to-face meeting
since the Georgia crisis last month. VOA's David Gollust reports from
our U.N. bureau.
Neither side appears to be giving ground on
Russia's invasion of Georgia and recognition of two breakaway Georgian
regions, which the United States calls a grave mistake.
officials describe the Rice-Lavrov meeting at New York's
Waldorf-Astoria hotel as polite and businesslike and say they agreed to
continue working together in multilateral efforts to curb the Iranian
and North Korean nuclear programs.
A decision earlier this week
initiated by Moscow to cancel a New York meeting on Iran by the five
permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, the P5+1,
gave rise to speculation the Georgia dispute has had broad spillover
effects on U.S.-Russian relations.
However, briefing reporters
after the meeting between Rice and her Russian counterpart, Assistant
Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried said the
discussion on Iran was constructive, and that they will continue a
two-track strategy of offering Tehran incentives to stop enriching
uranium, and imposing escalating sanctions if it refuses.
discussed the way ahead and the two-track approach, but also the need
to send Iran a very clear signal that the P5+1 process is intact and
that the P5+1 stand by all of their work to date. And I think under the
circumstances that would be an important signal, and that's what they
Fried said the United States, Russia
and the other members of the group will continue discussions on Iran at
the political-director level, with the aim of holding a ministerial
meeting on a new U.N. sanctions resolutions at some future date.
said Moscow also committed to making a similar signal of its continuing
commitment to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program in
light of the Rice-Lavrov meeting.
Mr. Lavrov himself, in an
appearance at New York's Council of Foreign Relations gave a similar
assessment of the meeting, saying while the sides differ on Georgia
they agree on the need to be pragmatic and work cooperatively on
issues of common concern including Iran and North Korea.
want to resolve peacefully both situations. We want to de-nuclearize
the Korean peninsula, and we want to establish that the Iranian nuclear
program is entirely peaceful, through the offices of the IAEA. These
goals are unchanged, and it would be just irresponsible if because of
some disagreements on the Caucasus, our countries should drop these
over-riding goals," he said.
At the same time, Lavrov decried
what he called the very emotional reaction by western countries and
especially the United States to what he described as Russian action to
stop Georgian aggression against South Ossetia.
foreign minister said the intervention was firmly rooted in the right
of self-defense as enshrined in the U.N. Charter.
Assistant Secretary Fried called the invasion and ensuing recognition
of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by Russia an attempt to change Georgia's
borders by force and a grave mistake on the part of Moscow.
Fried, who took part in the Rice-Lavrov meeting, said they discussed Georgia in a completely professional manner.
said he came away from the meeting with a somewhat higher degree of
confidence that Russia will adhere to its commitment under a
French-brokered cease-fire deal and remove checkpoints in Georgia
beyond the confines of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
But he said
he fears Russia will not abide by its truce obligation to reduce troop
levels in the two disputed regions to those that prevailed before the
crisis began August 7. Fried said Russia has publicly declared it will
keep much larger forces in the areas, and that this would
institutionalize a cease-fire violation.