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Kerry Tells VOA He Hopes for No Russian Tension Spillover


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told VOA that the United States is prepared to impose additional sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

In an exclusive interview with VOA's Persian service, Kerry said Russia's actions run the risk of destabilizing Ukraine.

“I don’t think it’s in anybody’s interests to have this,” he said. “First of all, it’s in nobody’s interests to have Ukraine made more dangerous by Russia moving troops or becoming more provocative."

"Secondly, it’s in nobody’s interests to have this grow rather than de-escalate. Thirdly, it’s in nobody’s interests to have other serious issues become the victim even further like Syria, Iran, Afghanistan where we’ve been able to cooperate,” he said.

Kerry's comments came Thursday, the same day that U.S. President Barack Obama expanded economic sanctions against Moscow, targeting 20 Russian lawmakers and senior officials, as well a bank that provides them support.

Kerry said the U.S. will not allow the actions of one country to destroy what he called the "post-World War II order" and "international structure," adding that it is up to Russian President Vladimir Putin to decide how to proceed.

The complete VOA interview with Secretary of State John Kerry:

"We are prepared to respond very, very strongly with additional, serious, sector sanctions if they continue to engage in illegal and provocative activities," Kerry said.

Kerry said he does not believe that tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine will impact their work on other international issues such as Iran's nuclear program.

"I think that the talks are much too important to the world, to the future of Iranians, to the future of our relationship," he said.

"I think Russia has a profound interest in seeing it resolved - the questions about the program - that’s why Russia is part of the P5+1 effort where everyone is in unity and agreement that Iran needs to show, like other countries do, what its program is all about, and Russia’s very committed to that I think," he said.

Western nations accuse Iran of using its uranium enrichment program to make nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Kerry said he is hopeful that the issues involving Iran, the United States and the international community can be resolved without confrontation.

"We would like nothing more than to see the issues that are blocking our ability to move forward dealt with - it would be wonderful for everybody - and the challenge is for leaders to try and find a way forward," he said.

"President Obama is committed to diplomacy and to dialogue as a first step, but you know it’s really up to the regime," Kerry.said.

Kerry said an agreement is achievable, and that Iran has a right to a peaceful nuclear program, but that it must meet the international standards of accountability, transparency and restraint that exist in other programs in the world.

"Iran knows that our absolute bottom line is there will not be, cannot be a nuclear weapon," he said. "That’s our bottom line. And if it’s a peaceful program, then it ought to be very easy to show everybody it’s a peaceful program; it’s not hard to do that if you're serious."

In a holiday message commemorating the Persian New Year, President Obama said reaching a final agreement to the nuclear issue will be difficult, but that he is committed to finding a practical solution.

On Wednesday, negotiators for Iran and the six world powers adjourned what they called "substantive and useful" talks on Iran's nuclear program. The talks will resume next month in Vienna.
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