The U.S. and Russian foreign policy chiefs say negotiators for both countries are nearing agreement on a strategic arms reduction treaty amid signs that the Obama administration policy of resetting bilateral relations with Russia is gaining traction. The progress report came after talks in Moscow between visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Speaking with Secretary Clinton at a Moscow news conference, Foreign Minister Lavrov praised U.S. and Russian arms negotiators in Geneva, saying they have reached the culminating stage of the final stretch toward a new bilateral nuclear arms agreement.
While neither official provided details about remaining differences, both agreed about the example they set for the world as nuclear powers.
"And it especially is important for the United States and Russia who bear the responsibility to continue the way forward on non-proliferation, and to work as partners in the global effort to secure fissile materials and counter the threat of nuclear terrorism," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton said progress in Geneva leads both sides to believe agreement will be reached soon. But when asked about a recent Ukrainian proposal to have the treaty signed in Kyiv, she recalled an American saying about counting one's chickens before they hatch, in other words, it is too soon to talk about success.
Turning to Iran's nuclear program, Sergei Lavrov said Russia and the United States share a common strategic goal.
That goal, says Lavrov, is not to permit any violation of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, to eliminate concerns about Iran's nuclear activity, and to ensure that country's full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Secretary Clinton noted that Iran is entitled to a civilian nuclear power program and may pursue it if Tehran assures the world it is peaceful, or if that country's behavior is changed due to international sanctions. But in the absence of such reassurance, she said it would be premature to bring Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor online. In a note of disagreement, Lavrov recalled that Russia helped build Bushehr. He said the plant is in the final stages of a technical review, it meets all IAEA requirements, and will begin to provide electric power.
Secretary Clinton thanked Lavrov for Russian cooperation with respect to Afghanistan, noting that a transit agreement between the presidents of both countries has resulted in 111 flights as of this week that have ferried more than 15,000 soldiers over Russian territory to Afghanistan.
Ways to control illegal drugs coming out of Afghanistan were also discussed. Clinton said commissions set up by Presidents Obama and Medvedev are exploring energy efficiency, nanotechnology and bilateral cooperation is expanding in the fields of information technology, education, e-government, people to people exchanges and other fields.
Secretary Clinton meets with President Medvedev Friday. She will also join Minister Lavrov in talks with the so-called Quartet of Middle East peacemakers. In addition to Russia and the U.S., the group includes the European Union and the United Nations.