Flowers and challenges for Condoleezza Rice in Moscow

Official news messages about Condoleezza Rice’s short visit to Moscow on Saturday were rather uninformative. They simply enumerated the questions discussed with Russian officials. Even the schedule of Ms. Rice’s visit was kept secret. It was reported that the US Secretary of State met Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Ms. Rice reportedly had a meeting with Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov too. The minister told the US Secretary of State that the scansions imposed against North Korea after the nuclear test should be withdrawn immediately, as soon as Pyongyang resumes peace talks on the matter, the Vremya Novostei newspaper wrote. The US administration does not trust the North Korean leadership and does not intend to hurry to lift the sanctions.

Condoleezza Rice told Putin of her last week’s Asian tour (Seoul-Tokyo-Beijing). Afterwards, Putin and Rice exchanged opinions pertaining to North Korea and general issues of nuclear non-proliferation. US officials believe that N.Korea’s readiness to resume the talks is a positive sign, of course. However, they continue to insist that Pyongyang must fully execute Resolution 1718 of the UN Security Council which stipulates the absolute renunciation of the nuclear research.

Russia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, gave his US counterpart Condoleezza Rice a bouquet of flowers. The two officials appeared near one of Italian restaurants in Moscow, where they came for dinner and conversation.

A spokesman for Russia’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs said that the two officials discussed the current state of affairs with the nuclear program of North Korea and emphasized certain aspects to execute the above-mentioned resolution of the UN Security Council. Rice and Lavrov also talked about Iran’s nuclear program, the regulation of the Mideastern conflict, the situation in Iraq and in Russia’s Caucasus , especially in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Russia and the USA have different approaches to all of these problems.

Sergei Lavrov said prior to the meeting with Condoleezza Rice that it was rather inappropriate to describe North Korea as a nuclear state. The minister also stated the USA and North Korea should settle all financial problems to resume the six-sided negotiations. When in Beijing, Condoleezza Rice said that the US administration had no intention to release the arrested N.Korean accounts in Delta Asia Bank in Southern China, suspected of illegal transactions. North Korea refused to participate in the talks in the autumn of 2005 when the USA arrested those accounts.

Condoleezza Rice also insisted on the introduction of sanctions against Iran. Russian Minister Lavrov said, though, that there was no evidence to prove Iran’s intention to develop a military nuclear program. “We can only discuss measures of influence as long as we prepare for the talks. We cannot support any attempts to use the UN Security Council for punishing Iran,” Sergei Lavrov said.

Brushing all these discrepancies aside, Russia and the USA have the same goal: not to let “problematic countries” develop their own A-bomb. Russian officials were mostly concerned about Rice’s critical remarks about non-governmental organizations and supposed violations of freedom of speech in Russia. When flying to Moscow, the US Secretary of State told reporters that printed mass media were the only independent mass media left in Russia. When Ms. Rice arrived in Russia, she started her visit with a meeting with Ilya Politkovsky, a relative of US-born journalist Anna Politkovskaya, killed in Moscow on October 7.

Vremya Novostei

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov