Remarks With Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov After their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
July 13, 2011

PARTICIPANT: The Secretary and the foreign minister are today signing an agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation regarding cooperation in adoption of children.

(The document was signed.) (Applause.)

The Secretary and foreign minister are now signing the protocol to extend and amend the Agreement on Cooperation and Research on Radiation Effects for the Purpose of Minimizing the Consequences of Radioactive Contamination on Health and the Environment of January 14, 1994.

(The document was signed.) (Applause.)

The Secretary and foreign minister are now exchanging diplomatic notes to bring the Agreement Concerning the Management and Disposition of Plutonium Designated as No Longer Required for Defense Purposes and Related Cooperation along with its 2006 and 2010 protocols into force.

(The document was signed.) (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much. And again, it’s a pleasure for me to welcome the foreign minister back to Washington, and we’ve had a very constructive day of conversations. Before I begin on what we have discussed, I want to say a few words about today’s bombings in Mumbai, India. We condemn these despicable acts of violence designed to provoke fear and division. Those who perpetrated them must know they cannot succeed. The Indian people have suffered from acts of terrorism before, and we have seen them respond with courage and resilience. We are continuing to monitor the situation, including the safety and security of American citizens. Our hearts are with the victims and their families, and we have reached out to the Indian Government to express our condolence and offer support.

I will be traveling to India next week as planned. I believe it is more important than ever that we stand with India, deepen our partnership, and reaffirm our commitment to the shared struggle against terrorism. Neither of our countries – the Russian Federation or the United States – unfortunately are strangers to terrorism. And it has been a mutual goal of both of our presidents to increase our cooperation in order to prevent terrorists from wreaking their violence on innocent Russians, Americans, and others, and to bring those who do so to justice.

I also would like to convey condolences on behalf of the American people, to those who suffered from the tragic sinking of the boat on the Volga River. I am particularly, as a mother, extending my thoughts and prayers to all those mothers and fathers who are suffering the terrible loss of children.

Let me begin by saying that the past two and a half years has been a time of great strides in the relationship between our countries. We have signed a historic arms control treaty and opened a vital new land and air supply route to Afghanistan. We are cooperating on addressing Iran’s nuclear threat, working to coordinate our diplomatic approach to Libya, consulting closely on the changes unfolding in the Middle East. Across the world, we are not only working bilaterally but multilaterally on so many important issues, from counterterrorism to nonproliferation.

Our challenge now is to continue and maintain the momentum in order to deliver more results for both of our people. To that end, Minister Lavrov and I discussed missile defense cooperation. I believe we do have an opportunity to address common challenges in a way that makes Russians, Europeans, and Americans safer, and we are committed to working with both Russia and our NATO allies to do so.

We also, of course, discussed the broader range of issues on which we are cooperating beyond security and arms control. For example, we strongly support Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization. Russia’s membership would allow us to increase trade and deepen our economic ties. Thi is a high priority, and a priority for President Obama and the Administration. It’s part of our broader global effort to promote a rules-based system of economic competition.

We also discussed the increasing emphasis within Russia on democracy, and we obviously, as I have said many times, as our two presidents have discussed, support the rights of Russian civil society to assemble and speak freely, of Russian journalists and bloggers to monitor and report on official actions, and of lawyers and judges to work independently to uphold the rule of law.

I am especially pleased that we were able to reach several new agreements. First, we are signing an agreement on inter-country adoptions. We take very seriously the safety and security of children that are adopted by American parents, and this agreement provides new, important safeguards to protect them. It also increases transparency for all parties involved in the adoption process. And I want to thank Senator Mary Landrieu, the leader of the adoption caucus in the Senate, as well as Congresswoman Karen Bass, who are present with us.

Second, our negotiators have now concluded a visa agreement. We think this is especially important for our businesses, so that business men and women can travel multiple times between our two countries over 36 months on a single visa. This is a big deal for those who are doing business, and we are laying the groundwork for even more trade and travel.

Third, we exchanged diplomatic notes on the U.S. Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement. This brings into force a protocol that Sergey and I signed last year that commits both of our countries to dispose of no less than 34 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium on each side, the equivalent of some 17,000 nuclear weapons.

And fourth, we are renewing the protocol on the effects of radiation, which allows our scientists to collect and analyze epidemiological data together with the cancer risks that come with exposure to radiation.

Fifth, our national aviation agencies today signed an Air Navigation Services Agreement that will increase air traffic control cooperation, enhance information sharing, and ultimately make even more air traffic between our countries even safer.

This relationship, then, now involves cooperation in many different areas, and the Bilateral Presidential Commission that Presidents Obama and Medvedev began, that Minister Lavrov and I have the honor of co-chairing, has emerged as an important vehicle for pursuing our common interests. And we are very committed to continuing to move our relationship forward. And again, I thank the minister for the excellent work that we have done together.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to say that I fully support the words of Hillary Clinton about the shelling in Mumbai. We condemn the people who organized this act, and we extend our condolences to India and the Government of India.

Counterterrorism has a special place in our cooperation with the United States, and we will be building up this cooperation everywhere, including Afghanistan, Middle and Far East, and other regions in the world. Also, I would like to express my gratitude for the condolences that Madam Clinton has just pronounced about the tragic shipwreck on the Volga River. We appreciate these feelings of the American people towards us, and we are grateful for the warm reception to me and my delegation in the framework of this official visit.

This was a very useful visit and very busy visit. I met Mr. Obama in the White House, and I had negotiations with the State of Secretary yesterday. Yesterday, I had a meeting with the Senate of the United States of America, and yesterday, I also met Russian Americans who have a lot of interesting projects that aim to promote closer cooperation of our countries and also went to the broadcaster who is a Russian broadcaster, Voice of America, and they are starting broadcasting in English in Washington. So we thank you very much for all the cooperation.

And speaking about our talks, I fully agree with the assessment of presidential commission. This was a very effective tool created by the two presidents as being coordinated by the State Department and the foreign ministry. There are 18 working groups who are working to the fullest extent in cooperation – in cooperating. And they have created two additional groups, one for innovation, which is very important for the positive agenda and our cooperation, and the second one is for legal issues, which is also very important in our bilateral dialogue.

We have considered the current priority issues in our relationship, including the situation with – I hope that we will be concluding the process of Russia’s accession to the WTO. And just recently here in Washington, Minister of Economy of Russia Elvira Nabiullina, was here, and during her meeting with President Obama today in the White House, we have fully agreed on the necessity to conclude all the necessary formalities.

We have all the opportunities to do so, and as far as I understood today, there is the political will from the United States, and now experts must be working and they must use the political impulse and translate it into practical agreements on paper. We have paid a lot of attention to strategic stability, and we see that the agreement is being followed closely, is being executed, and the mechanism is functioning quite effectively. This is a bilateral consultative committee which has made a number of practical steps that are being stipulated by the agreement. And we also discussed the importance of mutually acceptable solutions on missile defense. We have noted that President Obama has confirmed his readiness to reach understanding – together with Mr. Medvedev to reach an understanding of common policy and creating strong political framework that will let us to start practical cooperation in this important sphere.

And I would like to also highlight the fact that today, we have signed a number of very important agreements. First of all, I would like to note the agreement on adoption issues. Our negotiating teams have been working very effectively. This was the Russian Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Education and Science, and Ombudsman for the Rights of Children Mr. Astakhov, who is today present here. And I think that we will be going towards implementing this agreement, and this will help us get rid of the irritants that have been emerging quite rightfully in the public opinion connected to the destiny of Russian children who were adopted in America. We are very grateful to our American partners for helping us to reach this agreement.

And there are yet – there are two and other agreements that we have signed and prolonged. They have very long names, but they are all about very simple and necessary for everyone. Every person things – those are lowering, minimizing of risks that are connected with radioactive contamination, on health and environment. And the second thing – the second agreement concerns plutonium. It is a very real contribution to nonproliferation regime and enhancing nuclear security.

As the Secretary has just said, we have completed our work on visa regime. It will be formalized very soon. Everything is ready, everything has been agreed, and I may say even that this will open the way to developing our dialogue towards visa-free regime. This aim had been mentioned during Vice President’s – Biden visits to Moscow, and although two years ago probably this idea would have been deemed impossible, today we see that we have all the opportunities to have this kind of aim in our cooperation with the United States, which is being discussed by the European Union today. And about 100 states all over the world have visa-free regime with Russia, including Israel, and this is the precedent.

So concerning bilateral issues, we have made an important stride today towards exercising all those agreements and instructions by the presidents, made at their recent meetings about adoption and visa simplifications. The international part of our discussion concerned not only some specific questions, but systematic problems – the new situation in the international relations, the problems that emerge in different regions, and that are very much connected with the discussion of the way we can use the democratization and rule of law principles to our policies. And I believe it was a very useful conversation about what role of – the United Nations has in these processes. The United States and Russia have confirmed that the – as permanent members of the Security Council, we are very much interested in promoting peace and security globally.

We have discussed many other topics; for example, the situation of the Iranian nuclear threat and Korean Peninsula. This is very important for nonproliferation regime, and this will help us avoid other conflicts. And we also talked about Libya and situation in other eastern and African countries about the situation in Afghanistan. We have been operating – cooperating very closely in various areas. And in the light of Quartet’s meeting yesterday in Washington, which was very useful and it helped our experts to prepare specific documents. We have also discussed the topic of conventional arms in Europe. We are very much interested in finding mutually accepted framework to reach an agreement on the new control of conventional arms in this very important treaty and – which is crucial for Russia and the United States. And I would like to note that we had a very useful – we also talked about our cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic, which is also very important. Also we identified that there is a possibility to bring our positions closer in the issues where we still have some misunderstandings like bilateral cooperation and international agenda. And in comparison to previous years, we see these problems as workable, and we understand that in some spheres we do not have converging interests, but we promote same aims, and we maintain dialogue about how to most effectively move to those aims.

And in the end, I would like to say about one symbolic thing. It is 13th of July today, and in 1728 this day, the first expedition of Vitus Bering to Kamchatka started, which proved that Eurasia and America are divided by a gulf. And these days, a group of Americans and Russians are going through the Bering Gulf in commemoration of this historic date. And the day after tomorrow, on the 15th of July, we will mark another memorable day. It’s 270 years since the second St. Paul ship crew headed to Kamchatka leaded by Aleksei Chirikov.

And we talked about Alaska a lot today, and we have a principled solution of presidents about the necessity to develop cooperation in our trips through Bering Gulf, and we spoke about specific projects and events that might be organized that would be very much interesting for people who live in Alaska and Chukotka, and we discussed this today. And also I think this means that we have a new quality to our cooperations. We not only think about strategic things; we also care about our citizens, and I think that this is a lesson for us – the lesson for our cooperation for many years ahead.

MS. NULAND: We have two questions on the American side and two questions on the Russian side. First on the American side, Kirit Radia please.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. A question for the both of you. Your French counterpart has said that Colonel Qadhafi is looking for a way out of Libya. There are reports that he is running out of resources, out of fuel for his troops. Can you tell us if you know anything about him being on the ropes? Is there any diplomatic play that could get him out of the country?

And a question for the minister on Syria. Could you explain why Russia has blocked action in the United Nations to condemn the Syrian Government for the crackdown on protestors in Syria? Is it now not time for international action with now more than 1,000 people killed? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: So instead of one, there are three questions.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I know, yeah. That’s the way it is. I know.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me take the one you directed at me about Libya. The foreign minister and I discussed at length and compared notes today on our respective diplomacy with the TNC, and we very much appreciate the diplomatic work that Russia is doing through its special envoy. We are still getting contradictory signals from Colonel Qadhafi’s camp. He has yet to meet the redlines that are set by the international community to cease violence against his people, withdraw his forces, and step down from power. So although neither of us can predict to you the exact day or hour that Qadhafi will leave power, we do understand and agree that his days are numbered. We will continue to work closely with our international partners, including Russia, to increase the pressure on him and his regime, and we will keep looking for a way to achieve a ceasefire, end the military action, give the Libyan people a chance to plot their own way forward, and I think both Sergey and I believe that the United Nations needs to be in the lead and needs to be helping to organize the international community so that we are ready when that does finally happen.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) And I would like add that for sure the situation around Libya is the case where our position is a bit diverging. This is all about the way the resolution of Security Council is being followed. But in the parentheses, I would like to say that on this topic, we have less misunderstandings with United States than with some European countries. We are unite in that we have to start political process as soon as possible, and we have different channels – official and not very official channels to work through to create conditions for this process. We have voiced out our position for many times, and there is a special presidential envoy, Mr. Margelov who is working actively in the region with both sides of the conflict, and I think that the whole set of the measures being taken by NATO members and Russia and the regional countries as well and also African Union, whose initiative we support, will lead to an agreement to reach a ceasefire and to start negotiations. There is no other way to solve this issue, as any other issue in the modern world.

And speaking about Syria, you are asking why Russia is blocking the resolution that would condemn Asad. Diplomacy does not exist to condemn and start putting on political scores; our goal is to solve problems, but just condemning people without any solution will not lead us to anything. So we believe that the example of approach is our common feeling toward Yemen and our actions with Yemen, we do not propose to condemn – we do not to take – do not want to take resolutions to support one or other country. Russia, European Union, and the Arab League and the Persian Gulf states insist that opposition and the other side would start negotiations and would start following the roadmap, and I’m sure that, for the destiny of the region, for all of our interests, it is absolutely important that we are responsible but not wishy-washy to this situation. And I just want you to understand our position on this.

MS. NULAND: Fayed Andrey Cherkovsky.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My question is to the leaders of the both delegations. You have just signed the adoption agreement; does that mean that the moratorium for adoption by the American families will be lifted soon? And why did it take so long to draw up this document? You even spent less time to work out the START agreement than this issue. Why does it happen so?

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) First of all, statistically speaking, it’s not right to say that we worked longer than at the START agreement. I think we managed to do it a bit quicker. And speaking about the second thing, this is the first agreement of such nature that we agreed with Italy, and we prepared it for four years; and today we are going to sign such kind of agreement with Israel. And we reached agreement with the United States not overnight because we had to take into account the legal peculiarities of American legal system, because there are different states who have different legislations that, even for the beginning of the negotiations, we needed to take a very serious political will about American partners.

And that’s why this agreement has become equal, absolutely bilateral; it has guarantees and safeguards for the both sides that would allow people to make sure that an adoptive parent is psychologically stable, that the family has come through a special filter of authorized bodies authorized by the United States Government, and that the adoptive parents provide access of Russian diplomats to the children living in the United States. These are the most important components of this issue, and it is going to be in force very soon. It is now going to be ratified in U.S., but we will be ratifying it so we discussed some technical details that will allow us to speed this process up.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Interruption in audio) – is that I think it was a useful process to share (interruption in audio) common problems. We both want the same outcomes. We want all children – whether they be Russian children or American children – to be able to have loving homes with families that will take good care of them. And, of course, the United States wants to be sure that we meet all of the concerns that the Russian side raised, and we believe we have.

MS. NULAND: From the American side, Arshad Mohammed from Reuters. Please.

QUESTION: Mr. Lavrov – excuse me – yesterday at the Russian embassy you described an approach toward Iran on the nuclear issue, one of what you called a step-by-step process whereby the Iranians might take steps to address some of the IAEA’s concerns, and the P-5+1 in return would take steps to ease the pressure of sanctions. Can you shed – can you give us detail on the kinds of steps you would like to see the Iranians take under such an approach? And Secretary Clinton, can you address the possibility of easing sanctions early in the process? Historically, I think the Administration has been reluctant to do that, because of the feeling that to do so would be to give up your leverage at the start of a negotiation.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) This is yet another example of the fact that there are problems in our agenda. We have the same final aims; this aim is to avoid proliferation of nuclear arms, but, at the same time, we do have some individual approaches concerning the way we move to this goal. And we have some coinciding points here; we have a collective document of 5+1 or 3+3 – whatever you call it – which is supported by the Russian Federation, which contains the proposal of the six to Iran about how to settle all the issues that will allow all of us to see that the character of their nuclear program is absolutely civilian, and restore their rights to this activity. This document has been given to the Iranian side about two years ago as far as I remember, and it specifies everything that has to be done by the Iranian side. It is available for studying; there is nothing sensational about it.

Because everything Iran has to do is based on the requirements of the IAEA, and everything is well known, and these requirements were supposed by the Security Council of the UN. When we of Russia say about the necessity to follow a phased and mutual process, we do not doubt this mutual position of the 3+3 group; we propose, on each requirement of the IAEA, to create some kind of a roadmap, starting from the easiest questions and in the end there will be the most difficult ones that would require time. And we are sure that the response to each specific step of Iran would be followed by some reciprocal step, like freezing some sanctions and shortening the volume of sanctions. And we have formulated our proposals. It has been handed over to American and Chinese partners in the framework of 5+1. Today we discussed this, and we said that the experts will inquire into these things and make a decision.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think as the minster said, we both share the same goal and we have worked together with others to achieve that goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. And we will be sending a team of our experts to consult with Russian experts to discuss ways that we can move forward. I have told Minister Lavrov that we are concerned by the failure of the responses thus far, from Iran to High Representative Ashton, and the resistance of Iran to IAEA requests for further access regarding military-related activities. But nevertheless, we are committed to our dual track of both pressure and engagement, and we want to explore with the Russians ways that we can perhaps pursue more effective engagement strategies.

MS. NULAND: The last question from the Russian side for Maria Tabak of RIA Novosti.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Question is to the – both leaders. You said that you’re going to sign a new visa agreement. Would you please specify the terms of the signing? And what is your prognosis about some obstacles on the way to this agreement, knowing that businesspeople and citizens support the visa simplifications?

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Well, the answer is simple. This will happen this year, this is for sure, and it will happen before Christmas, even Catholic Christmas. Speaking about obstacles, there are no such. As I have said, the agreement is absolutely ready. We just have to follow through some formalities, some technical issues. That’s it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s absolutely right, and we are very pleased about this step toward greater visa liberalization between our two countries, and look forward to all the Christmas travel that we’ll see. (Laughter.)

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

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PRN: 2011/1186