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Straw, Ivanov Hold Press Conference

Aired March 4, 2003 - 13:04   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're trying to get a live signal in from London, Jack Straw and Igor Ivanov meeting there. They are Russian and British foreign minister counterparts. I may have to interrupt you -- I tell you what, let's go to it now, and we'll get back to you later. Richard Roth at the United Nations. Let's go to London.

JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: This has been a very long- planned visit. I went to Moscow about 15 months ago, and the idea was that the visit would be dominated by discussion of bilateral relations with some foreign policy issues.

We did, indeed, start on bilateral issues. And I think it's fair to say that the bilateral relationship between the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom has never been better.

That's reflected in many ways, in terms of trade, culture, educational links, political positions. But it's perhaps best underlined by the fact that in June of this year, His Excellency, President Putin will be making the first official state visit to the United Kingdom for a Russian head of state since, Igor tells me, Nicholas I's visit here in 1844. And we are all looking forward very much to President Putin's visit, accompanied by...


STRAW: We went on to discuss issues, foreign policy, which includes Iraq and the Middle East peace process, and we're meeting later on this evening for dinner, where I'm quite sure we'll discuss some other key issues, including North Korea, Afghanistan and the India-Pakistan.

The prime minister was due to meet Igor this evening, but because of his own time pressures in Northern Ireland that meeting has now been postponed until tomorrow morning, when Igor will be meeting our prime minister.

Let me just say this...


STRAW: Let me say this about Iraq. I gave detailed evidence about our position in respect to Iraq to the parliamentary foreign affairs committee earlier this afternoon, and I've no need to repeat that here. The United Kingdom and the Russian Federal share the same objective in respect of Iraq, which is Iraq's disarmament of its weapons of mass destruction.

We worked very closely together, cooperatively together, during an intense period of negotiation leading to 1441 on the 8th of November. There are some outstanding questions about how we achieve this overall objective. But I believe that if we maintain intensive dialogue of the kind that we've been having then it may be possible to resolve those outstanding questions in a satisfactory manner.

Lastly, let me talk about the Middle East peace process. We share a very similar analysis and set of objectives and means to achieve those objectives so far as the dreadful situation between Israel and the Palestinians is concerned.

The Russian Federation is a participant in its own right in the quartet. We participate through our membership of the European Union and the United Nations Security Council. I expressed my gratitude to Igor for the participation of Andrei Flodovin (ph), the Russian Federation Middle East expert, Igor's expert, in the meetings on Palestinian reform which I've hosted here in London in January and February. And we both want to see the early publication of the road map and then it properly implemented.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

IGOR IVANOV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Ladies and gentlemen, I would like first of all to thank the minister, my friend, Mr. Straw, for the invitation and the wonderful reception we've had.

We really have always been speaking for a very long time about this visit, and I'm very glad that we've been able to make it take place.

And we want to -- I want to underline that we've had contacts not just during this visit, but also almost every week we've been either meeting or having contact or been speaking by telephone or we've been corresponding with each other. So we've had a very good and constructive and positive dialogue.

I think that this dialogue is one more confirmation of this high level of cooperation which now exists between Russia and Great Britain.

And these relations have received in the last few years a very strong impulse through this very active and positive contact and dialogue, and this is going to culminate in the -- this has been helped by the visit of President Putin and the prime minister, Tony Blair.

And we are grateful to the British leadership and in particular to Prime Minister Blair for active participation and assistance in establishing new quality of relations between Russian and European Union, Russia and NATO. All that demonstrates the new nature of our relations, which are characterized by rising trust, by mutual recognition of interests and mutual respect. Adn that is why we are confident that the forthcoming visit to Great Britain by President Putin scheduled for June of this year will become another serious step forward in developing our relations.

Russia and Great Britain are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and have a special responsibility for maintaining international peace and stability. And we maintain a permanent dialogue on all the major international problems.

Today, indeed, naturally it is the issue of Iraq. And today we exchanged opinions in detail about the current state of affairs around Iraq.

As Secretary Straw just mentioned, we share common goals.

We stand for full implementation of all the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions which envisage destruction of mass destruction weapons in Iraq and means of its delivery.

We worked constructively together on 1441 resolution and we are determined to have this resolution implemented. We are confident that international community can succeed in doing that through unity, through maintaining unity of international community, but what is more important, through maintaining unity of the United Nations Security Council members.

It is well known that there may be different views on how this common goal that we are seeking, that we are trying to achieve can be achieved. It is natural because nobody of us has prepared recipes. And we continue our constructive dialogue on this issue.

I guess some of you may ask me a question today, if Russia is going to use its veto right. I can tell you, frankly, that we actually never discussed this issue today. When it comes to the vote, each state is entitled to make a decision on its own.

But today we discussed the Iraqi issue in the light of how to not only resolve this particular issue, but how to strengthen our interaction in resolving other, not less complicated international issues, like fighting international terrorism and other threats and challenges.

Anyway, Russia proceeds from the premise that the way of resolving the Iraqi issue should not split the international community, but should rather continue to the efforts undertaken by the international community in fighting new threats and challenges.

We exchanged opinions on the situation in the Middle East, which is another concern of ours. Thanks to thorough and careful work within the quartet, we were able to agree upon the compromise version of the so-called road map. This road map takes into account the opinion of the entire international public opinion. And we believe that it should be approved as soon as possible and implemented in practice.

We will continue our discussions on other pressing international problems.

And in conclusion I would like to stress that I'm grateful to Secretary Straw for a very frank and benevolent exchange of opinions, and that's the way that two partners should discuss difficult problems, partners like us.

STRAW: Thank you very much. I'll take questions.

If I may, I'd like to take questions from the Russian media alternately with those from the British media.

QUESTION: How confident are you after your talks today that the Russians can be brought on side in terms of at least abstaining on your resolution at the Security Council?

STRAW: As Igor explained, we didn't get down to discussing votes on this or votes on that. What we were discussing was our overall strategy in respect of Iraq.

We're all committed to 1441, and 1441 sets out a very clear obligation upon Saddam Hussein for active, immediate and full disarmament. And that's the basis on which we're working.

QUESTION: What's your current level of confidence?

STRAW: Well, I say, that's the basis on which we're working. And I look forward on the basis of the kind of discussions that we've had today to continuing that intense cooperation.

Could I take a question from the Russian media please?

QUESTION (through translator): (OFF-MIKE) to Minister Ivanov how the preparation for the state visit is developing. And the second question is, do you have intention to take part in the forthcoming United Nations Security Council meeting?

IVANOV (through translator): We are actually preparing ourselves for the state visit to be made by President Putin to Great Britain, and it is one of the big issues that we are discussing with Secretary Straw.

Though we have several months ahead of us, we are preparing already quite a big pile of documents that would reflect the current status of our relations.

As for the forthcoming United Nations Security Council meeting to be held on March 7 and where reports by Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei will be voiced, the format, the level of participation in that meeting has not been determined yet.

QUESTION: Just like to ask the Russian foreign minister, if I may, you told the BBC earlier today that you would not agree to anything that would actually directly or indirectly make war more likely. Did you not convey this to Mr. Straw?

And, Mr. Straw, how prepared are you to go ahead and ignore the views of the Russians if that is the case?

IVANOV (through translator): Well, I think that I said nothing new. It is our position that we've been standing by for a long time and we've been putting it forward for quite a long time.

We assume that now we have a real possibility for a political solution of the issue of Iraq's disarmament and we should make use of this chance. But we are carefully listening to our partners who have different opinions.

O'BRIEN: We have been listening to the foreign ministers of Great Britain and the Russian Federation, respectively. Jack Straw to the left of your screen, Igor Ivanov to the right of your screen, exiting some talks in London discussing the situation in Iraq. Mr. Ivanov asked about some previous statements which have been reported widely on the wire services today that Russia was, in fact, prepared to use its veto power in the U.N. Security Council if need be in order to thwart efforts by the United States to engage in a war in Iraq. Mr. Ivanov and Mr. Straw indicating there is a unity of goals here, but just the question of how to achieve those goals. Clearly, there is a lot of dispute over that.


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