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18 Mar, 2008 21:20

Russia and U.S. fail to reach breakthrough on missile shield

The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, have held defence talks with their Russian counterparts, Sergey Lavrov and Anatoly Serdyukov, in Moscow. The U.S. missile defence shield in Europe topped the agenda.

The U.S. officials pledged to keep relations with Russia as friendly as possible after President Putin steps down next month.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said steady progress has been made on most aspects of U.S.-Russia relations, but no agreement had been reached on key issues such as missile defence and the CFE treaty.

The U.S. confirmed its plans to deploy the anti-missile shield in Europe, with Robert Gates once again stressing that the shield is not a threat to Russia’s security.

“We had the opportunity today to elaborate on a number of confidence-building measures and measures for transparency to provide assurance to the Russia that our missile sites and radars would not constitute a threat to Russia,” he said.  

Russia once again put forward its alternative, namely the joint use of Gabala radar base in Azerbaijan. Further consultations will continue.

“As far as missile defence is concerned, Russia and the U.S. need to resolve these issues in close cooperation with each other and Europe, heeding each other's interests,” Sergei Lavrov said.

As for the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), from which Russia has withdrawn, both sides agreed that that this document has to be legally binding.

Another important topic was Russia’s logistical support of the U.S.-led counter-terrorism operation in Afghanistan.

“We are currently holding talks at the level of the Defense and Foreign Ministries and believe that a decision will be announced in the near future,” Sergei Lavrov said.

Russian and U.S. officials could not avoid discussion of important international issues during the Tuesday’s talks.

The Kosovo crisis was one of them. Despite different positions on Pristina’s unilateral declaration of independence, the U.S. and Russia agreed that all sides in Kosovo must refrain from violence.

Sergey Lavrov reminded his U.S. counterpart that Russia has warned the international community that this move by Kosovo would inevitably have negative consequences.

“It's very difficult to drive all those who do not want to live in an illegally proclaimed state within the framework of this state,” he said.

In conclusion Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that there are many points of contention between Russia and the U.S., but the positive result of the current talks is that both countries are eager to follow the course for constructive dialogue set by outgoing presidents Putin and Bush.

To watch the full press-conference of Russian and U.S. officials, please, follow link.