‘Sanctions on Tehran, Damascus won’t solve problems’ - FM Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (RIA Novosti / Alexey Filippov)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says US and UN sanctions against Iran and Syria serve no purpose and are causing harm to Russian business. His comments came after meeting with Hillary Clinton at the APEC summit in Vladivostok.

­Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says US and UN sanctions against Iran and Syria serve no purpose and are causing harm to Russian business. His comments came after meeting with Hillary Clinton at the APEC summit in Vladivostok.

“Unilateral US sanctions against Syria and Iran are increasingly becoming extra-territorial in nature and are touching upon the interests of Russian business," Lavrov said on Saturday.

This comes after reports this week that a St. Petersburg-based company stopped verifying safety and environmental standards for one of Iran's biggest shipping groups as a direct result of the international sanctions.

Russia has repeatedly opposed sanctions against Tehran and Damascus, claiming that such actions do nothing to solve problems. Russia has vetoed three rounds of UN sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and called the latest round of sanctions against Tehran on August 13 nothing more than “overt blackmail”.

“Solving problems means involvement, not isolation,” Lavrov explained. "In Syria we are not supporting any sanctions because sanctions will not bring about anything.”

Russia’s and America’s final aims in both Syria and Iran coincided but the methods differ, believes the minister.  Both Moscow and Washington would like to see a free and democratic Syria with a government elected by the Syrian people and are against proliferation of nuclear weapons in Iran.

As for the methods for achieving the goals, the American approach of threats and sanctions does not appeal to the Russian diplomat.

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Polar cooperation

The area where “the interests of Moscow and Washington coincide” is the South Polar continent. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have signed a memorandum on deepening cooperation on Antarctica.

Lavrov noted that both Russia and the US will cooperate on the international level within the framework of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty.

“It stipulates scientific research collaboration, exchange of experts and data, as well as expanding support for expeditionary activities,” he said.

Lavrov stressed that the memorandum lays a legal cornerstone for future interaction on Antarctica.

Russia and the US agreed to continue with Antarctic station inspections to ensure demilitarization regime and compliance with ecological standards. 

Lavrov and Clinton also urged the creation of Berengia biosphere natural reserve in the Bering Strait, which would include territories of both Russia’s Chukotka Region and the American state of Alaska.­

Jackson-Vanik to be finally eliminated?

Hillary Clinton said the America’s Jackson-Vanik amendment (adopted in 1974) might be finally called off in September to give Russia the status of normal trade partner. As Russia has officially joined the WTO, the amendment would prevent American companies from profiting in Russia.

"We are working closely with the United States Congress to terminate the application to Jackson-Vanik to Russia and grant Russia permanent, normalized trade relations. We hope that the Congress will act on this important piece of legislation this month,” Clinton said.

The US Secretary of State shared that protectionism distorts market competitive environment in the Asia-Pacific region.

Russia's WTO membership "is good for Russia, it's good for America and it's good for the global economy," Clinton said, pointing out that cancelation of the amendment would "make sure our companies get to compete."

“We seek to work with others to build a stable and just regional order that will benefit everyone,” she stressed.­