Russia-NATO relations, Iran and Mideast on UN agenda

A Russia-NATO council meeting became one of the most important events happening on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session underway in New York.

The sides agreed that it is important to continue co-operation in areas such as fighting drug-trafficking in Afghanistan, security in Europe and missile-defense.

The UN Secretary General has recently announced that it would be preferable if Russia and NATO came up with a joint missile defense system that would guarantee safety for both sides, although no details have been worked out so far.

Russia and NATO continue to disagree on a number of issues, including Moldova and Georgia, and their relationship continues to be strained. However, at the New York meeting, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Secretary General of NATO, expressed hopes that the alliance’s ties with Russia can become closer.

“The joint review of the 21st century’s common security challenges – more cooperation on Afghanistan, more practical cooperation in fighting terrorism or piracy; hopefully, from my point of view, the start of cooperation towards territorial missile defense. Today, cooperation with Russia in addressing these challenges is no longer just an opportunity to build better relations with Russia. It has become a necessity if we want to be effective in preserving our common security,” Rasmussen told the media.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on the proposal from NATO’s Secretary General, by stating that before any specific plans are put into place, the interests of both sides must be taken into consideration.

“We want to have a clear view of what NATO’s new strategic concept will be like… First, how ready are NATO colleagues to start making the principle of indivisible security, established in the 1990s, effective. Second, what is Russia to NATO… The third thing is – what is NATO’s attitude to international law, first of all, regarding the principles of use of force in modern foreign affairs,” Lavrov said.

Another important event taking place in New York was the meeting of the group uniting the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, who gathered to discuss the situation with the Iranian nuclear program, and if the fourth round of sanctions imposed in June is helping to improve the situation and relieve tensions. It is expected that the group would consider more non-diplomatic measures that could be imposed on Iran to make sure it listens to the international community.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier that in his opinion, certain countries should not be considering additional economic steps towards certain developing nations; he did not give any names, but made it clear that he was referring to Iran and the United States.

Lavrov also explained exactly what signals the international community was expecting from Iran. The country needs to prove that all of its intentions are peaceful and put an end to the world’s concerns by signing a number of international documents on non-proliferation, he said.

“We can count on the fact that the signal was heard,” Lavrov noted. “We expect that soon we will hear from Iran that they are ready to begin the process of negotiations.”

Iran has been sending mixed signals to the international community, stating that war is a possibility if the United States attacks its nuclear program but, nevertheless, the door is still open for negotiations.

The so-called Mid-East Quartet also held talks in New York, once again calling upon Israel to refrain from expanding settlement construction programs into Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza. However, Palestinian authorities said that if the moratorium on construction is not extended by Israel before September 26, all talks would end and new escalation of tensions would take place.