Medvedev to UN: “agenda has been prompted by life”

The world needs smart foreign policies and measures to stop local conflicts from escalating. That was President Dmitry Medvedev’s message at the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In his first-ever address to the UN General Assembly, the Russian leader pointed out that humanity is going through a turning point in modern history, and it is the United Nations, he stressed, that is to give answers to new challenges. Medvedev called the organization a “time-tested mechanism of harmonizing the interests of various countries.”

"We, without exaggerating, are going through one of the turning points in the development of modern history. Apart from the economic crisis – the first large-scale crisis of the globalization era –world development continues to be threatened by regional and local conflicts, terrorism, cross-border crime, food shortages and climate change," Medvedev pointed out.

"The unifying agenda has been prompted by life. This explains a growing demand for the United Nations, which is a time-tested mechanism of harmonizing the interests of various countries," the Russian president went on to say.

Fighting crisis consequences

Dmitry Medvedev presented his views of how the world community should cooperate to overcome the difficulties of the global economic crisis and that arrangements should be made to assure global energy security.

He called for the creation of a financial and economic model that would, in the future, guarantee protection for all nations against shocks and jolts.

"Most countries are still feeling the crisis’ consequences. Although apparently we've managed to avoid the worst scenario, the question remains open: how will the world and national economies overcome enormous imbalances and deficits measured in trillions of dollars?” Medvedev asked.

"We should exert joint efforts to create a financial and economic model that would guarantee protection against similar shocks in the future," the Russian president explained.

"Donor aid to the needy countries cannot be put off 'for the future'. Priority tasks assigned to the world community should be solved as obligatory," he added.

Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation

Nuclear non-proliferation and the recent shift in US missile plans were among the major issues highlighted by President Medvedev, who said the US move was "a constructive step in the right direction.”

“We view this decision as a constructive step in the right direction, which has, quite legitimately, enjoyed the support of the international community. Russia is ready to discuss this in a detailed fashion and also ready to make relevant initiatives in this field to find mutually acceptable solutions,” Medvedev said.

He also called on countries to follow US and Russian examples in nuclear weapons cuts.

“We believe that the disarmament efforts by the United States and Russia should be backed by other countries. There is no need to wait for further progress in the Russian-American disarmament process,” he called.

“In order to reach a common understanding on such important issues, we must engage all nations and influential international organizations in the formation of negotiation processes,” Medvedev added.

The Russian President proposed the creation of nuclear weapons-free zones, and has made a particular emphasis on the Middle East:

“The International community, it must be said, has at its disposal such approved measures for increasing the level of regional international security as nuclear weapons-free zones. A very pressing task, an extremely urgent task, is the creation in the Middle East of a zone free of all types of weapons of mass destruction.”

Medvedev's speech. Watch full video


Tête-à-tête with Obama

Dimitry Medvedev (L) and Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jim Watson)
Before giving his speech at the UN General Assembly, President Medvedev also met with US President Barack Obama. Both leaders have praised their working relations and discussed a range of issues.

Iran, however, dominated the talks.


President Obama said Iran may face new sanctions if it does not halt its nuclear development program:

“If Iran does not respond to serious negotiations and with all those issues in a way that assures the international community that it’s meeting its commitments, it is not developing nuclear weapons, then we will have to take additional actions, and serious additional sanctions remain possible”.

America has always called for sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Speculations flourished that, as the US backtracks on the plans for the missile defense shield, Russia would give its consent to punishing Iran.

And President Medvedev opened the door to supporting new international sanctions if Iran refuses to restrain its nuclear ambitions.

“I told the president that we believe we need to help Iran to take a right decision,” Medvedev said as he and Obama wrapped up a meeting in New York.

“As to also having sanctions, Russia’s belief is simple, and I’ve stated it recently: sanctions rarely lead to productive results, but in some cases sanctions are inevitable,” added the Russian president.

US officials applauded Medvedev’s statement, which seems to have marked a shift from Russia’s past reluctance to impose new penalties on Iran over its efforts to enrich uranium.

Medvedev also said that the major powers had to create a “system of incentives” that would allow Iran to pursue nuclear-power generation without obtaining nuclear weapons.

Negotiations over the country's nuclear ambitions between Iran and a group of six nations, including Russia and the US, are scheduled for October 1.

Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama also discussed ABM-related issues, following last week’s decision of the United States to shelve its missile-defense program in Eastern Europe. Medvedev noted that Russia was ready to work in that field, both with the United States and its European partners.

“We discussed how the decision that he took was reasonable and that reflected the position of the current US administration on missile defense, and also takes into consideration our concerns on the missile defense which is needed for Europe and for the world,” Medvedev said.

“And we are ready to continue this work with our US colleagues in this direction, as well as with our European colleagues, of course”.

To continue reducing the vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons that both Russia and the US possess, the two leaders also signed a document committing to signing a future, legally binding treaty and coordinated a mandate for future talks.

“We will pursue a new agreement with Russia to substantially reduce our strategic warheads and launchers,” the US leader stated.

“We will move forward with ratification of the Test Ban Treaty, and work with others to bring the treaty into force so that nuclear testing is permanently prohibited”.

The new treaty is supposed to replace START, which expires in December 2009.

Russia and Japan: “to resolve issues once and for all”

President Dmitry Medvedev also met with the newly elected Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama.

Both sides expressed their readiness to work on the problems that have been spoiling bilateral relations for decades, with the major being the territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands.

“There is a territorial issue between our countries. I would like to resolve that issue once and for all. We’d like also to sign a peace treaty, and we must accomplish it in this generation,” Hatoyama said.

However, the issue of Russia’s South Kuril Islands, which the Soviet Union seized from Japan during World War II, was not addressed in detail by the two leaders, Interfax reports, referencing a senior Kremlin aide, Sergey Prikhodko.

Tokyo refuses to sign a peace treaty with Moscow to formally end the war before the islands are returned to Japan.

"This subject was not discussed in detail, but [the two leaders] recorded their willingness to work in an energetic, open way on the problem," the aide said.

Medvedev, who also met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, told his Japanese and Chinese counterparts that Russia was in talks with the United States in seeking a new treaty on strategic offensive armaments. According to Prikhodko, both Japan and China support these efforts.