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Rice, Lavrov hold direct talks on US-Russia relations

by Staff Writers
Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt (AFP) Nov 8, 2008
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spent over an hour Saturday in direct talks covering the military superpowers' row over their respective missile defence plans.

Rice and Lavrov spent about 80 minutes together at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, said spokesman Sean McCormack, where they are attending Middle East diplomatic Quartet talks with Israel and Palestinian representatives.

Their face-to-face discussions follow a testing period in relations between Moscow and Washington since the August war between Russia and key United States ally Georgia.

Although fresh from Barack Obama being voted in as president-elect -- and news Saturday of telephone talks between the democratic senator and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev -- the meeting came just days after Medvedev's announcement that Russia is planning to install its strategic missiles on the edge of the European Union.

Moscow's vehement opposition to US plans to install a missile defence shield and radar system former Soviet satellite states Poland and the Czech Republic has left Washington undeterred.

"I would describe the meeting as a good and productive meeting," said McCormack, who said that much of their time was spent discussing the Middle East peace process.

"They also discussed START (the pair's long-running Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty renewal talks) and missile defence, and the two agreed that experts would meet again on missile defence in the near future.

"For our side, that those discussions would include John Rood (Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security)."

Just hours after Obama's historic election victory on Tuesday, Medvedev said Moscow would station short-range missile systems in its Kaliningrad enclave wedged between Poland and fellow EU member Lithuania.

US negotiator Rood said Thursday that Washington had given Russia fresh proposals -- sent before Medvedev announced his Kaliningrad plans -- to try to ease its concerns and hoped the row could still be resolved.

The European Union and NATO each expressed strong concern over Russia's decision to deploy missiles on the EU's doorstep.

Polish lawmakers have yet to ratify the US missile defence deal while the Czech government has called for a delay in a final vote on its radar agreements until Obama's inauguration in January.

Rice and Lavrov also "talked about the broad range of issues in the relationship in the context of the Sochi declaration."

The joint US-Russia Strategic Framework Declaration issued in Sochi in April 2008 followed the meeting of Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin and covered bilateral issues also including nuclear disarmament and energy, NATO expansion, Iran, North Korea, terrorism and trade.

"The Declaration recognises that there will be differences between the two countries on various issues, but it highlights areas in which the two countries might cooperate.

"The two had good discussions about the way forward on the Middle East peace process, the Six-Party talks (on North Korea's nuclear intentions), and Iran. On Georgia, the two reiterated their unchanged positions," McCormack added.

During a telephone conversation, Medvedev and Obama spoke about "the need to organise a meeting soon," the Kremlin announced earlier Saturday in a statement, without specifying a date.

The two men "underlined the priority nature of relations between Russia and the United States, their positive development (being) not only important for the two countries themselves, but for the international community more generally," the statement said, adding that the desire for "international stability" demanded "constructive and positive cooperation."

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Outside View: Obama bad news for Russia
Paris (UPI) Nov 6, 2008
According to a widely held view, the election of Barack Obama is good news for Russia. The new U.S. president, the argument runs, will abandon the confrontational style of George W. Bush and adopt a more conciliatory line in foreign affairs, including in relations with Moscow.

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