(In progress) secretaries who are deeply engaged with their regional partners in working through some issues. So we thought we’ll make sure that sometime this week, early next, we’ll get all of the regional assistant secretaries here to kind of give you both a sense of today’s activity – obviously, the Secretary participating in the NATO-Russia Council meeting later on, a bilateral with Foreign Minister Lavrov, but also many contacts that she’s had this week with her European counterparts in different contexts – Haiti earlier in the week, P-5+1 today, Quartet yesterday, and so forth.
But here to kind of read out NATO-Russia Council meeting this morning and just give you the broader sweep of U.S.-European relations this week at UN General Assembly, we have Assistant Secretary Phil Gordon.ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
Thanks, P.J. Good afternoon, everybody, nice to see you here in New York. I know everybody is busy, so why don’t I just briefly give you a sense of some of the meetings that the Secretary has had in the transatlantic agenda here in New York, and then take your questions.
As P.J. mentioned, today started with the NATO-Russia Council meeting, and that was just the latest in a series of meetings with Russians and Europeans to discuss the transatlantic security agenda we have coming up. We have planned for November in Lisbon a NATO summit, a U.S-EU summit, and then in Kazakhstan in December an OSCE summit. So there’s a big transatlantic security agenda.
As I think P.J. already mentioned in a previous briefing with you all, the Secretary also met with EU High Representative Cathy Ashton specifically on the Middle East. She’ll see High Representative Ashton in Washington next week for a full and extensive bilat on the full range of issues, including the upcoming U.S.-EU summit. But here, Senator Mitchell joined the meeting and the focus was on the Middle East, obviously, on the heels of the Secretary’s trip to the region.
Yesterday, the Secretary met with the EU-27 foreign ministers, also to do a full range of issues. They mostly focused on, again, Middle East peace, in which the Europeans are very much engaged, and we welcome and value their support, but also Pakistan, Iran, and the Balkans. Following that EU-27 meeting with the Secretary, she hosted a – what we call the Transatlantic Dinner, which is the foreign ministers of the EU who stayed on, and then those of NATO, those who aren’t in the EU, as well as the foreign ministers of Macedonia and Switzerland, plus the NATO Secretary General and High Representative Ashton.
So it’s the broad array of transatlantic partners, again, for an opportunity to discuss informally all of the issues on our vast agenda. But their specific focus in the dinner was European security, in particular, this triptych of summits that I mentioned, as well as Afghanistan, which will obviously be on the agenda in Lisbon as well.
And then this morning’s meeting was the NATO-Russia Council ministerial. As you know, NATO allies, as they look toward the Lisbon summit, are preparing a new strategic concept. They also hope to see Russia at the summit level in Lisbon. The NATO Secretary General issued an invitation to President Medvedev last week. We see this as an opportunity. At the meeting this morning, the Secretary was able to give our view of NATO-Russia cooperation, which is that we don’t see NATO – we don’t see Russia as an adversary; we see Russia as a partner.
There is a long list of practical areas in which we’d like to cooperate more with Russia, including missile defense, counter-piracy, counternarcotics, counterterrorism, Afghanistan. And that was the focus of the meeting; that was the focus of the Secretary’s intervention – how can we work practically with Russia on areas of common interest. And we hope to take that further at a possible NATO-Russia summit in Lisbon.
In addition to those sort of formal meetings, there’s obviously been a lot of pull-asides and conversations both at the Secretary level and others with our European partners, because they are the ones, as much or more than anyone around the world, who are our key partners in dealing with these global challenges that I’ve mentioned, from Iran to Afghanistan to climate change to the world economy. And so this week has been very useful in that regard.
Why don’t I stop with that and happy to take any questions you might have.QUESTION:
How hard are the Russians pushing this new security European architecture – security architecture that you guys don’t have any interest in?ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
You’re referring to – there are actually two treaties the Russians have proposed. President Medvedev has proposed a European security treaty. Foreign Minister Lavrov, at the last NATO-Russia Council, tabled a proposal for a NATO summit treaty. The Russians say they would like legally binding treaties on this set of issues.
Our view has always been that European security can certainly be improved, but we don’t think it’s necessary or useful to pursue new treaties. Actually, there are some pretty good European institutions, security institutions, in place already. There are some pretty good principles to guide European security in place already in the Helsinki Final Act and in the OSCE, and in the NATO-Russia structures. So rather than invest in a top-down effort to create a new treaty structure, we want to get on with the practical things that I mentioned the Secretary raised at the NATO-Russia Council.
So to answer your question, Matt, there’s still – they still support these treaties and are pushing them, but I think not just we, but other NATO allies have made clear that we think it would be more fruitful to focus on practical cooperation rather than big new schemes.QUESTION:
On the missile defense issue, I’m wondering if – the Secretary mentioned this morning that she supported the idea of restarting the theater defense exercises and also perhaps coordinating early warning systems.ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
And I understand that the NATO countries have to kind of get it together themselves first. But I’m wondering if you get any sense from the Russians that they are interested in that as an alternative, that this is actually something that will fly with Moscow and could happen.ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
The Russians keep asking hard questions. We have been, I think, making it very clear, first, that our missile defense programs are not designed, they’re not targeted at Russia. They’re designed to deal with a growing ballistic missile threat from the Middle East. And the phased adaptive approach to missile defense that the President laid out last year doesn’t and couldn’t address Russia’s strategic nuclear forces. We want Russia to understand that this is about protecting American and European populations, territories, and troops from a growing ballistic missile threat from the Middle East and not to undermine Russia’s deterrent.
We think we’ve made that clear. Russia still has questions about it and is reluctant to fully embrace the participation that we propose until they’re satisfied that it wouldn’t affect their strategic forces.QUESTION:
So –ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
I think they’re coming around. I mean, we have briefed them. We’ve offered further briefings on the technical aspects, on the political aspects. I think they’re more comfortable with the Obama Administration’s approach than they were with the previous Administration’s approach that was based on ground-based interceptors that the Russians feared could deal with their long-range missiles.
And we think that we have a common threat and they are threatened by the same ballistic missile and nuclear proliferation threat that we are. So we keep working this and hope to start, as you mentioned, with exercises – NATO-Russia theater ballistic missile defense exercises – and from there, much more is possible. QUESTION:
And to what degree is the November Lisbon summit sort of a date at which this will become clear that it’s going one way or the other? What is – or is that just not – is it not on that timeline?ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
It’s not necessarily on that timeline. We would very much welcome that, and there’s time between now and then to further the work. And if Russia were able to arrive in Lisbon – were to agree to a NATO-Russia Council summit, were to arrive in Lisbon and say they wanted to pursue together with NATO and/or together with the United States missile defense cooperation, we would be delighted with that. But if they’re not ready by Lisbon, we’ll keep working it because it’s something that we want to accomplish.QUESTION:
So do you really think there’s a chance that they would show up and say, okay, we’re ready?ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
The Russians will always have questions, and I don’t think it’s likely that we’re going to tie a bow around this and announce a final deal in Lisbon. But I don’t exclude at all that we’ll be able to demonstrate some progress on the issue.
To what extent has Iran been a topic or focus of these conversations, both in terms of how the sanctions are going to be implemented and whether everyone’s doing – I gather a lot of people have not submitted their reports of what they’re actually done.
And secondly, what is the idea going forward in terms of this fuel exchange? The P-5+1 issued a statement today – I don’t have the exact language – but saying essentially that there was interest, of course, in pursuing an updated version – is that the language, P.J., updated or something like that – version?ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
As I mentioned, Iran has extensively been discussed. You mentioned the P-5+1, but also the Secretary, in her meeting with the EU-27 foreign ministers and various other meetings that have taken place here, we are very satisfied with the degree to which we cooperated with the Europeans and the EU specifically in the run-up to Resolution 1929 and in the period that has followed it. We worked hand-in-glove with the Europeans to elaborate the resolution. They strongly supported it. And in the weeks following the resolution, the Europeans were ready very quickly to go on with accompanying complementary measures, which they are now in the phase of implementing and reinforcing, which is exactly what we think we need, and there is very much an identity of views on that issue.
So it has been discussed here, but there hasn’t been the big thing to accomplish. That work was done in the run-up. And so they’re mostly taking stock of what we have agreed to do together on the specific issue of the P-5+1 proposal and the fuel transfer.
We’ve made clear all along that we would like to see this sort of thing go ahead. There is a difference between the current situation and the one of October last year when it was first proposed, and that’s why we weren’t – we thought that there were shortcomings in the Turkish – in the Tehran declaration which had – which provided for a transfer of 1,200 kg, but that wasn’t – that didn’t meet the goals that were initially set last October.QUESTION:
Can I just follow up, though, on implementation of sanctions? How about Russia? I mean, they took no follow-on measures. To what degree are their companies abiding by it and their government?ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
Russia also, as you know, supported and voted for 1929. It has made clear that they intend to fully implement it, and we believe that they’re doing so.QUESTION:
You do think they’re doing so?ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
Another follow-on. Turkey doesn’t seem to have featured, at least so far, on the Secretary’s schedule. What about them? How are you – what are you doing with them? And specifically on the Iran issue, are you talking to them about implementation? There all seem to be very serious questions about how far they’re going on --ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
Well, also Turkey has made clear that they fully intend to respect and abide by the Security Council Resolution 1929, and we believe they’re doing so. And yes, we have very intensive discussions with the Turks. We had – in the run-up to the Tehran declaration, in the wake of the Tehran declaration, obviously the flotilla issue was something we discussed extensively.
The President has spoken a number of times with Prime Minister Erdogan. Foreign Minister Davutoglu is a regular interlocutor of Secretary Clinton. There’s really not a country that we have much more extensive bilateral contacts with than Turkey, because Turkey is engaged on just about every issue that we’ve mentioned here: Iran, Afghanistan, European Union, NATO, missile defense, Middle East, Israel, Iraq. So both here in New York and elsewhere, we’re very much engaged with them.QUESTION:
But given all that, are we – is it likely that the Secretary will do a bilat with the Turks?ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
She doesn’t have a bilat with the Turkish foreign minister on her schedule right now, but again, they talk to each other very regularly.QUESTION:
Hi.ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
I’m with Voice of America. I’m going to follow up on the Russian proposal to the new European treaty. The Russian ambassador to NATO, after this morning’s meeting here in New York, said that Russia actually does not accept it – the invitation to the summit in Lisbon. And he conditions acceptance on reaction of NATO to this new European security proposal that Russia is (inaudible). So the question is: Are we sure that there’s – some meeting is going on?
And the second question: Have you seen the reports that President Medvedev, a couple of hours ago, issued a decree limiting financial transactions with Iran, trade and financial transactions with Iran, and also stopping the sale of S-300 missiles?ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
No, I haven’t seen that report so will not comment on it. I can note that the Russians have said they believe that the sale of S-300s would be inconsistent with 1929. And obviously we welcome that, but I haven’t seen any latest statements on that.
On the first part of your question, that’s accurate; the Russians haven’t given a formal response to the proposal that we have a NATO-Russia Council summit. This is something that we’ll have to work out together, and this morning was an opportunity for us to describe what we would see as a potential agenda and set of possible outcomes for that meeting. They’re welcome, because they’re a full part of the NATO-Russia Council, to propose what they would find useful; and if we agree on that – we believe, the President believes, that if there’s a summit, it should be substantive. We think there’s a substantive agenda that could be accomplished and we’d like to see them accept, but we haven’t heard their final response to this invitation.QUESTION:
When was the last time there wasn’t a summit, a NATO-Russia summit at a NATO summit? ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
I’d have to check.QUESTION:
It’s been a while, right? Or was it recent?ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
The recent ones have tended to have an NRC as well.
Was there another part of your NATO-Russia that I missed?QUESTION:
No, but I guess the way the Russian ambassador to NATO phrased it was he was conditioning the acceptance to the summit to the reaction of NATO to the – ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
Right, exactly. And the Russians can themselves explain their conditions or under what circumstances they would or wouldn't come. I’ll leave that to them. To the extent that what they’re saying is they’ll only feel comfortable coming if this is seen and portrayed as an opportunity for partnership, then that’s what they’ll get, because that’s how we see it. And they should understand, as I think I said and the say said this morning, that NATO doesn't consider Russia an adversary and we see this as an opportunity for partnership. So I think if that’s what they want to understand, then they will come to understand that and show up. And we look forward to discussing with them what the agenda and outcome might be.QUESTION:
What are you hearing from Russians on the national sanctions that were put on Iran since June? The Brazilian foreign minister apparently did an interview where he said that the BRIC countries are thinking about a general assembly resolution in which they express their displeasure that various countries have added other levels of sanctions on the UN sanctions.ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
We’ve heard that from different sources, countries complaining about additional measures and saying that the UN should be sufficient. That’s never been the view of the United States, so we welcome 1929 and the broad support for 1929 as a minimal set of measures. And we have and the U.S. Congress has adopted further measures that we think are necessary to be part of the same process of pressuring Iran and making clear that there’s a consequence for its actions. So the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and others have taken further measures to reinforce. So that way we all agree on the basic package and some of us have gone further than that.QUESTION:
But these countries won’t cooperate. They’ll stand in the way of these things. That’s a big problem for the Iran regime (inaudible).ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
In an ideal world, everyone would be exactly onboard and doing exactly the same thing. We think that 1929 is pretty significant in and of itself, the most far-reaching sanctions package that the world has ever had binding vis-à-vis Iran, which takes us all to a certain point. Sure, we’d like to see it if some other countries adopted some of the same measures that we have, but we’re satisfied at the progress we’ve already made. And between us and the European Union and the others I mentioned – Japan, Canada, Australia – it’s a pretty significant and we feel like it’s having some impact on Iran. QUESTION:
I’d like to change the subject (inaudible). I was wondering on the issue of Sudan, how closely are you coordinating with European countries on this. And especially, the German Government has floated a proposal, a position paper on Sudan, and I was wondering what role you think – how big the German role could be – could be on this.ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON:
I don’t handle Sudan, so others will have to get back to you on some of the details of things I may not know about. I can tell you that the Secretary herself is very focused on that. She met even after countless hours yesterday of other meetings and transatlantic meetings with the Norwegians and British, who are very engaged on Sudan. And it’s a critically important issue. I’ll refer you to those in the U.S. Government who handle Sudan for more detail on the German proposal. QUESTION:
Thank you.ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: