Cablegate: Congressman Lantos' Meeting with Fm Lavrov

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O 211134Z FEB 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Congressman Tom Lantos, meeting with FM
Lavrov February 19, underlined the importance of building
strong ties between Russia and the U.S. by reinvigorating
links between legislators and working together on issues like
nuclear nonproliferation. Lavrov welcomed closer legislative
ties and responded enthusiastically to Lantos' pledge to work
to lift Jackson-Vanik legislation. Both agreed that
proposals to establish civilian nuclear fuel centers held out
significant promise as a way to handle global proliferation
concerns. Lavrov urged that Russia, the U.S. and other EU 3
Plus 3 members move forward carefully to address Iran's
nuclear file in the face of Tehran's "arrogance." On Kosovo,
Lavrov was adamant that Russia could not support an outcome
that was not also acceptable to Belgrade. Lavrov pledged
that Russia would act on information that Syria was not
complying with weapons end-use requirements and, while urging
engagement with Syria, revealed that Putin had passed a blunt
message to Asad during a December visit that Syria had to act
now to restore its credibility with its regional neighbors.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) Congressman Lantos, accompanied by the Ambassador,
had an hour-long meeting with FM Lavrov on February 19 to
discuss U.S.-Russian bilateral relations, nonproliferation
initiatives, Iran, Kosovo, and the Middle East. Igor
Neverov, MFA Director for North American Affairs, and
Legislative Assistant Michael Beard also participated.

3. (SBU) Congressman Lantos underlined his interest in
reinvigorating ties between U.S. and Russian legislators as
part of an effort to build a strong relationship between the
two countries. Lantos said he would ask his counterpart,
Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Konstantin Kosachev, to
formalize existing exchanges between legislatures. FM Lavrov
welcomed Lantos' suggestion as timely given the 200th
anniversary of U.S.-Russian relations and stressed that he
highly valued his own contacts with U.S. legislators. He
warned that progress in the bilateral relationship could be
lost as both Russia and the U.S. approached election cycles
and suggested that contacts among legislators could help
allay questions, including about Russia's record on
safeguarding nuclear materials.
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (SBU) FM Lavrov raised concerns about legislation
sponsored by Congressman Lantos to advance democracy in
Russia and other countries by requiring U.S. diplomats to
intensify their work with opposition politicians. He said
that good diplomats were in contact with opposition
politicians as a matter of course, but by legally insisting
that officials do this, it looked intrusive and raised
questions among Russian elites about U.S. attitudes towards
Russia. Lavrov said he understood the need for elected
officials to be responsive in a democratic society, but said
that Moscow viewed attacks on Russia in the Western media
during the past year as "an organized campaign." He
attributed the scope of the attacks to a lack of objective
information about Russia, which was aided and abetted by
politicians who benefited politically from slamming Moscow.

5. (SBU) Turning to bilateral discussions about human
rights issues, FM Lavrov stressed that there were positive
signs. Both Presidents had endorsed an agreement between
Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and the
Carnegie Endowment which would establish a bilateral
non-governmental dialogue, with the first meeting of the
group now slated for April. Lavrov also raised Jackson-Vanik
legislation, arguing that the original purpose of the law had
long been met and that it had become an anomaly. To Lavrov's
visible surprise, Congressman Lantos promised that he would
seek to move on legislation lifting Jackson-Vanik upon his
return to Washington. Lavrov enthusiastically welcomed this

6. (SBU) Congressman Lantos noted that he had recently
introduced legislation that would establish international
nuclear fuel banks under IAEA auspices and invited Russian
participation in the program. Lavrov surveyed proposals to
establish centers that would provide safeguarded access to
nuclear fuel for civilian programs, while noting that the NPT
did not prohibit states from pursuing full nuclear fuel
cycles. Lavrov warned against attempts for now to reopen the

MOSCOW 00000749 002 OF 003

NPT because NAM members would seek unhelpful amendments. He
suggested that the U.S. and Russia work together to persuade
states to participate in nuclear fuel centers, while
acknowledging such efforts might also require economic
incentives. At some point, states could take another look at
the NPT. Russia had already begun a pilot project at the
Angarsk facility to implement Putin's International Nuclear
Fuel Cycle Center proposal, and Kazakhstan had expressed an
interest in participation.

7. (SBU) Turning to Iran, Lavrov highlighted Tehran's
continuing insistence on its rights under NPT to develop a
full nuclear fuel cycle. Lavrov said Moscow did not favor
proposals that would sacrifice some EU 3 Plus 3 criteria in
order to prevent Iran from moving ahead to full-scale
industrial uranium enrichment. In any event, such proposals
were unlikely to be successful. Reviewing recent discussions
of Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov in Iran and former
Iranian FM Ali Akbar Velayati in Moscow, Lavrov characterized
Iran as "arrogant" and inflexible, and argued that the EU 3
Plus 3 negotiators would need to carefully evaluate what
steps to take to meet shared goals. In this regard, Lavrov
heralded the negotiations over UNSCR 1737 as a model -- they
took some time, but the resolution was producing results by
making Iran rethink its position.

8. (SBU) Congressman Lantos probed for flexibility on the
Russian side on Kosovo. Lavrov contrasted U.S. and Russian
views on Iran, Iraq, the Middle East, and frozen conflicts --
where the sides shared the same basic objectives but differed
at times over tactics -- with the question of Kosovo's
status. On Kosovo, there was a disagreement over objectives.
Russia's view was that deciding Kosovo's status without the
consent of Belgrade was "absolutely unacceptable" and
threatened to destabilize the Balkans. While Moscow
understood that the status question could not drag on for
years, it viewed U.S. efforts to "speed up" a solution as
counterproductive. In Lavrov's view, the threat of violence
by Kosovars was not an adequate justification for a quick

9. (SBU) FM Lavrov argued that the West had made
concessions to Kosovar concerns ever since UNSCR 1244 was
adopted, but had given Serbian interests short shrift by
failing to enforce resolution provisions that benefited the
Serbs. Pronouncing himself "not optimistic" on the outcome
of the Ahtisaari plan, Lavrov foresaw that a draft UNSCR
might avoid endorsing independence while using careful
wording and constructive ambiguity to achieve that result.
For Russia's part, Kosovo still held an emotional resonance,
as reflected in former PM Primakov's recent article
advocating a veto of a Kosovo UNSCR. Russia was ready to
cooperate on a platform of mutually acceptable negotiations
between Belgrade and Pristina.

10. (SBU) Lavrov expressed an interest in U.S. proposals to
develop energy saving technology and alternative fuels and to
establish safe nuclear plants. He defended Russian energy
policy, arguing that Moscow had never violated any of its
energy contracts with its neighbors. Russia had the right to
trade at market prices, even with its closest allies.

11. (SBU) The Congressman pressed Lavrov on the supply of
Russian weapons to Hizbollah through Syria. Lavrov reviewed
Israeli allegations this past summer that Russian anti-tank
missiles that had been sold to Syria had ended up in
Hizbollah's hands. The Israelis had provided sufficient
documentation to prompt the Russians to ask the Syrians for
an explanation. The Syrians claimed they had left the
weapons behind when they withdrew from Lebanon, but the
Russians had successfully obtained more specific end-use
promises that now clarified that Russia could conduct
surprise inspections. Lavrov said Moscow was aware of
allegations that weapons were still being transferred over
the Lebanese-Syrian border and promised Russia would act to
verify end-uses if specific information was provided.

12. (SBU) Turning to the situation in the Middle East,

MOSCOW 00000749 003 OF 003

Lavrov said that Putin and he had heard during Putin's Gulf
trip last week that it was important to involve the Syrians
rather than isolate them. There was widespread concern in
the Gulf and Jordan that they were "losing" Syria to Iran.
At the same time, Asad could best serve his own interests by
"doing the right thing" and "getting out of the mess he is
in." During Asad's visit to Moscow in December, Lavrov said,
Putin had been blunt in suggesting specific steps Asad should
take: working with Hamas and Hizbollah on freeing the
captured Israelis and acting in a positive way to influence
the situation in Lebanon. Moscow had also conveyed to
Damascus Washington's concerns about policing the
Syrian-Iraqi border and the Damascus airport. Lavrov was
also hopeful (if surprised) about efforts by Saudi Arabia and
Iran to encourage progress in Lebanon. He suggested that
Iranian helpfulness in this case provided support for the
view that Tehran might be willing to discuss regional issues
in a productive fashion.

13. (SBU) Congressman Lantos has cleared this message.

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