LAVROV AND RICE GO HEAD TO HEAD IN STUNNING FIGHT
From MSNBC :
MOSCOW - Intentionally or not, the Russians fed out audio of Thursday’s closed lunch meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, revealing a fractious exchange over the wording of an official Group of Eight statement on Iraq.
The feed provided a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at the tense relationship during what Rice and Lavrov had believed was a private conversation. Throughout the meeting, the two officials argue and interrupt each other.
Later, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay publicly described the contentious sessions as “frank.”G8 foreign ministers were meeting in Moscow ahead of a July 15-17 summit of G8 leaders, to be held in St. Petersburg and hosted for the first time by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the transcript of the meeting, Rice repeatedly interrupts Lavrov, particularly objecting to his proposal that the statement criticize the Iraq government for not adequately protecting diplomats.
At one point Rice tells the Russian official: “You know, on a fairly daily basis we lose soldiers and I think it would be offensive to suggest that these efforts are not being made. … We are making those efforts and we are making them at quite a sacrifice. ... The problem isn’t diplomatic missions. The problem is journalists and civilian contractors and, yes, diplomats as well.
“The problem is you have a terrorist insurgent population that is wreaking havoc on a hapless Iraqi civilian population that is trying to fight back and on a coalition force that is trying to fight back and the implication that by somehow declaring that diplomats need to be protected it will get better I think is simply not right.”
At that point Lavrov tries to interject — and Rice cuts him off:
“I understand that in the wake of the brutal murder of your diplomats that it is a sensitive time, but I think that we can’t imply that this is an isolated problem or that it isn’t being addressed,” Rice said.
Eventually, they agreed on a public statement that condemns the killing without criticizing the Iraqi government on security.
From MSNBC :
MOSCOW - A testy exchange overheard between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov exposed tensions in U.S.-Russia ties and gave an insight into how the two interact away from the world's cameras.
The discussion between Rice and Lavrov dominated foreign ministers' talks over lunch at Thursday's Group of Eight meeting that were aimed at hammering out wording for a joint communique.
Rice objected to Lavrov inserting words saying that security for foreign missions should be beefed up in Iraq after Russian embassy workers were killed this month, and complained there was no reference to an international aid accord for Iraq.
She said Lavrov's proposed language implied foreign interference with, rather than support for, the Iraqi government.
"I did not suggest this," Lavrov interjected. "What I did say was not 'involvement in the political process' but the 'involvement of the international community in support of the political process'."
"What does that mean?" Rice asked.
After a long pause, Lavrov told her, "I think you understand."
"No, I don't," she said.
After more quibbling, Rice conceded the concept of a U.S.- proposed international agreement to provide aid for Iraq's economic policies would be omitted from the communique.
"It's a pity, that we can't endorse something that's been endorsed by the Iraqis and the U.N.," she said. "But if that's how Russia sees it, that's fine."
In the end, other foreign ministers persuaded the two diplomats to compromise on both areas of disagreement.
The diplomats' roughly 20-minute exchange in English over just a few words showed how painstakingly the world's senior diplomats can discuss details.
But it but also revealed the tense relationship between Rice and Lavrov that reflects their governments' differences.
The United States has particularly irked Russia with accusations that Moscow curbs media and non-governmental groups and complaints it has skewed the rule of law in the energy sector.
At a news conference after the G8 meeting, the tone from Rice and Lavrov was more measured than behind closed doors but they continued to joust.
Rice reiterated those concerns but said Russia's democracy had come a long way since her first visit to Moscow in 1979.
Lavrov sought to minimise her criticism by comparing Russian and U.S. democracy, saying he had seen changes in America since his first visit there the same year.
Rice shot back: "So when did you go and where did you go in the United States in 1979 that you saw so much change? I am really interested," she said.
Rice made no comment during the con on what they argued over including in the statement
LAVROV : We reaffirmed our support for the permanent government of Iraq. We called on it to continue working towards a national concord, greater security that would create conditions for stable socioeconomic development.