Russia highlighted the pressing need Wednesday to lift UN sanctions against Iraq at a meeting between Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and visiting Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz. Before the start of the talks, Ivanov told reporters that one of Moscow's main foreign policy tasks was to see an end to the sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The Russian authorities were also eager to support moves to stabilize the wider situation in the Persian Gulf region, he said. Ivanov told Aziz that he wanted an "active dialogue" to discuss the whole range of bilateral issues. "Today we must put in place the basis for our future relations with Iraq," Ivanov was cited as saying by Interfax news agency.
Russia lost some $30 billion during the embargo period, Ivanov was quoted as saying Wednesday by media reports focusing on Moscow's demands for a political compromise over US-backed sanctions.
"The US policy towards Iraq is counter-productive. The sanctions merely reinforce the military regime by enabling Saddam Hussein to blame his country's poverty on American aggression," top Russian analyst Alexei Vasiliyev said in the Vremia MN newspaper.
Ivanov and Aziz, who cancelled a press conference after their scheduled talks ran into overtime, were also expected to discuss Russia's proposal for Kuwait to halt its support for the "no-fly" zones imposed on Iraq by London and Washington.
Iraq does not recognize the zones, imposed in both northern and southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait, which are not authorized by any specific UN resolution. It has challenged the planes on a nearly daily basis since the United States and Britain launched air raids in December 1998.
Earlier this month, Aziz reiterated Iraq's rejection of UN Security Council resolution 1284, passed in December last year. The resolution offered to suspend the 10-year-old sanctions against Baghdad, if the authorities cooperated fully with arms inspectors verifying the elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
However, the talks between Ivanov and Aziz were also due to focus on the wider problem of security and stability in the Gulf area in view of the deepening of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. "It's essential to stabilize the situation in the Middle East and calm the situation in the Palestinian territories," said Ivanov.
Russia has proposed an international peace conference to broker an end to the two-month spiral of violence between Palestinians and Israelis that has plunged the Middle East into crisis. But the idea has met with a cold reception in Israel.
Aziz was expected to meet Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu later Wednesday to discuss Russian-sponsored efforts to normalize the situation in Iraq. — (AFP, Moscow)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)