Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Sunday he held talks with Kuwaiti officials on a new "security system" that would bring together Iraq and its Gulf neighbors.
"It's a regional security system," he said before travelling on to Saudi Arabia, the last stop of his Middle East tour, ahead of US Defense Secretary William Cohen, whose country has security pacts with the oil-rich Gulf Arab monarchies.
"It includes a series of steps, starting with full respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states and renouncing the use of force," Ivanov told reporters.
During a two-day visit, Ivanov met the emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, and also held talks with his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.
"The system must take into consideration the interests of all countries in the region and for this reason it is important to hold consultations with all sides. We have detailed our proposals to the Kuwaiti leadership," Ivanov said.
The system must be guaranteed by the international community, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, he said.
Ivanov, whose country supports a lifting of the UN sanctions on Iraq imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, said the system could take years to set up, but this "will not be a substitute for the settlement of the Iraqi issue" which was separate.
The Russian foreign minister proposed to Kuwait that for Iraq to play an active role in the system, it must be reinstated in the world community, a foreign diplomat told AFP.
But Cohen, following in Ivanov's footsteps, said in Kuwait later the same day that the Russian official had apparently encouraged Kuwait to halt its support for the enforcement of "no-fly" zones over Iraq, a proposal he slammed.
"Ivanov got a cool response from the Kuwaiti authorities," whose bases the US air force uses as well a Saudi air base and carriers in the Gulf to enforce a zone over southern Iraq, according to a US official travelling with Cohen.
Ivanov denied he was mediating between Iraq and Kuwait, saying "our efforts aim at defusing tension in the Gulf to achieve security and stability."
Sheikh Sabah also said it was not a case of Russian mediation between the emirate and its former occupier Iraq, whose troops were evicted by a US-led coalition in the 1991 Gulf War.
"I affirm that there is no Russian mediation, but an effort to make the Gulf a stable and quiet region," he said. "This is in the interest of all sides” -- KUWAIT CITY (AFP)
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