Steinmeier says Russia hindering talks on Iran

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday that Russia’s apparent cancellation of a ministerial meeting of six major powers on Iran’s nuclear program would make it “difficult” to bring pressure on Tehran.

Steinmeier says Russia hindering talks on Iran
Steinmeier talks to journalists on the flight to New York. Photo: DPA

“I hope and expect that this is not the end of the 3+3 Group’s efforts,” he told reporters, referring to attempts by Britain, France, Germany, the United States, China and Russia to convince Iran to suspend sensitive nuclear fuel work. “But there is no question that without such a meeting, which we urgently need in the current situation, it will be more difficult to bring the necessary international pressure to bear.”

The State Department said Tuesday that the planned ministerial-level session on Iran on the sidelines of the General Assembly was now off, after Moscow said it would not take part.

“There is not going to be a P-5-plus-one ministers meeting,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in New York.

“We do not see any fire that requires us to toss everything aside and meet to discuss Iran’s nuclear program in the middle of a packed week at the United Nations General Assembly,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement earlier Tuesday. Moscow’s statement apparently meant Russia was walking out of the meeting. It was also an official response to US suggestions that the United States and Russia could work together in some areas but not others. “It would be very desirable for Washington to finally decide what it wants in its relations with Moscow. If it wants to punish Russia, this is one thing. If it agrees we have common interests… that is another,” the Russian foreign ministry said. “To use the words of Condoleezza Rice, you can’t have it both ways,” it added, referring to a phrase that the US secretary of state has used in criticizing Russia’s conflict with Georgia last month.

Steinmeier said he had heard on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s session that the Russians were having second thoughts about the Iran round because the United States had pulled out of a meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers planned here this week. The German minister said Moscow’s boycott demonstrated once again after the Georgia crisis that “silence” between Russia and the international community “does not solve any problems”.

“The case of Iran shows even more that we must remain in talks, with Russia as well, and demonstrate the necessary pressure, the decisiveness and the resolve of the international community,” he said.

Despite three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions, Iran continues to defy demands that it halt uranium enrichment—a process the West and Israel fear is being used to make an atomic bomb. Tehran insists that its nuclear energy program is entirely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the General Assembly on Tuesday that Tehran would pursue nuclear technology despite Western “bullying.”