North Korea-Russia: In a press conference reviewing diplomatic results in 2013, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented on the Korean situation.
"Certainly, emergence of new military world powers is unacceptable for us. This is a common position of Russia, the People's Republic of China and other participants in six-party talks," Lavrov told the news conference.
"As for six-party talks, we are convinced that there is no alternative to this process. The goals remain unchanged - to make Korean Peninsula nuclear free. The basis for talks also did not change. This is a statement that six world powers had adopted in September 2005," the minister noted.
He said that the North Korean leadership is sending signals that the country is prepared to resume nuclear talks, but other countries expect concrete unilateral actions from Pyongyang before the start of talks that confirm serious intentions. In the view of Lavrov, the negotiators should seek for consensus, not caring about "someone losing face or saving face."
Comment: Lavrov did not elaborate about North Korean signals, but North Korea has had private bilateral contacts with Russia since its formation. The Kims have been fond of trying to leverage their ties to Russia to blunt Chinese influence.
The key point is that North Korea is willing to participate in talks without preconditions, which sounds eminently reasonable. However, the North has failed to deliver on past promises that remain outstanding. Thus the North's seemingly innocent willingness to start with a clean negotiating slate would in fact be a diplomatic victory, if the other states accepted the North's hubris.
The Russians can support the North's position because they are bit players in Korea and stand to lose nothing by backing Pyongyang and stand to gain much at no cost to themselves by diplomatically challenging the Allies.
Before opening new talks, the US and the Allies want the North to be held accountable for failing to keep past promises made in prior talks, such as freezing its nuclear program. The Russians are playing the spoiler, as they are in the Syrian peace talks and the Iranian nuclear agreement.
Iran: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted Wednesday that the Obama administration has mischaracterized concessions supposedly made by Iran. He said, simply and clearly, "we did not agree to dismantle anything."
Zarif said that terminology used by the White House to describe the agreement differed from the text agreed to by Iran and the other countries in the talks -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.
"The White House version both underplays the concessions and overplays Iranian commitments…. The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran's nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again."
Zarif said the actual text of the agreement contradicts the Washington press summary of the agreement. "If you find a single, a single word, that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text, then I would take back my comment. We are not dismantling any centrifuges, we're not dismantling any equipment, we're simply not producing, not enriching over 5%."
Comment: No agreement seems to exist because the two parties appear to have never reached a meeting of the minds on the terms. The Iranians have published the agreement, which may be found on the Web. The US has published only a summary of the agreement. The two do not agree. The statements and behavior indicate the US is pursuing a policy of containing the Iranian nuclear program. It has given up on dismantlement.
Syria: Talks opened in Montreux, Switzerland, today with harsh exchanges and a fundamental misunderstanding of the terms of the talks. The US said the talks start from the premise that President Asad must be removed from power.
The Syrian side said the opposition is losing and has no basis for making such a demand. The Syrians invited the opposition to participate in national elections to make its point.
Comment: The US appears to be demanding Asad resign when his government is having battle field success. Apparently the only reason any opposition politicians are attending is because the US persuaded them that was a basic premise of the talks, in addition to payments for expenses.
The two sides do not agree on the fundamental framework and purpose of the talks. The Syrians and Russians will tire of talking for the purpose of talking.
End of NightWatch
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