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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Plays Down Differences on Iraq

Speaking two days ahead of talks with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Monday that differences between Russia and the United States over Iraq were tactical, not strategic, and it was possible to repair frayed ties.

"Even at the peak of the Iraq crisis, we did not act against each other but defended different approaches to solving the same problem. This point is of fundamental importance," Ivanov said.

"The fact that we share an interest in searching for the most effective way to meet global challenges helps bring the positions of Moscow and Washington closer together. This is our position ahead of upcoming talks with Powell."

Ivanov spoke at the opening of a one-day conference on the new world order, organized by the Russia in Global Affairs journal and attended by diplomats, lawmakers and foreign policy experts from Russia, the United States and Europe. Among the guests was former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, whom conference organizer Sergei Karaganov described as the author of one of the only successful projects of the late 20th century -- the reunification of Germany.

Ivanov, who adopted a tougher anti-U.S. stance than the Kremlin during the Iraq crisis, reiterated on Monday his vision of the new world order as a "pyramid topped by the United Nations and its Security Council."

"There is no alternative to the United Nations," he said.

The role of the UN in postwar Iraq is one of the areas in which Russia and the United States disagree. Under a draft U.S. resolution introduced last week, the UN would have an advisory and primarily humanitarian role in Iraq.

With a debate on whether the post-Cold War world is unipolar or multipolar dominating the discussion, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow began his presentation by jokingly thanking Karaganov for giving him the floor "at this multipolar conference."

"We are not against multilateralism. We are interested in results first and foremost," he said, implying that the U.S. priority was to act effectively to the threat of international terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Vershbow said Washington would like Russia to play a more active role in solving what it sees as the nuclear proliferation problems in Iran and North Korea. He said Russia is expected to use its influence with Syria and the Palestinians to end support for terrorist groups.

On the sidelines of the conference, Vershbow said the draft Security Council resolution lifting sanctions against Iraq will be discussed during Powell's visit to Moscow. "We hope to find common ground on these issues," he was quoted by Interfax as saying.

He also said Powell will be laying the groundwork for an informal summit between U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg on June 1. Powell would like to meet with Putin during his visit Wednesday and Thursday, Vershbow said.

Monday's conference largely focused on the future of the U.S.-Europe-Russia triangle, which was challenged by the Iraq war, and the need to adapt to the new realities of international relations -- how to deal with a threat from a nonstate entity such as a terrorist group and what the conditions for a preventive strike should be. "Perhaps the UN Charter should be revised, but we should agree on the rules," said Thierry de Montbrial, director of the French Institute of International Relations.

Some Russian speakers, such as Politika think tank director Vyacheslav Nikonov and Alexander Dynkin, the deputy director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, were skeptical about the potential benefits of a closer Russian alliance with European nations and advocated warmer ties with the United States. Nikonov said Russia's role should be to "bridge the gap between old Europe and the U.S."

"The hope for Europe as a guaranteed partner is not very strong in Russia today," Dynkin said. "Historical circumstances are pushing us toward a partnership with the U.S. and improved relations with China and India."

European attendees said they realized Europe's shortcomings, despite the narrowing economic gap between the continent and the United States. Horst Teltschik, former head of the German chancellor's Foreign Policy Office, lamented Europe's unreadiness to assume responsibility for handling international military and political conflicts. "Both Europe and Russia are strong only through their cooperation with the U.S.," he said. "Without the U.S., both Europe and Russia are very weak."