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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton to Press Russia On Iran

APClinton and Lavrov joining the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministers, center, at a deal signing Saturday in Zurich.

Iran and Afghanistan will dominate talks by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week on a trip to Moscow and Kazan that could also spur progress on a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.

Clinton is to hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday as part of a European tour that included a weekend stop in Switzerland to commemorate an accord between Armenia and Turkey.

Clinton, who has sought to “reset” U.S. ties with Russia, said she was encouraged by Moscow’s role in talks with Britain, China, France, the United States and Germany — dubbed the P5+1 — on curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “The cooperation that we are seeing from our Russian partners in the P5+1 context is very encouraging,” she told reporters late last week, adding that Iran would be a topic in the week ahead. “We will certainly be looking at the options that we have to explore going forward from what was a positive but not conclusive meeting in Geneva.”

The six world powers recently held talks with Iran in Geneva, which officials described as constructive. Russia has been traditionally reluctant to impose sanctions on Iran.

Analysts believe a recent U.S. decision to revamp plans for a missile defense shield in Europe will aid both nations in working out many issues.

Lavrov on Friday called Obama’s missile-defense shift “unambiguously positive” but said Russia wanted “complete, detailed information from the American side” about the new plan, RIA-Novosti reported.

He also suggested that Clinton might hear criticism from Moscow about U.S. policies in Russia’s neighborhood. Talks will include discussions of “how our partners act in the post-Soviet space,” Lavrov said in Chisinau, Moldova, during a summit of former Soviet republics, Itar-Tass reported. “We want their actions to be transparent and, first of all, for them to take into account the interest of these countries and the legitimate interests of Russia.”

A State Department official said Clinton would broach human rights and Russia’s treatment of Georgia, with which it fought a five-day war last year.

Clinton will also press for more help in Afghanistan after Russia recently allowed the United States to fly weapons, hardware and personnel across its territory to that country. “The Russians could provide more assistance to Afghanistan including … in the form of weapons for the Afghan army, training, counternarcotics,” the official said.

Clinton hopes to advance talks to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires on Dec. 5. President Barack Obama and Medvedev agreed on the outlines of a deal in July, but several hurdles may make it difficult to finish by the December deadline.

The secretary will also fly to Tatarstan’s capital, Kazan, to illustrate the U.S. desire to engage with Russians across the country.

Clinton began her trip in Zurich, Switzerland, on Saturday where she helped Turkey and Armenia clear a last-minute snag to sign a landmark agreement to establish diplomatic relations and open their sealed border after a century of enmity. The Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers signed the accord after a dispute over the final statements that they would make. In the end, the signing took place about three hours later than scheduled, and there were no spoken statements.

The U.S. Defense Department denied Friday that it planned to station radar systems in Ukraine, after published remarks by a U.S. defense official prompted Lavrov to call for clarification. Alexander Vershbow, a U.S. assistant secretary of defense, was quoted in Defense News as saying Washington had added Ukraine to a list of possible early warning sites as it moves to refashion a European missile defense system.

“The statement by Alexander Vershbow was rather unexpected. In principle, he is a person who is prone to extravagancies. … We would like to receive full clarification,” Lavrov said.

The U.S. defense department said later that Vershbow had said nothing about stationing U.S. radars “or any other missile defense systems on the territory of Ukraine.”

(Reuters, AP)