At the end of his two-day visit to Berlin, Russia's foreign minister met with Germany's defense minister to discuss a range of sensitive issues, including Iran's nuclear ambitions, NATO expansion and Belarus elections.
German Defense Minister Jung (right) met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Berlin
After their meeting in Berlin on Thursday, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were in agreement that diplomatic efforts had to be stepped up to find a solution to the conflict over Iran's nuclear program.
Both men expressed the hope that the UN Security Council's presidential statement would encourage Tehran to change its mind and comply with demands to abandon its uranium enrichment activities.
Lavrov said that in his talks in the defense ministry in Berlin he also raised Russian fears that Moscow's security interests might not receive adequate consideration by NATO as it goes through its current process of transformation. The alliance's strategic re-deployment of troops primarily affects the new eastern European democracies which have a joint border with Russia.
A strategic partnership
Russia is worried about NATO's expansion to the east
The German defense minister reassured his guest that NATO remained absolutely committed to improving its strategic partnership with Russia and had no interest whatsoever in destabilizing relations with Moscow. Jung also praised Russia for its recent support in a number of missions.
"We're already seeing the results of closer German-Russian cooperation in the military and logistical fields," Franz Josef Jung said.
"Our joint SALIS transport project for instance gives us the opportunity to provide air-borne humanitarian support for earthquake victims in Pakistan. We can now reach remote regions too. Our bilateral cooperation has also proven vital with regard to having over-flight rights from Moscow for our peace-keeping mission in Afghanistan," Jung said.
A sore spot
Germany reiterated its concern about the results of the elections in Belarus
During his visit to Berlin, the Russian guest and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, expressed differing opinions on the outcome of the March 19 parliamentary election in Belarus.
Steinmeier pointed to the EU's criticism of the elections as fraudulent. He said there were more than just doubts about the legitimacy of President Alexander Lukashenko's sweeping victory. Steinmeier also condemned the arrest of hundreds of opposition supporters by Lukashenko's regime in Minsk. He emphasized that the EU was weighing whether to impose trade sanctions against Belarus -- which the Russian foreign minister described as inappropriate.
"The results of the recent elections in Belarus and Ukraine reflect the people's will in these two sovereign states and should be accepted as such," Lavrov said. "Other nations should display respect for the election results and see them as the basis for shaping their own relations with Minsk and Kiev. Everything is fine as long as the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations is observed."
Lavrov suggested that any problems that had arisen with regard to Belarus should be resolved not by isolating Minsk, but through increased dialogue and engagement.