Steinmeier pushes for arms cuts on Moscow visit | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 11.06.2009
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Steinmeier pushes for arms cuts on Moscow visit

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on a visit to Moscow urged Russian leaders not to miss an opportunity for improved ties with the US and a new deal on global nuclear disarmament.

German Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Red Square in Moscow

Steinmeier's agenda in Moscow covered a lot of ground

"With the entry into office of President Obama, there is a genuine chance for new cooperation between the United States, the European Union and Russia," Steinmeier said.

"The ghost of the Cold war has been banished... So I would like to say that the extended hand of the US president should be boldly accepted," he said.

Earlier, Steinmeier told reporters that the Security Council's five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - as well as Japan and South Korea had agreed to toughen their stance against North Korea after Pyongyang tested a nuclear device and launched several missiles in recent weeks.

"The efforts made for a resolution were rewarded with success," Steinmeier said at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday.

A short-range missile during lift-off

North Korea has tested several missiles this year

Diplomats say the latest draft resolution "calls upon" countries to inspect North Korean ships carrying suspicious cargo that might violate a partial UN trade and arms embargo, although it does not demand it.

The document does, however, require governemnts to deny fuel to any suspicious North Korea vessles and direct them to dock at "an appropriate and convenient port."

Reaching out

Disarmament was a key theme throughout Steinmeier's two-day visit to Moscow, during which he also met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

In his address to the Russian Academy of Science, Steinmeier said that all nations should make constructive efforts to disarm.

"This has to be the year when international disarmament efforts move back to the top of the agenda," he said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in talks

Steinmeier said Medvedev seemed ready to reduce its nuclear arsenal

Steinmeier stressed that the talks between Russia and the US on replacing the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) were "a vital step on the difficult path towards a world free of nuclear weapons."

Steinmeier called the warming of relations between the Kremlin and the US a "unique historic opportunity."

Thawing fronts?

US President Obama is scheduled to travel to Moscow early next month for key talks on a follow-up to START, which expires on December 5.

US and Russian negotiators have been holding preliminary meetings ahead of those talks. Moscow has said it wants to link the nuclear talks to Washington's plans to deploy an anti-missile shield in central Europe - a plan the Kremlin firmly opposes.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin would consider getting rid of its nuclear arsenal if all other countries agreed to do so as well.

After meeting the German foreign minister, Putin was asked if he could imagine a Russia without nuclear weapons.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

"What do we need nuclear weapons for?" Putin asked

"Of course," he answered. "What do we need nuclear weapons for?"

Putin's answer did have one caveat, however.

"If those who invented the atomic bomb, and used it, are prepared to do away with atom bombs, then we would welcome this," he said, suggesting his country's involvement is dependent on US disarmament.

The Russian news agency Interfax, however, has reported that Russia wants to keep at least 1,500 nuclear warheads.

Other business

In addition to disarmament, Steinmeier also spoke with Russian leaders about combating the effects of the global financial crisis.

Putin praised Berlin's active role in negotiating a plan to rescue struggling carmaker Opel, which now counts Russian state-owned lender Sberbank as one of its major stakeholders.

The three leaders agreed to increase cooperation in the energy sector, particularly in renewable fuel sources and efficiency.

Steinmeier also addressed the controversial topics of human rights and Moscow's relations with Tbilisi in the wake of last year's military conflict between Russia and Georgia.

He urged Moscow to adopt a "constructive" role in the Caucasus and stressed that unresolved territorial disputes did not have a place in the Europe of the 21st century.

During a visit to the editorial office of the Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper known for being critical of the Kremlin, Steinmeier wrote that democracy and a free press go together like breathing and air.


Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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