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Russia: Foreign Minister's Talks In Canada Cover Range Of Issues

Ottawa, 20 September 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met in Ottawa for four-and-a-half hours with his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy.

At a news conference following the session Saturday, the two talked candidly about their discussions. Axworthy started by saying that Canada was "very sympathetic" about the recent terrorist bombings in Moscow and hoped the issue would be raised "at the G-8 (the seven leading industrial democracies plus Russia) level."

Axworthy added that the two had had a "good exchange on Kosovo" and the need to insure implementation of the United Nations resolution on disarming of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). Ivanov described the differences between NATO and Russia on Kosovo as being "not of opponents but of partners" and he stressed that "the partners are jointly seeking solutions."

The Canadian minister said the two discussed the need "to maintain momentum on nuclear disarmament," especially on anti-ballistic missiles.

They talked about reform of the United Nations and the UN Secretary-General's report on civilians in armed conflicts. Axworthy announced that Canada will be advocating the protection of civilians in armed conflicts at the opening of the UN General Assembly this week.

On Canada-Russia issues, Axworthy said they talked about northern issues. Canada established the Circumpolar Conference a few years ago, bringing together the eight nations touching on the Arctic.

Ivanov also said that the head of the Russian Federation's northern directorate, Goskomsever - Vladimir Goman - will attend an international conference on federalism being hosted between October 6 and 8 at the Quebec ski resort of Mont Tremblant. The meeting - hosted last year by Austria (with culture as the topic) - will be co-hosted this year by former Social Democratic Ontario Premier Bob Rae and the former premier of the German city-state of Hamburg, Hans Henning Voscherau, also of the Social Democratic Party.

Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov then took the floor and talked about relations with Canada as being one that operated in an "atmosphere of openness and partnership." He said he discussed "global problems" with Axworthy, especially international terrorism, which he described as "one of the most dangerous issues which must be addressed jointly within the G-8." He added that the group must find "tough ways of dealing with international terrorism."

The two foreign ministers said that, over lunch, they discussed Russian domestic issues, with Ivanov "underlining Russia's determination of pursuing economic and political reforms." Ivanov added that he made clear that "down the road, there will be bumps as reforms proceed."

Axworthy said the Russian economy "is going through a rough patch" and that there is a need for a foreign investment agreement between the two countries, especially dealing with opportunities on common Northern policy issues of interest to the other six circumpolar partners.

When asked about corruption, Ivanov responded that "there are other breaches elsewhere" and that "Russia is not alone but is ready to address this with partners." He stressed that current "problems should not cast a shadow on Russia" as a place to invest.

Russia currently owes Canada more than $1.5 billion and is $68 million in arrears on interest payments - almost all of it for wheat purchases. In 1998, Canadian exports to Russia totaled just over $280 million - down nearly 25 percent from the previous year - and it is expected that Canadian exports could drop by as much as an additional 50 percent in 1999. Figures on the import side are down by similar amounts.

Ivanov will be in New York early this week for a meeting with the editorial board of the New York Times and to attend the opening of the UN General Assembly before he continues on to Cuba.