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U.S., Russia Further Antarctic Cooperation

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary, posing for photos in St. Petersburg back in June, say the new agreements are further proof of growing cooperation.
The United States and Russia have signed two agreements on furthering their cooperation in the Antarctic and the Bering Strait region that connects the two countries.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signed the documents on September 8 in Vladivostok on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Summit.

Lavrov praised the agreements as further proof of the two countries' resolve to work together.

"As a whole the memorandum demonstrates the will of our countries to work jointly for mutual benefit on a wide array of Antarctic issues. And the statement about inter-regional cooperation reinforces our positive experience we've already had in this sphere and gives our regions understanding that the governments of Russia and the United States encourage them to develop further mutually beneficial ties," Lavrov said at a press conference along with Clinton.

"It is an important aspect of our relationship as it touches the issues that directly affect our citizens," he added.

Clinton pointed to the documents as a further positive sign in the growth of bilateral relations since the countries' "reset" in relations in 2009.

"We are formally deepening our scientific cooperation in Antarctica, a continent with vast opportunities for research. Scientists from both of our countries will work together to explore Antarctica's terrain, study the effects of climate change, and cooperate on a range of issues to better understand and protect our environment," Clinton said.

"And for the first time, U.S. and Russian officials and scientists are working together to enforce the Antarctic Treaty."

As a further sign of better bilateral relations, Clinton pointed out cooperation on a new visa regime that will help Russian and U.S. companies.

"Tomorrow our historic visa agreement will come into force. It will facilitate travel between our nations, which will strengthen both people-to-people ties and business contacts," Clinton said.

"It is fitting that this agreement will come into force during APEC. Business communities in our countries repeatedly ask us for visa liberalization to make it easier for them to work together, and we are happy to be able to deliver."

Speaking later, Clinton said the U.S. Congress may move this month to upgrade trade relations by lifting the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, Cold War-era legislation that has blocked normal trade privileges for Russia.

Congress is under pressure to act after Russia joined the World Trade Organization last month.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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