Washington and Moscow moved to build on their recent diplomatic momentum this week as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov agreed that the two countries would work together in the Middle East, in Kosovo and in arms control efforts. In an August 5 telephone conversation, Albright and Ivanov “pointed to the readiness of Russia and the United States to cooperate closely to give a new impetus to the Mideast settlement,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said. The two sides also reiterated their commitment to the current peace plan for Kosovo and set a date for Russian-U.S. talks aimed at deeper nuclear weapons cuts. U.S. and Russian experts will reportedly meet in Moscow from August 17-19 to discuss a future START III arms reduction treaty and possible changes in the 1972 ABM treaty (AP, Reuters, Itar-Tass, August 5).
The August 5 conversation was a follow-up to Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin’s July 27 visit to Washington, at the close of which it was announced that Russia and the United States would both launch a new push for ratification of the START II treaty and hold talks on a follow-up START III accord. The impetus for the new Middle East peace effort comes from the election of Ehud Barak as prime minister of Israel. Barak held talks with Russian leaders in Moscow on August 2, after which he expressed the hope that Russia would play a greater role in the Middle East peace efforts. It remains unclear whether the U.S. and Israeli calls for greater Russian participation are on the level, or whether they are diplomatic flourishes aimed at appeasing Moscow. The answer to that question may lie in the role which Russia is ultimately willing to play: an advocate for the Palestinians and the Syrians, or a facilitator willing to use its influence in those countries to promote the broader peace effort.
YELTSIN URGED TO CALL KREMLIN ATTACK DOGS OFF MEDIA MOST.