Russia has no plans to send a peacekeeping contingent into Iraq, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. He spoke Saturday at a Moscow press conference following talks with his visiting Iraqi counterpart, Hoshiyar Zebari.
This issue was not even brought up for discussion during today's talks, Mr Lavrov said. He pointed out, however, that Russia was willing to help Iraq in other ways, specifically through economic projects, personnel training, and work on the Paris Club of Creditor Nations. "I assure you that this contribution will be no less significant than that of members of the multinational Coalition force," he stressed.
Mr Lavrov also said that Russian companies, primarily ones involved with power engineering, would return to Iraq once stability was restored there. "Our companies, energy or otherwise, will return for [further] work at Iraqi sites as soon as the security situation gets back to normal," he said.
Today's talks also dealt with ways to strengthen bilateral relations and to develop economic and trade cooperation between the two countries.
Sending Russian military specialists into Iraq is absolutely out of the question, Mr Lavrov reemphasized. He said that the staff of Russia's embassy to that country would be expanded and consolidated as bilateral relations develop. He also said that Iraqi nationals were welcome to attend academic and training courses in Russia.
Speaking of Iraq's debt, the Russian minister reiterated his country's willingness to consider the possibility of its rescheduling within the framework of the Paris Club. "We agreed that our experts would take all preparatory measures needed to make this happen," Mr. Lavrov said.
Russia is hopeful that Iraq will begin to actively contribute to the work of the UN Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee, the minister said. Before the transfer of power to the sovereign Iraqi government, it was U.S.-led Coalition authorities that represented Iraq on the Committee and cooperation with them did not work out, Mr Lavrov noted. "I hope that [the sovereign] Iraq will be effectively cooperating with this important mechanism, chaired by Russia," he said.
Counter-terrorism efforts may be put on the agenda of a planned international conference on Iraq, the Russian Foreign Minister said.
"We believe that the problem of suppressing the international terrorists who have penetrated into Iraq in the past year will be possible to dealt with in all of these areas," Mr Lavrov said in conclusion.