Kerry Lauds US-Russia Work on ‘Big-Ticket’ Issues
(RIA Novosti -WASHINGTON, April 17, 2013) US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday praised cooperation between the United States and Russia on a range of issues and said he is “hopeful” that the two countries can bolster bilateral ties despite disagreements over adoptions and human rights.
“Even though there have been some bumps in the road, I am very hopeful that we can move this relationship back to a more visibly, completely constructive place,” Kerry told the US House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee in a hearing Wednesday.
Kerry conceded that relations between Washington and Moscow have reached a “lower moment” in the wake of a Russian law banning Americans from adopting Russian children and blacklists from each country linked to the Magnitsky Act, a US law slapping visa and financial sanctions on Russian citizens deemed by Washington to be complicit in human rights abuses.
But he said critics of US President Barack Obama’s so-called “reset” policy with the Kremlin are overlooking important collaboration between the two countries in areas like trade, US-led military operations in Afghanistan, arms reduction, and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.
“Those are big-ticket items,” Kerry said.
The Magnitsky Act was signed into law by US President Barack Obama on Dec. 14 and is ostensibly designed to punish officials believed to be connected to the death in a Moscow jail of whistleblowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. The scope of the legislation was later broadened to cover a whole range of suspected rights abusers.
Russia, which says the Magnitsky Act constitutes US meddling in its domestic affairs, responded in part by banning US citizens from adopting Russian children and introducing sanctions on US officials Moscow accuses of rights abuses.
The US administration last week published the names of 18 Russians to be sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act, prompting Russia to issue its public blacklist of 18 US citizens.
In his testimony Wednesday, Kerry described his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this month as “very good” and said that he had been invited to travel to Russia, which he plans to do prior to the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June.