The UN Security Council passed a new resolution on Iran March 24 toughening economic sanctions against the country suspected of a covert nuclear program. Russia, which is building a $1-billion nuclear power plant in Iran, has resisted any strict sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
"The UN Security Council has set an international legal framework for influencing Iran, and it excludes the use of force. We call on those who have such ideas to keep within international law," Sergei Lavrov, who is in Armenia for a two-day visit, said in an apparent reference to recent media reports about possible U.S. strikes against Iran.
The U.S. Administration sees Iran as a "rogue state" and is determined to stop the Islamic Republic, diplomatically or otherwise, from obtaining nuclear weapons. Washington now plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Central Europe allegedly to protect itself from potential missile strikes from Iran or North Korea.
In comments on another international problem, the status of the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo, the Russian minister said a unilateral approach to the issue was unacceptable.
"Russia will only support a resolution that meets the interests of both Belgrade and Pristina," Lavrov said.
The UN Security Council will consider a plan of Martti Ahtisaari, a special envoy for talks on Kosovo, outlining the future status of the province April 3. Ahtisaari pushes for Kosovo's internationally supervised sovereignty. Serbian authorities strongly oppose the plan as a threat to their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
As a veto-wielding member in the 15-nation UN Security Council and a traditional ally of Serbia, Russia has insisted that a decision on Kosovo satisfy both Kosovar and Serbian authorities, and that it must be reached through negotiations.
The Russian foreign minister said the UN Security Council decision on Kosovo would affect other territorial conflicts and set a precedent for other self-proclaimed regions, including the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh province in Azerbaijan.
The breakaway province, which was plunged into bloodshed in the early 1990s, has been a bone of contention between Azerbaijan and Armenia ever since. Moscow has been more supportive of Armenia's position in the conflict.
"We hope an agreement will soon be reached on Nagorno-Karabakh," Lavrov said.
The minister said the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict where the Minsk Group of mediators - France, the U.S. and Russia - were working under the auspices of Europe's largest security organization, the OSCE, was unique because the interests of Russia, the European Union and the U.S. did not contradict each other and those of the conflicting sides.
But Lavrov added the leadership of Armenia and Azerbaijan would have the final say in the issue.
"We appreciate the efforts of Yerevan and Baku to promote the negotiations, above all, between the presidents and foreign ministers," he said.