Aurescu: Romania did not discuss US missile shield project with Russia

Romania did not have any bilateral talks with Russia over its decision to host elements of the US anti-missile shield, but the matter was thoroughly discussed by Washington and Moscow, Foreign Ministry’s State Secretary for strategic affairs, Bogdan Aurescu said in an interview to HotNews on Friday.

In the interview, Aurescu offered more details about how negotiations between Romania and the US will be conducted and tried to appease concerns of several politicians and analysts that the decision might affect Bucharest’s ties with Moscow. Aurescu explained that from the information made available by the US, Washington officials have been discussing the project with Moscow since September last year, when US President Barack Obama announced plans for the revamped missile shield.

“Practically, as American officials’ statements show, and even Mrs. (US Secretary of State Hillary) Clinton said it, the system is open to participation for all interested countries, including Russia, if Russia wants to,” Aurescu said. In the context, he voiced conviction that the US shield project cannot have a negative impact on Washington-Moscow negotiations on a new START offensive nuclear weapons reduction treaty or on Romanian-Russian ties.

“Moscow officials demanded some clarifications. I am sure these discussions are expressed in US-Russia ties. (…) In fact, the essence of this defensive system is the word ‘defensive’ itself. Being a protection instrument, it cannot be directed against anyone. It’s a matter of semantics,” Aurescu explained. As for the fact several Republic of Moldova politicians also voiced concern over the project, Aurescu said he personally discussed the plan with his Chisinau counterpart and underlined that Romania’s decision will not have any negative effect on the Transdniester issue. He also noted that Moldovan authorities did not openly criticize Romania’s decision to accept hosting parts of the US missile shield.

Aurescu also talked about technical issues related to the missile shield, reiterating Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi’s statement that Romania will bear “minimal costs” in the project. However, the collateral benefits can be highly significant, Aurescu said, referring to possible hikes in foreign investments and a likely US decision to lift visas for Romanians.

“The main costs will be supported by the United States, since this is an American project,” he said, adding that other kinds of costs, referring to infrastructure arrangements in the location where the shield elements will be set up or other logistic issues might be supported by Romania, but only after everything is negotiated with the US.

As for the negotiations, which will begin this month, Aurescu said all details related to the shield’s location, the number of interceptors and costs will be discussed by the two sides and the resulting accords will have to be approved by Parliament and the Supreme Defence Council. Commenting on newspaper reports that he might be officially named to lead Romania’s negotiating team, Aurescu said it was yet premature. “A negotiator, the head of delegation, will be chosen when the team’s mandate is submitted for approval. We are not in that stage yet,” he said.

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