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Remarks to the Press by Under Secretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak
Osobnyak, Moscow
December 02, 2005
Remarks following Meetings of the U.S.-Russia Counterterrorism Working Group

QUESTION: Mr. Burns, Reuters News Agency. Did you discuss, as was expected in the press, the new Russian law or bill on NGOs? And did America raise any problems with that?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I would be happy to say a few words and perhaps Ambassador Burns would like to as well. I would just say it was not part of the formal agenda of the Counterterrorism Working Group. This group works on a very specific set of issues having to do with the agenda that the Deputy Foreign Minister and I have described. So it's not part of the formal agenda. I will say that I have, since arriving in Moscow, of course I had a chance to meet with some of the NGOs and I'll be having discussions with other officials of Russian government.

Let me just say that obviously we are aware of the debate here. But I do think it's best that any specific comments be left for a private diplomatic exchange. That's the best way for friends to discuss matters like this. In our case, some of the NGOs in question are American NGOs who have been working here as friends of Russia, and of course we think that, in our own experience in the United States, NGOs play a very positive role in our country, as they do in many parts of the world. And so we hope very much that both here and elsewhere NGOs can continue to contribute to society. But I really think it's best for any specific comments to be left to our private exchanges.

AMBASSADOR WILLIAM BURNS: I would add only that in Russia I think it's obvious that nongovernmental organizations make some very valuable contributions across a range of areas, not just in the development of modern economic and political institutions, but education, and in health and in many areas in which Russians are trying to create more opportunities and improve their own society. So what we hope, as Nick said, is that the outcome of the debate that is going on amongst Russians about this new draft legislation will be something that facilitates the role of NGOs, enhances their ability to contribute in Russian society, not complicate it.

DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER KISLYAK: I would like to say a few words. While fully agreeing with Nick that the topic of NGOs is not the topic of our consultations and we dealt with other issues, as for Russian legislation in the field of NGOs, this is a process that develops within the framework of the Russian Constitution and the development of civil society. I am absolutely confident that as our parliament elaborates legislation, based on our laws, it will create such conditions for civil society that will help it contribute to the development of our country in a calm, confident, predictable and transparent manner. I view this process with big optimism and, frankly speaking, do not quite understand all this fuss. These are normal political debates in our country among Russian political forces. The outcome of these debates will mirror the opinion of the entire range of political parties in our country. Thank you.