Tuesday, January 27, 2009

NATO head, Russia's Ivanov to discuss resuming ties Feb. 6

NATO's secretary general and a Russian deputy prime minister will meet on February 6 to discuss resuming cooperation frozen after the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict, Russia's envoy to the military alliance said on Monday. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Sergei Ivanov will meet on the sidelines of the Munich security conference, at which Ivanov will head the Russian delegation, Dmitry Rogozin said.

"During the meeting, new steps toward restoring cooperation will be discussed," he said. Rogozin resumed informal talks earlier on Monday with NATO ambassadors in Brussels. He said it was "a tough and very frank but at the same time diplomatic exchange."

He reiterated Moscow's opposition to the "bloc-related" approach that NATO had demonstrated in contacts with Russia, but added that the military alliance was gradually moving away from this stance.

Relations between NATO and Russia sank to their lowest since the end of the Cold War after Moscow and Tbilisi fought a brief military conflict over Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

Two weeks after the end of hostilities Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway province, as independent states. NATO called Russia's military response to Georgia's attack on South Ossetia "disproportionate" and condemned Moscow's decision to recognize the former Georgian republics.

In response to NATO's decision to halt cooperation, Russia put on hold a number of programs, including the Partnership for Peace program, a high-level visit to Moscow, some joint naval drills and NATO visits to Russian ports. However Russia continued its work with NATO on arms control, cooperation in airspace, and the war in Afghanistan. NATO foreign ministers agreed in early December at a meeting in Brussels to gradually restore contacts with Moscow.

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