Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Russia, NATO move toward dialogue

Russia welcomes NATO's lean toward the negotiation table, saying it is ready to resume full-scale dialogue with the military alliance. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who was in Germany on Tuesday ahead of the G20 summit in London, said "We are glad that common sense has prevailed. We are ready [to resume dialog]."

"The full-format dialogue through the Russia-NATO Council will be resumed soon. On the whole we welcome what is going on," Medvedev said at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Russian leader recalled NATO's unilateral suspension of diplomatic ties with Moscow over Russia's brief war with Georgia last August. He stressed that it was not a Russian initiative and that his country had never called for these relations to be restricted.

On August 7, the Georgian capital city of Tbilisi launched a huge offensive against South Ossetia in a bid to regain control of its one-time province -- which along with Abkhazia had declared independence from Georgian rule in the wake of the former Soviet Union's disintegration in the 1990s. Moscow, which has recognized both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent republics, did not tolerate the military deployment in the Caucasus -- its backyard -- and sent its military to parry the attack.

Russian troops went as far as penetrating inside the Georgian border and capturing the strategic town of Gori -- just 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Tbilisi -- before they finally withdrew under a European-mediated ceasefire and mounting pressure from the West. NATO described as 'disproportionate' the Russian military intervention in support of South Ossetia -- whose residents mostly had Russian citizenship.

The alliance later condemned the Kremlin's decision to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independence states and unilaterally suspended the work of the Russia-NATO Council.
Back in December, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement hailed a NATO decision to resume a 'conditional and graduated' dialogue with Moscow. Russia's envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, recently said the work of the Russia-NATO Council could resume in March, expressing hope that the two had left the 'period of estrangement' behind them.

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