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Russia favours EU over NATO for security talks: envoy

Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin.
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Nov 18, 2008
Russia considers the European Union, rather than NATO, to be its chief interlocutor on pan-European security, Moscow's envoy to the military alliance said Tuesday.

"The EU under its French presidency has started a concrete dialogue with Russia on this subject," Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin told AFP.

At an EU-Russia summit last Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed that Russia and Europe discuss a new framework for European security at a summit in mid-2009.

In a speech in Berlin in June, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for a European summit to start to draw up such a post-Cold War era pact. EU and NATO leaders expressed interest but wanted a more detailed explanation.

Rogozin recalled that he had wanted to outline the plan to NATO in September, but that the alliance, "under American influence", froze a meeting of ambassadors at which it could have been discussed.

"I don't think that the security pact proposed by President Medvedev can be discussed with NATO until this blockage is lifted," the ambassador said.

NATO has halted meetings of the so-called NATO-Russia Council (NRC) until Moscow respects its commitments under a peace plan for Georgia, which Russian troops entered in August in response to Tbilisi's actions in South Ossetia.

"The principle elements of this pact have been communicated to EU countries," Rogozin said. "This pact is open to proposals from others," he said, and "will result from a joint discussion with all partners.

The ambassador said that relations with NATO could only be normalised when it was clear that Georgia and Ukraine would not be officially made candidates to join the world's biggest military alliance.

"Let's see what the result comes from the NATO foreign ministers meeting," in Brussels December 2-3 at which their cases are to be examined, he said.

"If the result is positive, to our eyes, then of course we could resume cooperation with NATO, one step at a time," he said.

Georgia and Ukraine's chances of being granted Membership Action Plan (MAP) status at NATO appear a remote possibility. France and Germany fear their entry into the alliance could hurt rather than improve regional security.

NATO, for its part, said it would be willing to discuss the security pact proposal at any time and underscored that the NATO-Russia Council was not the only forum for an exchange of views.

"If and when Russia would submit propositions, NATO member states would discuss them," said spokesman James Appathurai. "Propositions can easily be made to allies and will be discussed amongst allies."

"No business as usual does not mean no business at all," he added.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Tuesday that he would welcome the opportunity to try to improve relations with Russia, which have also deteriorated over Kosovo's independence and the US anti-missile shield.

"I am ready to go to Moscow to talk to the Russian leadership. I am ready for it, I think NATO allies are ready for it. I hope I am welcomed there soon," he said, at a NATO parliamentary assembly meeting in Spain.

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Cooperation is essential for security in Europe: Lavrov
Lisbon (AFP) Nov 18, 2008
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that cooperation was essential to guarantee security in Europe, amid continuing tensions over US plans to deploy an anti-missile system in eastern Europe.

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