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Alliance Seeks NATO-Russia Charter

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 1997 – NATO Secretary General Javier Solana recently met with U.S. Defense and State Department officials prior to starting charter negotiations with Russia.

Solana is scheduled to meet with Russian officials in Moscow Jan. 19 and 20 to strengthen and formalize relations between the Western alliance and the Russian Federation.

"We are doing our best to contract a solid and long-lasting bilateral relation with Russia," Solana said at a Pentagon news conference Jan. 9. "We're in this process and I do hope that we'll get it on track before the [NATO] summit in the beginning of July."

At the summit scheduled for July 8 in Madrid, NATO will decide on expansion and may invite new members to join the 16-nation security alliance. Russian officials have consistently opposed NATO expansion.

Following a NATO meeting in Brussels in December, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov said NATO expansion is unacceptable to Russia. Central and Eastern European nations, which were once part of the former Soviet Union or members of the Soviet dominated Warsaw Pact, may be among the new members, he said. In Russia's view, this would put NATO a little too close to Russia's borders. Rodionov said he believed areas of disagreement could be resolved as long as Russia's position was taken into account.

Solana said, "I know this is not an easy process; but with tenacity, with good will, I'm sure that we will be able to overcome the difficulties."

According to State Department spokesman Nick Burns, U.S. officials hope the charter will accompany NATO's decision to expand to make the process contribute to a truly unified Europe.

"The importance of these charter negotiations is to assure the Russians that we want them to participate in the security life of the West," Burns said. "We want to have a mechanism whereby NATO and Russia can ensure that we continue to live in peace and we continue to cooperate together militarily."

U.S. and NATO officials are seeking a charter which will cover the general principles that will form the basis for the relationship, a DoD spokesman said. The charter would establish mechanisms for ad hoc and regular consultations as well as mechanisms for military liaisons and cooperation.

The charter will also cover areas of political, military, economic, environmental and scientific cooperation. It will cover cooperation in peacekeeping, armaments, nonproliferation, arms control and civil emergency planning.

"The road from here to Madrid is going to be a long road," Burns said. "It's going to be a road that has a number of very important meetings along the way. Secretary General Solana has the full confidence and trust of the United States as he begins these negotiations on behalf of the 16 NATO countries."#END#

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