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Time for ‘reset’ in Russia-NATO relations — diplomat

January 13, 14:17 UTC+3 MOSCOW

A diplomat believes the relations between Russia and NATO need a ‘joint review’ of approaches to countering present-day threats

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© AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

MOSCOW, January 13. /TASS/. The relations between Russia and NATO need a ‘joint review’ of approaches to countering present-day threats, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov told TASS on Friday.

"In my view, three sessions of the Russia-NATO Council held last year after an almost two-year break can be considered as an exit ‘from a serious and long drawn-out disease’ and a stage-by-stage return to the Council’s really constructive and depoliticized work," the high-ranking Russian diplomat said.

This year will mark 15 years since Russia and the NATO member states signed a Declaration, "NATO-Russia Relations: a New Quality," in Rome on May 28, 2002, Meshkov said.

Over all this time, the Russia-NATO Council "has kept its significance as an ‘all-weather dialog venue for discussing the essential issues of Euro-Atlantic security concerning the interests of Russia and NATO," the high-placed diplomat said.

"Work within this format should be continued precisely in this tone," he added.

"I believe that 15 years of the Declaration could become a good cause for resetting Russia-NATO relations and for ‘jointly reviewing’ approaches to countering today’s threats," he said.

"This is also prompted by the logic of recent tragic developments that include the unprecedented murder of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov and a wave of terrorist acts in Europe and in the Middle East," the deputy foreign minister said.

All these factors speak about the need to pull together the resources and efforts of all responsible international players in countering real threats and challenges of contemporaneity, Meshkov said.

Meanwhile, "artificial breaks in the work of the Russia-NATO Council, to say nothing about the ‘freeze,’ inevitably create additional risks for European security and, consequently, for the alliance’s members themselves," the high-ranking diplomat said.

"It is perfectly obvious that normalization of Russia-NATO relations is possible upon the availability of both the political and military components," he said.

"However, the resumption of military contacts and a military dialog are realizable only if the alliance is ready to take into account Russia’s proposals in the sphere of normalizing the relations, and also if it gets away from the stance of formally keeping the appearance of a dialog with our country," the Russian deputy foreign minister said.

"As life itself shows, further attempts by the alliance to ignore this fact adversely affect the security of all the states of the Euro-Atlantic region in the final account," Meshkov said.

Arms in Europe

The diplomat went on to say that certain chances for resumption of the dialogue over weapons control in Europe do exist but the current military and political realities for it are not good enough as a point of departure.

"We believe that certain chances for resumption of the dialog over arms control in Europe do exist," he said. "We will be prepared to support efforts aimed at bringing about conditions that might facilitate such a dialogue on the basis of mutual respect and due regard for each other’s interests."

Meshkov said "the current military and political realities cannot be used as a point of departure for such a dialogue."

According to the diplomat "the road towards creating a normal atmosphere for the dialogue to begin lies through freezing NATO’s military potential near the Russian borders and the simultaneous reduction of the alliance’s military activity in the East and the further withdrawal of forces and military equipment of continuous rotational presence to their permanent locations."

Meshkov said that considering the resumption of Russia’s participation in the previous agreement on that issue - the CFE Treaty - would be unrealistic.

"There can be only joint work on a new regime of control of conventional forces in Europe," he said.

"If it is to be discussed in full seriousness what is to be done in the military-political sphere and in the sphere of arms control, then it is necessary, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed at a meeting of the OSCE foreign ministers in Hamburg, to come to the negotiating table, to unfold a map and to look into what weapons and armed forces each party concerned has and where," Meshkov said. "Then it will be possible to see where the imbalances are and how to move forward.

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