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Russia to take part in NATO meeting on Afganistan, Putin likely to pay first visit to Belarus

May 14, 2012, 13:16 UTC+3
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Moscow has decided to at least partially neutralise the negative effects of Vladimir Putin’s refusal to participate in the Group of Eight Summit in Camp David and agreed to participate in the NATO meeting on Afghanistan. Meanwhile, according to media reports, Belarus is likely to become the first state the new president will visit.

Kommersant has learnt that a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official will attend a special meeting on Afghanistan that will be part of the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago, although until recently Moscow has not been in a hurry to accept NATO’s invitation.

Recently, it has been decided to send to Chicago “a high representative of the Russian Federation.” Kommersant sources familiar with the negotiations argue that head of the Second Asian Department of the RF Foreign Ministry, Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov will most likely fly to the summit.

It was planned that a summit of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) would also be held on the sidelines of the NATO Summit held in Chicago. However, the plans failed. Officially - because of the tight schedule of Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, in the opinion of most politicians and experts - because of disagreements between Moscow and Washington on the missile defence issue.

When it became finally clear that the Russian president will not come to the meeting with NATO, Russia was invited to participate in a special meeting on Afghanistan to be held also there, in Chicago, within the framework of the NATO summit. During the April meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the level of foreign ministers, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen personally conveyed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov an invitation to this closed-door event. Lavrov outright publicly questioned the usefulness of the Russian delegation’s participation in the Chicago meeting on Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, Moscow has finally decided to accept the invitation and take part in the NATO Summit. However, the publication’s source in the Russian Foreign Ministry believes that no breakthrough should be expected from the Chicago meeting on Afghanistan.

The US president will meet his Russian counterpart now only in June - at the Group of Twenty summit in Mexico. After it became known that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will attend the G8 meeting instead of Vladimir Putin, the publication’s Kremlin source said that the Russian president will pay his first foreign visit to “one of the post-Soviet countries.” Kommersant has leant that Belarus will become the first state the Russian president will visit.

The first visit of the president is always a sign for the country’s foreign political partners, Izvestia writes. According to the newspaper, the choice is between Belarus and Kazakhstan as the closest partners, and the decision will be made at the informal summit of CIS leaders on May 15.

Russian-Belarusian relations are currently on the rise, and Izvestia’s Kremlin source says that Lukashenko over the past six months has been as if a different person - so greatly he has changed his rhetoric and is willing to cooperate. The most recent aggravation of the bilateral relations occurred in 2010, before another election in Belarus. Then Lukashenko said that Russia has launched an information campaign against him, and Medvedev replied that the Belarusian president “goes beyond not only diplomatic rules, but also the elementary human decency.”

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that he could not yet comment on the information about the visit, and the Belarusian presidential administration also could neither confirm nor deny to Izvestia the fact of the upcoming talks. However, all experts interviewed by the publication also agree that Belarus is the most likely option as the first country for the visit.  

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