Nato not yet ready to resume high-level talks with Russia | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 11, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 11, 2008

Nato not yet ready to resume high-level talks with Russia

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer ruled out Friday resuming high-level talks with Russia, although Moscow appeared to have withdrawn troops from Georgia in line with a ceasefire accord.
The alliance, whose defence ministers were meeting in the Hungarian capital Budapest, froze the meetings last month insisting that it could not do "business as usual with Russia" since its attack on Georgia in August.
"It is encouraging that Russia seems to withdrawing its forces back to the pre-conflict lines," Scheffer told reporters, after a first ever meeting of the Nato-Georgia Commission at ministerial level.
"But we are not in a situation where we go back to business as usual," he said.
As he spoke, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency, announced that Russia had withdrawn from Georgian buffer zones but "a long road" lay ahead to resolve other issues.
Russia sent troops into the former Soviet republic in early August, amid a dispute over the breakaway region of South Ossetia which, along with rebel Abkhazia, Moscow has since recognised as independent.
During the meeting, attended by Georgian Defence Minister Davit Kezerashvili, German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung urged Nato allies to consider resuming the so-called Nato-Russia Council meetings.
"If Russia respects the six-point plan, and this appears to be the case, then we should resume dialogue with Russia," he told reporters. "That means the Nato-Russia Council should resume its work."
Jung said he would like to see a "perspective" for the resumption of meetings to surface during the next round of talks with his Nato counterparts, which is scheduled for February in Kracow, Poland.
But Scheffer warned: "We are not at that stage yet."
"It seems premature now to conclude that there will be a Nato-Russia Council meeting in Kracow," he said. "That requires a discussion."
The European Union, whose French presidency brokered the six-point Russia-Georgia ceasefire agreement, is the institution which must decide whether Moscow is respecting the accord.
Georgia has complained that Russian forces were still controlling two areas under its control prior to the conflict, the Akhalgori district in South Ossetia and the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia.
Tbilisi insists Russian forces must leave the two areas to fully comply.
Georgian efforts to become part of Nato have infuriated Russia, which objects to the prospect of its old Cold War foe extending to its borders.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has even accused Nato of provoking the Georgia conflict.
A senior official from the United States, which has staunchly backed Georgia since the start, also agreed that it was too early to change Nato's approach, as Russia still had to leave outstanding areas.
"There are clearly things that are going to have to be discussed," he said, and warned: "We need to make sure that we don't create a risky environment."
Scheffer said that the ministers did not discuss Georgia's Nato aspirations, and that the topic would be taken up by alliance foreign ministers when they meet in Brussels in December.
Georgia's military needs and reform efforts were addressed, but he insisted that Nato would not supply Tbilisi with any weapons.

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