Munich, Mar 13 (RFE/RL) - Hungary's Foreign
Minister Laszlo Kovacs says his Russian colleague, Yevgeny Primakov,
appeared "slightly more flexible" about the enlargement of NATO
during their talks in Moscow this week.
Kovacs told reporters in Budapest that Primakov remained opposed to
the eastward expansion of NATO, but he said it might be possible to
find a compromise taking into account the interests of Russia.
Kovacs said Primakov's prime concern was that NATO might station
troops and nuclear weapons in central and east european countries
Kovacs said Primakov gave the impression Russia might take a less
hostile attitude if there was an agreement not to do this.
Primakov asked Kovacs whether Hungary wants to be a full member of
NATO, or was interested only in joining its political wing. Kovacs
said he replied that Hungary wants full membership, but stressed that
Budapest's policy was not directed against Russia.
Kovacs said he and Primakov also discussed the differences between
potential NATO members which share a border with Russia and those
which do not, such as Hungary.
Kovacs said he made clear to Primakov that Hungary intended to join
NATO, despite Russia's attitude.
NATO has said previously that a timetable for beginning discussions
with potential new members will be decided at a meeting of the NATO
council in December. NATO officials have said they expect
negotiations to begin next year.
Primakov tomorrow is scheduled to begin a two-day visit to Poland,
which - like Hungary - is considered a leading candidate for NATO
Poland's Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati this week told the Reuter
News Agency that he will try to persuade Primakov that Warsaw's
desire to join NATO will improve - not threaten security in Europe.
Rosati said, "We would like to persuade our Russian partners that it
is in the interests of stability in Europe that we do not leave any
grey area in the central part of the continent."
Citing Poland's centuries-long, uncomfortable role as buffer
and battlefield between its powerful neighbours Germany and
Russia, Rosati repeated Warsaw's position that it wants to
anchor itself firmly to the West. "History teaches us that
whenever...there was a grey area or a buffer zone in Europe it was an
invitation for trouble," he said.
Rosati said NATO's enlargement would in fact be in Russia's
interest, broadening the security area in Europe, and transforming
the alliance in a way that could suit Moscow. He also said Poland
would welcome a broad security agreement between NATO and Russia, if
that would ease Moscow's concerns.