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NATO/Russia: Two Sides See Pact Differently

Moscow, 20 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - Just one week after agreeing to an accord outlining their future relations, both NATO and Russia are now disputing aspects of that pact. Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky acknowledged today that Russia and NATO had "different interpretations" of the document, which he called "an important stage in the building of relations between Russia and NATO.

Yastrzhembsky said the agreement, reached last week in talks between Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, was not the end of the negotiation process. He said "the battle for the document's implementation, a battle of different interpretations" now begins.

The Kremlin spokesman said the Russian State Duma, dominated by nationalists and communists, could add "certain conditions" to the accord after it is signed in Paris on May 27. But, the Founding Act, as it is called, does not have to be ratified by the parliaments of the signatory countries as it is not a treaty.

His comments follow remarks yesterday by President Boris Yeltsin that Russia would reconsider its relations with NATO if it made decisions without consulting Moscow.

Meanwhile in Washington yesterday, U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are eligible to become NATO members now and will remain eligible to join in the future and Russia has no say in the matter.

Burns told reporters that nothing in NATO's new charter agreement with Russia would prevent the alliance from inviting the Baltic countries or any other potential members to join.

The pact concluded last week is meant to ease Russian concerns about NATO's planned expansion into Central and Eastern Europe. Many of the former communist countries in the region want to join the alliance, but Russia is reportedly vehemently opposed to membership for its three Baltic neighbors.

Burns said that Baltic aspirations were not forsaken just to reach an agreement with Russia. He says that "NATO and NATO alone will decide who is invited to join."