Brussels, 10 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - NATO foreign ministers, meeting today in Brussels, reportedly formally approved a plan for setting up a new international peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Western news media quote an unnamed senior NATO official as confirming agreement on the force, but no other details were given. Under terms of the Dayton peace agreement, the U.N. mandate for the 60,000-strong IFOR peacekeeping force expires on December 20.
The ministers also agreed on Madrid, Spain, as the venue for next year's summit set for July 8-9 to set the course for enlargement of the alliance. At the summit, NATO intends to invite a number of former communist countries to begin membership talks. Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic are considered the most likely countries to be offered first membership.
Earlier, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana told the allies the summit would shape the new NATO -- a NATO "with new structures, new missions and ultimately new members."
In talks tomorrow with their Russian counterpart Yevgeny Primakov, the ministers are expected to make a fresh attempt to persuade Moscow to enter discussions on a formal NATO-Russia charter covering future security relations between the two former adversaries. Moscow has refused to enter such discussions, fearful such a move might be interpreted as tacit acceptance of enlargement.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrejembsky today reiterated Moscow's long-standing opposition to NATO's eastward expansion. Yastrejembsky said at a press briefing today that Moscow still feels there is no good rationale for eastward enlargement and it would only "harm Russia's national interests."