Brussels, 11 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher today hailed as "very good news" Russia's agreement to start talks with NATO on a future special relationship. Christopher told reporters in Brussels today that he was convinced Russian fears about NATO expansion could also be resolved over time.
Christopher spoke shortly after Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov emerged from a NATO foreign ministers meeting saying Moscow had agreed to talks with the Western alliance to discuss some kind of security charter. But Primakov again stressed his country remains opposed to the planned enlargement of NATO to include former Warsaw Pact states and warned of a new division of Europe.
Christopher said there was no need to have enlargement re-divide Europe. On the contrary, he said if a charter can be worked out with Russia, enlargement can lead to the full integration of Europe.
NATO secretary general Javier Solana wants to conclude agreement on future NATO-Russian ties before an alliance summit next July formally invites some new members.
Asked how he found dealing with Solana, who appeared at Primakov's news conference, the Russian minister said he had good relations with Solana and said he "is a very nice man." But Primakov said he would not use such terms to describe NATO.
Secretary Christopher said today that most East European countries support U.S. proposals for the creation of the Atlantic Partnership Council, a new forum for consultations with NATO.
Speaking at a Brussels meeting between NATO and non-members from Eastern Europe Christopher said the Atlantic Partnership Council will be the collective voice of the Partnership for Peace programs.
The new Council would replace the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC), a forum for consultations between NATO and some 30 neutral and Eastern European countries created in 1991. The Partnership for Peace programs offer states outside NATO closer cooperation with the Atlantic Alliance, but stop short of full membership.
It was reported yesterday that European states have rejected immediate creation of the new council. However U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said that 15 countries were quite positive, while one has reservations.