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Russia: NATO Enlargement Talks To Be 'Difficult'

Moscow, 20 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The press secretary of Russian President Boris Yeltsin says future talks between Russia and NATO on the eastward enlargement of the alliance will be "difficult."

Yastrzhembsky's comments came as NATO Secretary General Javier Solana left Moscow after closed-door talks with Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov today.

The talks focused on ways to reduce Russian concerns over NATO's plans to expand east. No official press conference followed the talks, held at a state residence outside the Russian capital. Neither side commented on the outcome of the meeting.

Interfax news agency quotes Sergey Yastrzhembsky as telling a news conference in Moscow that since Russia's negative position on the enlargement is well known, an "official reaction to today's talks" is unlikely.

Yastrzhembsky described the five-hour talks as "exploratory" and said that more rounds of talks will follow. He said that both Russia and NATO "should expect a difficult discussion" on the issue.

According to Yastrzhembsky "the period of romanticism in diplomacy is over."

A spokesman for NATO's representative office in Moscow, John Lough, said before the talks that the meeting was aimed at developing the NATO-Russia relationship. The meeting comes before a NATO summit in Madrid in July, at which some of Russia's former allies in the former Warsaw Pact are expected to be invited to join the Western alliance.

Lough said Solana's aim was to reassure the Russians that enlargement does not threaten Russia's interests.

Before leaving Brussels this morning, Solana said he planned to discuss proposals for a special charter between Russia and Nato that would "institutionalise" their future relationship.