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Belarus/Russia: Primakov Praises Talks With New Foreign Minister

Moscow, 24 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said his talks in Moscow today with his Belarusian counterpart Ivan Antonovich were "very successful."

Primakov told reporters that their talks focused on integration between Russia and Belarus. He said that Moscow does not object in any way to calls by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for integration with Russia while maintaining some form of Belarus' sovereignty.

Primakov said integration between Belarus and Russia would proceed regardless of NATO's expansion. He said any possible response to NATO's planned expansion would depend on the outcome of talks between Russia and the western alliance on a charter outlining relations.

Some Russian politicians have said integration between the two countries would be an appropriate response to NATO's plan to take in new members from central and eastern Europe.

Antonovich told reporters that Belarus supports Russia in its opposition to NATO expansion. He said there were no differences between the national interests of Belarus and Russia.

Antonovich said integration between the two countries would move forward based on the letter which Russian President Boris Yeltsin sent recently to Lukashenka. He noted that the letter called for unification of monetary and energy systems of the two countries.