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NATO/Russia: Two Sides Closer As Talks Conclude

Moscow, 15 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - NATO and Moscow are closer to an accord on future relations following talks today between alliance Secretary General Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, says Russia's Foreign Ministry. But a ministry statement issued after the meeting also says "difficult problems remain" before a "mutually acceptable" document can be signed.

Today's closed-door negotiations were the fourth set of recent talks between Primakov and Solana. NATO and Russia are working on a treaty to define their future relations after the alliance's eastward expansion. Moscow remains opposed to the plan and is demanding that NATO commit itself not to move its military or nuclear infrastructure into Eastern Europe.

NATO and Russia have said they hope to sign an accord in Paris on May 27 before a NATO summit meeting in July. The alliance is expected to invite its first new members from Central and Eastern Europe at that Madrid meeting.

In Brussels today, Czech Republic Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus continued his to lobby for Czech entry into NATO and the EU.

Klaus told reporters he had very fruitful and friendly talks with Jose Cutileiro, the secretary-general of the European Union's emerging defense organization, the Western European Union (WEU).

Later today, Klaus is scheduled to meet EU Commission President, Jacques Santer. Klaus is expected to stress that the Czech Republic's reforms have created one of the most successful economies of the formerly-communist countries in central and eastern Europe.

Klaus is also expected to meet later today with Czech President Vaclav Havel, who is vacationing in Brussels. Klaus is expected to brief Havel on an economic package the Czech government prepared to stimulate the Czech economy and deal with the troublesome trade deficit. That package will be unveiled tomorrow.

In Washington D.C. yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Czech Foreign Minister Jozef Zieleniec discussed NATO enlargement and other issues.

Czech embassy press attache Rudolf Hykl told RFE/RL that Albright and Zieleniec met for about 40 minutes, devoting much of the time to NATO matters.

He also said they discussed the visit to the United States later this week by Czech Defense Minister Miloslav Viborny and the visit in May to New York by Czech President Havel.

Hykl said Albright and Zieleniec spent much of their talks on NATO and the Madrid summit in July. He said Albright assured the Czech Foreign Minister that NATO expansion will go on whether or not Russia agrees. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are expected to be invited at the summit to join the alliance.

Hykl said Zieleniec is returning to Prague later today, cutting his two-day visit to Washington short to prepare for a cabinet meeting tomorrow to discuss measures to revive the Czech economy.