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Russia: NATO Pleased With Permanent Military Representative

Brussels, 21 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - NATO-Russia military and diplomatic links are expected to get a boost this week, during meetings at NATO headquarters. Thursday the chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, Colonel-General Anatoly Kvashnin, visits NATO headquarters.

Kvashnin is the guest of General Klaus Nauman, the chairman of NATO's Military Committee, the Alliance's highest military authority. Kvashnin will address a special meeting of the Committee. And, he will also meet Secretary General Javier Solana.

During his visit, Kvashnin is also expected to introduce Russia's first permanent military representative to NATO, Lieutenant-General Viktor Zavarzin. Zavarzin will serve as a liaison officer at NATO headquarters.

NATO officials tell our correspondent that they are very pleased with Zavarzin's appointment. NATO officials say that without such a liason officer, it can be difficult to get down to serious planning for the "Partnership for Peace" program, and on such matters as planning future peace-keeping operations, including Bosnia.

General Zavarzin has his own peace-keeping experience. Until his recent transfer to Moscow to help coordinate CIS military cooperation, he headed the CIS peace-keeping mission in Tajikistan.

Until Zavarzin's name emerged, Russian media had focused on the possible appointment of former defense minister Pavel Grachev, a key figure in the Chechnya conflict.

NATO officials say one of their goals now is to establish a regular, joint working group with Russia on peacekeeping. This was one of the steps suggested by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov during recent talks at the United Nations with NATO ministers. Another aim is to set up a documentation center in Moscow.

These matters, as well as others, are expected to come up Friday, when Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin takes part in a regular meeting at the level of ambassadors of the Permanent Joint Council, which was set up under the basic Russia-NATO agreement (the Founding Act) signed in Paris in May.

NATO official emphasize they are not going to set up any new, heavy bureaucratic structure. On the contrary, they say, the new structure should be flexible to make it more effective.

There is no confirmation in Brussels of reports Ambassador Churkin might soon be replaced by Sergei Kisyak as Russia's top diplomat in Brussels. But, officials tell our correspondent that if Kisyak is named, he would be a logical choice. Kisyak has experience as a member of the Primakov team which negotiated the basic agreement with NATO. And, Kisyak currently heads the Foreign Ministry's arms-control department.

Churkin has been rumored as under consideration to become Russia's new ambassador to Canada.

The first meeting of the NATO-Russia Joint Permanent Council at the level of foreign ministers was held at the United Nations last month. The next ministerial-level meeting is set for December 17 in Brussels.