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NATO Must Reach Out To Russia, Merkel Says

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "We need each other."
BERLIN (Reuters) -- NATO needs to reach out to Russia and make clear the defence alliance and Moscow will be most effective at fighting the world's security problems if they work together, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said.

Merkel said she welcomed the prospect of Georgia and Ukraine becoming members of NATO but warned that neither country would be ready to join "in the foreseeable future."

She has at times been a leading critic of Russia, especially on issues like human rights. But on November 10 she focused more on the importance of Russia.

"I think it is better to talk with each other than about each other," Merkel said in a speech at a meeting of the Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) in the German capital.

"I know it is not always easy, but I think it would be wise to send out a signal to Russia," she said, adding next April's NATO summit in Strasbourg offered an opportunity to do so.

Earlier, the European Union agreed to relaunch its stalled talks with Russia on a wide-ranging partnership pact.

'We Are Partners'

The 27-nation bloc had frozen negotiations after Russia's August incursion into Georgia in a brief but violent conflict over the breakaway South Ossetia region.

"We need each other. We are partners," said Merkel, adding that together Russia and NATO were a stronger force against terrorism, proliferation, and other security challenges.

Merkel also said she looked forward to strengthening the trans-Atlantic relationship with Barack Obama, who would attend NATO's April summit as U.S. president.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also expressed confidence that NATO and the EU would work closely together under Obama's presidency.

"Like his predecessors, the new president will make a review of policy," de Hoop Scheffer said in a speech at the same event.

At a time when it is confronted with some of the most serious challenges the United States has ever faced, including proliferation, climate change, and terrorist threats, Obama would value the partnership with Europe, de Hoop Scheffer said.

"At such a time, it is not surprising if the United States will consider Europe a privileged partner. I see no need to worry," he said, adding that common security bound the two regions together.

"NATO is at the core of the trans-Atlantic community. Let us use it and use it well," de Hoop Scheffer said.