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NATO Would Aim For High-Level Russia Meeting Soon

NATO headquarters, Brussels
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- NATO has stated it would aim to schedule a high-level meeting with Russia quickly, if alliance ministers agree on March 5 to move back to formal ties with Moscow, a NATO spokesman said.

NATO diplomats say alliance foreign ministers are expected to announce plans at a meeting in Brussels to resume formal ties suspended after Russia's incursion into Georgia last August. The spokesman said NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer backed such a move.

"There are clear areas where NATO and Russia need to engage more fully -- on Afghanistan, terrorism and in other areas," James Appathurai told a news briefing.

He said a formal ambassadorial-level meeting of the NATO-Russia Council could happen "very, very quickly" and added:

"The sense around the NATO that they would wish to hold, if they decide to move forward in this way, a ministerial-level meeting sooner rather than later."

Appathurai stressed a decision to reengage with Russia would not imply any diminishment of NATO's condemnation of Russia's Georgian incursion and its possible decision to build bases in Georgian territory.