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Russian, NATO Ministers Meet In Brussels

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses a news conference after a NATO-Russia foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on December 4.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses a news conference after a NATO-Russia foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on December 4.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met his counterparts from NATO countries in Brussels to discuss bilateral cooperation.

At the end of a session of the Russia-NATO Council, Lavrov reiterated Russia's opposition to the bloc's further enlargement eastward.

"As to NATO's enlargement, regardless of Georgia, [Russia] is convinced that it constitutes an extension of the old and inertial logic of the Cold War era," Lavrov said. "Not only does it preserve the division lines that all of us have committed to dismantle, but it amounts to transposition of those lines further into the East."

Russia and NATO-aspirant Georgia fought a short war in August 2008 over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Moscow subsequently recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Russia-backed Georgian separatist region.

Lavrov said on December 4 in Brussels that what he called "a new reality in the Caucasus" should be accepted by the West.

"This is a new reality in the Caucasus and this reality has to be recognized. It has already started trickling into the minds [of people]," Lavrov said.

"The fact that various Geneva discussions are being attended on equal footing by South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Georgia, along with Russia, the United States, the European Union, the UN, the OSCE, to discuss security and humanitarian issues proves that there is no other way forward but dialogue."

Lavrov also said an interim nuclear deal with Iran had raised hopes for a permanent solution to Tehran's controversial atomic program.

Lavrov said such a solution would eliminate the motivation for a NATO missile-defense shield in Europe.

NATO says the shield is meant to prevent an attack from countries like Iran. Russia has said the shield compromises its security.

But NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the media after the talks in Brussels that the alliance would continue the dialgoue with Moscow on the missile shield.

"We have invited Russia to cooperate on missile defense," Rasmussen said. "So far, we haven't seen much progress in negotiations or talks on such missile-defense cooperation. But actually, we also had an exchange of views today on that issue, and I hope that the dialogue will continue."

The talks also touched on what the West sees as Russia pressuring Ukraine into withdrawing from a key deal with the European Union.

Ukraine has been rocked by mass protests over the government's refusal to sign the deal.

Russian news agencies report that after the end of the NATO-Russia Council, Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry went into a closed-door meeting.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax
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