NATO countries should resume military ties with Russia - assembly

The 54th Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly was held in Valencia, Spain, on November 14-18. Russia and NATO froze cooperation after a five-day war between Russia and Georgia in August over the South Caucasus state's breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

"The resolution passed by the Plenary Session held on 18 November urged governments and parliaments of NATO member countries to re-establish wide-ranging co-operation, particularly in the military sphere, and to improve and expand public diplomacy efforts with Russia," the alliance said in a press release.

A separate resolution on August's conflict calls on governments and parliaments of NATO member states to contribute to an independent international inquiry to determine the chain of events which led to the outbreak of war.

"Members of the Russian parliamentary delegation told the Valencia session that their country had not started the conflict. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer described the Russian use of force as 'disproportionate' and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili told the NATO PA Plenary Session that he had been faced with the bad choice of a Russian military invasion and the worse choice of occupation," the release said.

The NATO PA resolution on the Georgia-Russia conflict calls on alliance governments and parliaments to support the current Geneva talks on the security situation in the Caucasus "to find an enduring solution to the conflicts over South Ossetia and Abkhazia without taking steps that could lead, contrary to international law, to the de facto or de jure recognition of the independence of either region."

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov called on Tuesday for a resumption of dialogue with NATO, but the alliance indicated there would be no major compromise.

Russia's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said on Tuesday that ambassador-level consultations between Russia and NATO could take place before the end of the year.

In an indication that dialogue is possible, an alliance spokesman said earlier on Tuesday that the foreign ministers of 26 NATO member countries may decide to resume the work of the Russia-NATO Council at their meeting in early December.

However, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the alliance would support efforts by former communist nations to join the military alliance regardless of opposition from Russia.

He added that NATO was not prepared to sacrifice the alliance's enlargement for good relations with Russia.

"NATO will continue to work with all countries that aspire to join our alliance," he said. "Do we have to choose between good relations with Russia and further enlargement? My answer is no - we will not choose, will not sacrifice one for the other."

Scheffer said he would like to like to meet with Russian officials to straighten out their differences.

"I am ready to go to Moscow to talk to the Russian leadership. I am ready for it, and I think NATO allies are ready for it. I hope I am welcomed there soon," he said.

He also backed calls for an independent inquiry into the Russia-Georgia conflict, while condemning Russia's recognition of Georgia's separatist provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and saying Moscow had used "disproportionate force."

"I support those that want an independent inquiry into what happened exactly. But independently of who fired the first shots, the use of force by Russia was disproportionate and the subsequent recognition of parts of Georgian territory cannot in any possibility be considered legal," he said.

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