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Moscow's NATO envoy says cooperation still on track

RIA Novosti

20/08/2008 14:29 BRUSSELS, August 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia-NATO cooperation is not at risk and it would be wrong to scale down the strategic partnership between Russia and the West amid global instability, Moscow's envoy to the military alliance has said.

NATO foreign ministers said after talks on Tuesday that the alliance was freezing contacts with Russia until it pulls its troops out of Georgia, but stopped short of stronger measures against Moscow.

"The parties have acted pragmatically. There are no plans to wreck our cooperation," Dmitry Rogozin told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

He said he expected NATO to issue a statement on prospects for Russia-NATO cooperation "in about two weeks, after the summer holidays," which could be a useful "cooling off" period for both sides.

"It is essential to tone down the rhetoric and think about what needs to be preserved in [Russia-NATO] cooperation and what needs to be abandoned," he said.

A joint declaration after the NATO ministerial talks in Brussels said: "We have determined that we cannot continue with business as usual" with Russia, and that the alliance "is considering seriously the implications of Russia's actions for the NATO-Russia relationship."

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the alliance had suspended Russia-NATO Council sessions at all levels until Moscow fully complies with a peace plan to resolve the conflict between Russia and Georgia over breakaway South Ossetia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov branded the NATO statement 'biased' and 'anti-Russian', and said it failed to recognize the atrocities committed by Georgia in the conflict. Russia says Georgian forces killed some 1,600 civilians in their August 8 attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, most of whom were Russian nationals.

Georgia's bid to join NATO was rejected at the alliance's April summit in Bucharest. However, NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday decided to create a joint NATO-Georgia commission similar to that already in place with Ukraine, and reaffirmed their plans to eventually accept Georgia as a member.

Lavrov said NATO's encouragement of Georgia's ambitions to join the alliance was "dictated by a drive that can only be called anti-Russian, aimed at supporting an aggressive regime."

Tuesday's NATO ministers' meeting was called last week by Washington, which has accused Russia of a "disproportionate" response to Georgia's attack on breakaway South Ossetia.

In the counter operation to expel Georgian troops from the separatist republic, which broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s, and to reinforce Russian peacekeepers, Moscow sent some 10,000 troops and several hundred armored vehicles into the area.

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