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NATO chief hopes for better relations with Russia soon

RIA Novosti

29/01/2009 15:37 BRUSSELS, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Thursday he hoped that the military alliance would normalize its relations with Russia in the near future.

"Once the conditions are right for resuming normal business with Russia in the NATO-Russia Council, and I hope we will see that development soon, I see merit in using that particular forum for including Russia in wider cooperation, and also as vital element in building mutual confidence," he said during a seminar on security prospects in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Russia-NATO cooperation was frozen after Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August that began when Georgian forces attacked breakaway South Ossetia in a bid to bring it back under central control. NATO called Russia's military response to the attack "disproportionate," and also condemned Moscow's subsequent decision to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway republic.

Despite the freeze in cooperation, Russia continued its work with NATO on a number of issues, including arms control and Afghanistan.

Russia's envoy to the alliance Dmitry Rogozin and NATO ambassadors resumed informal talks in Brussels on January 26. The NATO-Russia Council could hold its first official meeting since August's conflict in late February-early March, Rogozin later said.

Rogozin said on Wednesday, in an interview posted on the Foreign Ministry's official website, that Russia expects NATO to make clear the reasons for its position on Georgia before it begins developing intensive military cooperation with the alliance.

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