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NATO meeting to address key issues on alliance's agenda

RIA Novosti

04:32 03/12/2009 BRUSSELS, December 3 (RIA Novosti) - Foreign ministers from 28 NATO member countries will gather in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day meeting to discuss a wide range of issues on the alliance's agenda.

According to a NATO statement posted on Wednesday, the key topics of the discussions "will include the situation in Afghanistan, NATO's Open Door policy, relations with Russia, Ukraine and Georgia, missile defense, and NATO's new Strategic Concept."

The meeting will start with sessions of the NATO-Ukraine and the NATO-Georgia commissions to review both nations' progress in implementing their Annual National Programs and questions of regional security.

Ukraine and Georgia have long been pursuing NATO membership but their bids were turned down due to pressure from Germany and France at a 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest.

However, NATO has stated that the two countries will join at an unspecified date in the future.

Both countries have been included in the alliance's Partnership for Peace program, aimed at allowing "partner countries to build up an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation."

At the working dinner on Thursday, the ministers will address NATO's Open Door policy in relation to Bosnia-Herzegovina's and Montenegro's desire to join NATO's Membership Action Plan (MAP).

The agenda on Friday includes a meeting in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, which will be attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The upcoming session, the first official talks to be held since the August 2008 armed conflict between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia, is aimed at drafting a "roadmap" for improving relations between Russia and the Western military alliance.

During an informal ministerial meeting in Greece in June, Russia and NATO agreed to renew cooperation on security issues, which was frozen after Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August over the former Georgian republic of South Ossetia, after which Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another former Georgian republic.

Relations have also been strained by Russia's resistance to Georgia and Ukraine's bids to join NATO.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in October that "Russia is ready to harmonize relations with the United States and other Western partners, including constructive cooperation with NATO in solving common tasks."

Russia could play an important role in supporting NATO operations in Afghanistan, not only by providing transit of military cargo and personnel into the war-torn Central Asian country, but also by training personnel for the country's police forces and even delivering small arms and light weapons for Afghan police.

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